Shadows of Eden
August came to us as the first snow of winter hit the ground. It blanketed the Bear Creek roads with a soft, white sheen, and sprinkled from the trees like faintly falling stars. It was our first heavy snowfall in years, and, for Ken Devlin, that meant no school, stolen booze, and snowball fights. For me, it meant August Young was going to die.
I’d been having the vision for weeks now, and it was always the same, never-changing nightmare on repeat. August Young crawling out of the Bear Creek River like a glorified, god-like zombie, and laying on the freshly frozen ground until his heart stopped beating. It was impossible, of course, because August Young was already supposed to be dead (or, declared dead, at least. That’s what happens when you’ve been missing for three years.) But my visions were never wrong, no matter how many times I hoped they were, and so, when Ken called me that morning to declare he had “swiped some brews and was ‘bout to pummel my ass at snow pong” - whatever that was - I kindly declined.
He, of course, didn’t take it too well. “Come on, babe,” he said, elongating his ‘on’ for a full five seconds. “It’ll be fun.”
“I told you,” I said, as I scoured through the depths of my closet for my black snow jacket, “I’m busy today.”
“What could you possibly have to do today?” he said. “It’s a snow day. No school.” He grunted, cursing as he hit something. “Fucking chair, I keep telling Kyle to get it out of my goddamn way!” he yelled. A mumbled voice retorted something from the background. “Anyway,” he continued, “don’t tell me you have to catch up on work. I know you’re already ahead. I’ve been copying off you for weeks, remember?”
I rolled my eyes. “It’s not work. It’s a, uh, family thing.” He groaned from the other end. He knew my “family things” were non-negotiable. “I promise,” I said, trying to appease him, “if I get out early, I’ll try to meet up with you.”
There was no way that was going to happen, given that I knew nothing about the timing of August Young’s supposed death, but Ken seemed satisfied with the answer nonetheless.
“Ok. See you later then, babe.” Another thud and an expletive. “Kyle, you motherf-“
I hung up the phone, shaking my head. Ken Devlin wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box, but he was beautiful and owned half of Bear Creek, so, according to Niki, he was “the catch of the town, but only after Kyle, of course.” She never failed to assure me that Ken’s twin brother was “obviously the more classically handsome of the two, but Ken is so cute too, right, Sulli?”
I’d nod right along with her and say, “Sure, Nik,” because that was what Nikolle, Bear Creek Local Celeb and my best friend, cared about. She supported my botany obsession and occasional bursts of epilepsy-induced adventures, and I assured her that her identical twin boyfriend was hotter than my identical twin boyfriend. It was a strange friendship, but it worked. I knew I could always depend on her.
Which was why, as I finally located my snow jacket and shrugged it on, I dialed her number. She picked up on the first ring.
“Sulli, Sulli, Sulli,” she trilled, “tell me you were kidding about ditching snow pong!”
“Sadly, no,” I said, not bothering to ask what it was. “And you’re ditching with me.”
A heartbeat. “What?” She laughed. “You’re kidding, right? It’s our first snow day in years!”
“I know,” I said, “which is great and all, because it means we have the day off to find August Young.”
From the other end, I could hear her dejected sigh. “Sulli, I love you. You know I love you, right? Because I do. I love you so much. But the thing is, Sull, baby, August is dead.” She paused, and I waited for her to finish. “It was fun to look for him for the first few months, but we’re eighteen now. Playing Sherlock is a little old, you know? Playing snow pong with hot boys and beer on the other hand…”
“Nik, you know that time when I told you not to go to Starbucks and it caught on fire?”
“Yeah, you psychic freak,” she said endearingly. She didn’t know the full extent of what I could do - neither did I, if I was being completely honest - but she knew enough to listen to me. “You saved my life.”
“This is like that,” I said. “I need your help.” I heard her defeated moan and knew she’d given in. “Can you come pick me up?”
Thirty minutes later, Nikolle parked her Mercedes by the hiking trail a mile away from the bridge. I sighed in relief at the sight of the snow coated trees; they looked just like they did in my vision. As I closed the car door behind me, I hoped we weren’t too late, but, judging from the way the sun was hitting the trees — from the East instead of directly overhead — I knew we still had some time.
“We’re not doing anything illegal, right?” Nikolle asked. “Because you know I wanted to win Miss Bear Creek this year, and jail is not going to look good as an extracurric.”
I hopped over the rope that had been placed in front of the trail. “I’m sure this isn’t illegal.” I wasn’t sure, but it’s not like I was about to tell her that. It’s not like we were going to get caught. I hoped. “There’s a trail here for a reason.”
“There is a literal rope in front of the trail.” She hesitated at the entrance. “Nobody puts a rope in front of a place they want people in. They’re not exactly welcoming us.”
I gestured around us. “Do you see any signs that say ‘Keep Out’?” She shook her head. “Then move your ass, Miss Bear Creek. I’m sure none of the other contestants can say they rescued August Young from near death.”
She visibly brightened. “You are so right. I’m going to be an actual, legit hero.” She squealed. “Mikaela Harris can suck my Wonder Woman dick.”
As Nikolle began muttering about Mikaela Harris’s unfortunate case of poison ivy she had been all too privy to, I led us down the trail, pausing every so often to match up what I saw before me with what I had seen in my vision. The riverbank slanted significantly downwards, and I had to balance myself on the nearby trees to keep from slipping on the fresh snow. The trail curved through the forest, and, during the summer, it was a sight to be seen. Paved with red brick, the trail was surrounded by blooming green foliage, a variety of birds I could proudly identify by species, and every color flower imaginable. I’d been here once with Ken, and we’d followed it past the bridge and to the small clearing where the town had once set up picnic tables meant for family outings but, thanks to The Incident of 2012 (wherein Mae Jules Kant, intent on shedding her good girl image before college, infamously preformed a round of fellatio on all the gathered male members of her senior class — or so we had been told), was now Bear Creek’s designated hook up spot.
Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t summer, and so the usual terra-cotta path was covered in a layer of fluffy snow, distinguishable only by the yard length of space between the trees that bordered it. The trail diverged about half-way down to the river, with one branch continuing straight through the woods to the clearing and the other snaking down to meet the river’s edge. They both converged at the bridge - the only difference being the time it took to get there - but given that we had time to spare, I decided to take the more scenic route and led us down towards the river.
Nikolle tripped behind me and let out a shriek. I turned just in time to watch the snow shoot up as it cushioned her fall. She pouted. “I swear to my dear sweet baby Buddha, Sulli, that if August Young is not here and I just ruined my favorite jeans for your crazy ass, you are going to be the official designated driver for the rest of senior year.”
I glared at her. “You know I don’t like to drive.”
“Don’t be stupid.” She rolled her eyes at me. “It pollutes the literal same amount if you drive or I drive.”
“Yeah,” I said with a sly grin, “but if you drive, at least I don’t feel guilty about it.”
“But if you drive,” she retorted, her hands hidden beneath the snow, “then I can freaking drink!” Without warning, she lifted her arm and threw a snowball at my face.
I gasped as the ice hit my skin. “Oh no you did not.” Her high pitched, manical laughter wafted over me as I wiped the remainder of the snow off my face and smirked at her. “You’re going to regret that.”
“Make me,” she teased, sticking her tongue out at me. She pushed herself up and took off, hiding behind a tree somewhere in the distance.
I scooped up a handful of snow. “Where are you?” I trilled, compacting the snow into ball-like proportions. I caught a glimpse of her silver blonde hair and smiled. “Come on now, Nik. It’s no fun if you’re hiding.”
I tip-toed towards the tree, thankful that the snow muted my footsteps. I heard her giggling as I approached, completely unaware that I was sneaking up behind her. Grinning, I reached around the tree and smushed my snowball into her hair.
She shrieked. “You bitch!” She jumped out, face hotter than fire, and tackled me. “That was my hair!” We rolled around in the snow, laughing, trying to pile as much snow as possible on top of the other until…
I stopped, wide-eyed, spitting expletives as I crawled out from beneath her.
Another crash and then…
Just like in my vision.
Not caring that I was covered in melting snow, I ran down the trail, ignoring as Niki called my name. We were still half a mile from the bridge, but I could see it in the distance. The metal guard rail had been sliced in two, a piece of it missing. Beneath it, the tail end of a black car had cracked through the ice and was sinking into the river. Whatever car it had originally collided with was gone. August was nowhere to be seen.
The wind stung my eyes as I raced towards the car, but I paid it no mind. I didn’t note the cold that scorched my skin, or the frigid water that raced down my shirt, or even the discomfort of the snow within my boots. All I could think about was August. August, the blue-eyed boy I had once betrayed. It should have been me. August, my oldest friend. I was the one they wanted. August, who I never stopped loving. I let them take him.
“Sulli,” I could almost hear him calling out to me that night. “Sulli…”
“Sulli!” Nikolle’s voice rang out, snapping me out of my stupor. I had reached the car, and was staring at it blankly, waiting for August to show. “Sulli, what do we do? We have to call 911.”
I turned to her. “Yes. Do that.” She took out her phone and dialed. Why was August not out yet? Why was he taking so long? He never took this long in the dream.
“Sulli, what are you doing?” Nikolle asked, grabbing my arm.
I shook it out of her grasp. “I have to help him.” I edged towards the river, ready to hold my breath and dive.
“Are you insane? It is literally negative a hundred degrees, you psycho!”
“He is dying!”
“And so will you!”
A tuft of dark brown hair appeared on the surface of the water, and there was nothing Nikolle could have said to stop me from diving in after him. I was under the water in seconds, the cold paralyzing me to my core. August, I told myself, you have to save August. I bit back the pain and the onslaught of hypothermia and swam to him. I didn’t realize he was surrounded in a pool of blood until I reached for his hair and felt the warm, crimson liquid coating it. I had to get him out of there. But it’s so cold. He was dying. So cold.
Nikolle yelled something from the riverbank, but all I could hear was the chattering of my teeth. Have to get out. Get August. So cold. My head above water, I grabbed August around the neck and tucked him under my arm, slowly, shivering, treading water until I reached the shore. And then we were there, me pulling August up with me, Nikolle doing her best to help, and August still beautiful, still breathtaking, not breathing.
So cold. “August,” I pleaded, my voice shaky. I slapped him on the face with the back of my hand. “August, wake up. Breathe.”
“Don’t you know CPR or something?” Nikolle asked from behind me.
“Not really, just—“ I stopped. Try. I covered his nose, put my mouth down to his and tried my hardest to breathe air back into his body. From a distance, I could hear the sirens approaching, but they were still too far and he wasn’t breathing. I tried again.
A cough from below me, and suddenly August was chucking up water and blood, and I was so relieved that the cold came rushing back into me and I felt myself slowly begin to black out. So cold.
“August,” I managed to get out, and the last thing I saw before my world went dark was August’s eyes widening in fear as he saw me and said, “Eve.”