It’s cool out. I try to open my eyes but I can’t. It stings when I try. I realize that I’m curled up against a fence. It was the same low, chain-linked fence that had bordered the colorless road-the road that had tried to consume me. Upon failing to bring me down, and when I blithely tried to summon for help, I don’t know I guess…it went wrong. I was too weak, too undone. Here it also went right because I still live. I don’t know if I caused the road to ignite or if the road ignited me. I slowly draw my hands to my face, and they feel very heavy. Some of my fingers appear to be loosely stuck (melted) together. They’ve taken on a webbed appearance, I imagine. I realize, as I try to wiggle my toes that they don’t seem to wiggle individually, anymore. I saw them in my head: giant monstrosities that would not lift, nor step, on command. I also saw, in my mind’s warped eye, my new feet, just as amphibiously webbed as my hands. I could barely raise one. As my consciousness swam back to me I could now smell my burnt hair. I angled my mutant’s hands awkwardly around and realized I was almost completely bald, I felt hair but it was very close to my scalp-which stung. I moved my hands to my face, eyebrows gone; lips felt blistered and seemed to stretch too far across my face. What remained of my clothing clung to me like a second skin. I dare not try removing a single stitch. Blisters cover my ankles, my arms, chest and neck. The ribbon was gone, replaced by a ring of red skin. I felt things tickling me all over, falling into my face. What little eyelashes I had left, that had not been singed off, were catching bits of ash in them. The ashes seemed to fall in steady, constant drifts all around me.
In the end the road, though having failed to add me to its ages, instead used me as a midwife to birth its white fire. Another tactic it reserved, perhaps, or I did it to myself, whispering gone amiss and all. Now, I’m something else. I remembered the dark, ushering hands of the trees, charred beyond re-growth. Still, they were able to set me apart from the greedy road. I tried to sit up and found I could, despite everything. I wasn’t in much pain; it was more discomfort, and unrest, than anything else. I felt fevered, cold and grossly changed but my eyesight was improving. Then I saw it, out of the corner of my left, seeping, ash-encumbered eye. I smashed my giant melted palms to my face again and again, until my head boomed and throbbed. I looked. It was still there, waiting. It yawned casually at me as if to say it had all eternity to wait for me to enter. It was a tunnel, smug and visible under heaps and heaps of ash, visible under what looked like dirty snow that had no light to sparkle with. Once I locked both eyes on it I could look nowhere else.
I put one bulbous hand on the ground and started on my knees, dragging my warped feet behind me. I felt I looked like a grotesque, a monster, therefore I moved like one. I began the slow crawl towards the tunnel. Every now and again I burped up smoke, and a dark red gruel. I stopped to listen for my heartbeat, I had forgotten. I heard it, felt it still though light and faint it was. I envisioned a tiny, winged skeleton inside my heart, distributing tiny bone fragments throughout my body. It was adding to my sour blood something that ran on smoke in formations as tiny as mosquitoes. I imagined them taking over the ruin of my insides, almost believing that what I saw was true. Who’s to say anymore? I decided that the bird lived, as a flesh and feathered bird. I was still breathing in and out, after all, so it must still flap oxygen (wind) into my lungs.
I crawled through, not a winter wonderland but somewhere deserted, ashes integral to the makeup of the air. I inhaled them from time to time, spat them back out and up they’d float. I wiped them from my gimped eyelashes, out from my eyes, widened, and netting hundreds of the tiny particles that stung them so. I felt heavy with the burden of all of these ashes, falling down, falling up. I knew I had taken a shortcut, of a kind. A loophole, burned open enough to slip through with a flash fire. The ashes constant reminders of the cost I paid. Had it not been for the trees I would be falling, too. Fragmented and distributed in time, forever. My feet felt like bricks they were so swollen. I was practically naked by now, the grey flecks covering my skin like scales. My dress, the tattered remains of my favorite one, so impractical a thing it was. It wasn’t a dress anymore. I wore it the day I fled towards a glimmering of gold in the heart of a dream that I saw in your eyes.
I had passed the threshold of the clearing where you waited for me along the edge. I was alone, the animals had retreated. I carried Sunflowers and the sky was dark blue and the Moon chased after stars with a far-reaching net. My hair hung down around my face. I cried softly as I passed through the gate. I felt the veil loudly rip, as it was being ripped from my head. I used to twirl my black hair till it curled at the ends. I captured you, in my gaze. My hands closed the gate behind me and that is when the Moon stopped still. I stopped because I felt the shift and looked up. The Moon was suddenly split, hacked, almost in two, spilling blood (its contents) down from the dark blue sky, sending stars screaming, many entangled in netting, the blood of the Moon dripped onto my face, dripped all around me. The Moon hung suspended, struck, bleeding out far above my head. I couldn’t see you as the contents poured down, filling the clearing with colors and glistening dark, matter. I tried to run but my veil was hung on the gate and I can still remember the sound it made as I tore it free from my head (the sound of the moon being butchered). I screamed and lunged forward, but there were so many colors-alive and angrily smearing together. The nets were falling down, escaping stars everywhere, and ballooning around me, clinging to my body. I was stuck. My flowers fell from my hands. I was stuck. I tried to pry my limbs from the nets and that’s when I noticed my shoes. My feet were splitting through them, I saw that my toes were webbed…The colors spilling down turned from glistening ‘movement’ to powder, to ash, the colors fled their forms. The sky was cockeyed and the dark blue of it was quickly draining to white. I saw gold, but it was fleeting, fleeing, and your face turned to me and it was a lasting look. The veil(s) snapped down. I reached my hands up to my hair and felt bald spots. I started to cry again but there were many birds in my mouth so I cried inside my head, and let the ashes cover me. I tried not to think of my feet, my ruined dress, the undone cosmos up above, raining down its agony onto me, the shifting of sands. I reach out my hands.
He grabs her hands, and flings her into the Tunnel.