Isolation, p.3
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       Isolation, p.3

           Michelle Birbeck
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back to the fire. The potatoes were still on the ground somewhere, little bundles of what our night might have been, and what it now was.

  When I knelt next to her, she stirred a little, but even to my untrained eyes the sooner she got help, the better.

  “What do we do then?” I asked quietly.

  “Wait, then hike out and call for help.”

  I nodded, it was all the response I could muster.

  Taking a seat next to Vanessa, we fell into silence. There was nothing to say, not really. Chris was dead. We were safe. Nothing could be done for Julie, and the best we could do for Vanessa was not get ourselves killed in trying to get out before dawn.

  But as the hours ticked away, minutes dragging on, Vanessa’s breathing changed, coming in quicker, shorter gasps. Time seemed to have two different speeds for us. One for Tom and me, slow and determined. And one for Vanessa, speeding up the process of her death whilst we sat still, unable to do anything.

  But eventually the two speeds evened out, and the first light of dawn turned the sky a colour more blue than black. The lapping of the ocean faded slightly, and when I glanced towards the sea, it was further out than it had been.

  “Do you think we can try now?” I asked.

  “We can look.”

  Before we left, I leaned in close to Vanessa. “Hang on, honey, we’ll get help as soon as we can.”

  “Got your phone?”

  “Yeah, you?”


  Better to have both than none.

  There seemed little point in taking anything with us, so we left it there. The tents that hadn’t been used, fire still warm enough to benefit Vanessa, chairs scattered about. We were coming back, no doubt. Everyone would have questions.

  We kept an eye on the edge as we started up the path. It wouldn’t do anyone any good if we were to fall now.

  But as we slowly walked the path back to the cars, to phone service, and to the start of a long day, one thing was bothering me. Chris had been the one to do it, to make a good night into hell, but why? What had possessed him to kill?

  The more I thought about it, putting one foot in front of the other, the more other little things occurred to me. Hadn’t Chris been with me when Julie had been killed? I could swear we’d been sat together next to the fire when her scream had filled the air.

  Tom nudged me a little, jolting me from my thoughts. “What you thinking about?”

  I glanced up at him, seeing his pleasant smile and hearing the light tone in his voice, and something clicked into place.

  His smile grew and grew until he was positively grinning. Chris had been with me when Julie had been killed. So unless Vanessa had killed her friend and maimed herself, there were only two other people who could have done it.

  And I hadn’t killed anyone.

  “Why?” The word barely made it passed my gritted teeth.

  Tom narrowed his eyes at me. “You really don’t know?”

  I tried to step away from him, only to find myself at the edge of the cliff. “Know? You killed our friends! Why would I know anything about it!”

  “Because I did it for you.”


  He stepped forward, grabbing my shoulders. “With them out of the way, we can be together.”

  Still it made no sense. I understood his words, and thought I knew what he was trying to say. The little looks every so often and the eagerness to stay close all clicked quite happily into place in my mind, but it made no sense. Surely it was all just him wanting to be close to a friend? The same as I wanted to be close to him, because I liked him, and he meant something to me.

  Clearly not as much as he thought I meant to him.

  “Tom,” I said slowly, “I don’t think of you like that. I never have.”

  For a moment I thought he was going to throw me off the cliff and be done with it. But instead he pulled me against him, wrapping his arms around me and starting whispering soothing words. I ignored them as best I could, subtly shifting my feet until he had to move with me or lose his balance. So far gone in his ramblings about me being delusional and not needing to worry because we were going to have a fantastic life together, he didn’t notice that I’d gotten us completely turned around.

  No longer was my back to the cliff, with only air between me and death. Now he was there, I just needed to get him off me.

  “Tom,” I said sternly, “it’s not going to be like that. We are not going to have a life together. You killed my friends, murdered them. How can you expect me to love you when you maimed Vanessa, shoved a tent peg through Julie’s chest, and pushed Chris off a cliff?”

  I was trying to agitate him.

  I finished by saying, “You sicken me.”

  He dropped his arms and glared at me. Then took one step back…

  Straight over the edge of the cliff.

  Fingers scrabbled at the edge for a brief second, and then his scream carried along the wind like a breath of fresh air.

  I sank to my knees, closed my eyes, and dragged out my phone.

  Signal. Blessed signal.

  About the author:

  Michelle is 29 and has been reading and writing her whole life. Her earliest memory of books was when she was five and decided to try and teach her fish how to read by putting her Beatrix Potter books in the fish tank with them.

  Since then her love of books has grown, and now she is writing her own and looking forward to seeing them on her shelves, though they won’t be going anywhere near the fish tank.

  When she’s not writing, she’s out and about on her motorbike or sitting with her head in a book.

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