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    version 22: awakening

    COTY

    GHAUL -- Year 209

    QOTY

    "(souls are not meant to live more than once — death was not meant to be temporary, and she is so sure that every time her heart starts to beat again that irreversible damage is further inflicted)" -- Anonya, written by Colby


    you were my coming down, any
    #1

    It is the breathing he misses the most.
    The too-full feeling when the lungs stretched to accommodate a deep breath, the ribcage quivering. The age-old way he’d drag in a shuddering breath to buy himself time. He’d taken it for granted. He’d taken it all for granted.

    And he’d been a coward to seek out the woman he loved, a coward to beg her to make it stop when he had already resigned himself to a lifetime of pain. Guilt, shame, the specific ache associated with knowing that he should have done more. Should have fought harder. Should have sunk his teeth into whatever inch of flesh he could reach.

    But he feels no guilt now. No shame. No pain. He does not miss the thrill of being alive. Not even the breathing, not really. The nostalgia he feels for the way the air could make his ribs ache in is something fabricated, an idea. A distant, water-stained memory. Same as everything else.

    He wanders now for the same reason he has always wandered. Because he can. Because it is the only thing that has ever come naturally. And isn’t it a blessing that now the muscles do not ache, he does not tire, he feels no need to stop for food or water. There is no heart to beat loud in his ears. No, it sits useless, a clenched fist, frozen in the cavern of his chest.

    His wandering brings him to the meadow, if only because this is always where he ends up. By accident or design, he does not know. But it is here that he found his mother, it is here that he found Kennice. It is here where the sun hangs fat and bright, casting him in a glow that illustrates every thing that has gone wrong. No doubt it casts the eyes in a harsh light and they are dull, empty.

    He stops on a grassy knoll where the earth begins to slow downward. And if he needed sleep, he might have lowered his useless body into the soft meadowgrass and laid down his weary head. But he is not tired, does not want for sleep, and he would not have felt the tickle of that sweet grass anyway.

    So he stands, absolutely motionless, for he cannot even feel the flies that land on his flank. He may as well not be there at all.

    i swore the days were over of courting empty dreams
    i worshiped at the altar of losing everything
    Reply
    #2

    Sometimes, Aela thinks she sees... something. The girl is coming to learn that sometimes when she looks at a soul (that's how she sees them, a glimmer and then gone) that she is seeing it in parts and pieces. An irritable older stallion who swishes his dark tail in circles gives the appearance that it's the summer insects bothering him as he stamps a hind leg. The filly had come too close when passing by him and had been startled to catch a ripple of anger as it seethed off him, something that didn’t have to do with the flies at all.

    'Were you going to tell me?’ asked a bitter memory, sending waves of exasperation through the golden girl.

    Aela had skittered away and tried to keep to herself after that. A butterfly is easier to chase because the only thing that follows in its wingbeats is the wind. She trots behind a rabbit because the only memory that it leaves behind is the fox who keeps to the other side of Meadow and so he doesn’t go that way. The falcon that she carefully watches as he flies overhead has a favorite perch in an ash tree near the River (she catches the shimmer of sun on a trickling brook).

    So busy looking up that the girl doesn’t notice the gray stallion standing nearby.

    The bird flies into the treeline, taking his sights with him and leaves Aela standing alone with the prickling sensation that she isn’t alone. That feeling shivers along her spine and the wind comfortingly ruffles her flaxen mane as she looks behind her, realizing that there is a ghost on the hill. She stands perfectly still, waiting for it to fade as the echoes so often do.

    But blinking her blue eyes does nothing to dissipate the specter.

    She blinks again. He is still there. Aela tilts her head as she turns her body around because unlike so many of the others, there is … nothing. Coming closering, she realizes that he is as real as she is and no amount of blinking will make him vanish. Yet, there is something different about him. The filly is usually happy to stand alone and to remain in the distance, observing and watching. She is more often the observer and realizing that there is nothing that glints off the pale stranger - not like the others that so often overwhelm her - draws her closer.

    It’s only a few tentative steps (Aela is still a cautious girl, after all) that she takes before she stops in front of him. Intrigued, she tilts her head because even with this proximity, there is still nothing and Aela finds that oddly comforting. She raises a front leg and lightly taps the ground, intrigued.

    Did he know that he was missing?

    AELA


    kensley fast car came on so i took it as a sign to post to you
    [Image: 3f5E0A.png]
    you've got your roots
    and i've got the wind in my soul
    Reply
    #3

    How strange it is to overlook the meadow and feel nothing at all.

    He has his memories still, of course, but there is nothing attached to them. No bitter pang of nostalgia, no sensation of guilt or remorse for all the things he has done here. Alas, to be free of the bad means to also be free of the good and he feels no relief to be rid of the pain. There is no distant stirring of something warm in the cavern of his chest. There is nothing but the useless, stagnant heart.

