What happens when death no longer holds any terror? What happens when suffering and anguish and misery no longer hold any significance? It means we have gone beyond it—past it. But it’s not because we cannot feel it—it’s because we have already felt too much.
I couldn’t keep you safe.
There was nothing. There was no thought, no feeling, no words. There was no pain, no suffering, no hatred. There was just the ever present emptiness, filling her like water, spilling over and drowning her. It made things dull, made the sounds around her cease to mean anything as she dragged herself from the earth, fingers scrabbling against stone and mud. Blood trickled down the side of her face, plastering hair to her head as she pulled herself upward—from the darkness and into the light. Not that it mattered.
Her dress stuck to her body as she finally rose. She barely noticed how dirt streaked the white cloth, how it fell from her in clumps. All she knew was that she needed to walk forward—away from what had happened beneath the ground, away from what had dragged the life from her. She found herself climbing stone stairs, her boots gently shuffling against them as she ascended. Then she was out of the dark room, out of the cold.
One man stood out within the darkness, his thin face hard, immovable. His brown eyes stared at her—solemn, knowing, unbending.
“Now you understand.”
She nodded. What else was there to say? She had known what would happen, known how death would take her, known how life would flee her body and leave her…empty.
He ushered her outside. Faces were in front of her, a sea of sorrow and tears. They moved forward, pressing against her as she stared at each in turn.
“I…need to clean up. Excuse me.” She pushed her way through the bodies, her hands brushing hard metal and rough cloth. A few people followed her, but she ignored them as trees and buildings flashed by on either side. Her legs propelled her forward into the darkness, her eyes focusing on nothing. If she had been more careful, if she hadn’t sacrificed herself, if she’d hired more guards.
Perhaps the Professor was right. Perhaps I was careless—foolhardy. I could have done something. I could have prevented this.
I could have protected her.
Her breath caught in her throat as she walked up wooden stairs, trailed by a crowd of people. Her chest tightened, the air feeling like it was suffocating her, choking her. And yet there was nothing to be upset about. There was only the empty feeling inside—the hole that could never again be filled. She needed to clean herself up—to wipe the blood off of her face.
She kneeled in front of the man, her palms sweating as she felt cool metal press against the side of her head. There was a slight pressure and a loud sound.
She was suddenly inside the bar. Voices and people crowded in around her as her feet dragged across the sticky, wooden floor. Her dress tangled around her legs, blood making it cling to her calves and thighs. She had to clean herself up. She wasn’t in a fit state to be seen.
She walked down a hallway, ignoring the people who asked if she was all right. She waved one hand to keep them away as she entered the bathroom. Blood stained the dark tiles, ingrained with mud and dirt. Wide, blue eyes stared back at her from the dingy mirror, streaked with dust and grime.
She leaned forward, staring more closely at her reflection. Her fingers gripped the sides of the sink in front of her, hands tightening against the cracked surface. Her eyeshadow was running in green tracks down her face, her lipstick was smudged and dark clots of blood coated the side of her head.
Her eyes felt hot, itchy, dry. There was nothing left—nothing to feel, nothing to protect. Her hands shook as she turned the tap on, watching as pink water spiraled down the drain. She carefully wiped her face, returning herself to normalcy.
It was my fault. It was all my fault. I should have been more careful. I shouldn’t have been so stupid. She was my responsibility and I couldn’t protect her.
She felt tears prick her eyes as she took a deep breath, still staring into the mirror. She knew she’d never hear that child’s cry, never see her grow from a burbling baby to a stumbling toddler. She’d never hear her first words or run her fingers through her mussed curls. She’d never teach her how to read or draw or write. She’d never watch her fall in love or get married. She’d never see her have children of her own.
She was crying now, gulping down air as she clutched the sink, trying to remain standing as the water continued to run. She’d never see her smile or laugh or cry. She’d never argue with her, never hug her, never kiss her goodnight.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a blonde woman in the mirror. Her face stood out in the dim light—pale against her dark clothing. Then someone squeezed next to her down the hallway, blue hair streaking her dark curls. A hand was suddenly on her arm and Rosemary turned, burying her face into the woman’s shoulder.
I couldn’t keep her safe.