I was walking on the Brooklyn Bridge, the sky above me a black velvet blanket that was tinged with orange the closer it got to the horizon. There were no stars, not here with the city of New York right in front of me. The buildings acted like stars instead, their lights blurred and out of focus like Photoshop bokeh effect.
Though it wasn’t snowing, the bridge was covered in a light dusting of pure white snow. I was only wearing my jeans and a thin Slayer hoodie and yet wasn’t cold at all.
Everything around me was silent. There were no cars and there were no people. The river below didn’t lap and the sounds of the city didn’t carry. The snow was a blank sheet of paper except for the one set of tracks that cut down the middle.
I knew those footprints – made by boots – like I knew the back of my hand. They were what I had been searching for all this time. Why I was here.
I walked on, slowly, hearing the snow squeak beneath my Chuck Taylors. Suddenly the footprints veered off to the side of the walkway and stopped. I followed them and looked over the side to where the cars should have been driving past heading into the city.
There was a man standing at the side of the lanes, looking out at the Hudson River. I couldn’t see anything but his shadowy back, but I knew it was him.
“Dex!” I yelled after him. But he didn’t move. He didn’t turn around.
I yelled again. I knew it was him. Why wasn’t he listening? Just how long had we been apart?
I was so tempted to take off my shoe and chuck it at him but decided I’d probably miss. Instead I took in a deep breath and managed to climb over the edge of the walkway and onto one of the metal beams that spanned above the lanes. Somehow I was able to balance perfectly, like a tightrope walker, as I made my way across. When I was near Dex, I lay down on my stomach and then slid off the edge of the beam, hanging in the air like a child from monkey bars for a few seconds before I let go.
I landed with a soft thud, my knees aching from the impact. It was a long drop and I was surprised that I had even done it to begin with but there was no time to question anything.
I ran up to him and put my hand on his arm, my fingers wrapping around his elbow, afraid to let him go ever again.
He didn’t turn to look at me. He didn’t move. He didn’t make a sound.
I pulled back at him hard, panic coursing through me. What was going on?
He was immovable, stuck to the cold white ground.
“Dex?” I whispered and walked around him. He was staring forward at the inky water, his face startlingly handsome with his high cheekbones and strong jaw flanked by light facial hair. But he was pale as snow and his eyes were so dark they rivaled the sky. His expression was strangely blank and the wisps of his shaggy black hair swayed lightly in the breeze.
He wouldn’t look at me, wouldn’t acknowledge me. I wasn’t even sure if he was real or a wax figure. I watched him, feeling the horror rising from deep within me, wondering if he was even breathing.
“That’s not Declan,” a smug voice from behind me said. I jumped and whirled around to see…no one.
I looked up and saw a man in a business suit standing on the beam above me. The ends of his blazer flapped in the breeze and his face was obscured in shadow.
Still, I knew who he was. Every bone in my body told me who this was. I had met him before.
“What’s wrong with him?” I asked the man. I grabbed Dex’s hand, squeezing it and staring into his face, trying to get a reaction, to get something out of him. He didn’t even blink. He was just still, his eyebrow ring glinting from the city lights. This was Dex, my Dex, my man, my love, my fiancé. This was him. I knew him better than I knew myself.
Then what was wrong with him? I couldn’t have traveled all this way to have failed in the end. I was supposed to bring him home.
“There is nothing wrong with him,” the man said from above. “He’s better now. He’s buried down below where he belongs.”
I looked up at the man, feeling his hateful eyes upon me. They shone like nickels in the shadows and my stomach steeled itself in protest. This man evoked nothing but primal fear in me.
“What did you do to him?” I whispered. My eyes flitted over to Dex again and I could only shake my head, no. This was Dex.
“The same thing I will do to you and your sister and your mother,” he said.
My breath caught in my throat and when I finally exhaled, it came out painfully cold. Glowing embers began to fall from the sky, turning to ash as soon as they hit my skin. It burned and the snow sizzled.
“What?” I managed to ask, feeling myself slowly being drained of strength.
He grinned at me and his teeth glowed white. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
Then he turned sharply and strode away along the beam, the metal creaking until he reached the walkway.
“Michael!” I screamed after him. “You can’t leave him like this. He’s your brother.”
He shook his head and for once I could see the glow of his skin from the light of the city. It looked burned and red. I blinked my eyes trying to see if it was some color was being reflected onto him.
“No,” he said. “He’s not my brother. And I haven’t been Michael for a very long time.”
He climbed onto the walkway and disappeared.
Suddenly the bridge quaked, jerking from side to side and throwing me off balance. I grabbed onto Dex to steady me and as I did so a terrific crash rang through the air. The bridge deck began to split from the end, a crack racing toward us in one dark, jagged line. Flames began to lick up through the split and the suspension cables along the bridge began to snap and fly out, whooshing through the air with a metallic noise.
Everything was still shaking, the bridge splitting right in two. It was heading right for us, right for Dex. The flames were higher now as they shot out of the crack and from the corner of my eyes the world was slowly starting to become lighter, the East River turning from inky black water to a living floor of fire.
“Dex!” I yelled trying to get him out of the way.
But he wouldn’t budge.
The damn man wouldn’t budge.
And the bridge continued to crack.
I had two choices and in that I had no choice. I was either going to go down with him and be swallowed whole by the inferno that was about to devour us or I could step aside, save myself, and let him die.