The Cliffs of Rügen (SterlingxKitsy)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Sterling, Jul 31, 2015.

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    Kreidefelsen auf Rügen (Chalk Cliffs on Rügen), by Caspar David Friedrich


    Premise Thomas De Witt is a complicated facade of a man, having searched for meaning in a superficial world. Now, at the end of his patience, Thomas has made a fateful decision to return to the one place that brought him happiness---the chalk cliffs on the German isle of Rügen. The people were friendly, and the landscape beautiful; these will be the last impression upon his soul before he casts himself from the high cliffs to end his life. He's tried, so very hard for so long, to find a reason to live and realizes he will always bear the hollowness that eats at him every day. Thomas does not expect to meet anyone of interest on the flight to his impending suicide. Until, a mysteriously attractive woman with breath-taking eyes takes the window seat. Will she be able to decipher his obscured agony before the end?

    Thomas De Witt
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    Catherine Nadia Blake
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    A well-dressed man stood alone in the middle of the terminal junction hallway. Airports were less places than conduits, and the streaming hordes of busy travelers broke about him, but he ignored them and gazed upward with a faint smile. The intricate pattern of the structural trusses caught his attention, and he thought them exquisite. The man had never seen anything like them before; in fact, this was only the second time he'd ever been in an airport. The first time was when he was a boy. He didn't remember much of that trip, only that it had made him happy. It was ironic that in the decades between that trip and this one, Thomas found himself flying to the same destination: the German Isle of Rügen.

    Rügen. The power of its recollection devastated the brief happiness Thomas had gleaned while observing the architecture of the airport, and he felt his smile deflate as the happiness palpably drained from his chest. The famous white cliffs haunted his mind as an inevitability, while simultaneously propelling him with hope. He thought of his mother then, and his brow inched forward, severe and conflicted.

    "Are you lost, Sir?"

    Thomas snapped awake, and found a petite woman in a flight attendant uniform looking up at him. A switch was tripped, and a false light grew in Thomas' eyes generating a warm facial expression. "I must look hopeless." Thomas said, smiling in faux self-consciousness. It was a trained reaction, one he had rehearsed nearly all his life. The way one engaged the external world was an intentional composition of facial expressions, body movements, and carefully delivered phrases. Thomas could have been a celebrity, so keen was the fabrication of his facade.

    "You'll need to forgive me, Darling. I'm from out of town, and just taking in the scenery." He laid his eyes warmly upon the pretty woman, who blushed lightly at the attention. Thomas looked down at his ticket, searching, though knowing full well where his destination lay. "If you could point me toward Terminal B, I'd be very grateful."

    "I'd be happy to walk you to your terminal." The flight attendant met Thomas' smile with a hopeful one of her own. She held the handle of a rolling suitcase behind her, and switched hands to hide her wedding ring. "It'd be no problem at all."

    "With hospitality like that, I don't think I'd ever leave." Thomas gazed down the terminal corridor, the passage was teeming with people intent upon the end of their trip. "I can find my way, Dear." Thomas leaned down, just enough to ignite the flame of her imagination, allowing her the dream of a kiss that would never come. "You've been very helpful, Thank you." Thomas gave a parting smile and walked on, leaving the breathless flight attendant in his wake.

    The interaction was brief and sufficiently flirty. Were he still on Mackinac Island, he'd have gotten a tip or gotten laid. Either way, Thomas' reality of a temporary personality securing something of value from the outside world was reinforced yet again. It wasn't that Thomas was dishonest or disingenuous; he excelled at a surface inter-personal exchange most people experienced more than they care to admit. Thomas was simply better at it, because his livelihood often depended upon it. He revealed a calculated reflection of his genuine self, and people responded to his facade accordingly. Was he manipulative for his personal benefit? Absolutely, but never at the expense of someone else. At least, that was his aim.

    Thomas' smile flattened to its natural resting position when he searched for Gate 9. He had heard that the smell of an airport terminal was only marginally better than the cabins of jet planes themselves. He inhaled, and thought the stale air contained that captured, recycled scent born of the expired stress and exhaustion from millions of weary passengers. Air quality was an environmental trait Thomas was acutely aware, having spent his entire life working on an island generally free of pollution. Thomas craved the clean air Rügen as it swept across the Baltic Sea. No place was the breeze more liberating than the high, chalky cliffs.

