[The last time they woke like this it was on a bed of golden flowers, silk-soft and the petals still crisp with a long-dead magic. They strain for a whiff of memory, the bittersweet cinnamon-sawdust-y scent of an old spell woven deep into the fabric of the atoms in the soil and worms and rocks.
...what? You didn't do that?
Once upon a time, a quiet voice murmured seven words to the squarish, boxy thing in their hands, fighting to keep the tremor from their tone as they intoned, evenly - I fell. I need a way back.
Once upon a time, two children scrapped in a hallway, a goose egg raised on their foreheads with forceful the collision of skulls. A Locket traded over, a contract burned and a new one writ into existence in the same instant. Once upon a time, there was a mansion that rose in stately silhouette, and memories fell from the sky in delicate filigrees of gold. A place where two children would scramble to claw into place a pair of lives that have long since fallen into disarray and dissolution, a Room 12 that swung between doubly occupied and wholly abandoned, just like the SOULs that resided within it. There are stories one can tell of stolen switchblades and careful bandages and words dipped in red, and the second chances promised to a pair of children who met with clasped hands at the edge of something broken and wished to repair it. There are stories of a pair of SOULs that hummed in tandem, of a scarlet tint and a gleam in their hearts, and the lion-hearted desire that no one else live the way they lived. They gained love and they gained LOVE, and at the end of it all, despite everything -
* It's still us.
A camera wobbles as it's steadied, positioned carefully on a table, facing the window of a room. There's a potted plant on the sill - forget-me-nots - and the curtains are half-drawn, leaving only a thin slice of opaque winter sky visible.
Immediately after, a small child scrambles into frame. They're wearing a hand-knitted sweater
, and they've their instrument in hand, as always. Inevitably, they begin to play. There are no words
to this melody, and thus the notes are much crisper, and it comes together with a clarity that the pieces they've played before have lacked thus far, a sense of polish and familiarity. It is, after all, a very familiar tune.
It sounds like Home.
Once they finish, they take a moment to run bandaged fingertips up the bridge of the instrument. Then they shoot a look at the camera, one reddish eye slitted open so they can smile.]
It's been a year.[Their hair is longer, more unkempt. They've got bandages on their hands now, perpetually. They've got fresh scars along the lengths of their arms, some on their thighs. They've died twice over, once because of sickness and once because of a misplaced weapon and misplaced guilt, and they've watched friends filter into the world and then disperse once more like scattered motes of dust.
But they've got a sweater, and they have someone to teach them to play and care for their ukulele, and they have a sack full of candy. They have people who left them gifts when they were alone, who cared for their SOUL though it was dry and weary, and people who helped paint their room. They have people who offer hugs and moments of understanding and advice about the nature of the game they play and slices of butterscotch pie.
Above all else, they have - determination.]
Thank you.[Thank you, Wonderland.
They thought they would be saying goodbye now. But it's not the end of the world.
So they won't blame themself.]