She was there, waiting, silver hair gleaming amidst falling snow.
At my quiet steps, she turned, regarding me with eyes darkened with guilt.
'It's too late,' the girl whispered, stepping closer as I neared.
I stopped, regarding her with barely concealed apprehension. 'When?'
An uneasy glance shot past me.
My tense breath shuddered tightly in my chest. I felt a cold, far deeper and sharp than the winter chill could omit to, sink deep into muscles of my chest. Too late. Too late to save…so many lives.
Despite my best efforts, everything was about to end.
I clenched my fist against the building emotions breaking free from the growing ache in my chest. 'Why…?' My voice bit out painfully, nerves grating on raw emotion. 'Why does everyone…have to disappear…?'
'But this is what you wished for.'
I grit my teeth, unable meet the accusation in her tone.
'But I -'
'You were the one who so badly wanted everything end.' Her footsteps crunched softly on the blanketed ground; slow, with purpose. 'It was you who called me forth. You who asked for my help.'
But I don't want to be alone.
Up close, her eyes softened. 'David,' The girl lifted delicate hands to my now damp cheeks, wiping away the precious proof of my grief from the contours of my face. 'David…' Her soft voice repeated, catching and sealing my wounded gaze with hers.
Utter stillness seized my frame. My name, the cheap title given to at the birth of my existence, the namesake I had long since abandoned, echoed gently from her lips like a private mantra, and with them, a sort of definitive, chilling, realization slowly began to crawl its way through me.
Memories. Faces I may have once looked at with disdain were fading from my mind's eye. Voices once heard with barely veiled irritation, sounds that made the weak turn tail, with sharp, intrusive intent, suddenly fell silent within the rapidly growing void.
Panic took me in one, swift, gasp of frigid winter air, my hands shooting out to grasp tight the thin shoulders of the girl who stood rooted before me.
I opened my mouth but felt the life of my words die on my tongue.
From far away, I heard the girl's voice speak to me.
'It will be better this way," The hands along my face tugged me downward, forcing me to meet her gaze coupled with an intensely triumphant smile. 'You only have to think of me.'
I blinked at the 'Think…of you.' I repeated numbly as I sunk deep into the darkness of her eyes. There was an undeniable wrongness to the blinding calm quickly lacing its way over my fading anxiety. What was it I was failing to remember? Try as I might to pinpoint my thoughts, they felt at aimless and heavy. All I could do was look at her face, hoping for some lost information, some invaluable bit of direction to seep back into my being.
'There,' A familiar voice quietly said, a pleasant warmth within the cold silence. 'How do you feel, David?'
The heat of her small hands moved lightly over my cheeks, a 'barely there' sensation that prodded awake sleeping nerves.
'Cold,' I replied slowly, wondering at the hoarse tone of my voice, and the fading ache pressed at the back of my temples. 'It's...cold out.'
'Winter does tend to have that effect.'
I looked out over her fair-haired head, examining the snowy surroundings, the gentle flutter of snowflakes over the white dusted terrain, as pale clouds moved across a dark sky lit by one bright moon. It was beautiful, strangely serene in an empty sort of way.
And it felt different, like I was seeing it now with a new pair of eyes.
But...I know this place. I do.
Somewhat unwillingly, I pulled back from the scene around me, and focused once again on the child-like girl, a question on my face.
A smile pulled wide across her tiny mouth. 'It's time to go.'
'A good question,' She laughed quietly, eyes twinkling in the glowing light. 'But one I'm sure will work out fine in its own time. After all...' Her ringing voice trailed off, a mere breath of sound swept away by a small breeze.
Then her hand fell from my face to lay lightly upon my chest, near, if not over, the strong beat of my heart.
'This one's wish...is mine to obey.'
If her voice had sounded sad, and even a little despairing, I was not given the time to inquire as to why, for not a moment later, the snow on the ground about us spasmed forth into the air, shimmering in the moonlight like the facets of countless shards of glass. A few moments more, I stared, enchanted by the whirling sight, before a small hand firmly grasped my own, and forceful pull lurched me off my feet.
By then, we were flying.
And as I looked back on the snowy landscape we were quickly leaving behind, a sole, lone thought filtered past the haze in my heart's eye.
Where have all the people gone?