“I spent all night wondering, wondering aloud to myself about how this night would end.”
Her whisper, why, it was just a speck, so small and unknowing in it’s quiver that all the world would’ve need to of stopped for those little words to be audible, even in the unnerving silence of the tall northern trees; perhaps it was the cold air that had choked it.
No, but it wasn’t the cold — at least not that of the winter. Not that of the icy breath and frost of the lake that lay far beyond her, behind her nude form, steaming in the ultra, frightening cold. No, it wasn’t, but yes, it was a cold that choked her. Choked her from the first time she drew in the dark with feeble lungs, mouth crying loud, grasping at new life. Even now, as she stood completely bare, frozen to numb and teetering dangerously in the snow with shaky limbs and trembling fingers, the white of northern winter could dare not touch her, for a cold unlike any of the world had taken her, far and long, long ago.
Her arm extended, hand caked in icy crystals, she managed to cock the gun.
There, not far from her reach, her shadow leered, attesting. It stretched out menacingly large over the pale white dune of the latest snowfall. It curled, then shrank, then blossomed and began running like liquid to her feet, and into the nook of her collar bone it hissed in sultress moans …You are closse now…closse, closse to the end…Sss Pull the triggerss…and ssee the dragon…Sss ssee the dragon come againss oncse more… and so forth it hissed, foaming in delight and eagerness.
She knew her shadow to be a falsehood, an invention of her mind, but it mattered not, as it’s word had become more than bond; it had become destiny. Her shadow did not lie, and she at times pondered if it even could, but nothing came into question as she drew the gun close to her, and placed the barrel beneath her chin. Any tears that streamed from her eyes were all quickly sapped by the cold. Any fear that might have come, was snuffed from her, as her body was exhausted from its straining for breath. The gun lingered there beneath her jaw for some time. For some seconds. For some minutes. She began to realize that she had not yet done the destined deed. Her eyes strayed downward, to where her shadow sat, twisting as coal dust and smoke, black as a dungeon without light. It hissed once again, more forceful and compelling, but still the gun stayed, unstraying, but unmoving.
The shadow razed, boomed and roared. It rose and smote the trees surrounding, torching them and they flared bright red and orange and blazing. The heat rushed over her, so fast and overwhelming with all the forest suddenly aflame, but the gun remained still, quiet, pressed hard upon her skin, cocked and of full belly. Her shadow, a darksome splotch silhouetting the burning trees, floated slowly down as a human form to her, wild black hair wriggling in crown about it, and sultress it hissed …You are ssoo closse…you musst pull the triggerss…Ss swhy ssuffer longer?…You have reachssed the end… End your ssuffering, childss…End itsss…
The forest, it burned.
Her body, why, it too was burning. Burning from the cold.
And it was indeed the end. She had known this since that fateful day in September, when the anorexic girl had grasped her, reached out for her hand as she had laid writhing, fighting, screaming upon the gurney, the hands of the nursing staff overcoming her and strapping her down. There, it was then, as she was four-pointed and bound, that the anorexic girl had exploded out of room #22 – her left eye had been as wide as the full moon, beaming in paleness – and she had fought past the nursing staff, and reached out, and had taken her curled and clutching hand, and had told her, shrieked and shouted with yellowed teeth spitting that this, what was here, happening now, all the shadow and fire and the last winged serpent would come. Then the many hands had wrenched their grips apart, and had taken them both away.
It was the end. This was destiny. Something decided long, long ago. During a time, that none recalled.
This was the end. Her shadow, it never lied. However, her forefinger hovered over the trigger, and the barrel had now fallen onto her throat. The northern pines and birches still flamed and crackled and spit, great churning wisps of golden, blazing colors blinding, hot and billowing black smoke into the opaque, night, star speckled sky. It was then she realized, that today the moon was anew. Completely unseeable, dark as dark could be.
Her arm dropped, and the gun hung down by her hip. The shadow blurred, as if pensive, waiting.
Looking up to the flames, the wildfire coursing like waves and tides and ribbons sweltering, a tear at long last had escaped the cold, and shivered from her eye, streaking down her left cheek. She swallowed, eyes stoic and unwavering; the gun she lifted to her right temple solidly; her tear still ran, for only moments had passed.
Her life had been pain. Had been prison, hardship, and so many hidden truths. How could anyone have known what laid waste to her heart in the night, when all demons come forth to pull souls from the world around them when the light shivers into dark, leaving vulnerable the fragile ones… How could anyone who might have loved her known…
In a breathy hush, her lips moved. “…I‘m ready, Dragon.”
With the gun shot so broke all the fire, and the silence; the peaceful sky slipped by her as she fell backward, her right hand sweeping like a feather across a black sea. The stars gleamed unlike any she had ever seen. Her mocking shadow, in a moment, fell lifeless to the ground.
She hit the snow, blood rushing through her throat. There, in some humming, she heard the beating. Like that of an enormous heart, loud and clear.
The beating of brobdingnagian wings.
It was coming. The dragon.