Another day, another time. Waking up wasn’t easy, wasn’t as simple as any other day. I needed to get up, but the blinding light of the hologram was before me, chaining me to the bed. I allowed it, tracing the color of her hair with my eyes, the sleeve of her jacket, the symbol on the ship behind her.
The blinds rose on their own, filling the room with light. The sharp edges of the hologram faded a little then rallied, and the picture became a little brighter. It annoyed my fresh eyes quite a bit, and yet I couldn’t look away, couldn’t lose this.
The anger in my stomach rose, the leaden weight of her death, the lack of numbness, depression and all the sadness in me closed around my chest and although my eyes were tired of crying, they cried anyway. I turned over, not being able to look at that stupid photo anymore. Not being able to see her eyes and face and believe she’s dead. As they all are.
Of all the people I had to lose, she was the one I couldn’t live without.
The flowers has started to grow over the graves, getting into the dirt and staying there. I didn’t mind, it was better this way, they would have liked it like this.
I cleaned off the morning rain and grit from the gravestone before me. Staring at the name embedded into the stone, I started to trace the letters with my fingers but snatched my hand away quickly, that was bad luck after all.
I immediately felt even worse, anger buzzing in me without fizzing out. Who cared if I got bad luck, who cared if I traced every damn name in the graveyard, they weren’t here to stop me. No one was.
I’m not buried, I’m not dead, I walk this world. I stand before the graves of those who have fought with me, those who laughed and drank and loved with me.They left me. I swallowed my words around the sound of my pounding heartbeat thundering through my ears. My hands were clenched tight and I wondered what my old friends would say now.
What would everyone think of me? Would they be saddened or ashamed at my behaviour, would they be angry or would they have sympathy. I wished they were alive to be all those things and more, I wished I wasn’t like this. I wouldn’t be like this if they would just live. If she hadn’t died.
I couldn’t breath, I knew I looked fierce and terrible all at once, as if I could command an army and perform executions in a single breath. I wasn’t supposed to be here, it wasn’t supposed to be here, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I could see the world start to blur around me as tears came to my eyes. My face scrunched up and I clenched my teeth in anger, before I started to smooth my face out. I sighed as tears fell on the grave before me. The tide of anger had passed, the numb depression had come back. All I wanted was to just go back home and crawl into bed and never coming out again, but I couldn’t move. It was as if I was rooted to the spot before her grave, like another one of her beautiful flowers, left there to wilt.
I swallowed once before sighing again, there were no tears left for me to cry today, I should just leave before I made a mess of everything again. But no, I promised I would come, every single day until I couldn’t take it anymore.
If nothing else was left in this world, all I had left was my word.
Kneeling down on the packed dirt, I plucked flowers, twisting their stems into flower crowns while I started to talk.
I distantly realized, I was crying. The pounding of my heart drowned out every other sound.
What had gone wrong, where was she, why wasn’t she here. I did what I had to, she had to come back now. The ritual was complete. I knew I shouldn’t have, balance was never something to mess with, but I couldn’t stand being here without her. She had to come back, I couldn’t do this without her.
“Please, please, forgive me.” I called out again. I didn’t care if she never forgave me, as long as she was alive to hate me, it would be worth it. We had all tried so hard to save this world, we had bled and sacrificed and never gave into the odds, why couldn’t she live then. After everything, why did she have to be the one to die.
The swirls of the stark white mist around me stood out against the darkness, deep enough to swallow me whole. She should have come out, come back with me.
She never did and I came back alone, having to pay the price for my foolishness.
Light filtering through the trees, dancing with the shadowing and swaying in the wind, the scene looked like one from a movie, wisteria blossoms floating along the breeze, in and out of sight. The nightmare had yet to end. Dreams were as real as the mind made them to be and she knew them best of all, the unreality of shadows, the crazy colors, the changing scenes, nothing new.
She watched peacefully as the shadows danced on the dirt floor, the wind whistled and the shadows deepened. One could never tell what was wrong with the scenery around them, until it was too late. The mind lied, trying to trick itself into security, but the devil could never come through on his promises. She turned away from the blossoms just as they started to change color and drip red.
Before the story came to an end she looked for the fireflies, but none came out before the end. Yet It was already time to come out, she thought there was a way out now, and she had to take it before the story ended, before the scene changed, before the shadows deepened.
Nothing was truly left behind here, and she had never truly left, but she could go regardless. She thought there was someone calling her. It was time, and yet the world didn’t wait, she had to press forward, into the darkness she slipped as the shadows swallowed her whole.
“Don’t worry, well get there soon. They’ll take care of you.” She didn’t question it, he didn’t seem like a bad person, really. He had found her after she had stumbled out of the darkness that was filled with white mist, the wrinkled old man with unfocused eyes helped her. He lead her into the town, down the streets, towards the Center.
The Center, where they took in everyone regardless of past. People who wanted to work, homeless who littered the streets, the young that had no family. The Center was for the lost, and she was lost.
All she hoped for now was a home.
“Yeah, I understand.” No she didn’t, but she wasn’t about to tell him that, or anyone. She didn’t want them to think she was stupid. Didn’t want them to discard her like she was worthless, she wanted to know, but more than that, she wanted to show them she was obedient.
She grabbed the clothes handed to her and set out for the changing area. There were already scores of kids already lounged in uniform around the gym. She took the change room just as someone else came out and did her best with the uniform, getting distracted by the material, claps and the fact that she finally had time alone, for however brief it was.
She recited the rules to herself, to keep reminding herself, to remember, to know something.
“One, no eating, unless food is expressly given by government chefs. Two, eyes down face forward, don’t look at the staff in the eye. Three, always go to class, do not get caught being late. Four, don’t drink anything and don’t ask to drink anything. Five, do not go near the fence, death is not kind, nor are people.”
The rules dictated the world she now lived in. She knew there would be more later, more rules, more punishments, more work. She knew things would get worse. And yet, as long as the rules weren’t looked at too closely they were easy to follow. Five simple easy rules made for obedient workers, and obedience is all they wanted.
At least she was alive to be obedient.
The curve of her face was beautiful in the moonlight. She was smiling, and though I only saw half of it, I knew she was as beautiful as I remember.
The tight feeling in my chest almost brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t help but feel it’s been too long, and not long enough since everything happened between us. After all this time, I couldn’t understand how I still felt this way, but I knew I would for the rest of my life.
God, but she didn’t even remember, though I did. I knew all that had happened between us: Everything we lost, everything we faced together, and all of that was lost to her. It killed me sometimes that she couldn’t even be slightly like her old self, though she was her in all the ways that counted.
I swallowed and reached out, it was time, wasn’t it?
“Hey, been a long time, huh? What are you looking at?” My smile was fake, but it mattered that I smiled right. She wouldn’t know of my pain, and I had to protect her, from myself if nothing else.
She smiled so easily at me, as if nothing ever happened, as if I was forgiven. God, all I could think about now is how I can feel my own heartbeat. A life for a life, she just didn’t know what was coming for me. I wasn’t about to tell her. I wasn’t ready to apologize, not yet, I just needed a little more time.
Thank you for being alive, I thought, as she started to point out the fireflies. Thank you for being here with me.