Standing quite some distance above the black, turbulent waters below, Miles Scott had never been more aware of the genuine fragility of his own life. But despite this particular awareness as he teetered upon the edge of a precipice of life-threatening proportions, he felt strangely calm.
The city, now that the night was here, was dead quiet and hauntingly still. The chill wind surrounded him as he stood up there on the Washington Bridge, and he felt as if he were naked in the cold darkness, though he was as clothed as any of the other people out walking the streets.
The realisation that life was as vulnerable as it was in the great scheme of things was peculiarly similar to that initial moment after he had first heard of his twin sister's death.
That moment had been most peculiar because of its extreme calmness. Before the detonation of loss had caused raw and unyielding pain to surge through his muscles, vessels and nerves like the all-powerful shockwave tearing through the matchstick buildings devastated by an atomic bomb, he had actually taken the news quite calmly.
Calm, so calm - just as he felt now, teetering on the edge of oblivion, in perfect balance between rolling onto the paving slabs to his left and plummeting to the watery end to his right – to become just another fallen nocturnal pedestrian or just another statistic for the coroner’s office.
There were no friends to hold him back from the edge now: he’d never been especially popular, what with his dedication to a solitary sport, but his second year of college had turned him into a stranger to all. College had a cruel way of isolating those caught out of the social loop, and now at the beginning of his third year, his last refuge from loneliness was gone: his beloved twin sister had been plucked from this Earth without mercy, to leave him the only survivor of a truly tragic family.
Though the loss of his parents had been lost in the faded memory of his first few years, Sophie’s end had been a cruel, cruel blow. Cutting short a second year of college spent abroad on exchange to Japan, he had felt her death physically, mentally and spiritually, with a trauma that no grieving non-twin would understand.
Life was not worth living with this pain. No one in the world cared that he was alive, now, and he would never see the beautiful, innocent, kind face of his sister again. Everything around him was pain and darkness.
And just the smallest of steps would end it all.
He’d leave behind nothing much of any significance, his name in a few old high school yearbooks, on a number of martial arts tournament trophies, his image fading quickly from those he had thought were his friends.
Behind him, now, the still air was disturbed by the sound of other people. His thoughts reeled away from that brutal edge: Miles felt suddenly ashamed, though he wasn’t entirely sure why. If life mattered so little to him now, why should he be embarrassed at anyone witnessing the end of it all? But nevertheless, he did feel ashamed, perhaps deep down he was admitting to himself that it was the weak way, the coward’s way of dealing with hardship, but whatever, he turned back from the darkness towards the orange light flooding from the streetlamps, looking towards the source of the noise, intending to wait until the people had passed, and resort to his drastic solution soon afterwards.
The group of them seemed like fairly ordinary young people, night clubbers, college students most likely out on the streets after a boozy night in some dark dance venue down town. They were dressed fairly normally for that kind of crowd: the four men in dark trousers and coloured shirts, the lone female in a suggestively scanty skin-tight pink crop top revealing a wincingly trim midriff and below, a dark miniskirt hiding not much more of her below waist level.
At first he stood back and thought how lucky they all were, having fun together, far away from worries or solitude. But as they came closer, he saw that they were not laughing together, and they were not casually ambling along like most boozy college students following a night in a club.
As they came closer, Miles saw that they were running, with the four males in clear pursuit of the frantic female, the male laughter that of menacing threat rather than humorous frolic. The pretty blonde was clearly afraid, and running without shoes just out of reach of the pursuing men. Trouble, fear, desperation. It shocked Miles that such a thing could happen, so much so that he froze there where he stood, unable to move as the men caught up with her, pulling her down to the ground so that he could see repeated flashes of white underwear that was disturbingly thrilling to him despite the circumstances.
After that momentary pause, however, Miles found himself suddenly leaping down from his perilous promontory, his body seeming to act on some strange kind of autopilot – so much so that it appeared he was merely a first-person witness to his own body sprinting across the empty roadway at blistering pace to tear into the four attackers.
