When This Is Over

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When This Is Over

Unread post by kersplunk »

From nothing, there was gutteral whisper, as if played in reverse, or spoken in a wheezing inhale.

"Wake up."

Slumped on an arm sprawled across the warped wooden table, thick ash colored hair draped around it in whorls, the young woman's head jerked upright. Bleary hazel eyes slowly focused, wide and blinking, darting about the dimly-lit tavern, her long face otherwise expressionless even with the sharp, startled gasp.

She sat there in the back corner booth of the establishment, largely ignored by the few other patrons engaged in their quiet conversations, much like the cold and barely touched plate shoved to the far corner of the table. She sat the rest of the way up, blinking away the last vestiges of her unwanted nap, and dirty hands came up to rub at them. Candles burned on sconces and candelabras placed strategically throughout the modestly sized tavern, bathing the establishment in a pleasant, amber glow as a fire crackled in the hearth across the way. She noticed, however, that one candle had been snuffed out.

It wasn't off in the corner where it wouldn’t be seen, or even against the wall. It was right next to the bar, just in the bartender's peripheral vision. It wouldn't take much more than a simple turn of his head for him to see it. For anyone to see it. But it sat there, ignored all the same. It seemed that the light of one candle simply wasn't missed amongst the myriad others.

Still expressionless and still half in a dream, she looked down at the papers and books strewn carelessly around the bare spot where she'd laid her head without realizing it.

The ranger sniffed once sharply, looking to her without wavering.

"...and my only prayer to Selune this night will be for you," he was saying. "Not a prayer of pity. A prayer of guidance. A prayer for a wanderer. Words offered to watch over the path of a woman who deserves much more than what life has dealt her recently..."

Golden eyes stayed steadfastly on her, and she found herself simultaneously unable to bear the sight of them. She trembled as she kept her gaze on the ground between her feet, her heart hammering so hard in her chest that she practically felt the ground shaking beneath her.

"A hope that regardless of how steep or how many bends her path knows, that my own path travel alongside hers, to be there for every handhold of her climb, to be there for every turn she crosses, for her hardships and her success. To be there for the truest friend I have ever known..."

The young woman shook her head, scowling petulantly at her exhausted mind's chattering, and attempted to busy herself in gathering the scattered parchments together before her in a pile without any real plan or semblance of organization. A short burst of raucous laughter at another table in the middle of the room startled her again, and her gaze pulled up to its source, over a fistful of looseleaf papers.

The barmaid was flushing, a bright smile on her face as she exchanged witty, flirtatious banter with the group of bearded, broad-shouldered men who lifted tankards in rowdy salutes to the girl. She was a pretty thing, long blond hair, bright green eyes, and a dazzling white smile. The young woman in the corner found herself wondering just how genuine that smile was, however. Or if she knew any better.

She wanted to smile. Even just a half of one, the familiar tug at the corners of her mouth, but it didn't come. She could only resent their mirth, the jealousy gnawing at her core as she glared at them before she realized what she was doing. One mishap... one misfortune... one conflict... that's all it would take, and all of that is just... Gone.

She blinked again, shaking her head, and forced herself to lay the papers down and start sifting through them, struggling to remember what she had been doing before sleep, and the memories of the life she'd had not so long ago, had stolen in when she let her guard down.

It had been a dream. Just... a dream. She sighed through her nose, resting her forehead on tented fingers as she began to squint once again at the scripts, struggling to focus through her distracted mind on the letters she still had to search to assign meaning to from time to time.

Disembodied voices echo soundlessly in an ethereal void, across space and time.

"I heard you were back," a woman's mezzo soprano spoke softly with a note of uncertain, fearful vulnerability.

"I am not. At least... not for long, eh? Seeing to things as I am able," came back the Gurrish accented tenor.

There was a long silence.

Finally, the woman's voice speaks softly, tight with disappointment. "...Okay."

"Carah, I am not avo--"

"Be safe...?" the higher voice cuts off the lower one.

Another pause.

