“Write about a person who wins something she does not want.”
Noah’s eyes snapped open. She took a breath–wait, no. She didn’t. And she hadn’t really opened her eyes, either, had she? She simply began to see again, after being trapped in the dark for so long. Minutes? Hours? Days? Noah wasn’t sure.
The world around looked strange to her–gray and fuzzy, like a fog had descended on the city and gave her just enough of a glimpse of the objects around her to make out their shapes but not enough to let her focus on one.
Some of the shapes moved. Figures of men and women, shadows and silhouettes floated around, like ghosts swarming a figure on the ground. The figure was the only thing Noah could make out clearly, but something kept her from paying attention, like part of her consciousness knew she wasn’t ready to take it in.
“Ouch. That was hard to watch.”
A man’s voice echoed around her awareness, glided into and out of it as though it came from all directions at once. She turned, slowly, to face him.
He was propped against a tall staff. Its wood was warped and faded, whorled around–a branch left too long in the tides. He wasn’t looking at her, but at the group of shadows swarming behind her. Her consciousness tightened. She didn’t want to turn around. She didn’t want to see what he saw.
The voice sounded foreign and distant. It was hard for Noah to believe it was hers. The man’s gaze drifted from the scene beyond her to her face, but his eyes never seemed to really connect to hers. It felt like he was looking into her, through her, and at her all at the same time. Noah felt stripped bare and alone.
His eyebrow arched up high into his messy tuft of chocolate hair. He was the only thing in this place that had any color–he and the figure splayed across the ground behind her, the figure surrounded by the shadows. His vibrance was welcoming. Noah took a step toward him.
“You don’t know?” he asked.
She shook her head. It felt light and airy.
The man sighed. “You haven’t looked yet, have you?”
Her consciousness tightened more, like it was trying to make itself as small and invisible as possible. She shook her head again. This time, the movement was so small it was nearly imperceptible.
He watched her for a long time. Seconds? Minutes? Hours? She didn’t know. She felt herself getting smaller and smaller, colder and colder as she tried to ignore the continuing movement of the shadow-people behind her. But they kept moving around it–the figure on the ground. The figure bathed in crimson and gold.
She wasn’t sure if he said the words or simply thought them at her so intensely that she heard them in her head. Her mouth went dry–or she imagined it would have, had she had a mouth.
Noah whispered, “Okay.”
But she knew, before she turned around, she’d find her broken, lifeless body there.