V E R T I G O ҉ ❥ Prologue "One day changed everything. Sure, I was unhappy with my life, but I never said I was ready to die. It's true what they say, moments before your death, your entire life flashes before your eyes. And here I was, regretting almost half of it. The bitter taste of wasted years. The comfort of having nothing left to leave behind. And yet, even with that disappointment, I was prepared to give up everything for a different life, a purpose. Maybe with a purpose, I thought, I would be happier." And so, we became time travelers. [flashback]-------- 1 am. She ran her fingers through her hair and sighed. It was frustrating. Every other question she attempted was going nowhere. Piles of papers with scrawled equations and semi-complete responses littered her desk and floor. She was reaching breaking point. As she squinted at her tablet, reading the next question, her cell phone lit up in the corner of her eye. She dropped her pencil, leaned back in her chair and picked up the device. A text message from Chase. He was asking if she was still awake. Yes, and I'm dying. I regret having taken physics 2. Help me? She sent the message and attempted to stretch her arms over her head. The space under her bunk bed-desk combo was scarce, but she could at least get some feeling back into her limbs. Glancing behind her, she looked out the window. The view was fantastic. The riverside, the bridge, the city lights. She sighed. She couldn't believe such a beautiful night was being wasted on physics. Her phone buzzed. She reached for it. Chase wanted to go for a walk. He figured she needed break from cramming as well. Aurelia paused to think. She wasn't making much progress anyways. Fresh air would be nice. Chase might agree to tutor her afterwards. It all seemed well so she agreed. Quietly sneaking out from under the curtain under her bed, she reached for a sweater and put on her shoes. Her two roommates were asleep so she shut the door very gently, turned around and almost screamed. Chase was across the hall, smiling at her. "You scared me!" "I figured I might." He grinned, "Let's go." They often spent time together, the breaks between studying, weekend mornings to get breakfast. The other friends in their group were living at different places now, so getting together every other day was difficult, to say the least. Plus, everyone was getting busy with things. They were nearly juniors. "How's the physics?" Chase teased. Aurelia bumped her shoulder into his and pushed him to the side. "Don't even ask. You're going to tutor me after this." Chase laughed. She took it as a sign of agreement and smiled. They spent a lot of time on that bridge, gazing up at the architechure, trying to point out the stars. Chase was star-gazer. Back at home, he even owned a telescope. Aurelia, being the dreamy sort, loved pointing them out and asking him which was which. It was fascinating how much he knew. There were always strange things on the bridge walkway. People would write their names on locks and tie them to the string boards. Sometimes there were RIP locks. Sometimes some of the locks were "Happily Wedded." Aurelia once found a lock from 1999. She wondered if it was a local tradition for good luck or something. "Hey look at this!" Chase was pointing to something hanging from the strings. From where she stood it sparkled under the moonlight. Aurelia walked over and reached for it. Two earrings. A little strange looking. Two opal-like stones and some strung jewels. Aurelia held them in her palms. For a moment, she felt the world spin. A scene flashed before her eyes... She was walking with Chase on the bridge. Just like earlier, but this time, Aurelia was the one who pointed at the earrings and Chase was the one who picked them off the string board. There was a flash of light as he touched them. He fell to the ground, coughing. It was as if he couldn't breathe. Aurelia knelt next to him. "Chase! Chase are you okay?" He gripped her shoulder, his face pained. Aurelia watched, afraid. Moments later, he fell over. She sat there for a few minutes as cold swept into his hands. She realized he was dead. "Aurie, open your eyes!" Aurelia snapped back to reality, looking up to see a worried Chase shouting at her. He was holding her in his arms, shouting. They were still on the bridge. It was still night time. Past his shoulders, she could see the same night sky, full of bright stars. "W..What happened?" She croaked. "Some light came out of the earrings and you fainted. It was really weird. Are you all right?" Chase looked worried. Aurelia wanted to tell him what she saw. Tell him not to touch the earrings, not to go close to them or she'd lose him. But it was too late. Chase was reaching for her face, no, her ears. "That's strange. I never saw you put them on. They do look pretty good on you." Aurelia's eyes widening when she felt the tug of weight in her ears. The earrings were her's now. Did that mean the future she'd seen was her's as well. Did she somehow save Chase? Was what she saw the future or the past, or an entirely different course of fate. She didn't know. But she was sure of one thing. "Chase, do you remember what you said... when I asked you what you would do if I died?" "I said I'd go to your grave. Leave some flowers. Read a bad poem," he laughed, "something like that I guess?" With a smile, she looked at him. His blue-green eyes, his scruffy brown hair. He was almost a brother to her. And sometimes, he was something more. "Chase, thank you. The time I spent with you was so precious." He laughed. He was used to her strange behavior. Talking like she was going to die. "Yeah, me too. You ready to study for physics now? I think we've had enough excitement for a day." "No, I'm going to jump from the bridge." "Okay, I'll jump with you then." He stood up, giving her a hand to help her up as well. She took it reluctantly. He thought it was just a joke. That she was so stressed about their exams that she was talking nonsense. But the moment she stood up, it all became real to him. She fell forward, unable to find balance. Her eyes glazed over. Her body grew cold. She murmured something. He shook her by the shoulders, "Aurie, are you that tired? I can carry you back.." Slowly, she began to disappear, until all he was left embracing was little pieces of sparkling dust, floating off into the air. Chase didn't understand what was going on. He reached to grab the air. A small, stifled cry rang out from his throat. What the hell was going on. Where was Aurelia? A tear slipped across his face. Chase, crying. Aurelia would've been shocked. Ahead of him, upon the water, the sun began to rise. And once the light filled up the sky, Chase began to wonder what he was doing, standing in the middle of the bridge. In about four hours, he would have to leave for his exam. Chase walked back to his apartment, thinking he'd come out alone. He would go to the deli for breakfast, study in the library, spend his evenings on his computer, all without feeling lonely. It was as if she had never existed. As if he'd never held her as she died.