Downwards, and with the Stream

By Isadore Auerbach George

Nothing is more romantic than clamping a penknife in your teeth. Nothing, except perhaps offering to be first through the thicket.

We take off our packs, gratefully unburdening, and shove them into the bracken. We trust the thorns to guard them. We’re already deep in the undergrowth that runs down a cleft in the cliff, hidden from hikers above. We take off our shirts and stash them with our packs, baring our breasts. We walk the trail to its culmination and turn from follower to forger as we fight our way through.

I cut branches like umbilical cords to part the foliage. The heat is immense and the scratches exhilarating. Nature’s command is downwards, and with the stream. Cut, push, scratch, laugh and call, we slide down the slope. I grab your hand, debonaire, to hoist you over a bush. Suddenly, we’re tits-out gentlemen. And here is open air, our reward.

Below us is the inlet we spied from above. On one side the cliff, on the other a high stone wall. Behind us, the steep ravine, and ahead, the waters that lead out to sea. Finally alone, a question hangs in my hand as it hovers near your bare shoulder.

Yet even as you slip off your shorts, you’re slipping away and plunging in. The water is cold and the brine stings my nose as I follow you. We climb a great, rising rock. The top is flat and smooth and we stretch out. It is pregnant with the sun’s rays. I allow myself to close my eyes, naked and aware of my body’s own paths and coves. I tense to hear your breath inching closer, but instead there is a splash as you strike out for the cliff wall. When I open my eyes again, you are high up, clinging on and looking down at me.

“You look like a mermaid!” you shout, before letting go and dropping into the water. My heart wills you towards the rock but, impervious, you swim laps.

Somewhere beyond all this are two bunks with clean sheets, our names written neatly in a ledger. There will be a payphone, its cord tying us to husbands, children, as we dutifully check-in. We can’t let down the reception staff with a late arrival. We can’t miss the bed-time phone call. So we allow the sun to dry us and put our shorts back on.

Going back up is too easy, pulling away too fast from my most sweeping gesture. If it did not happen here, where can it? Too soon we find our packs and clothes. We put our shirts back on, re-joining the world as the fabric slides over our chests. When we pass the final bushes, the branches whip back, sealing our path. Soon they will reknit, completing our covenant. The next people who come by here will need a penknife to find a space that once was ours. Maybe they can take the trail further.

Isadore Auerbach George is an incisive writer, whose ‘crisp prose’ spans genres from speculative fiction to young adult to horror. He is particularly interested in exploring underrepresented narratives. His writing can be found at, and he tweets under @SadoreLi. Isadore is also the librarian for the Book 28 LGBTIQ+ library at the Outside Project (, Twitter @book28library). 

Otherwise, he can be found reading Wikipedia, or trying to retrieve his earbuds from his kittens to finish listening to his podcast. Their names are Penda and Honeybone.