Warning: Suicidal sims, suggestion of exploitation, generally awful.
16 years earlier
Caleb had been stargazing on his bench when the human had appeared. She was barefoot and without a coat in the frigid November weather; he felt even colder than usual as he looked at her.
She must be lost but he didn’t know where she might have come from. He was in the middle of nowhere; the nearest village was miles away. Had she really walked miles through the forest like that?
She hadn’t acknowledged him sitting there on the bench. Blinkered, she had made her way straight to the cliff edge and was lingering there, looking down at the raging waters below, singing something to herself that sounded like a lullaby.
Caleb didn’t know if it was truly what she intended, but she was about two steps from falling to her death. He stood up and cleared his throat.
She turned slowly towards him. If she was surprised to see him there, she didn’t show it.
“Hello,” he said. She blinked and looked back down at the river. “What are you doing here?” he asked, walking towards her.
“Don’t come any nearer,” she hissed and held up her hand.
“OK,” he said stopping in his tracks.
She turned back towards the cliff edge and inched her feet forward.
In an instant, Caleb had a hold of the back of her dress.
“Don’t touch me!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “Get off!”
“You could have fallen.” He pulled her back from the edge and let go.
“Uh, yeah? That’s the idea.” She fell to her knees, clutching her chest, trying to get her breath.
Caleb had, a few times, flirted with the idea of ending his eternal existence, but it still amazed him to learn that humans would ever want to cut theirs any shorter. Especially one so young.
“Why would you want to do that?” he asked, softly.
She got to feet and squared up to him. “What do you care?”
They stood in silence for a beat, the icy wind whipping around them. She shivered in the thin dress she was wearing but made no effort to go back towards the cliff edge.
“Would you like my jacket?” he offered.
“No,” she retorted. “Why are you men always trying to get your kit off?”
“You look cold.”
“Of course I’m cold! It’s freaking freezing up here! Aren’t you going to talk me out of it?”
“Yes. Don’t you want me to?”
“I don’t know!” She sat down on the bench, her head in her hands. “Yes? No?”
Caleb sat beside her.
She slapped her face in frustration. “Get a grip, Rose,” she said to herself. “You can do it.”
“Don’t do it, Rose. If the rocks don’t outright break your neck, the temperature of the water will put you in shock. You’ll either drown or have a heart attack,” Caleb said quietly. He was thinking of the time that he’d jumped down there. None of these things had happened, of course; he had washed up on the riverbank in Glimmerbrook, disappointingly intact. He didn’t feel Rose would be so lucky.
“Who even are you?” Rose spat. “Why are you up here in the middle of the night? Are you thinking of jumping, too?”
“Are you some sort of forest-dwelling pervert?”
“Are you an escaped convict or something?”
“I’m Caleb,” he said holding out his hand. He wouldn’t usually offer to shake hands with a human, but she was surely as cold as he was.
She looked at his hand, then his face and shook her head. “Why do you look like you got dressed in the dark? You’re such a weirdo.”
He shrugged. He’d been called worse.
“Where did you come from, Rose?”
“The moon.” Rose rolled her eyes.
“Did you walk here?” Caleb asked looking at her bare feet.
“No, I flew.”
He was trying to find any kind of common ground. He decided to create one. “Ah, I see. You flew here from the moon to commit suicide in front of the local forest-dwelling pervert,” Caleb said. “We’ve all been there.”
Rose smiled briefly but immediately set her face back into her unconvincing scowl.
“Exactly. I knew you’d understand, Forest Creep. Look, I’m not crazy, OK? I just didn’t have time to put shoes on,” she said, like that explained everything.
“I had to leave. I just… ran.”
She was singing again, fiddling with something in her pocket. She sighed, “I’ve done something awful. Really awful.”
“Whatever it is, I’m sure you can seek atonement.”
“‘Seek atonement’? Are you from the past? I’m not some Watcher-botherer,” she snarled. She lifted her face, her cheeks glistening with tears. “Can I show you something, Forest Creep?” She didn’t give him chance to answer; she reached into her pocket and handed him a crumpled photograph. “This is Jenny.”
“Is she your sister?”
Rose shook her head, her tears falling faster. “No, she’s my daughter.”
Caleb looked at the photograph, then back at Rose.
“I know what you’re thinking; that I’m too young to have a kid? You’re, like, not wrong,” she sobbed, “But that doesn’t mean it was any easier to give her away.”
“Ugh. I didn’t want her to be stuck with him.”
Caleb thought for a while, wondering what to say.
Rose dropped her head back to her hands, her body dissolving into sobs. “I can’t do it! What if Jenny tries to find me one day? What will she think if she finds out I dumped her and jumped off a cliff? She’ll think I didn’t love her at all.”
Caleb nodded, wondering if that’s how Lilith felt about him.
“I don’t know what to do, Forest Creep. I can’t go back now. If I rock up back at The Tower like this…” she motioned to her nightdress and bare feet.
Ah. He was familiar with The Tower. So she was from Windenburg.
He wanted to take her to Lilith. But how to ask a young stranger back to his house in the middle of the woods without sounding like, well, exactly what she’d called him? “There’s someone you should meet. She’ll be able to help you. If you come with me?”
Rose folded her arms. “Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Thanks, but no thanks. I’m going to carry on walking. Start over.”
He couldn’t just let her go. “It’s not safe out here. She can help you start over. She helped me to.” A few times.
“Why did you have to start over?” She sniffed and wiped her face. “What did you do? Go on a rampage, boring people to death?”
“Something like that.”
“Yeah, right. Don’t pretend to be interesting. Next, you’ll be telling me you’re a vampire or something.”
“Oh crap.” She got to her feet and backed away. “Are you trying to lure me to your lair so you can kill me?”
She turned on her heel and sprinted off down the path.
“Rose! I’m not going to kill you!” he shouted, sounding like a complete madman, as she disappeared into the darkness.
Caleb hesitated. If he followed her she’d think he was chasing her down and he’d only frighten her more, but if he didn’t…
He headed off down the path in pursuit of Rose. Wandering in the forest barefoot was one thing, but running through it, afraid, without shoes would be quite another. He knew every tree and turn; he’d surely catch up. He’d surely find her first.
The air around him grew heavy, crushing him on all sides.
Caleb fell to his knees.
He could no longer sense the girl anywhere.