She has no trouble finding her way, though the signs are all blank and she has never walked these streets before. The worlds may change but the reflection of this place remains the same. Even the night is as all the rest and the thunder overhead rumbles words familiar as her heartbeat. Her feet carry her unerringly down dark side streets and hidden short cuts, deeper and deeper into the maze of the abandoned city. Like a compass needle buried in her breastbone, the longing makes minute adjustments, forever magnetized to the location of the fragmented spirits.

“What are you doing out here?”

She freezes in the darkness before the mouth of the alley like a hunting cat tensed to strike. No motion, no sound, no breath. Her ears strain to catch the soft reply but the wind carries only a single fragment back.

“… ill-fated …”

Her hand moves to her side to caress the blade slick and cold as ice. She knows this moment as intimately as she knows this place, this reflection, this glorious cyclical tragedy, but this time she is not merely a witness. This time she is a player. This time she takes control.

“Come inside, darling. You’ll catch your death out here.”

But he will not heed his lover’s advice, not soon enough, and it is death which catches him. Thunder drowns out the staccato of her footsteps on the pavement and blood-red sparks dance like hungry electricity along the hook as she raises it, a solitary flash of razored lightning in the darkness.

[ a r e y o u l i v i n g i n t h e r e a l w o r l d ? ]

The bodies are still warm when Alice comes upon them. At the edge of the stone bridge she first glimpses the figures seated motionless on a bench, bathed in the sickly yellow light of a flickering street lamp. But there is no one in this city, she thinks, and her stomach churns at the wrongness of the scene. It is abandoned. There has never been anyone here. It is forever empty. As she approaches, the frigid night air carries the sweet tang of copper blood to her mouth and she finally understands. She does not want to, but she has no choice.


the words command, painted in hearts’ blood on the cobblestones. Tanim cradles his lover’s crumpled body in his own lifeless arms, their matching smiles red, raw wounds cut ear to ear in ivory skin.


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