I've never felt so... numb. ◎◎◎ I'm hugging my knees to my chest as I sit in silence on my bedroom floor, in front of my personal fireplace. The flames dance with one another, a dance as old as time itself. My red fox snoozes at my feet, her warm fur brushing against my frigid feet. I run my fingers along her back, and she sidles closer to me. ◎◎◎ Enraptured and enthralled, I stare into the fire. The creator of destruction. The destroyer of creation. My ally, yet my enemy. The difference between life and death. ◎◎◎ I squeeze my eyelids closed, trying to chase that thought away. Why? Why must it keep haunting me? I'm trying to close myself off from that barren wasteland of a world, but in my mind's eye it's all I see. ◎◎◎ The heartwrenching sound of screaming. The painful gasps of breath. The smell of life... and of death. ◎◎◎ I open my eyes and focus on the flames, but all that remains is a tiny, dying light. It's dangling from a string, barely holding on, reaching, grabbing, missing, dying. I blink and my bedroom is dark, cold, and empty. Numb. ◎◎◎ So very, very numb. ◎◎◎ It's pouring outside. The only thing I hear is the heavy drizzle of rain pounding against the roof. Lightning illuminates my face, and for the split second that it is lit, I see a distinct figure outside my window. It couldn't be... ◎◎◎ It isn't. The next flash reveals nothing. ◎◎◎ Yet still I rise and tentatively step toward my window. My red fox follows protectively at my feet. She looks curiously up at me with cool, green eyes, slicing through me like knives. She knows something is out there, and is waiting for me to discover what. ◎◎◎ I pull the blinds back, revealing a moonlit night. The balcony encasing my window is empty. Nothing - and no one - is there. ◎◎◎ Pressing my palm against the rain, I shake my head slowly. Of course nothing is there. It's storming. What did you expect? You didn't really think it would be - ◎◎◎ Through the watered glass, your solemn face stares back at me. ◎◎◎ My breath catches in my throat. No... this isn't possible... I blink rapidly, yet you still remain. ◎◎◎ Your hand is over mine on the other side of the window. I feel the essence flow between us, filling me with hope. ◎◎◎ Hope... and fear. ◎◎◎ As quickly as I can manage, I tear open the window and climb through to the outside. You welcome me into your arms, lavishing me with wet trails of kisses. Water drips off your forehead onto mine. I grasp your hand tightly, never wanting to let go. ◎◎◎ "Don't forget," you breathe, barely a whisper on my cheek. Your warm breath touches my nose. "Don't forget." ◎◎◎ My lips press against yours, my fingers trace your chest. You hold me against you tightly. Tears and rain flow freely down our faces. I feel you slowly slipping away. ◎◎◎ "Don't forget," you whisper a final time, and the world dissolves around me. ◎◎◎ I'm suddenly lying in a bed, surrounded by hovering people in white. Everything aches, and they are adding to it with the stabbing of their needles into my arms. Black dots litter my vision. My mouth tastes metallic, bloody. I smell life, death, and the limbo in between. Somewhere far away, I hear people yelling at each other, screaming senseless words in one another's faces. But in my mind, something is telling me to look left, to look at you in the bed next to me. ◎◎◎
And when I finally see you, somehow I know it's too late.
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