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Stef opened her eyes.
Like so many times before, she was lying, curled on the smooth ground, back at what she was thinking of as her “spawn point”.
As she sat up, she looked for the mirror and the conspiracy board – both of which were still in place. This was good, it meant that some permanent changes were possible. That progress wouldn’t be lost every time she slept.
She looked down, half-expecting the word to have manifested in front of her, or to have dropped to the ground, made of wooden blocks.
She’d said it, and for a reason, but now she had to-
The colour of the world had changed again – yellow was mixed in with the orange and red.
Red. Orange. And now yellow.
Two colours by themselves meant nothing, but three was either a hell of a coincidence, or the beginning of a pattern.
ROY, the first three colours of the rainbow. Three of seven.
Maybe when it was seven of seven, then…
Then this would be over? Then she’d go back to being a brain in a jar and the process would start over again? Then she would… go somewhere else?
Three of seven, and she had some idea of who she was. Seven of seven surely meant that there wouldn’t be any more memories locked away.
And for better or worse – better and worse, if the achingly visceral memory of the accident was anything to go by – it was what she wanted.
She pushed herself to her feet – this was certainly more to add to the conspiracy board.
Three memories to get to age twelve. Four more to reach twenty-ish. The next couple, whenever they came, would help to show if there was more to the pattern.
If they were simply pieces of her life, spaced out at equal measures, each contributing the same amount of lost memories to her half-full brain.
The accident hadn’t been a random moment. There was a possibility that it lined up with one of the equidistant pieces of her rainbow, but there was also the possibility that-
Maybe each of the ROYGBIVs were like finding the sweet spot in an MMO map to uncover the whole zone. Important pieces of her memory constellation that lit up everything surrounding it.
Nothing had been the same after the accident.
Things were rarely the same after the death of a parent, but rarely was it a case of truly “nothing being the same” – with Mother gone, James had no longer had any reason to even pretend he gave even the tiniest bit of shit about her.
She’d seen him the morning before the recital, then hadn’t seen him until they’d both been at the same Christmas function at the family estate.
When she’d finally been lucid after all the surgeries, there had been a small box of books and toys from her room – something likely dropped off by one of the staff; and that had been all that was left of her old life.
Clothes and shoes and the like had been shipped across to the family estate, but one small crate of assorted items was all she had that was truly hers.
He’d sold the house, and she’d never had a chance to say goodbye, or to retrieve the toys she’d hidden in out-of-the-way places.
And then there’d been a move halfway across the world, and the beginning of boarding school.
Nothing had been the same, but it hadn’t really mattered. Home had never been “home”, not the way it was supposed to feel. Not in the way the word was supposed to mean.
Another pay wall. Another waiting game.
She passed the mirror – she was back to wearing her default outfit of a t-shirt and loose-fitting pants.
The flower was new, though.
Tucked behind her ear like she was a tourist on a tropical vacation was a gently glowing flower.
She pulled it behind her ear and held it in cupped hands – and for a moment it held a familiar warmth – the warmth that had held her hand in the coldness of the wreck.
The warmth and the glow faded, leaving behind a more-vibrant-than-life yellow flower, which she carefully pinned to the side of the conspiracy board.
Smiling, she reached for a stack of empty cards, and began to write out the clues that the memory had revealed.
As she finished each card, she looked to the flower – and each time she did, any dread at what coming to the end of the rainbow slowly faded.
It was hard to pin down at first, but as she tapped out the Fibonacci sequence on her knees; the reasoning – potentially as flimsy, and based on nothing as it was – became clear.
The flower was new, and it wasn’t something she’d conjured. Ergo, vis a vi-
I fucking remember Reloaded and I don’t know if I got through my A-levels?
The flower hadn’t come from her, so it had come from someone or something else – and with how… small and personal it was, she was laying a heavy bet on “one” over “thing”.
And like the tiniest facts she’d put on the conspiracy board, its very existence gave hints at far larger chunks of information.
Another star in its own constellation.
It meant that she wasn’t the only person left in the entire universe. That had never been a strong possibility – it was so incredibly unlikely that the Big Crunch had happened, leaving her in the only piece of the universe left.
She was some fucking nerd, not the Childlike Empress after the Nothing ate the world.
Remote as the possibility was, this completely killed it as a viable hypothesis – she wasn’t alone, and-
And someone cared about her.
Alone in a world of sunset colours, contentment and warmth seeped into every corner of her being, like the first cup of coffee after a long nap-slash-coma.
Someone had sent the flower, and for what it was worth, had also sent the momentary feeling so much like what she’d felt, alone and dying in the twisted remains of the car.
And even if it was just an imprint, a message of emotion, rather than substance, it hadn’t felt like “goodbye”.
Whoever had been holding her in the car – something knew she she’d reconsidered after the accident, in lonely times at school; she had ultimately come to the sensible conclusion that it had been the firings of her brain, some part of herself desperately trying to make dying easier.
And now, it was time to throw logic to the wind, hope that she’d been wrong, hope that the flower meant even a tenth of what she imagined it did, and that maybe there’d be something at the end of the rainbow, rather than nothing.
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