Time came, time went, and she couldn’t get out of bed.
Indigo. One more memory to go.
And there was an inevitability about what Violet was going to show her – how her worthless little life had ended.
And she hadn’t been that different in the last memory.
Part of it was the certainty that ran beneath the amnesia – facts that were just…solid, despite the holes in her Swiss-Cheese-Sam-Beckett memory. Attempting to take her life hadn’t been that long ago, compared to when she’d died.
There’d been so many…strains of nothing that had woven into that moment. Not reasons for, but more like…reasons against wanting to continue.
And in the weeks – months at most – there couldn’t have been that much of a change.
Life – especially her life – didn’t work that way.
Bad things could happen in a blink. Good things took time.
And Indigo had shown her that…there was nothing good in her life. Nothing-
Nothing worth going back to.
An empty apartment. No friends. No family. A life so empty she had a fucking “what to do if you find my corpse” instruction manual on her entryway table next to return-to-sender mail.
And that didn’t seem worth going back to.
All this time. All these…guideposts and memories. All of it should have been building to something. All of it should have- Been more than realising the only reason you were alive was because she’d backed out at the last moment.
No one had saved her. No one had held her and cried tears of joy that she hadn’t kicked the bucket.
The only person who knew even the tiniest bit of the event was her local doctor, who she’d dragged herself to. Just to ensure that the cut on her arm wasn’t infected and to get it dressed better than what she could manage with one hand.
He’d asked what had happened. She’d told him she’d been trying to unstick an old window, and her hand had gone through the pane.
After a couple of probing questions, likely to see if she was being abused by a partner, he’d nodded, redressed the wound and sent her on her way.
A couple of sections had left light scars, but they seamlessly joined the choir of marred skin that the accident had left her with.
In a kinder world, her family probably would have thrown some more money at her recovery. There probably wasn’t much they could have done about the internal mess. Still, they could have at least left her with the ability to wear short sleeves around people without feeling self-conscious.
Or wear a swimsuit without an oversized shirt to “protect her skin from the sun”.
They hadn’t cared. No one had cared.
And now, she was alone, awaiting the memory of her own death.
‘This isn’t fun anymore.’
She’d hoped – wished – that at some point there’d be happy memories, but as more and more of the puzzle pieces fell into place, there was less and less room for happiness. For a happy ending.
If, when Violet came, it was just the end of all things; if this was the truth behind the “life flashes before your eyes” belief, then it would be okay.
If, when Violet came, she was expected to fight to live again, to scream until she could breathe, to pierce the veil back to the world of the living, then-
Then there was no reason to do it.
There was no reason to fight, just to go back to something she’d-
On the conspiracy board, the yellow flower sat pinned to some note she’d made.
She existed before this place. The memories proved that. The real world wasn’t something born from a solipsistic mind.
And the flower had been the only thing that had seemingly come from there. Everything else had been from her mind, her heart, her dreams and fears.
The strange flower was the only thing that proved she wasn’t the only being left in the world, that the universe hadn’t died and left her behind.
And the flower had felt like love.
No one in her memories loved her.
Her father had outright hated her, though most of the time, he’d hidden it behind perfect posh politeness.
A man so cruel that, after an incident at school, he’d picked her up, driven her out the country and beaten her bloody.
A man so calculating that he’d had his valet bring clean clothes for her to change into. There’d been real anger as he’d held her face to the burning heat of the car’s hood, but enough restraint to stop after he felt he’d “made his point”.
And her mother…
That was more complicated. Her mother loved her – a sentence that was true if it came with an asterisk and a footnote. Her mother loved a version of her, the perfect, doll-like daughter that she expected.
Compliant little Stephanie, who loved tea parties and ballet. Who smiled and wore velvet dresses and pinchy shoes without complaint.
Mother would have hated Stef. Stef who used markers to colour woad onto dolls and who made Dr Moreau experiments with pieces of cut-up stuffed animals.
Even before there’d been a voice in her head, she’d had to split herself into two.
Neither of them would make the flower.
Her mother couldn’t, long since dead. And her father wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire.
The rest of her family…to most of them, she was essentially just another face in the crowd. Not even that after they’d paid her to GTFO.
So that just left a couple of possibilities. One, that her memories was blocking out someone important – that was fairly believable.
With chunks of memories dropping in like major game patches, there was a lot to sort through each time. As much as she tried to analyse, there had to be a million connections she hadn’t made yet.
The other possibility was that, somewhere in the short time between vomiting up bile until her throat had bled and however she’d died, she’d made a connection with a person.
Somehow cracked her shell enough to make one goddamn friend.
She dropped her head, kissed Alexandria on the head, and left her on the bed. With one more look down at the self-inflicted scars that had given her the shock sufficient to save her life, she walked towards the conspiracy board.
The flower pulsed with light as she took it down, beating like a heart.
All of this was magic. All of this was…her. She had some control over what happened – the objects she could summon, the fact that she’d purposely invoked a couple of the memories. Here, at least, she had some agency, even if it had never felt like that in her real life.
She laid the flower in her palm, spreading the petals out flat so that they laid like irregularly-spaced points on a compass.
‘Give me a reason.’
‘If I’m not alone. If there’s someone out there that gives a shit. If there’s-’ Her voice cracked. ‘If someone-’
‘-wants me. Show me. Give me-’
All but one of the petals went dark.
‘Good enough for me.’ She looked down. ‘Come on, feet.’
She followed the petal like a compass. Out past the small camp of conjured objects. Away from everything she’d built up over the time she’d been inhabitating the world and out into the wasteland beyond.
There was nothing but the soft dust beneath her feet and the swirling colours of the sky above.
Slowly, the world ahead of her began to change, and something blipped onto the horizon.
For a few steps, she thought it was a tree, then maybe a figure, but as her feet carried her forward, it became her reflection.
Curved slightly, like a funhouse mirror, her reflection, this one without a flower in her hand, stared back.
And if this was a fairy tale, there was only one obvious action.
She lifted the flower to her lips, kissed it for good luck, then pressed it against the edge of the world, where it passed through into her reflection’s hand.
‘Give me a reason,’ she said, her reflection mouthing along with her. ‘Please.’
Her reflection distorted and elongated and- And it wasn’t a reflection anymore- And-
Her head snapped back, and she felt herself slam into the ground.
She could- It wasn’t seeing properly- Not really- Not- It was like sleep paralysis, when you couldn’t open your eyes properly, when you couldn’t move, but needed to scream. When whatever you saw was probably more dream than reality.
And all she could see was- White. The folds of a pillow. An arm stretched ahead of her, lying on top of a blue cotton-
Her eyes rolled up into her head, and she felt like she was dying.
Someone holding her hand.
Just like in Indigo, but reached. Whatever this was, whoever this was- If someone was beside her hospital bed, then-
Her hand- The hand she could feel and the one she couldn’t- And- She had two bodies- No body- She was made of glass, of stone, of-
For the tiniest moment, she felt the warmth of a hand, then-
She collapsed in on herself, choking and screaming, breathing in the powdery dust of her little world.
But it had been real.
And it had been enough.
She stood, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and looked back towards the edge of her world.
Her reflection had changed. No longer was it just..her reflection. Instead, it was her, but- Like the mirror she’d stepped into to remember the accident, this was another memory, waiting for her.
The Stef in front of her- She couldn’t see her properly. There were details that wouldn’t fall into place until after the memory had finished.
But she was happy.
Impressions of blood settled into her mind, and even through that, the reflection!Stef smiled. And it was such a fragile smile, one that-
Whether or not this was a memory of her death, something had happened to make her happy.
‘Okay,’ she said and stepped into the mirror.