    When first-class boarding was announced, Thomas wished he traveled more so he could appreciate how special his momentary privilege felt. One of Thomas' friends booked his flight, and found a first-class upgrade deal. Money meant little to Thomas, or at least it would after he cast himself from Rügen's cliffs, so he agreed to the upgrade. He took his aisle seat, and spotted the window nervously. There was an empty seat between himself and the fuselage, and Thomas wondered who would occupy the seat. Hopefully, it would be someone who minded their own business; he didn't want to pretend being a normal person for the six hour flight to London Heathrow.
    #1 Sterling, Jul 31, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2015
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  2. Procrastination was one of Catherine's many strong suits. She stared at her half packed bag, dreading the flight to come. The flight itself isn't what bothered her, it was the thought of the bustling people, all running about, confused, hopeless. It picked at her nerves like pins in a cushion. She couldn't help but sigh as she packed more clothes into her case. Her only hope was that the airport would be emptier than normal. it was unlikely, but it was the only thought that helped her nerves.

    There. Everything was finally packed. Catherine zipped the case closed before pulling it off the bed. She flung her small purse over her shoulder, containing only the essential items she needed. Searching around her room, checking for any items she might have missed, she took in her room again. She had never gone so far from home before, and certainly not for so long. It made her excited, and restless. Once the flight was over, Catherine's nerves would finally settle. She checked the rest of the house, turning off the remainder of the lights before starting the 15 minute drive to the airport.

    The drive to the airport helped to clear her mind. As she exited her car, her nervousness all but escaped her, until she reached the airport entrance. Through the door, there were already people lined up, running about, attempting to find where to go. Catherine could feel the chaos from where she stood. Taking a breath, she pushed through the doors, unwilling to let the confused strangers ruin her day.

    She worked her way thought the airport, first checking in her luggage, then heading to her designated terminal. Her boarding pass indicated Gate 9 as her destination. Weaving through the crowd of people, Catherine moved quickly, avoiding glances. She didn't have time for conversation as she knew she was late for first class boarding. She had never flown first class before, and hoped it would help avoid the majority of the people on her flight. Having only one passenger sit next to her would help to ease her mind knowing she would only potentially have to make small talk to whoever they were.

    The line for boarding at Gate 9 reached into the walkway for the set of terminals. Breathing a sigh of relief, she walked past the normal boarding passengers, knowing the individuals in line were far too many to be first class. She followed along the hall toward the plane, grateful no one near her wanted to talk. As she boarded the plane, nodding her head to the attendant standing near the doorway, she searched the numbers to find her own seat.

    In the isle seat was the man she would be spending the next 6 hours with. Catherine stood in the isle, slightly in front of him, searching for words. "Excuse me, but I have the window seat." She gave a half smile, hoping he would move quickly so she could moved out of the way of other passengers.
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    "Of course."

    Hers was a simple question, yet it generated a complex response — more complex than the two word reply Thomas gave.

    The bulk of the triggered consternation was cunningly veiled behind that winning smile and eager tone. Thomas De Witt had seen many beautiful women in his years of service on Mackinac Island, but this stranger was in a different class altogether. She stood tall, poised, yet self-conscious in a manner that left a smoldering impression upon Thomas' dampened passion. Thomas lifted his travel bag and stood in the aisle, allowing the woman to enter. He watched her movements, judging her lithe finesse privately. Thomas took in the scent of her natural perfume when she passed amidst the stale, dense air the aircraft produced. His pulse quickened, and when Thomas sat down he realized the reason why.

    It was her gentle voice — meek and sonorous. The sound of that voice plucked a chord within Thomas, and its resonance continued to sheer his nerves as he lowered into his seat. The cushion felt flat and the molded-plastic armrest hard. Thomas could clearly hear the woman rustling, no doubt readying herself for the long flight ahead. Thomas gazed about into the aisle, aware of the few people in first-class who, beyond their comprehension, constituted the "outside" perimeter. He sat at an awkward fulcrum, constantly fighting the unbalancing magnetism of the woman to his left. Perhaps it's simply a passing interest, Thomas thought.

