I pulled into the driveway but wasn’t ready to go back into the house yet. Not with so many memories still fresh in my mind. Too many that I had made with Ian in that house.
I still didn’t understand why he would have gone climbing on his own.
And now we’d just buried him. I wish I could bring him back so that I could yell at him for breaking my heart this way.
But, even I knew that wasn’t possible. Ian would have been the one to come up with scenarios about raising the dead, but I just didn’t have it in me. Especially without him. So, instead, I walked down the short driveway to grab the mail that had come in while I was gone. It was mostly bills, but a single postcard caught my attention. I recognized the picture on it. Ian had always collected postcards from the places we’d gone. This was one we’d sworn to make it back to one day.
That wasn’t going to happen now. We’d searched for over a month after he left a note that he was climbing. I hadn’t been able to identify the body they’d found, no one could, but he’d had the bracelet I’d given Ian for his birthday just a few weeks before he’d gone missing. I guess that was enough for them to declare him dead.
I flipped the postcard over, and my hands shook so hard the rest of the mail fell to the driveway. I ignored it as I read the words on the card over and over.
I’m not dead. Meet me Tuesday at 8 at our spot.
No, no, no. This couldn’t be right. But who would play a trick like this on me? I’d just buried my best friend, the man I’d finally admitted I loved the year before. And now someone was trying to convince me he was still alive. Who could be so cruel?
I managed to gather up the rest of the mail and walk up to the house. But, my hand was still shaking too much to put the key in the lock. I dropped down onto the porch swing, but even that held so many memories with Ian. I stared at the words on that postcard and did what I hadn’t let myself throughout the whole funeral.
And I decided there was no way I was falling into whatever trap whoever sent this had planned.
Tuesday night, 8 p.m.
I finished hiking up to mine and Ian’s favorite spot. It had been dark for more than an hour by this point, so I’d needed a flashlight, but I was here. No matter what I’d told myself since getting that postcard. I knew it was stupid.
Ian was dead. He couldn’t be here.
Still, I found myself calling out to him. “Ian,” I called, choking on his name. “I’ll have you know, if you are here, I’m going to kill you for what you’ve put me through.”
There was a rough chuckle from the shadows to my right. “I’m really getting tired of people threatening me with that.” He stepped into the light cast from my flashlight, and it fell from my hand.
He dashed forward and caught me before I could fall. “You’re dead,” I gasped. “We buried you today.”
“I’m sorry,” Ian said, “I had to. Or he would have come after me again. But, I couldn’t hide from you anymore. It was killing me. But, if he finds out I’m still alive, that’s just what he will do.”
“Who?” I demanded.
“Come on, and I’ll tell you a story.”
He led me to a little cave in the side of the rock I hadn’t even known about. “I don’t even know who that man was I put the bracelet on,” he said. “He was already dead. I just needed to get people to stop searching for me before any of you actually did stumble on me.”
I punched his shoulder. “We wanted to find you, though. I thought you were actually dead. I’ve been grieving for you, and you’ve been camping out here the whole time? I’ve come up here almost every day since you went missing.”
“I know,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper. “And I wanted to come to you, but I couldn’t. If he knew I was still alive, we’d both be dead.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t even know who would want to hurt you.”
He wove a story that was hard to grasp, let alone actually believe. But, he had proof which made it difficult to call him a liar. “What are you going to do?” I asked. “You can’t just keep living out here.” And if everything he said was true, we couldn’t go to the authorities either.
“I have a plan,” he said. “It’s dangerous, and it could see me actually dead. But, if it works, I’ll be able to come home again. But, I’ll need your help, Aidan.”
“I’m in,” I said without hesitation. I’d do anything to keep him with me. No mater the cost.
This is my fist offering for the year’s Story a Day challenge. This is connected to one of the side projects I’m currently working on(if you follow my twice-weekly check-ins, you may recognize the characters from “Hang On”). Not saying this is what will happen to these characters in the future, but it’s a possibility.