"...I will. You too, eh? ...Please."

She took in a sharp breath through her nose again, her eyes widening as her head lifted a bit from the fingers on which it rested. She scowled more deeply, gritting her teeth, and in an instant she realized that all conversations in the tavern had ceased. She blinked, looking around, only to realize that every eye in the little room was on her.

Several confused seconds later, she saw the reason. Her untouched meal and most of the reading material gathered around her was now scattered on the floor to her left. And her hands were riddled with splinters from the table from where she'd, in an unconscious tantrum, cleared it with a sharp sweep of her arms.

Expressionlessly, wide-eyed, she surveyed the staring patrons, unsure whether to challenge them or apologize for the outburst she had no memory of. She swallowed, averting her eyes from the curious -- or accusing -- stares, and brushed a curtain of hair from her face as she stood up, silently going about gathering her scattered papers. Hurriedly, she stacked them into an uneven pile, threw them with the books into the satchel that had sat next to her in the booth, and leaving a fistful of silver coins on the table, she wove her way through the tavern to the exit door, trying her best to tell herself that the dull, persistent burning sensation on her back was merely the angry red brand in the flesh of her back, and not the dozens of eyes boring into her.

Accusing her.

"Do you want your suffering to end?"

She walked the narrow, unfamiliar cobblestoned streets herself, clutching her satchel and the halves of her collar tightly in each hand, directionless. The honest folks of the little town had long since retired from the encroaching darkness to the safety and comfort of home, hearth, and loved ones. And here she walked, alone, surrounded by it. She had no family to return to, no home she felt safe in. It was... becoming a disturbing pattern, she felt.

"Submit, and I will cease. They will be safe."

Her back ached with the pulsing, burning throb that she found herself becoming used to, and she thought of what she'd done. The price she'd paid to stop the suffering of those she loved. And what had they had done with the peace she'd purchased?

Summoned demons for sport. Poisoned an island. Strung up innocents and vandalized her already broken home. Squabbled over who got the credit.

"Are you finished telling me how little I care?"

"...You're doing a fine job showing it yourself."

Words, memories, blew about in her head like so many poisoned razors in a twister. Raking, slashing, cutting at her relentlessly. She's been such a fool, thinking she could start again. Thinking anything would be different in the end. Thinking that if she'd just tried... just given that extra bit of effort, of love, of selfless attention...

Thinking anyone or anything could change.


And gods how she had tried. She had dedicated herself to being better. She had not appreciated her idyllic childhood, and it had been snatched away without warning and burned to ashes before her eyes. She had given her heart to a man she believed was better than he was, and he had crushed it beneath his boot heel while she watched. She had listened, she had consoled, she had shown uncanny compassion to the people she had come to love, and what did she have to show for it? Apathy and resentment.

She had given so much of herself to so many, pushed aside her own needs, dreams, and desires for the sake of seeing others realize theirs. She had never asked for anything in return, pushed down and buried the familiar tinge of resentment when she received misguided panderings or condescending rhetoric rather than true empathy, if anything at all. She was better than it, after all... or so she desperately wanted to believe.

"He showed more empathy for a bloody lynch mob than he did for me."

The young woman turned a corner, the quiet padding of her boots on the stones, the gentle breeze, and the occasional crackle of street lamps the only sounds in the night air of the sleepy town. Where was she going? Did she even know?

She emerged from an alleyway as a chill wind suddenly rose from the breeze, biting through her, scattering strands of hair across her face and buffetting her clothes.

"That's too godsdamned much, and you know it."

He was right about that, at least.

Until now, she wanted to believe she could be better. That there was no cost too high to pay for redemption, no burden she couldn't shoulder to make the world a better place for others. But, like in so many other things of late, she had come to realize just how gravely mistaken she was. She had been wrong about the man she had married. She had been wrong about a half-orc's rage. She had been wrong about the man that had taken her in. Wrong about her loyalties, wrong about her faith, wrong about her best friend. And it was the last one that hurt the most. If she couldn't rely on him when she needed to...