    Reaching down into his stowed travel bag, Thomas removed a thick, hard-cover book and began to quietly read. Though his eyes scanned the letters and words, his mind failed to grasp their meaning. His mind, instead, wondered what havoc this woman might wreak should she decide to be sociable.
    #3 Sterling, Aug 12, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015
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  4. As the man moved, Catherine slid into the row claiming her seat. She instinctively slid her purse under the seat in front of her before turning her attention toward the window on her left. Two other planes could be seen out of the small window, and past them the runway. For a moment, Catherine's mind wandered. She wondered where those other planes might be going and if their flight was as long as theirs. Catherine then remembered just how long her flight was, and braced herself for the long flight to come, moving slightly in her seat to get comfortable.

    The movement on her right jotted Catherine out of her own thoughts. She watched as her companion for the flight reached down to grab a book. She smiled in relief. Since the man was reading, it meant Catherine wouldn't be forced to make conversation. As he opened his book, she turned her attention to the people boarded the plane. She noted as many females were glancing toward her row, particularly toward the man seated next to her. Catherine considered him for a moment. He was clearly well dressed, and obviously handsome. From his response and glance earlier, it was clear he was friendly and outgoing, a real people person. His voice had been warm, and reassuring.

    Realizing he could probably see her staring, and not wanting to appear similar to the gawking women who passed by him, she settled upon commenting.

    "Can't focus?" Grinning slightly, she hoped he wouldn't mind the invasion. In the time that she had been watching, he hadn't flipped the page once.
  5. That damned voice again. It seduced him with the fluidity of honey over warm, buttered toast. Thomas felt the breath escape his lungs, suffocating him, as he drew an instinctive smile to mask his nervousness. Thomas also felt the woman's gaze upon him; he felt himself being studied, even if the woman did not intend that, or was unaware. Being scrutinized was a familiar experience, though the sensation was typically in passing as he filled some cretin's drink. On Mackinac, Thomas was used to being on display, but it was amidst the ignorant mass of tourists. This woman, however, was observant, and the prospect terrified him. Thomas hadn't been turning any pages and must have appeared utterly lost in thought.

    He cursed himself, closing the book like a bible at Sunday service. The cover read "Infinite Jest," by an author named David Foster Wallace. The book belonged to the same friend who helped reserve his flight. Thomas had never read it before, and to be honest, he didn't understand the rambling plot-line. The story twisted with a contorted asymmetry, and the non-sensical milieu only added to his bemusement. There was one character, however, with whom Thomas could relate; Joelle Van Dyne, the veiled woman, whose actions placed her into a limelight from which she perpetually receded. That limelight became uncomfortably bright when Thomas caught the sidelong glances of the women in first-class — some rose to adjust their bags overhead simply as a pretense to appraise him.

    All the attention made Thomas shift uncomfortably in his seat. He decided, with a calculated bent, that speaking with his seat mate would likely dismiss the other female spectators. Thomas sought a refuge when he turned to answer the young woman, placing his back to the aisle in a tactical effort to dissuade their probing gazes. Thomas lost his breath at first, and clung to his smile with desperate effort. She was ... beyond beautiful, and her elegant features traced a line, like the touch of a graceful finger, deep into his core. The power of her beauty made Thomas aware of his fragility, a fortress made of tinder and she unknowingly held the torch.

    Thomas' smile became less robust, but more personal. "I guess you caught me ... I'm not used to flying. You travel much?"
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  6. Closing his book, her seatmate seamed almost irritated at her intrusion. Almost immediately she regretted her decision to speak. Catherine could have stayed quiet during the flight, but knew it would be boring to do so. As he turned to face her, she saw no hint of anger behind his courteous smile. It drastically reassured her, lighting up her fallen face.

    Snickering she answered. "Not if I can avoid it." Pausing, she thought about her previous flights. Most of them had been to see family, and even then, she could easily count the number on both hands. Ordinarily, her flights were only two hours total. "This is the longest I've been on on though.." She trailed off, thinking slightly to herself if this trip would be worth the trouble. It was a long shot searching for a job where she was going, but she was determined nonetheless.

