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    Cynus
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Rivers of the Dead - 5. 1-5 - A Duty of Love

Don't forget to comment and react to this chapter! Also, special thanks to my Patreon Supporters: Michael, Bill, Charles, Amr, Don, James, Joe, Jos, Mark, Mark, Paul, and Steve. Couldn't have done it without them. :) Ask me how you can help and get access to chapters early!

Voices sounded from below Caleb. His parents were talking about him, talking about what to do with him, most likely. He'd barely left his room in the last five days, and he saw little reason to do so anytime in the future. He saw no reason to get dressed, no reason to eat, no reason to sleep. Some of those happened anyway, but not usually until his natural instincts forced him to.

The front door opened and a new voice joined the chorus beneath him. Liz spoke more loudly than his parents had, and he could hear her clearly. "Where's Caleb? How is he not ready?"

Listening more intently now, Caleb managed to make out his mother's words in response. "He hasn't moved yet. I don't know what to do."

"Well, he's not going to miss today. I don't care if he speaks or not, but he's definitely coming," Liz said forcefully. "Can I go up there?"

"You might not like what you see," Caleb's father said.

Liz was already on the stairs at that point, but she stopped to call back, "It seems that's been happening a lot recently."

Caleb's parents didn't say anything else to her, and so Liz continued her ascent. For a brief moment, Caleb considered putting some clothes on before Liz entered his room, but he just didn't have the energy. He just didn't care. If she saw him naked, it just meant he wasn't hiding anything from her.

Liz didn't bother knocking, entering the room forcefully like a powerful gust of wind blowing the door open. She paused when she saw him lying atop his covers, naked, staring at the ceiling. Caleb glanced at her briefly, seeing the mess of emotions in her brown eyes. Brown eyes. She'd taken her contacts out, and was wearing all black, though the black eyeshadow was missing. Liz wasn't wearing any makeup at all.

"You look like you're going to a funeral," Caleb observed before returning his gaze to the ceiling.

The door closed softly behind Liz and she took several steps forward. She hesitated, then changed her route to go to Caleb's desk, rescuing his desk chair from a pile of laundry. It was likely one of the same piles they'd moved out of the way before performing Liz's prosperity spell, though Caleb wasn't certain.

Liz placed the chair next to Caleb's bed and sat down. Her black skirt, the first skirt Caleb had ever seen her wear, was pushed back slightly as she seated herself, revealing some of her thighs. If the situation were different, and if Caleb was attracted to women, he might've found the sudden revelation of flesh tantalizing. Apathy only allowed him to recognize the potential for such things, however, and he found he had no ability to comment.

"You look like you're going swimming," Liz replied, "And you haven't found your swimming suit yet." She forced a smile and added, "Speaking of suits, shouldn't you be wearing one? Possibly something in black."

"Why?"

"So you can go to the funeral, obviously," Liz said. "We owe it to Ethan."

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Caleb said, bolting upright so fast it caught Liz by surprise. She rocked backward in the chair and it almost toppled over, but she barely managed to catch herself. "We owe Ethan a funeral!? We owe him another fucking chance at life! We owe him our love, our loyalty . . . we owe him the fucking truth, and when did we ever give it to him? We could've stopped this."

Liz stood slowly, her face contorting further with rage at each word. Her eyes flashed with lightning, her body trembled like storm clouds rumbling with thunder. And then she reached back with her hand and slapped Caleb as hard as he could, sending him flying back against the bed. He clutched at his cheek, staring at her with surprise as his newfound anger paused to consider this new stimulus.

He growled angrily, wanting to challenge her further and he started forward again only to be slammed backward by some unseen force. Liz raised her hand and the force intensified, pressing him back against his headboard and holding him there with telekinetic energy.

"Listen, you little prick," she roared. "You want to blame me? Fine. You want to blame yourself? Fine. But it's not your fault, and it's not mine, either. At the end, Ethan chose to kill himself instead of asking us what was going on. A simple question from him would've cleared the whole damn thing up, so you think a little truth could've solved this? So could a little patience, a little trust, a little . . ." The force holding Caleb still faltered and then faded entirely and Liz collapsed back into the chair, sobbing. "You think I don't . . . I don't feel bad about our hand in this? You think I . . . you think I want to move on, to forget my guilt? Our guilt? I don't know if we could've stopped it, I don't know anything. Fuck, Caleb . . . it might've been inevitable. It might've been preventable. Either way, it happened, and we have to go to the funeral, we have to . . ."

Caleb pulled his legs up into his chest and hugged them close to his body. He wasn't ready to cry, even seeing Liz that way, though she did pull on his emotions in ways he hadn't allowed himself to do yet. While he couldn't yet cry, he was scared. The future had some measure of certainty before, even if it hadn't been much. Now, it seemed like there'd never be certainty again, never a sure path to follow, because before there'd always been the hope Ethan would be there waiting for him. He'd never felt so alone, and yet, for some reason, all he wanted was to be alone.

