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I'm Dying, I Think

I’m dying, I think. At last, I am dying. Where’s the curtain? When will the dullness of this world fold back, and when will I see the welcoming light of a warm sunrise? When will I see the pale, tawny-haired man standing before me, smiling good-naturedly, heartbreakingly? Will he reach out to me, stretch out his hands which I had been so at home in? Will he come to me and stroke my cheek, say my name, and tell me that I’m at last forgiven?

Or will he hold out a halting hand as I tremble and stumble weakly to him? Will he smile sadly and say, in serious, languid tones, Go back. Go Back. Do not come here yet. It is not yet time.

When will it be time? I’d cry back. When can I see you again, touch you again? See my mother again? Have you forgotten me? Have you all forgotten me? And will he say nothing? You have, I would cry, you have. Our love to you is only memory. Don’t you know me, know my love? Know me! And though my powers would be banished in this place, I would try, and try to reach him to touch him.

No, he would say, without even lifting his lips, I still and will always love you. But there is another.

Tell me! I’d scream, involuntary tears falling, falling. Is this a dream? Know me! It is I. Why cannot I join you? Don’t leave me, not now, not again!
And will he just smile sadly and turn away, as I am swept backward through grays and blacks and whites, back to a world that is to me a dark and miserable world, a miserable and evil existence, full of lies and deceit? A world where I feel so unclean and unworthy that I cannot even bear the hands of the sun; and will I be brushed aside, out of existence in the paradise, will I return back to life, back to a place that I would do anything to escape? Will I cry out in pain when it is over? Will I weep for myself, weep for my losses? Will I cry until it hurts, for being so close to redemption for my sins? Will I beg someone that is not there to help me, to ease my pain, to make it stop?

I’ve been there before. That place is not new to me. I’ve seen it once before, and I was beaten back, told to return. Was it because I had caused too much grief and had failed too often to undo them? Or was it because they wished not to see me again? Was I dead to my own dead mother?
My mother. She was the loveliest woman I have ever seen. My only reminders of her are in my mind, in the face of my sister, and in the face of the creature looking back at me from a mirror. Somehow, I’m only a cruel imitation of that woman. The copy was well done, indeed, but it was hollow compared to the wholeness that both my mother and my sister posses. I lack that totality, that softness, that innocence. And I knew it was because that my sister had an untarnished soul, one free and high-rising, light and bright, like a tender dove soaring through clouds, under a royal sapphire sky. My mother’s had been the same.
And me, with my sharp features and my crow’ black hair and steely gray eyes that lacked profound amounts of gentility and mercy, me, with my free-lance ways, my bitter past, the ache in my chest that never ceases to pull me down, I, the last countess, the White Queen. Why is it that my soul is tattered and burnt, weak and sputtering? Why is it that I, my mother’s first born, must suffer the ways of the world? Why is it I, who must let my soul bleed freely and feel its pain while others don’t feel a thing?
I remember being young and vulnerable, but happy, and human. I remember loving a man who didn’t love me. And what he made me is what causes my soul to writhe and bleed and shrivel. Every time I bend to rip my kill, to gulp down the thick, crimson life-blood, a blow is given to my heart of hearts. My first kill, I wept the entire time, but now, I expect the pain that comes, intermingling with the rush of ecstasy from the blood rush.
My family is ashamed of me for not wanting to be one of them. How can I? Their master took everything I had and everything I had hoped to have. They laugh and they upbraid. They pretend like they care, like I matter. But I don’t. I’m nobody. And they know I’m nobody.
So why can’t they just leave me alone?

My trip to Heaven ends quickly, as if sped forward by the fast-forward button, yet I feel the sting of his words burning savagely in my veins. Soon, the colors begin to solidify, slowly, and less swirling draws my attention. I hear a voice, a woman’s. She was gasping and screaming and pleading. I could not understand what she said, but I felt her pain—literally. A deep ache, an engulfing misery that made my brain throb and my heart wish to cease to beat. The burn of guilt, of loss, of disappointment, and the icy fingers of reality, pain, and tears. Soon my senses begin to return; the first that comes is feeling. I writhe, or so it would seem. Cold surrounds me, envelops me, cradles me in its deceiving arms. Long icy string things are piercing my sides, yet they are steadying them. I clutch at them, and I find that they are fleshy, like lushly growing plants. Next comes smell—an intense sense of smell meets me. Ocean air. Sea salt that burns in my throat. Mist that is so gentle in touching my face and streaming through my hair that smells of seaweed and kelp. And then there’s taste. I taste the salt, and I know where I am. And the weeping is nearer, too near to be next to me. And the pain goes on, until I am convinced that I’m in my body. I’m making the screams. Thrashing and wailing, and I don’t know what’s rightfully wrong with me. And then there’s another sound—no, a voice. It’s deeper, but it’s frightened, just as much as I am. And it is familiar. And now I feel something warm, at last. Soft hands are on my face, stroking my hair and my forehead and my arms, pinning me so that I can’t move. And the voice speaks to me, comforting me, even though he is just as afraid and confused as I am.
Soon I begin to calm down. I suddenly don’t feel strong enough to fight anymore. I breathe heavily, and then I slump. I hear him, saying my name, and when he says it, it sounds so beautiful.
The voice of an angel speaks my name. But I remain limp. I’m tired, I’m aching, I’m forever bruised, and I don’t know why. He’s trying to save me, I think as I let him worry and remain flaccid on the grassy knoll. How thoughtful. And now I remember everything, why I’m here, what has happened, who he is. Now I remember.
“Anna, open your eyes.”
So I do. And here I am, laying on a grassy hill, looking up to see a calm, gray sky, just through raging a storm. And then I look up and over, and there’s the sea, lurching and swelling innocently. I look out on the horizon. There is nothing there, but the invisible line where the sky meets the sea. The tides greet the wet beach and then withdraw. The gulls peal and cry. The grass sways at the command of the wind that carries the scent of the ocean on its hands.
I touch the grass, and I sit up. Then I look over at the dark haired, pale faced man, who looks like he’s seen too many things to make him cry. Like he’s seen horrors and miracles and wars and kisses. And now he looks at me, like I’m the only thing there. And I realize that he’s beautiful. I forget at once about Heaven, about my past, about me bleeding, aching soul, about the pale haired man.
There is another.
Yes, there is. And he’s mine, and he’s here, a place where you could never be. He’s more than you could ever be, I say back.
“It didn’t work,” I say, sobs threatening to appear.
“It doesn’t matter,” he says, “we survived.”
“But I’m the same! I didn’t change.” I pause. “How can you love someone as terrible as me?”
“I don’t care if you drank the blood of millions,” he answers. “I’ll always love you.”
I don’t see anything after that. I get lost in the sea, in his love. I know it was change, but I can’t help making the most of it.

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