He watched as the years of theoretical, hypothetical combat suddenly clicked into a suddenly real context, those clever, gymnastic moves suddenly no longer about points or displays to impress the judges, but about using his body as a fulcrum to land cruelly perfect and grisly powerful blows on the four assailants who had the real intention to inflict harm on the girl.
How he managed to follow his various teachers’ words of advice to keep rage and fury from taking hold of his mind he would never know, but his chops, thrusts, jabs and roaring kicks were delivered in coolly calculated purpose, vigorously and without mercy but free from the red mist of anger.
The four fought for a while, hardly landing a blow on him, though he clearly landed the blows on them for blood was being shed. He tasted the red tang of iron in his mouth, and then saw the crimson fluid dripping down his opponents’ faces – but he knew for a fact none of it was his.
As their cries rang out and the hideous crack of broken bones split the air a few times, the four of them withdrew, backing off then turning to run, belting away with limps and groans to gamble that he was likely to stop and check on the girl rather than get involved in any serious pursuit.
“Are you all right? Miss?” he said in barely more than a whisper as he watched the murderous youths fleeing into the night.
“I’m fine,” she said, her voice quivering a little from either fear or nerves, but with a distinct edge to it as though she felt embarrassed that the four men had got the better of her, as though she felt she really ought to have coped with it all on her own, despite there being four men against her lonesome. “Thank you,” she said much more softly now, looking up at him with a vulnerable smile as she realised her initial tone had seemed less than entirely grateful.
“Glad I could help,” he said, reaching out his hand to pull her up to her feet. She was quite something, though her face was a little bruised.
“They… they ambushed me,” she said bitterly, and the two of them began to wonder slowly in the opposite direction to that the attackers had taken.
“We should get in touch with the police,” Miles said, feeling his mind somehow connecting up with his body once again as the adrenaline subsided within him. “Those guys are dangerous.”
“No,” she said softly with a slight shake of her head. “No police.”
It was an odd thing to say on her part, but Miles wasn’t going to ask her why. She had her own reasons, he was sure, and the little he knew about such things included the knowledge that female victims of violent attacks often purposefully avoided reporting incidents to the police from fear of reprisals, a need to bury the painful experience and not draw it out over a potentially long and distressing court case or a variety of other complex reasons he had no right to get into with this girl walking by his side.
“Are you cold?” he asked her. “Would you like my coat?”
She smiled for the first time then, and her pretty face was lit up by the movement, though it slightly pained her to do so. “Who are you?” she asked, “and where did you learn to fight like that?”
“Oh you know,” he said looking away from her, as his heart sank once more with the remembrance of who he was and what had happened to him. “Here and there.”
“You’re a college boy, huh?” she asked, and then, seeing that he was not looking entirely comfortable with her questioning, laid off him in that direction.
Miles thought her tone slightly strange again: she appeared to be a college girl herself, but she spoke the word ‘college’ as though she were much older and it had been years since she had been in college herself.
“Do you know who those guys were?” she asked him then, and he turned to look at her again, shaking his head as his eyes connected with hers again. “No matter. I can’t believe what you did to them – it’s… it’s unheard of…”
She trailed off then, as though she were saying something she shouldn’t be, revealing something to him that was supposed to remain hidden. For a moment or two, he wondered if the whole thing had been some kind of bizarre stage show to get him away from the bridge and his attempts to end it all in the icy depths of the winter river. But as they did, indeed, leave the stark platform of the bridge, walking now onto the other riverbank from that which he had come, she gripped his arm then and in the limited light of the street lamps gave him a look of genuine gratitude, the kind that could not possibly be staged.
“I really want to thank you,” she said softly.
“You have,” he responded equally quietly, feeling all thought of suicide dispelling from his intent – or at least for now.
“No, I haven’t” she said, and not for the first time that evening he thought her acting a trifle strangely.
“I don’t under – “ he was about to say, then she suddenly pulled him down the riverside steps.
“Come with me. Quickly,” she said, and he had no option but to follow.
What was she doing?