Even when the last of her family had perished, she had not felt so alone. It hadn't been worth it. Not this.

It was too high a price to pay.

She felt a tickle on her cheek through another biting gust of wind. She scowled, wiping the trail of moisture away with a brusque swipe of her sleeve. No, she thought as she sniffed hard, and set her jaw as her gaze hardened onto the thinning buildings lining the street, the way out of town. No more. I've shed enough tears.

"You have to look after yourself, first."

She was finished fooling herself. She couldn't pretend any longer. For so long she'd stubbornly held on, but it was time to face the harsh unpleasant truth: they weren't worth the cost. Nothing was worth that.

Pulling her collar tightly closed again, she marched on to the gates to the south, into the night. She would see the end of this, and be wiser for it.

She had survived the loss of one life. She would survive another.

And she would do whatever it took to see it through.
I don't wanna die alone
I don't wanna live forsaken
I refuse to let this go
Because my soul is breaking

I don't wanna let you know
That my heart is just so jaded
I refuse to let it show
I refuse to let it go

Wake me up
When this is over
I'm tired of living life like it's a dream
Please wake me up
When it's all over
I'm tired of living right here in between
I refuse

I've always walked alone
I chose the path less taken
I refuse to let you in
Life's a bitch and I've been shaken

It's not a joke at all
Inside my spirit's fading
I refuse to take the fall
'Cause no one cares at all

Wake me up
When this is over
I'm tired of living life like it's a dream
Please wake me up
When it's all over
I'm tired of living right here in between
I refuse

'Cause at the end of the day, I'm not you
I refuse
Carah Evenwood

Elena Petrakou
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Posts: 32
Joined: Sun Dec 01, 2019 9:30 pm

Where The Dead Ships Dwell

Unread post by kersplunk »

A thick, otherworldly fog rolling in from the gray-skied sea shrouded everything. The abandoned streets, cobbles blackened and uprooted in places, were lined with the burned out skeletons of buildings that had not been, perhaps cruelly, spared from the worst of the fires that had reduced their brethren to ash long since blown away on the ocean wind. Streetlamps, toppled and broken, littered the sad and forlorn arteries of what had once been a thriving maritime trade city.

Carah walked one such street, stepping over rubble and bones, hugging herself against the unnatural chill in the air, but it did little to ward it off. So little, in fact, that she was scarcely even sure she felt the touch of her own flesh, her hands and arms doing nothing to comfort her from the pervading, cold stillness. The once-familiar sound of the tide lapping against the nearby wharfs, the ring of ships' bells or the clamoring of merchants and sailors arguing and hocking their wares, the sound of hoofs clopping against the cobblestones, the petulant screeches of the seagulls, the occasional spirit walking freely amongst the living people of the city yet ignored by and ignorant of them at once, all silent now. Even the air was deathly still. This place was frozen in time, a callous etching in her memory, mocking her.
Something crunched under her foot, and she looked down. A bleached skull, crushed half to powder, rolled away from her boot a few inches, coming to rest to stare coldly up at her through its remaining intact eye socket, as if it were rising from the stones of the street itself to wordlessly demand to know why she dared to return and disturb their tomb. It was then, looking down, that she noticed that she could see the dust-covered, cracked and broken cobblestones beneath her feet, in the most literal sense. She lifted her hands before her, looking at them, at her legs, patting down her torso. While her hands met resistance, and she was aware of the abandoned street beneath her, she could feel nothing, and see everything through her barely-corporeal form.

She looked up. Where but a moment before she saw a ghost city, she now saw a city bustling in silent cacophony, ghostly denizens milling about, lost, dead-eyed. No two of the wandering forms appeared to be aware of one another.

And each one of them, where their mouths should be, had only an unbroken barrier of lipless skin.