    A passenger's heavy case clunked against the overhead bin, jolting Catherine our of her thoughts. "I apologize. My mind wandered." Giving a weak smile, she only hoped to change the subject before she was lost in thought again. "Are you visiting family?"
  7. “Me? Oh, Lord no …” Thomas said with a shifty smile. “Haven’t been on a plane since I was a boy.” His hands gripped the cushioned leather armrests, testing them in appraisal. “If I’m going to be strapped in a seat for twelve hours, I’m making sure my mother’s left behind … on the other side of the Atlantic.” Thomas lifted his eyebrows at his emphasis, a playful, human gesture aimed to distract the listener. The tactic worked in the past, and he prayed it satisfied the kind woman watching him closely. Thomas held that scoundrel’s smile - holding his face together like a massive rivet along a steel plate - as he looked down to hide the flinty quality that possessed his vision when he thought of his mother, Heather. It was pain that Thomas hid, so many complex emotions that even the a Johns Hopkins psychologist couldn’t unravel the depths of mystery that composed Thomas De Witt.

    The demeanor of his traveling companion darkened slightly at a moment’s pause or reflection. It screened out the sun of her smile like an errant leaf, sudden and fleeting. Thomas took the opportunity to place his copy of Infinite Jest under the seat before him. He needed to look away to gauge the discomfort stirring within himself. Thomas was not bothered by the possibility of the woman sharing a personal problem or anecdote. He found himself frequently the recipient of countless life stories and explanations of problems. His so-called friends would teasingly call him “Oprah,” for his knack of attracting the lonely or miserable who needed a live person to spin their woes. In nearly all those cases, Thomas did not care about what was said --- his life came with its own scars, and he did not need someone telling him about their sorrow.

    However, he was curiously roused by what lurked with this woman. Before Thomas could stop himself, he blurted out a question that would forever change his destiny. It was a journey that began with an unusually genuine smile from Thomas.

    “My name’s Thomas, by the way … You are?”
  8. A smile crept onto her face. "Can't say I blame you. If your mother is anything like mine, she'll talk to you about everything she likes, which is rarely something you like." Catherine's mother loved to host events. She remembered growing up, helping to set up tables, make food, all for big groups of people she didn't really know. Over time she grew to know them, but no one in particular stuck out to Catherine, they all seemed so simple. It was a sea of mind boggling numbness whenever a party was held. The smell of alcohol could be noted from around the block, and the cadence of party goers could be heard well into the early morning. As she became older, Catherine realized this wasn't the norm. Growing up this way didn't bother her, she realized it made her life much more interesting, so she never questioned why her parents had the parties.

    "Catherine." She replied with a nod. She had a few nicknames throughout her life, but she normally left it up to the individual for what they wanted to call her. Catherine didn't mind though, she would answer to just about any nickname someone could create with her name.

    Sitting quietly, she realized her seatmate had made her feel slightly at ease. She assumed it was because most people had stopped looking in their direction, but she also noted that he seemed different than she had originally thought. He seemed to put more thought into his words than most did. It was refreshing.

    "Do you have another flight after this one or are you staying in London?"
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  9. "Oh, neither," Thomas answered slowly. "I'm destined for the Continent ... " A pause gripped the handsome, young man. He had made his destination clear to everyone on Mackinac who asked. Rügen. It was simply a word. Why couldn't Thomas utter it now? Catherine's dark eyes washed over him softly, her dark orbs hanging with hidden kindness and infinite depth. Thomas felt his chest constrict under her gaze, and moisture seep around his eyes. He looked down, and forcefully broke his trademark smile, needing to break contact with her presence that threatened to shatter his thin facade.

    "... Lower Germany, in fact," Thomas managed, his voice pushing forth a rehearsed charisma. The landscape of rolling hills and sleepy hamlets was, indeed, an intermittent destination for Thomas De Witt, but was only populated with waypoints on his journey to the Isle of Rügen. Thomas planned to arrive as a tourist, as a foreign traveler who would be treated with celebrity status. That is how all tourists expected to be treated when on holiday. Thomas knew, better than anyone; he composed the armature of hospitality all his life, a life he could no longer bear. He needed to experience the freedom of becoming a casual bystander, loitering into a beautiful locale with no responsibilities or pressures. Thomas wanted that reclaimed sense of power to be his last sensation before plummeting to his death from the pure white, chalk cliffs.

