The delicate tentacles sprawl out in every direction, searching, searching, searching. The digits feel their way along the rough, yet smooth surface. They try to control everything that is in their reach, and have no variables not accounted for. But the dip in the surface is not accounted for and the fingers fall.
The spider crawls along side the mountain ledge next to me, but the inlet is too hard for the spider to hold on to and it falls. I know I should be looking and taking in every moment of Gwen, but if I do, it makes all this real.
“Peter, don’t do this. Peter if . . . if you do this, yer gonna die,” Gwen looks at me with the most pleading and sincere eyes. But I can’t meet her gaze.
“I will fight. You will live. I will die. And there is nothing you can do to stop me. Promise me my death will not be for nothing. Promise me you will live, not just survive. Promise me-”
“You will live. I will survive. And I will always love you. Promise me you will come home. Come home to me.”
“Gwen, I- . . . I can’t- . . . I can’t make that promise.”
“Peter, don’t be a hero. You don’t have to be a hero; you already are one to me. I don’t want you to be a hero, I want you to be my-”
“I’m not a hero, I just a guy with a responsibility. I’m not doing this for me. I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing this because of them,” he pleadingly explained, pointing to the piled corpses from the refugee camp below. “They didn’t die so that you all could die a little later. They weren’t murdered, executed, tortured, so that I could wimp out when I had to live up to my responsibility. Your mother didn’t commit suicide so that . . . You are their future. You continuing to live, that is my future.”
“. . . but Peter, my future is with you. I love you and will always love you. I can’t just sentence you to death!”
“This is my choice. All guilt, blame, whatever – if there even is any – is on me. No one out there,” pointing to the muggy sky and desert plains tinted crimson. “or right here,” placing a comforting but firm hand on her ruddy check. “has any part in my sacrifice. Don’t go on a path of vengeance. Go on the path of hope. No matter how buried it gets, or lost you feel, you must promise me, that you will hold on to hope and keep it alive. We have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you is to become hope. People need that.”
“Peter, why do you always have to be so dramatic? Face the facts: you’re going to die here and leave me alone.”
“I will always love you, but don’t let that stop you from living. The ‘Us’ may die with me, but what we have will live on in you, with you. You will never be alone.”
“So, you’re basically saying ‘get another guy, if it makes me happy’.”
“NO! Of course not. I want you to be miserable for the rest of your life and mourn over your poor, drama-queen, hero-type, Petey. Gwendalyn, I don’t care if it is a guy or a dog or whatever. Just know I’m gonna be like right over your shoulder in haunting ghost form like in the comics and whispering to you every so often, ‘Crazy-town-banana-pants! Gwen, why did you let me die? Gwen! Psst over here, Gwen. Why do you have another guy?’ No. Live. Don’t let the end of the world, the end of us, the end of me be the end of you.” Then I say in our code: “Indeed?”
And she replies her part: “Very well then.”
A strong twenty – something young man comes around the corner of where Gwen and Peter had pulled away from the rest of the group. The man’s gate is confident, yet relaxed. His hair is mussed and windblown from the rockslide a half hour ago that had slowed down the soldiers chasing them up the mountain. Bernard waited patiently as Peter and Gwen ended their code, and then began to speak, “They have ta move, we have ta stay.”
Peter answered humorously with, “Well then get your ninja fighting skills on, Bernard! We’re not silly goons, but super secret awesome ninjas who are going to save the day for the world!”
Acting like the kids the they once were before the war start, the friends snuck into the shadows whispering, “We’re the world’s best ninjas! We’re the world’s best ninjas!” This made Gwen laugh, which she knew might her last shared laugh with Peter, and that made her enjoy it all the more.