They moved about from place to place, some appearing to go about the hollow motions of a daily routine, stopping at points along the street to examine wares at stalls long vanished or moving aside to await the passage of a wagon or carriage that never came. Others merely walked purposefully yet without direction, moving vacantly along a path without appearing to truly have any destination or goal in mind. And all of them maintained the expressionless look, some of their bleary and whitened eyes even lacking irises or pupils. Carah shuffled through them, hugging herself once more against the phantom chill in the air, shivering as some of the ghostly wanderers passed close without seeing her.

Suddenly she stiffened, gasping, feeling as though someone had run an icicle through her midsection. Her vision went hazy for an instant, and before she came to realize what she was looking at, the transluscent back of a hunched woman with thinning, colorless hair materialized in front of her, moving away. She had walked through her, and hadn't so much as slowed down or changed course.
Turning down a side street, she moved through the shells of buildings familiar to her even in their ruin. It didn't matter that most were little more than foundations or rubble clinging sadly to the last vestiges of their former shape. She knew these streets. She looked ahead, lifting her chin as she walked through the aimless crowd of phantoms, hoping against hope and straining to listen for the tolling bells, the smell of fish and salt wafting to her on the air. She walked. And listened. And breathed. Several times she wanted to believe that her senses picked up something - anything - that would reassure her that she was home.

As if in response to her wondering, the ghostly apparition of a short young woman with long hair came bolting out of what may have once been an alleyway, darting through the crowds and gone too quickly for Carah to get a good look at her. She swore she heard a distant echo of playful, giddy laughter, heard as if she were underwater, but when she turned her attention to it, she heard nothing. Her eyes turned towards the direction from which she'd run, and she felt her heart skip a beat. Though the buildings flanking the alley were gone, the cornerstone and an unburned, salt-treated timber still stood near the street. She approached it, reaching a hand forward hesitantly to touch it. It was damp and covered with soot and dust, but her fingers moved straight to worn grooves carved into it just at the level of her chin. They traced the grooves, invisible to the eye through the gloom and grime, and although she had never truly known how to decipher them, she now knew the letters that she had once taken on faith:
A rough circle had been carved around the stacked names, which became visible as she rubbed away the filth concealing it, the crude etches seeming surprisingly fresh beneath the ravages of time. She stared, blinking, overcome by a sudden wash of memory, and something happened at the edges of her vision. A flash, little more than a glimpse she wasn't even sure she saw, but for an instant the streets around her seemed alive and awash in a clear summer day, though they remained silent. Fleetingly the mouthless, shuffling specters around her regained their humanity, and the streets were alive. But when she looked, the ghostly pallor seemed to have never lifted from the dead city.

She shook her head rapidly, blinking again as if to clear her vision, but the scenery remained unchanged. With one more longing glance at the carving, she reached to touch it once again... but it had vanished. The support timber stood sad and decrepit, worn by age and rot, and the wood felt soft to her touch, so much that Carah almost believed she could push it over with a good shove despite it being so thick around she could scarcely wrap her arms around its full circumference. She backed up a few paces, and with one more uncertain look, she continued on her way.

Turning the corner around what had once been Hatch's bakery, she tried to breathe in, waiting for the smell of fresh baked bread laced with sea salt and fennel to fill her nose. Unsurprisingly, there was nothing. The place where the squat wooden building with the gaudy yellow and black awning was little more than an unrecognizable pile of sodden ash and stone. She looked towards the wharfs. She knew that horizon. But it was wrong.
Dismal gray clouds backlit the permeating fog rolling through the scene before her, washed out and shadowy even through the otherworldly, contrasting glow. A forest of broken masts rose from the water, many sprouting directly from the surface of the still water, their hulls sunken and invisible. Others leaned precariously this way and that, tattered strands of rotting, brittle sails and rigging hanging in drooping loops from all of them like so many cobwebs. Shattered, blackened hulks that remained drifted at awkward angles, straining soundlessly against mooring ropes whose grip on their dock-mounted cleats was after so many years beginning to fail.