"Funerals are for the living," he said quietly, not sure he believed it, though he believed his next statement with all his heart. "I'm not alive anymore, so what does it matter?"

Liz came out of her sobs at the innocent tone of that tragic question. She stared at Caleb until he stared back at her, their gazes locking and maintaining for the first time since Ethan's death. They communicated volumes through their eyes; all the emotion, the pain, the loss . . . it all came through, and they knew the other was feeling just as awful.

And, ever one to bring clarity to an obscure situation, Liz spoke first, a quiet, pleading answer to Caleb's question. "It matters because you love Ethan, and we need to say goodbye, Caleb. It matters because Ethan loved his family, and they need our support. It matters because . . . because you're alive, even if you can't feel it right now."

"Why . . ." Caleb started, but he couldn't think of a new question to ask. He was sick of fighting with Liz, his one remaining friend, no matter how he felt. "Okay, I'll get ready."

"Shower too, please," Liz said.

Caleb sniffed, and realized he smelled a bit like a swamp. He looked at Liz and smirked. "I guess I do need one."

Liz sighed and said, "I don't want to give you the wrong idea, but do you need any help? I don't really want to come back in here later and have to wrestle you into a suit if staying would mean I didn't have to."

"No . . . I'll be fine." Caleb replied. "Liz . . . I don't think it'll ever get better, but . . . thank you."

Liz choked back a sob, then, breathing deeply, she said, "I don't know if it will or not, to be honest. They say it does . . . but what do they know? All I know is that I love you, Caleb. I never had any siblings, but with you around I never needed them. I hope you feel the same way."

"Yeah . . ." Caleb said, forcing a smile, the first smile to cross his face since Ethan's death. "I guess it's nice to have a sister to slap you when you're being stupid."

"Or a brother to show you when you're trying to move on too quickly," Liz replied. She rose to her feet and walked to the door, pausing with her hand resting on the knob. "I'll be downstairs, but there's one more thing."

"What's that?"

"Ethan loved you, too. Don't forget."

Don't forget to comment and react to this chapter! Also, special thanks to my Patreon Supporters: Michael, Bill, Charles, Amr, Don, James, Joe, Jos, Mark, Mark, Paul, and Steve. Couldn't have done it without them. :) Ask me how you can help and get access to chapters early!

Copyright © 2017 Cynus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

I probably was been in the same state Caleb was in. There's no way I could function when I found my best friend dead. I sat there numb waiting for an ambulance to take her body. I know the pain that he is feeling. It hurts like hell but it will get better. Another great chapter.

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The lack of notifications is a bit of a PITA. 

 

So much pain to endure, hopefully this is the beginning of some positive motion for Caleb and Liz...

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Been there.  Lay in the mud on the side of a Korean mountain holding my friend while he died and I didn't.  such waste.

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8 hours ago, Cynus said:

PLEASE QUOTE OR LIKE THIS COMMENT SO I KNOW YOU ARE COMMENTING. This is my new strategy to get notifications on chapter comments. :)

 

I can relate to this very well. My best friend of fifty years died suddenly a few weeks ago. It leaves an irreplaceable vacuum in your life and that is without any romantic attachment involved. You have the feeling nothing from this point will ever be as good or enjoyable.  It is a daunting feeling to experience. My level of sadness isn't as pronounced as Caleb's, but I understand it well. Thanks for this chapter.

Edited by drpaladin
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9 hours ago, Cynus said:

PLEASE QUOTE OR LIKE THIS COMMENT SO I KNOW YOU ARE COMMENTING. This is my new strategy to get notifications on chapter comments. :)

I get this pain too well. I have moments when I still go through it. I was happy to be in school just so I was doing something or else I might have still been in bed. 

You captured Caleb's pain. 

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9 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

I probably was been in the same state Caleb was in. There's no way I could function when I found my best friend dead. I sat there numb waiting for an ambulance to take her body. I know the pain that he is feeling. It hurts like hell but it will get better. Another great chapter.

 

7 hours ago, Lux Apollo said:

The lack of notifications is a bit of a PITA. 

 

So much pain to endure, hopefully this is the beginning of some positive motion for Caleb and Liz...

 

6 hours ago, Stephen said:

Liz has a clear and capable mind, among other gifts.

 

5 hours ago, stanollie said:

Been there.  Lay in the mud on the side of a Korean mountain holding my friend while he died and I didn't.  such waste.

 

1 hour ago, drpaladin said:

 

I can relate to this very well. My best friend of fifty years died suddenly a few weeks ago. It leaves an irreplaceable vacuum in your life and that is without any romantic attachment involved. You have the feeling nothing from this point will ever be as good or enjoyable.  It is a daunting feeling to experience. My level of sadness isn't as pronounced as Caleb's, but I understand it well. Thanks for this chapter.

