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Fade: This Is Where Time Runs Out... This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

The lights blink. The doors giggle. The curtains whisper hello. The bed looks invitingly at you, but you don’t feel sleepy. You twirl around the room until sparks fly from your eyes and your skirt and the tips of your fingers. The stars go one spinning even after you’ve fallen deep into the crisp, rhythmically swaying grass that nearly hides the world from view.

Something cool brushes your cheek and you realize that it has begun to snow. But where has the sky gone? You look down to find the moon and stars dancing on tip-toe around your feet. Jupiter brushes across your neck. You close your eyes and suddenly you are falling, hair streaming upward toward the ground up above. Snow floats slowly upward somehow separate from the force that causes everything else to fall so fast. Or are you the one falling? Maybe you’re the only thing standing still? You take a swig from the crystal bowl that isn’t in your hand, and its contents sizzle their way down your writhing throat, leaving your tongue a mass of sticky-sweet goo.

Was that wise? You sit down to think this over, and wonder absently where the throne came from. And when did you stop falling? Or are you falling now and you just don’t know it? Or was everything else rising?

It’s so cold.
The breeze slithers up your back and your hair stands on end making you look like a mad dog. You had a dog once. You bark and it sounds so beautiful that tears run down your cheeks, soaking your shirt until it
begins to form a puddle at your feet the color of silence. But it’s so cold without it. With nothing but your pale skin to protect you from the world. Mad dog. Mad. You are mad. Stark raving mad. You know you should be worried, but somehow the idea is so liberating that you don’t know how to suppress it. You sit for several moments contemplating this, then you jump when the silence is broken by a bloodcurdling howl that ends in a low, guttural laugh. What hideous creature could have made such a sound? You glance frantically around, but the light is flickering, fading away, and the shadows are all moving as fast as my eyes. This time when the chuckle echoes menacingly off the walls you lurch off the throne. You break into a sprint, sheer terror propelling you at a breathtaking speed until you slam into the stone wall with enough force to make you fly backward, hitting the floor with a crack and several popping sounds.

You can’t move. It hurts to breathe. The shadows continue to dance maniacally just above you, demons passing close enough to touch your face. You try to think of nice things – sunshine, ice cream, six years old – but something cold brushes your forehead, icy fingers clamp onto your arm. trapped.
You lash out, kicking, clawing, biting, rabidly struggling to free yourself. The darkness screams around you as you fight against it, all of your will bent on its destruction.
Mustn’t it be weakening?
But no. so many hands. Grabbing. Twisting. The darkness is so many voices, whispering, laughing, taunting.
“keep her still” they scream to each other
“don’t let her escape.”
Hopeless.
The darkness is a spider, wrapping you in silken chains so that your arms are tight to your body and your fingers go numb. You feel the stab of something sharp in your left arm, and the world goes quiet, soft as a beating heart.



The lights blink.



The doors giggle.

The curtains whisper hello.



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