She continued to walk, staring at the haunting remnants of the city's forgotten heart. Dead, mouthless crowds continued to move about and over her like water flowing over a stone, heedless and unaware of its presence even as it slowly and steadily wore it smooth. This place, she knew it beyond the shadow of a doubt. Even as a ruin, she knew this part of the city like she knew the back of her own hands. Every building, every pier, every street corner. She sensed it as one might sense the shape of the corpse of a loved one beneath its burial shroud. Even embalmed against the smell of decay, its features concealed, she would know its face as clearly as if she were looking at it in the prime of its life. Longingly, wistfully... forlornly.

The sound of children's laughter from further down, towards the end of the docks, suddenly cut through the lifeless silence, startling Carah so badly that she may as well have reacted to an explosion just in front of her. She blinked, staring in the direction from whence it came, drifting towards her with mocking nonchalance, like a birdsong in a graveyard. Before she realized what she was doing, she was running at full tilt, her arms pumping, hair streaming behind her as the Tears trailed Selune, boots silently thudding into the broken street that sloped down towards the waterfront. She didn't even notice that her legs passed like vapor through a pile of unrecognizable rubble, or the warped iron-studden beam that lay treacherously across her path.

The piers began to thin out as she approached the end of the waterfront, the ruined skeletons of buildings to her right shortening in height until the jettys curling out from the seawall came into view through the fog. She planted her foot in front of her, sliding on the damp stones to a skidding stop, and couldn't help from staring slack jawed at the source of the giddy laughter. Not that there was anyone observing her to warrant self-consciousness... or that she had any reason to be surprised in the first place.

Against the glare of the brightly-shadowed sky, atop the piled wind-worn stones, ran three silhouettes. In the center of them, a slender older boy, wiry and slender almost to the point of being lanky, was leaping from rock to rock, a shock of unkempt hair blowing in an unfelt breeze over a shirtless, corded torso. He kept shouting angrily at the younger girl ahead of him, a thick braid trailing behind her as she taunted back over her shoulder with giggling laughter as she nimbly outran him over the treacherous terrain. Behind them both, the hulking silhouette of a surly teenager looked exasperated as he followed them, shaking his head and lumbering over the rocks with cautious purpose.

Carah slowed to a stop as she watched, her breath - if she was indeed breathing at all - seizing as the memory unfolded before her like a stage show for a disconnected audience. The girl ran to the end of the line of rocks, cornered by the sea on all sides, and whirled, still giggling, and holding something behind her back as she crouched, preparing to evade her closing pursuer. The boy in the middle caught up, and lunged for whatever it was the girl held, but she sidestepped him, spinning and darting back the other way up the rocks, and scrambling up behind the larger one trailing the pair. The younger boy whirled, spitting what had to have been obscenities even though his words drifted on the still air as though they came from miles away, unintelligible and unrecognizable. He came back after her, pointing, ranting, and raving as he jumped from stone to stone.

The older boy came to a halt as the girl darted behind him, hiding in his shadow as she shifted back and forth, peering at the younger boy from alternating sides of her human shield. The giggling appeared to be instantly replaced by a petulant, complaining expression, and she looked up at the older boy, no doubt petitioning him for protection. The older boy appeared to groan, looking up at the sky, then with measured patience at the younger one just as he caught him mid-lunge with a huge hand clamped over his face, holding him at arm's length easily while the younger boy flailed and swung.

From behind the older boy, the girl with the braid continued to put on the plaintive show, while simultaneously sticking her tongue out mockingly at the younger boy, fighting against the meaty paw. The older boy continued to calmly try to reason with the flailing one, right up until the smaller one's teeth sank into the meat between his thumb and forefinger. With an unheard howl, the larger one had a fistful of the smaller one's shirt, and had hefted him in one hand off his feet, grimacing in pain and gritting his teeth as he huffed and puffed still with an uncanny calm. The girl went wide eyed, and switching sides, in an instant she had climbed up onto the larger one's back with the speed and agility only children and tree climbing monkeys could conjure, and was twisting both of his ears savagely in an effort to get him to drop the boy she'd just seconds ago been using him as a shield from.