    Even when he catches sight of the curious child, teetering closer on young legs. He turns his once-proud head and watches, expressionless. And he might have summoned up a comforting smile once upon a time, ducked his head to make himself appear smaller. Even not knowing what has piqued the child’s interest, he would have made some effort to ensure that she knew he was kind. Nothing about him threatening other than his penchant for disappointing others. Surely she will come away disappointed, too.

    Perhaps he does make some effort. Perhaps, if you looked closely, you might see the stirring of some distant smile twitching in the corners of his dark mouth. But perhaps it’s merely a trick of the light. It must be.

    Hello,” he says, plain. She is younger than the twins, certainly. And, in the end, he does duck his head, if only by fractions. To look her in the eye, perhaps, to scrutinize the serious expression she’s wearing. As far as he can tell, she does not look frightened. He finds no trace of panic in her face. But these observations are only that, there is nothing attached to them.

    Do you need help?” Years ago he might have felt a bone-deep worry for her safety, wondered why she was out here by herself. Alas, now he feels nothing as he watches her watch him.

    i swore the days were over of courting empty dreams
    i worshiped at the altar of losing everything



    Aela
    Reply
    #4

    How strange to peer up at him and see... nothing at all.

    For a child who was born out of everything and nothing, he is something. There is no ripple of pain, no glimmer of heartache, no warmth of laughter, or a shimmer of joy. There is nothing but a void in the middle of the Meadow and to a young child who is susceptible to the feelings and memories of others, he is a balm. A barrier that protects from the feelings that can radiate from other horses like poltergeists. He is a frigid blast of arctic air except there is no bite. No chilling gust that angrily blows past her. Aela, who has had to be so careful almost from birth, can feel the little control that she has come to know over her power slipping in this presence.

    (She doesn't know this; how she uses her empathy to protect herself is like how a child might wrap themselves in a blanket against the dark.)

    Her blue eyes lock with his - a shade of brown that doesn't unnerve her - and the filly takes another step closer. Aela's golden head tilts slightly, trying to read the expression he wears. One that doesn't look so different from her serious one until a stirring. There is (oddly) no feeling behind it and the motion is so subtle, if the child hadn't been so intently watching him, she might have missed it. For a girl who has never spoken, she has learned to watch others so they might know to watch her. To see that what she is trying to say might be seen in the piercing blue of her eyes, in the few glimpses she might offer through her memories.

    The gray stallion lowers his head and she mimics the opposite, raising hers. Her pale nostrils flare and she reaches up, to lightly graze some part of dark nose. Aela's ears come forward when she glances up, hoping to get his attention. Does he see what she does? A trick of the light, perhaps, but maybe he sees a shadowed echo of himself. From a perspective that was not his own, from a memory that he shouldn't have.

    And if he lets her touch him, maybe he can feel her curiosity. Maybe he can feel what a comfort he is in a world that has tried to overwhelm her from the beginning. Maybe he sees nothing and knows what a blessing that might be. Maybe he knows it as a comfort, too.

    AELA


    kensley
    [Image: 3f5E0A.png]
    you've got your roots
    and i've got the wind in my soul
    Reply
    #5


    The child does not speak.

    Perhaps there is some dark part of him that prefers the silence. Because he does not have to pretend to feel anything that he does not. The voice had been soft once. Kind. He had been kind. Nothing at all like what it is now, so flat and unaffected that even he can hear it. But it has precious little to do with the heart, useless and frozen, in his chest because all of the warmth had been drained from him long before Anaxarete had taken his pain away.

    Even before he had gone to the Mountain alive and come back something else entirely.

    The child does not speak and he does not either.

    She reaches for him and he does not recoil. He lets her touch him, just barely. And he feels her touch him, but there is no warmth. He remembers, without any feeling, being touched for the first time after the Mountain took his life. How she’d murmured something about sadness, how it leaked out of him. He wonders if the child can taste his sadness, too, even if he no longer feels it. Does it still live in his skin? Will he ever really be rid of it?

    He lets her touch him and he feels it.
    The ghost of a feeling.

    Some long forgotten thing. How strange it is to feel a distant stirring in his chest and know that it does not belong to him. There, for the first time in years, a flicker of warmth. And when he draws away, the feeling stays with her. He cannot take it with him.

    He aches to draw a breath, but he does not. The lungs have begun to atrophy. He couldn’t even if he tried. So, he merely blinks at her. Tilts his head and searches her face.

    Such powerful magic for someone so young,” he muses. “What else can you show me?

    i swore the days were over of courting empty dreams
    i worshiped at the altar of losing everything




    Aela
    Reply
    #6
    The child does not speak.

