WHEN THE MAN comes to, he's at the top of a cliff, and the woman is falling down. He reaches out, instinctively, and tries to grab her, but it's far too late for that now.
He closes his eyes as she hits the rocks below, and winces at the sickening sound. When he looks again, a pool of blood is forming.
He finds a staircase and makes his way down.
At the bottom, he approaches and stands by the body. Her blood touches his shoe; he steps back. He peers at her face. It's half torn away.
He has no idea who she is.
After a while, the man turns away. He makes his way back up to the road. There's no car, no people; he doesn't know where he is.
He starts walking, and eventually gets to town.
He finds the police station and tells a cop the story. The cop drives him back out to the scene. But when they get there and stand looking down from the cliff, there's nothing there-- nothing at all to be seen.
I don't understand, the man says. She was there.
They walk down the stairs and look around.
You have to believe me, it happened, says the man.
But there's no blood-- even his shoe is now clean.
The cop drives the man back to the police station.
You'll have to fill out some forms, he says.
The man does, and as he does, he starts to remember-- his name, where he lives, his job.
The man goes home and returns to his life. For a while it all seems like a dream. He goes to work, comes home; he sits, he eats dinner.
And in time, it becomes real to him.
Then one day on the street, the man passes a woman. But not just a woman-- the woman! It's her!
Wait! the man says.
He turns as she passes.
The woman looks at him-- and her eyes widen in fear.
It's you! the man says, but the woman moves away.
He hurries after her; in response, she starts to run. The man runs faster--- he reaches out, grabs her arm.
Then from nowhere, the cop's hand grabs his own.
The cop takes the two of them down to the police station. The man sits on a bench in the lobby. Through a window, he watches as the cop interviews the woman.
But he can't hear or make out what they say.
When the interview's done, the cop opens the door and watches as the woman walks away. She gives a fearful glance at the man on the bench.
Go on home, ma'am, the cop says. It's all right.
The man rises from the bench. The cop stops him with a hand.
Where's she going? the man says. What'd she say?
She said nothing, says the cop. Because nothing happened. Just forget it. Just leave her alone.
The man tries to argue, tries to get more from the cop, but the cop has nothing more to say.
Just go home, he says.
The man leaves the police station.
Then he slips into a shadowy doorway.
That night when the cop leaves, the man follows after him. He follows him all the way to his home. He stands outside, watches the cop through a window.
He follows him like that every night.
And one night, the cop doesn't go home after work. Instead, he emerges, well-dressed. He drives to a house way out on the edge of town.
He rings the doorbell, and the woman opens up.
The cop and the woman go out to dinner. The man follows them and watches from a distance. He can't hear their words, but their smiles say a lot.
They go out again and again.
One night the two of them go for a long drive. The man tails them discreetly in his car. They wend their way back in a familiar direction.
They stop by the cliff where the woman fell.
The man watches as the two of them walk to the cliff and stand looking down at the rocks. The cop motions to the stairs and they start to climb down.
Soon, they are out of the man's sight.
The man turns the engine off and climbs out of the car. He approaches the edge of the cliff. He stands and looks down, and there on the rocks below, he sees the cop and the woman making love.
For a moment, the man stands, just watching them move. Then his foot seems to slip, and he falls.
The pair look up as he comes rushing down.
His arms are wide enough to hold them all.
Ben Loory is the author of the collection Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day (Penguin, 2011), and a picture book for children, The Baseball Player and the Walrus (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015). His second collection, Tales of Falling and Flying, will be published by Penguin in 2017.