 

37 minutes ago, Defiance19 said:

I get this pain too well. I have moments when I still go through it. I was happy to be in school just so I was doing something or else I might have still been in bed. 

You captured Caleb's pain. 


What I want to say to one of you, I want to say to all, so I hope you'll forgive this bulk reply.

This was written from a depth I haven't touched in a long time. I lost someone extremely precious to me when I was a teenager. It was a motorcycle accident which shouldn't have happened. He wasn't even going particularly fast, but he skidded out on wet pavement and ended up in front of a semi.

Losing someone close to you, especially when it comes out of nowhere . . . it locks you up in ways I've wanted to describe for a long time but always failed to do so. This story was driven by that need to express those emotions. This story was driven by that overwhelming need to make things right somehow, to feel the pain again and somehow recapture love and life as it was before.

I understand all of you who have felt this loss, and I'm sorry to have made you relive it. Though I do hope that this story, which is about a journey I think we all metaphorically take when we lose someone, will also inevitably take you to a place of hope and peace.

May the universe grant you solace.

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10 hours ago, Cynus said:

PLEASE QUOTE OR LIKE THIS COMMENT SO I KNOW YOU ARE COMMENTING. This is my new strategy to get notifications on chapter comments. :)

 

How hard it must have been for Liz to confront Caleb, despite needing to slog through her own guilt and despair. How hard for her to deliver the stinging lesson to get Caleb to look beyond the borders of a devastated self. You portray this intensely and well. 

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Just now, Parker Owens said:

 

How hard it must have been for Liz to confront Caleb, despite needing to slog through her own guilt and despair. How hard for her to deliver the stinging lesson to get Caleb to look beyond the borders of a devastated self. You portray this intensely and well. 

Thank you. I appreciate the feedback. This is one of the few chapters Liz wrote, and I loved her for it. It was just what I needed to move on to the next chapter.

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Caleb is right. Funerals are for the living. But that's the whole point. To share grief and somehow remind the ones left behind that they are still here and not alone. 

 

As for making us relive sorrow? Isn't that what stories or art is supposed to do? Make us look inside and face it again. Remember and gradually reach the stage where we can celebrate a life and not get stuck on mourning a death. It takes time. Nothing is ever the same. It is what it is. 

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1 hour ago, Puppilull said:

Caleb is right. Funerals are for the living. But that's the whole point. To share grief and somehow remind the ones left behind that they are still here and not alone. 

 

As for making us relive sorrow? Isn't that what stories or art is supposed to do? Make us look inside and face it again. Remember and gradually reach the stage where we can celebrate a life and not get stuck on mourning a death. It takes time. Nothing is ever the same. It is what it is. 

You sound a lot like Liz here. I think you'd get along well with her. :) I agree completely with your statement about art, and I think that's what my goal has always been with writing, to make people reflect upon emotion. I appreciate your wisdom here, and I'm grateful you chose to share it with us.

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On 9/7/2017 at 11:36 AM, Cynus said:

PLEASE QUOTE OR LIKE THIS COMMENT SO I KNOW YOU ARE COMMENTING. This is my new strategy to get notifications on chapter comments. :)

I can totally relate to how Caleb is feeling. When your world shatters, it's hard to know how to go on. It's a good thing he has Liz to smack him out of it.  She's 100% right.  While communication would have helped, Ethan chose to go a different route.  I like Liz a lot.  She's a strong character who will help Caleb get through this.  This is not something you ever get over, but Caleb will learn how to live with it.  Now I'm thinking maybe I should have waited until you were done posting to start reading... lol 

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10 minutes ago, Valkyrie said:

I can totally relate to how Caleb is feeling. When your world shatters, it's hard to know how to go on. It's a good thing he has Liz to smack him out of it.  She's 100% right.  While communication would have helped, Ethan chose to go a different route.  I like Liz a lot.  She's a strong character who will help Caleb get through this.  This is not something you ever get over, but Caleb will learn how to live with it.  Now I'm thinking maybe I should have waited until you were done posting to start reading... lol 

I'll send you a PM about that last thought. ;)

Liz is the voice of reason. She's the one who keeps anchor in the storm. I think most people will find they can relate to Liz by the end of the story, and I'm glad you do, too.

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On 9/7/2017 at 8:36 AM, Cynus said:

PLEASE QUOTE OR LIKE THIS COMMENT SO I KNOW YOU ARE COMMENTING. This is my new strategy to get notifications on chapter comments. :)

Grieving is a bitch. Everyone deals differently. Emotions running the gamut. Sometimes you need a loved one to set you straight without judgement of mood or feelings.

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6 minutes ago, BlindAmbition said:

Grieving is a bitch. Everyone deals differently. Emotions running the gamut. Sometimes you need a loved one to set you straight without judgement of mood or feelings.

Liz and Caleb's relationship is incredibly precious to me for precisely this reason. She knew exactly what to do for him, despite her own feelings of grief.

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