    Perhaps it is atonement for her mother’s sins. Perhaps it is because her father had been the vindicator and Aela, the vindication. Perhaps there is simply too much to say about the blood flowing in her immortal veins (but aren’t they all like that, really?).

    Aela has no words.
    All she has are memories.
    All she is is a memory.

    Her touch is so light, so gentle against his dark maw. It starts hesitant (not because of manners, of politeness. No, Aela is used to being bombarded by the emotion of remembering.) She normally never comes this close to others and the fact that he allows her is intriguing. The fact that he is as warm as a glacier is even more so.

    kensley is like the placid, glass-top of deep stillwater. There is no groaning or gushing of wavesong. There was no ebbing tide of emotion. There is no salt from the ocean of tears he might have wept. There is no endless void of vengeance, of hatred echoing back at her from the dark depths of his soul.

    He is empty.

    He is peace and he takes it with him when he pulls away. The stallion blinks and Aela does not. Her ears prick forward but she stands still, lifting her slender head eagerly to space where his had been. The gray stallion tilts his head and smiles, like he is dreaming without the wonder. So she, made all the braver by his absence, smiles shyly back at him.

    The child does not speak so she reaches out for him again because it comes easiest this way. She reaches out for him and hopes that when (if) he meets her, he’ll hear it.

    (A blue roan mare with even deeper blue eyes who knows: 'Aela.’)

    She hopes he’ll hear her name echo through the memories and maybe, he’ll understand. And she finds herself hoping as she looks up that this ghost she's found has a name.


    AELA
    [Image: 3f5E0A.png]
    you've got your roots
    and i've got the wind in my soul
    Reply
    #7

    Perhaps he would have been unnerved by the child were he still capable of such dark stirrings.
    Unnerved by the way she does not speak, the way she barely smiles.

    But he feels nothing but the faintest memory of the things she had shown him. The things that did not belong to him and he felt never would again. Better off without them, he thinks, the things that had carved out his chest and the marrow of his bones. And he had deserved the pain, he knows. He’d known it then, he had condemned himself to carry it the rest of his life and the Mountain had made sure he would never die.

    He’d been a coward.
    He is a coward.

    But the child touches him again. And he sees the blue mare – or, at least the idea of her – and he hears what she says. And he knows.

    Aela,” he says, too. The child’s name. He doesn’t know how he knows. It is a knowledge that is injected straight into his hollow bones. “My name is Kensley.

    Or it had been, once. He had not felt like the name belonged to him in a very long time. Not since he’d watched his sister died and had been powerless to stop it. Not since he’d gone to the Afterlife and she’d forgiven him but it had not been enough to stop the bleeding in his heart.

    Or, it was,” he corrects himself. “A long time ago.

    Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that she will not ask him why. But when he draws away from her, he feels some phantom stirring in his chest. A sharp, fleeting stab of something forgotten. Pain. Right there in a chamber of his stagnant heart. There and then gone again.

    And when he blinks, he’s convinced himself that he’s imagined it. 

    i swore the days were over of courting empty dreams
    i worshiped at the altar of losing everything
    Reply
    #8
    Her name stirs on his dark lips and it brings something out in Aela. It’s a slight, wisp of a thing that ruminates at the golden corners of her mouth. A fleeting thing - filled with all the running grace of a deer before it slips beneath the treeline.

    kensley is the first who has said her named that hasn’t known it.
    He’s never heard her voice (and never will) but he’s found her name.

    It makes her treasure his all the more. Kensley, she thinks. There is nothing in the word. He doesn’t give it a shimmer of pride. He doesn’t clip the word with anger. He doesn’t hold on it, lingering and agonizing over it as so many lost souls do (she thinks they worry that they might lose their names as well).

    And yet, maybe it is not his name? Her ears prick forward and the expression on her face clouds with confusion. It was, he says, a long time ago. Aela, who is a child with no cognition or understanding of time (or her own gifts), reaches up for the storm-gray of his muzzle with her petite white one. When? she can’t ask. Instead of words, it’s another image. She shows him the furthest back she can remember - a lifetime that has only been measured in weeks and months so far.

    (A summer night. Purple-blue midnight bruises the sky. Humidity hangs heavy and fireflies light thick on the August air.)

    She peers up into his brown eyes, wondering if that might have been the night he lost his name. There is an edge of something that glints behind them and curious, she stares up at Kensley. Aela hesitates for a moment because she has been cut on the sharp edges of memories a few times before. Few times enough to know that she doesn’t like the whiplash of emotion that comes with them.

    Aela has no desire to get herself torn up on the tides of other lives.

    But the waves behind Kensley’s brown eyes look gentle and as they ripple out, Aela wonders where they will drift away to.


    AELA
    she had a marvelous time ruining everything
    html by castlegraphics; art by KHARTHIAN
    [Image: 3f5E0A.png]
    you've got your roots
    and i've got the wind in my soul
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