Fable of Happiness (Fable #2) - Pepper Winters Page 0,2

he’d saved his own life.

Survivalists all said that the best way to fall was to do it without any tension or anticipation of the crash. The harder you braced, the harder you broke. And in his case, he hadn’t braced at all.

Tears shot up my spine, tingling and hot as they pooled in my eyes.

I didn’t know why, but that simple fact told me so many soul-shattering things. It revealed more complexities and vulnerabilities than he ever could’ve shown me while awake.

And I hated him all the more because it meant I couldn’t leave.

Not now.

Not until he either woke up or died.

And if he woke up, how could I look him in the eyes, knowing things about him that painted him not as the villain but a victim who’d never had a chance?

I checked his pulse again before running my hands along every inch of his body. His hands, wrists, and arms. His neck, chest, and hips. His legs, knees, and ankles. Some areas were blazing hot, swelling rapidly from the blunt force trauma. I couldn’t tell what was broken or sprained. I wasn’t a doctor or qualified in any way past my first-aid training in field wounds.

He needs a hospital.

Peeling open his left eyelid, I observed his blank stare. His pupil constricted, but that was it. No other sign of alertness.

Brain damage?


What would cause him not to wake?

“Hey...you....” I grimaced.

Hey you?

God, I’d never been so annoyingly frustrated not to know someone’s name. How had I spent a week—has it been a week?—in his company and still not know his damn name?

Give him a nickname.

Something to call him by.

Something to shout when he starts to fade.

Tapping his cheek, I snapped firmly, “Time to wake up...douche bag.”

Maybe something not so derogatory?


Something that’s actually true and not you trying to convince yourself he is?

“Robert, Charles, Jon freaking Snow?”

Doubt George R.R. Martin would appreciate you plagiarizing one of his most iconic characters.

Placing my hand on his forehead, I paused and quieted the panic in my blood. I had to accept that he most likely wouldn’t make it. My only task now was standing vigil beside him so he wasn’t so alone as he passed away.

Fresh tears cascaded down my face.

I’m so sorry.

I was responsible.

In some sick way, I’d been the cause of all of this.

I was the one who’d trespassed. I was the one who derailed his simple life. I was the one who’d jumped on him while he stood so close to a cliff edge.

“I’m so sorry...whoever you are.” I cried harder. “I wish I knew your name. I wish I could apologize for everything I’ve caused.”

God, what is his name?!

He’d been forgotten by society, hidden from kindness, denied love and connection. He was anonymous to happiness as well as freedom.


He was forgotten to everyone.

Everyone but me.

The online group that’d posted the boulder I’d been hunting was called Climber’s Anon. They’d brought me here. If only to destroy this man’s final sanity and to hold his hand as he died.


That will do.

Cradling his cheek, I bent over him. “Can you open your eyes...Anon? Just give me some sign you can hear me.”

I waited.

I shivered.


“Come on. Just open your eyes, and I’ll do whatever you need. I don’t know how to help you if you don’t tell me.”



A forest empty of his existence.

“Anon, please...”


An hour passed while I kneeled beside him and hoped.

I spoke to him often. I checked his pulse and assessed his bruised body. I thanked the thunderstorm the night before for softening the ground and turning hard dirt into squishy mud.

I racked my brain on what I could do to make him wake, going over my basic first-aid training and coming up blank. I had a simple kit of needles, surgical twine, an EpiPen (not that I was allergic), antiseptics, a ten-day course of antibiotics, gauzes, bandages, and painkillers.

None of those things would help with a head injury.

You can’t stay here all night, Gem.

I looked up, noticing for the first time how dark the world had become.

The sun had quietly gone to bed, letting darkness creep shadowy fingers out of the trees toward us.

Twilight made everything seem so much worse.

If he hadn’t died by now, perhaps...

Hope flared.

Fear crushed it.

I was paralyzed.

I didn’t know what to do.

I couldn’t carry him back up the cliff to civilization.

I had no way of going for help that wouldn’t take days.

He needed treatment immediately, but I didn’t know how.

All I could offer was comfort.

Take him home.


Brushing aside my tears, I let my mind cling to