The surly one howled again, stumbling from the double cross and sudden assault from both sides. All three of their eyes went wide as plates as they felt their center of gravity tip past the point of no return, and with a soundless splash, they all went down together into the harbor. Despite herself, Carah couldn't help but feel a little smile tug at the corners of her mouth, nor was she completely aware of the little wistful laugh that escaped her as she watched the three come back up, splashing, laughing, and sputtering even though they appeared to have been trying to kill one another just seconds before. The girl climbed up onto the big one's shoulder's, trying to wrestle him down into the water again while the smaller boy helped, the three of them struggling for dominance.

Daveth... Trayan...

The moment their names touched her memory, they were gone, and the water was still, undisturbed, as if no one had touched it. Another ghostly figure passed through her, jarring her back to the grim, dismal scenery around her that an instant before had seemed awash once again in the brilliant sunlight of a summer day. Once again the shroud of fog rolling in from the sea surrounded her, and she looked towards the back of the broad-shouldered apparation that had just walked through her like air. She followed it, though not so much out of interest of where he was going as much as coincidence. She knew the way from here.

She passed by rows of squat skeletal remnants of houses overlooking the harbor, counting them, remembering each by the name of the family that had once lived there all those years ago. The Turnbuck house, with their pigtailed twin girls that were her age, but were far more interested in girlish toys and dresses than she ever had been. The house that had been Miss Evelyn's, the kindly old widow, the faint hint of baking cobblers and pies wafting from its nonexistent windows and evaporating the moment she tried to breathe it in. There was the house that belonged to the reclusive Brandeson siblings, the fat men whom they had always been forbidden from associating with in any way, but it never stopped Trayan from talking her or his friends into releasing chickens into the window or some other ill-advised mischief before bolting like lunatics, darting in and out of alleyways to escape their retribution, giggling gleefully all the way.

And then... she came to it.

Only part of the front wall and doorframe still stood, backed up to a pile of rubble and the pitiful remnants of the chimney where the kitchen had been, but she would have recognized it if it had been nothing more than the foundation. This was the one, the place she had called home for nigh on fifteen years.

On instinct, she reached for a doorknob that wasn't there, closing her hand around the air where the gnarled cast iron handle had once been, and froze there. For a moment her ghostly legs seemed to fail her, and she stood rooted to the spot before, gathering her nerves, she stepped through. Lifting her eyes, the open-air debris pile morphed into the visage of a spartan but well-kept room adorned with colorful rugs, a small circular table in the center of the floor off to her left, surrounded by a pair of padded rocking chairs and a three-seater sofa that was threadbare and well used, but retained its bright, cheery colors all the same, somehow. A single cot was set against the far wall, a neatly folded patchwork quilt on one end, a single pillow on the other. Oil lamps flickered warmly in sconces on the walls, the blue-and-white striped drapes framing the windows through which the dim light of the rising sun shone.

Open door frames led off to other parts of the house in front of her and to the right. From the latter, the clatter of dishes and the splash of water drifted through, just ahead of the same auburn-haired girl with the braid she'd seen on the jetties stumbled in a theatrical display of petulant exhaustion. She held a broom that was twice as tall as she was, and from her complaining expression, it was clear that she was doing her best to make as much of a nuisance of herself in her over-the-top whining so as to be excused from whatever menial chore she'd been assigned. In the doorway appeared a grandmotherly, rotund woman, her kindly features set in a stern glare under which the girl withered and immediately went to work. The wooden spoon she held levelled at her drove the unspoken threat home.

Carah watched the girl sweep the floor in lazy, halfhearted motions, grumping and sulking all the while, and again, she found herself smiling a little. The two boys from before burst in through the front door, the larger one poking at the girl's ribs playfully, eliciting a squeal and a clap on the back of his head with the broom. Carah's smile broadened into a quiet giggle as she watched the family file through the door where the grandmotherly woman had stood, but when she took the step to follow them, her stomach rumbling in anticipation of breakfast, all sounds fell deathly silent. The illusion of the lived-in home remained, but the color of it seemed to fade from it. She hesitated, her smile vanishing.

