-“There has always been an underlined caution to everything I do. I’m… ironically too wary of the butterfly effect.”
-“Sounds unfair, to hold yourself accountable for what you can’t possibly predict. Cause and effect don’t necessarily pertain responsibility.”
The air remained hot and heavy, clinged to their skin like blind bugs. Denzel would have pulled his shirt off if he hasn’t an hour ago. Whatever remained was flesh and blood and a thin sheen of sweat that he wore like a second garment.
-“I’m not concerned with judgment.” He told him, eyes squinting and darting to the horizon in a frantic search for something, anything, “Or fairness.” He added, and it sounded like spitting, like the very word offended him.
-“What are you concerned with?”
He hummed the response indifferently. In his defense, he never sounded particularly concerned with the things he claimed concerned him.
-“Well then you’re only as responsible as the person before you was and as the person after you shall be. You’re aware, Denzel, we don’t know who started this.”
Denzel snorted. He breathed through the heat and felt a rising burn in his throat threatening to overtake his vision. He spoke to distract it, “By ‘this’ I’m assuming you mean ‘life,’ because we most definitely know who started that.”
-“Biggest chain reaction of all, huh?”
-“I’m thirsty.” The child hissed, voice loaded with a desperation Denzel knew he could identify with. His companion soothed, “We’re almost there. Just a bit more.”
It was a blatant lie, one that tugged on his chest and pulled where it hurt and he found it crude, vulgar… the outright deciet of it. Man lied and titled it a kindness since man knew how to use words. He thought it oddly provoking, how chivalry always seemed to walk hand in hand with hypocrisy.
-“How many hours do you suppose we have left?”
-“What the fuck, Denzel?”
The child snapped her head up to them, her shadow laid before her, taller, less frightened. It will probably survive; it always does.
Denzel wanted to punch the mortified scolding expression on his companion’s face, neutralize it into something with the slightest resemblance to acceptance. It’s the only grace they had left.
“Momma taught me a prayer.” The child told them, edging on tears, and she made an attempt at reaching for Denzel’s hand. He recoiled from the touch violently. And if he had the words, if he did, he would have explained that bile gathered at the back of his throat and he tasted acid. Instead, he bent at the knees and clutched on his neck, retching and spitting whatever sustenance his body still thought to preserve. It wasn’t much.
Not graceful, no. But less demeaning than prayer.
His companion, nonetheless, dragged the child aside, knelt to face her, and with trembling lips and an intense yearning, a pitiful sparkle of hope in big tired eyes, whispered, “What Momma taught you, let’s recite it together.”
And Denzel caught himself foreseeing salvation.