Everything was hazy. Blossom’s vision was blurred. Distant. Sounds were distant. Where was she? Was this punishment . . . for what she did?
I’m a murderer.
Chains . . . those were chains. Around her ankles. Her neck. Binding her wrists. The taste in her mouth—was it blood?
Shouting clouded Blossom’s ears. Who was it? Was it him? No.
He was dead. And it was her fault.
I killed him.
The ground—so cold. Another consequence of her transgressions, no doubt. Her clothes . . . was she bare? Was she simply wearing thin rags?
I deserve this. I will accept it with open arms.
He was still there. Blossom was still hallucinating him. There was no way he could be there. It was simply a child’s dream. He couldn’t possibly in the room. He . . . was dead.
I saw you on the ground, blood spilling out of the corner of your mouth. Why are you here? How much must I be punished for my sins?
The police. Were those the police? Blossom was in jail. Only fair for a murderer such as herself. The lines intersecting her vision—bars, were they? A prison cell. And so, so many men in uniforms.
I’ve done something terrible to be forced into such a high security cell.
“What did you do to her?!” he screamed.
Go away, you. Am I not being tortured enough already for killing you? Let me die in peace. But then, that wouldn’t be a fair death for a criminal such as myself.
“You’ve killed her!” he shrieked, thrashing wildly against the police restraining him.
No, you’re wrong. Can’t you see? I’m alive; I’m well.
“Let her go! She’s done nothing wrong!”
Wrong again. I killed you . . . don’t you remember, dearest? A gunshot to the head. Such an ugly way to die . . .
“I’m alive! I’m right here! She didn’t kill me!” His hands tore through the air, reaching for Blossom.
Darling, your memory remains faulty even as a mere illusion. You truly are exactly as I remember.
“Release her! She’s dying, can’t you see?! Dying!”
Click. The door opened, did it? That man walking in—he looked so refined. Yet another punishment. Was it truly necessary to remind Blossom of her current state?
A voice smoother than melted chocolate emerged from the lips of the refined man. “Sir, as you can see, she’s quite alive right now.”
Yes, darling, listen to this man. His clothing is very fine indeed; listen to the well-dressed man. After all, well-dressed men are always correct, are they not?
“No! She’s not! Where’s her spirit?! Her liveliness—all of it, it’s gone! You’ve murdered her!”
Dearest, you must stop. What if you get hurt? It would be my fault again. My fault . . .
“Things like that can’t be helped. After all, this is Dunendra. It isn’t uncommon for prisoners to go a little loopy,” the refined man stated.
Yes, Dunendra. Dunendra Prison. A name too elegant for a place like this. Perhaps I will have a child and name it Dunendra. No, that can’t happen. I will rot here in Dunendra ‘till my death day, when the crows will peck at my body until nothing is left but withered bones.
“Let her go! She’s slipping away! Don’t you understand?! I can’t lose her!”
But darling, you already have. You don’t even exist right now—you are nothing more than a figment of my imagination at the moment.
“Cherry! Listen to me! I’m right here, I’m not dead! Cherry!”
A jolt ran through Blossom. Recognition at the name.
Ah, yes. You used to call me that. Oh, you sure are sly for a hallucination. Making me believe you’re real.
Suddenly, a shot rang through the air, the sound clearer than crystal. The metallic scent of blood filled the air. Through nebulous vision, Blossom saw the refined man place a gun back in its holster before wiping his hands off. A body lay in a crumpled heap on the ground. It looked familiar. It was—
Blossom’s vision sharpened. She became aware of her surroundings.
“Ashton!” The scream tore from Blossom’s throat and carried a pain worse than the shackles cutting into her skin. “No!”
The chains heated. Blossom could feel the restless magic residing in her, unused this whole time out of fear. Fear of what it could do—of what it did do. Controlling objects . . . killing people. Last time, Blossom wasn't able to use her magic properly, and she was controlled and manipulated into killing her beloved . . . or so she thought, but that was clearly not the case. This time around would be different. She wasn't running away. Blossom was running toward her goal, toward the light of her world.
Blossom’s bonds snapped off her. She rose unsteadily on her feet, swaying back and forth. Slowly, so painstakingly slow she wasn’t sure she would make it, Blossom lurched towards the body of the person most dear to her.
She collapsed on top of him, but she refused to give up.
I have to save him. I must.
She knew it would work. She just had to concentrate.
Blossom’s vision was starting to tunnel . . . for the last time. Never again after this would she use her magic. She wouldn’t be alive after this to use it. However, if her meager life was enough to keep him alive . . . well, Blossom didn't really have the right to complain.
Blossom gathered the magic in her core, placing her hands on Ashton’s chest. And with all her might, she pushed. Pushed the magic out of her fingers. Pushed the regret away from her heart. Pushed the sorrow away from her soul . . . pulled the one closest to her heart towards herself.