    Having regained composure, Thomas turned and smiled at Catherine. "And are you headed to London for business or pleasure?" Thomas' fist clenched in upon itself, and he hoped he could manage the conversation to focus on the young woman who was already beginning to unhinge him.
  10. Not knowing much of Europe, especially Germany, Catherine didn't question his answer. She did however, notice when he broke his gaze from her. Catherine had always noted it when it came to unpleasant things. Many people seemed to dislike speaking of unpleasant things while looking at anyone. There were many things which one could consider unpleasant, but from her seatmates looks and attitude it seemed unlikely it would be anything of a notable caliber. Not wanting to pry, she chose not to question it.

    "Business mostly, but I do intend to enjoy my time." It was the most honest answer Catherine could give. A school she applied to work for in Surrey, outside of London, offered her a high chance at a job simply by coming and interviewing. The school apparently had low job applicants yearly, and as one of their teachers were leaving, they needed to find a replacement. Catherine was believed to be best for the job, so after renewing her passport and booking a flight, she starting looking at how to spend her free time between her interview.

    There were many places to go and see, but she didn't really know where to start when looking at them. Quickly, she gave up with planning out her time, deciding to let each day happen as it came. "Have you ever been there before?" Knowing that she herself had never been, it would be nice to get advice on where she should go from someone more experienced. Plus, if he had been, he was more likely to know of special places to go that aren't very populated. Since most tourist areas were packed full of people, it would be exciting to find somewhere off the normal path.
  11. "No, I've never been to England before. I've never traveled ... anywhere, really. Though, I hear-"

    The thoughts Thomas were about to share were cut short by the accretion of sound from the engines. The turbines had been engaged, and the signature, muted whine of a Boeing 747 filled the cabin. Thomas' eyes darted about nervously and he took a fortifying breath, turning to Catherine once more. His face hardened into that pleasingly deceptive grin that had won so many tips. "Coming from a place where tourism is king, I'd recommend avoiding anywhere that has a big sign with a flashing, neon arrow. Those are clearly the worst." Thomas could sense that Catherine would accept whatever marginal delight she stumbled upon, but felt in his heart she deserved better. "I could look through my guide and suggest some places for you. Genuine always trumps glitz."

    The muscles around Thomas' eyes contracted as the plane shook and began to taxi down toward the runway. He let slip a nervous flash upon his archetypal face. A fear pervaded his visage for the briefest instant before being pushed back into the dark corners of his psyche. An affable, breathless chuckle presaged his unease. "Would you believe I'm scared of heights?"
    #11 Sterling, Sep 16, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2015
  12. The humming of the engines seemed to silence Thomas for a moment. Catherine was excited to start the flight. The sooner they began, the faster they would arrive. She watched as he continued his earlier thoughts, helping her to find places to see. "I normally try to stay away from glitz already, so I don't think it will be too hard to remember that." Glitz usually meant packs of people. People with hungry wolf eyes, ready to devour any outsider.

    She couldn't help but giggle as Thomas began to look about as nervous as she thought possible. "Heights aren't really my thing either, but I've flown in small plans before too. Trust me, big bus planes are better." She remembered in tiny cessna's how clearly she could see the ground and how it would make her nauseous to repeatedly take off and land. However, they were thrilling and private, so there were advantages.

    "I always enjoy being up in the clouds though. You can't see the ground then, which always helps me at least. Plus, they're so big and fluffy. It's like giant cotton balls in the sky. I always imagine if they could feel like that." Catherine, of course, knew clouds could never hold any form of weight, because they're simply water, but the thought always tugged at her mind.
  13. "If you say so," Thomas muttered. Thomas didn't find Catherine's reply all that encouraging. A brooding surliness overtook the dark-haired man, and he gave thanks that he sat next to the aisle. Considering what Thomas ultimately intended to do, a fear of heights in a perfectly operable airplane seemed like a laughable contradiction.

    "Sorry I couldn't be of more help. I hope you find what you're looking for," Thomas said pleasantly. Perhaps he'd fulfilled the arbitrary social debt demanded by passenger chit-chat and the woman might leave him in peace. That's what a part of him wanted, though he knew he wasn't strong enough to stomach the flight alone. He sat back in his plush chair and closed his eyes, imagining he was somewhere else as the plane surge forward for some minutes before coming to a stop. The intercom burst to life, and the pilot's voice scratched across the cabin.

    "Morning folks, this is the Captain ... We are next in line for take-off. We have ground clearance and will be in the air in about four minutes. So, just buckle in, relax, and enjoy the flight."
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