Swallowing, she stepped through the doorway, and looked around. As expected, she saw the tiny little wooden table with the one warped plank in the center that only had enough room to crowd four chairs around it on one side, being shoved against the wall in the limited floor space. The wood burning iron stove in the far corner was flanked on either side by simple counters with open shelving beneath them, and the twin cupboards mounted on the wall above them. A single window with the same blue and white curtains backlit the clay washbasin, and the hard packed dirt floor couldn't even really be identified as dirt without closer examination, it was kept so tidy.

But the kitchen was barren. No food, no utensils, none of Nana's familiar floral print towels or aprons hanging anywhere. And not a single person. No trace of the bustling activity that had just been here. The silence pressed down on her like a weight.

With a longing look around the empty room, Carah turned back to the living area, and made for the other doorway. She walked through it, and turned right on instinct. She remembered it being six paces to her bedroom, but it only took her four now. The room she shared with her brothers was as she remembered it. The two small beds shoved together against the back wall, lacking even a headboard. The window was open, a light breeze fluttering the beige curtains on either side of it, above a handmade dresser with six drawers that were in various states of being open or closed, stockings, breeches, and tunics hanging in and out of them haphazardly. But still, the house was still... and silent.

Her eyes moved to the groove between the straw-stuffed mattresses where she was supposed to sleep, but always managed to somehow crawl over and force Daveth into while he snored, despite his bulk. Without truly knowing why, Carah moved to the bed, pressing tented fingers into it to test the mattress. It crinkled with the sound of straw, but it felt... inviting. Suddenly she felt her eyes grow heavy, and as though the weight of the silence had become too much for her legs to bear, she sat down, curling up on the edge of the bed, facing the open window. She hugged her arms close to her, watching the curtain flutter in the soundless breeze. She listened in vain for the sounds of activity from the kitchen, or from the bustle of traffic outside.

Nothing. She didn't even sense the presence of the mouthless phantasms. Her eyes grew heavy, and drifted closed.

She didn't know how much time passed, a blink, a tenday, a decade. But when she opened her eyes, the spartan bedroom was gone, replaced by an opulent red chamber, adorned with gold trim, rich wooden accents, and fine furnishings. She lay on an exquisitely decorated sofa near the door, with golden tassles on the armrests, next to a pair of deep brown-and-red mahogany armoires. Lavish rugs from gods-only-knew-which exotic faraway land covered the parquet floor, and her magnificent four-poster bed commanded the room as the crown jewel.

And it... it was all afire.

She remembered her despair in this moment. The way she'd succumbed to desperation, acquiesced to the ultimatum the sinister, booming voice in her head dropped on her. But this time was different. She felt... nothing. She was alone. And the room was still silent.

This was as it was meant to be.

She closed her eyes again as the fires roared soundlessly around her. Freeing, cleansing, blackening. She wasn't afraid. "Home" was but an idea, a memory. A fleeting concept as fickle as a mob. The flames would consume everything around her, but she would be untouched. She knew that now.
She awoke in her rented room, without a sound, or so much as a flinch.

Big picture slowly fades
Walls are closing in
And there I was, cursing the ground
Unable to understand

I won't let the world break me
So I need to change direction
Nothing special, I'm far from perfect!
Light the way for me...

Feel I was running an endless mile
Last candle burns, and I'm dying inside
All of this will turn to ash
A change for a peace of mind

Walking where the dead ships dwell
These are shores I left behind
Streets are getting smaller
And I had to leave

Feel I was running an endless mile
Last candle burns, and I'm dying inside
All of this will turn to ash
A change for a peace of mind

All I hear is noise
Hearts of false hope
Guess I took it for granted
I know I went too far
I won't say I'm sorry!
I got what I deserve, I got what I deserve...

Feel I was running and endless mile
Last candle burns, and I'm dying inside
All of this will turn to ash...
...a change for a peace of mind
Carah Evenwood

Elena Petrakou
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