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Outbound

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The ocean seemed like the best place to go.

 

Not the warm parts of it, though. The part basking in the sun, with hot sand that burns your feet, with calm water a beautiful green that got caught in your eyes. The type people drifted in endlessly, marvelled at even, on a good day.

No, not that one.

The one kept between high castles of rocks and hillsides seemed better. The one where the sand was thick and cold and curved so perfectly, as if to mimic what the waves create of the water, with wind coming from all around, rolling down hillsides and pulling at the current.

She asked to come here.

Chell was a much more -- flexible person to say the least, and could easily overcome the rocks and dunes that sat at the bottom of the cliff ( which was a huge incline itself, one that could toss them down violently with the wrong footing). She jumped over and slid down the zig-zag build of the slick, black molding, hands finding their way over the smooth surface. She had no problem finding her way

Doug, not so much; His joints were stiff from years of cramped computer rooms with awkward typing and straining of his hands, years of painting with fingers gripped too tightly on the brush and body straining for the perfect stroke. He was frailing and aging, with no help from doctors. And his leg -- every day he was faced with the scar, a perfect marking that was a set reminder to him of just how hard he pushed himself.

But he tried his best to keep up with Chell -- he always has.

White knuckles gashed in acrylic and empty scars gripped the cane tighter as he slid down what he had hope was the last enclave of rocks. Pools of water filled into the cuts, thriving in small coral and occasionally a shell or two, sometimes a starfish. Doug, curiously, would disturb the rock pool and watch as the water swirled and blurred the life underneath.

They looked trap. He felt a bit sorrowful.

Distracted by pools, he had never noticed Chell already off of the maze of rocks and trudging through ocean upchuck and to the shoreline. A thin outline of the earlier attempts of the tide marked up halfway to the beach, leaving a lace of foam and ocean spittle, ripping into the sand with wet claws; it was like a sign warning that this is the ocean’s place . She crossed over it diligently; she didn’t fear the water.

Air, clean and wet, filled their lungs, and it almost hurt to take it in; the purity of what hung over the ocean, of how light and fulfilling it felt, was so different from the compact air they had recycled through their lungs for who knows how long. It hung in her chest like a big gulp of cold water.

The cold was calming. It was safety.

She had never seen such a vast, free form like this.

Her eyes traced the horizon that cradled the fog. It probably reached for miles , across and beyond. The openness of it all was such a new sight to behold, with no walls or endings in sight, it -- scared her a bit. Where did it end? Was there an end? Was she there at the end, and somewhere, something else lingered at the beginning?

“ So this is the ocean..” Doug trailed up behind her, cane digging deep into the sand. He gave a tired huff, “ Bet it’s colder than all h-”

Chell fell, sitting upon the sand and forcefully beginning to tug her shoes off, chucking them off to the side like nothing. Then she started at the legs of her pants. Doug watched her, rolling them up to reveal her callus and marked knees, frantic fingers of precision moving over to also work at her yellow sweater. Underneath it Chell had the only other thing she owned on.

Her old Aperture Science test subject uniform. It was old, and wrinkled, and it clung to her tightly as if in fear of the seams undoing and falling apart. He was seeing the end of it’s days.

Good .

With a forceful push with her palms she was back up, and, with the glimpse of exhilarated smile on her face, headed straight for the ocean itself, not taking a moment to watch as the giant waves came full-force and nearly knocked her right on her ass. She stumbled as it pulled back out, until her footing finally caught the tricks of the tides. She did not fear the ocean.

Chell only went ankle-deep.

Unseen currents ran beneath her, tugging and pulling her entire weight with simple rollings of the ocean, grabbing at her ankles and reaching for the marks and scrapes that painted her legs. It pushed through her; crawling up the sand and digging an imprint as it was dragged back, an underlying power hidden under such a violently beautiful thing.

It reminded her of someone.

 

 

Hanging back at the safety of the beach, Doug stood and watched Chell. She gave a little gesture to Doug, who took it as a wave. She gestured again.

Come in.

At first, he had refused. Chell laughed and kept gesturing at the man, who didn’t find the comedy in it yet let out a little chuckle of his own. It took a while, but finally he agreed; slowly removing his sneakers with cramped hands, disposing them next to hers, he made his way to the edge. The limp in his leg was more prominent without the support.

She took his hand in hers, anchoring him as the first rush of current washed passed them. Doug faltered as it grabbed at his weight and pushed, straining itself to pull him down for refusing path to the land, to take him down with it.

Finally he was stable, and slowly shifted his weight off of Chell.

An anchor. He’s always reliant on those: medication, painting, a cane -- Chell .

Chell smiled, releasing her grip on Doug to throw her hands in the air, giving a silent cheer that only he and her could hear. Slips of light came in from the bellies of the clouds, and in it the ocean shook and the fog lightened to a misty shower.

They stayed there for a long time, deep in the hearty freedom they felt. Neither of them really spoke, but instead just stood there and listened to the crashing tides and the far off sounds of birds. It was moments like this -- fleeting, yet memorable moments -- that reminded them both that they were free . It was all over, and they made it. The two of them. Together.

 

 

The air was wet, and dangling spills of Chell’s dark hair began to stick against her face, the coattail of Doug’s beaten lab coat catching small rolling tides. It was only when the last wave came in, before retreating far off in the water and refusing to come any closer, that they finally headed back to the beach.

“ Where to now?” Said Doug, slipping back on his sneakers.

It was late. From the very edge of the endless clouds they could make out sunset, with light slowly creeping away into the distance as it all began to fall off the horizon. Chell pursed her lips and thought for a moment.

They don’t really have anywhere to go. Not a home, not a destination, not a town or a place; there was nothing to tie them anywhere, not even a faint memory or a nostalgic yearning. There wasn’t really anywhere for them either. They were outbound forever.

She pointed in the opposite direction of the ocean.

“ Far away from here.”

 

Chell nodded.