She led him down the stone steps and round, underneath the mighty ceiling provided by the bridge. There was a wall and a seat-like ledge running along the waterside, on which the old men sat in the mid-afternoon and the street sellers used to hawk everything from second hand books to tacky plastic souvenirs on Wednesdays.
“Here, sit,” she said, and as he did so she knelt between his legs quite suddenly.
“Oh no,” he said, “you don’t have to – “
“Shhh!” she said with a finger to her lips. “I want to. I’m going to.”
And she pressed open his legs before tugging at his fly, he could see her pretty face in the half light of the night city and the river, illuminating her elfin-like high cheekbones that made his penis harden almost fully before she even managed to expose it fully, taking it in her soft fingers and applying such irresistible pressure to his shaft.
He couldn’t help but let her do as she clearly wanted, a low groan emitting from his lips as he felt the sudden velvet heat of her mouth enveloping him, her moist tongue sweeping round his cock as it ventured inside her.
The girl – he didn’t even know her name – was incredible. Though a psychiatrist might have said afterwards that it might have had something to do with the extreme low point he had been at just minutes past, but what she was doing with her mouth on his hard cock was the most unbelievably superb sensation he had ever experienced. Sure, he didn’t exactly have the most amount of experience in that area for a guy his age, but even so. As he felt her warm, wet softness coaxing his shaft, her head moving up then down, up then down, it really didn’t seem long until he felt himself beginning to build towards the end.
And how it built. By the time that magnificent orgasm reared its sensational head he was groaning like a madman under that bridge, the electricity of purest ecstasy throbbing through every vein in his body towards that one long, hard erection squeezed between this exquisite girl’s lips.
When his come burbled then coursed out from his cock it felt as though he’d been eating nothing but sugar for a day. She swallowed his semen with loud gulps, and he opened his eyes weakly, his energy seemingly drained along with his cock, to see her sucking up every drop and ravenously slurping up every trace of his emissions, her tongue flicking around the head of his cock as though he were producing her drug of choice.
It was amazing, watching such an attractive young girl paying such intimate attention to him, and whether it was an act or not for his benefit, he couldn’t tell, but she seemed to moan a little herself and her body trembled as his come streamed down her throat.
But then his vision appeared to fail: stars and sparks fizzed over his eyes and the light seemed to fade at the same time as he felt a sudden feverish loss of energy overwhelm him. For a moment, he thought he might even faint: had the orgasm really been that intense? Incredible. His head reeled as though he were badly hung-over and then began to ache slightly.
“Thank you,” she said breathlessly, as though he’d done her the greatest service just now, not the other way around.
“No, thank you…” he said, but his words were slurred, he found it hard to even move from where he was slumped.
Like a tidy cat, she cleaned up his softening penis one last time with her tongue, before tucking it away inside his pants and re-fastening his fly. As she finished up, he could no nothing but smile weakly, feeling so drained all of a sudden, so tired, but sleepily amazed such an attractive girl had just done what she had just done with him. It had been a fair while since he'd been with anyone - over a year, in fact, since cheerleading Lisa had finished with him rather than wait for him while he went to Japan for a year.
Then, as suddenly as it had all kicked off, the girl was gone, vanished into the night.
Waking up the following morning, Miles still felt a little shaky. Jesus, what had that girl done to him? He'd never known a girl with such a voracious appetite for it - and her appetite had left him drained, even this morning he did not feel fully recovered. Who was she?
It was the morning of the memorial service. Those who wanted to would gather at 11am in the college chapel to remember Sophie - and Miles would have to be there. With a deep breath, he picked himself up out of the warm confines of his bed, resigned to the fact that he could not avoid it. It would be painful, but it was his duty.
He actually didn't feel quite as bad as he had before he'd rescued that girl. Perhaps the rescue had shown him that his place in life wasn't entirely pointless. Perhaps it was just the girl's ravenous attentions on him afterwards that had pulled him out of his self-destructiveness for now. Though Sophie was gone, bless her soul, life was showing him that it would go on nevertheless.
But he did feel so weak - what was that? The fight? Had that taken it all out of him, and he'd only noticed it after the adrenaline had worn off - hence why he'd felt so drained after that incredible orgasm?
He looked at himself in the mirror of his dorm room: his skin seemed pale, his deep brown eyes a little blood-shot - he was a state. And -
"Jesus!" he said aloud.
Some of his hairs had gone grey. When had that happened? He hadn't really looked in the mirror since Sophie had died, he'd had other things more pressing to think about. But he knew for a fact he had had a full head of pure black hair before. But now, a sprinkling of silver hairs was clearly there, interspersed through the sides of his black mane. He looked like a fifty-year-old, for Heaven's sake. What was that about? Was this the effect of Sophie's death on him?
Throwing on some clothes, he locked the door to his dorm-room and headed on out into the autumn sunshine. College life was certainly continuing as normal, but Miles still couldn't help feeling very different. It was nothing to do with his year in Japan - or even the loss of his twin, he felt certain - but he felt peculiarly weak today, physically weak as though he'd contracted some kind of condition. Stepping outside his dorm, the sudden bright daylight hurt his eyes and bearing it for just a few minutes made him turn around one-eighty degrees and return to his room for his sunglasses.
It wasn't particularly sunny, either: the sky was overcast, with brushes of thick grey rushing along in the breeze: how could it be too bright for him? Was he genuinely ill? Wasn't it a symptom of meningitis, being photo-sensitive like this?
Perhaps he was being paranoid. Arriving at the college chapel, a beautiful sleepy old victorian stone building half-covered in ivy, with its tall clock tower forming the centrepiece of the college campus, Miles tried his best to calm himself.
Inside, he was grateful to see a half-decent turn-out: his sister had made a good number of friends in that last year. But he sat up front, a little isolated since he was not really in his sister's social circle. The musty interior of the chapel was soothing to him now, the light was filtered through narrow stain-glass windows, definitely the place for someone feeling sensitive to the sun.
"Miles, isn't it?"
The voice came from behind him - it surprised him a little, made him jump. But he turned to find one of the frat boys Sophie had hung around with - Jake, was that his name?
"Jake," the pale, blond-haired frat boy confirmed. "I was a friend of your sister."
"Hi," he said, shaking the guy's hand tentatively.
"How are you?"
"Oh, you know. Holding up, I suppose."
"We're all a bit in shock, I guess," he said, sounding genuine. "Have the doctors said how she... what happened to her, yet?"
"No. Not yet. Some kind of rare condition, they think. Not genetic, though, they tell me."
"Well, that's something, huh?" Jake gave him a weak smile - it was hard to know how to act in the circumstances, Miles appreciated that. "Well hey," he said, getting up to head back to his friends, a bunch of guys Miles half-recognised sitting across the aisle, "come by the fraternity some time, huh? You're welcome any time, Miles."
They shook hands again, Miles warmed by his genuine concern, and he nodded, indicating that he would be by in the near future.
Those guys sitting there, where Jake was. The burning recognition now came to him: they had been the guys who had been pursuing that girl the other night. Were they frat boys too? They had to be. They were all sitting there in a group. Maybe they hadn't actually been intending to hurt that girl the other night, then. Maybe they had just been frat boys fooling around - had he overreacted? He'd kicked the living shit out of them.
They didn't seem too beaten up: not even a bruise was visible, in fact. The girl had seemed grateful - she'd shown him that much afterwards. So maybe he hadn't overreacted. Or maybe she'd been frightened - maybe she thought he was getting the guys to get to her. That she had to oblige him, because otherwise he could seriously hurt her. Miles felt a little sick at that thought.
Just then, as he stared at him, one of the guys he'd beaten up the previous night winked at him and flashed him a sly grin. Quickly, he turned away. What was that about? It was as if to say the fight hadn't bothered them, they respected him. But he'd broken bones - he remembered the grisly sounds. And he'd tasted blood - their blood.
Maybe he'd won the frat boys' respect by giving them a hiding to nothing. That was the way frat boys worked, after all, wasn't it? That whole primitive survival of the fittest thing, the strongest shall lead?