You’re alone on a deserted beach, waiting to be somewhere else. You sit with knees poking your chin, arms hugging your calves. The sand beneath you is coarse and cold. It’s nearly dawn; light is creeping round the edges of the sky. Although you know the sun won’t rise, it still makes you nervous. You’ve been pondering the caves behind you, in which you were once lost for several days and about which you subsequently forgot, for the last whenever.
So you’re sitting there, waiting (you don’t actually know for what), and all of a sudden she waltzes into your memory without so much as a warning. She’s alive, after all! Maid of Time and stuff! She could have knocked or something. You don’t know. But there it is, the shift, the pop, whatever; and she’s standing above you.
You greet her in the customary manner. “Aradia! What the hell are you doing here?”
She responds just as she did the last three times. That is, she frowns and says nothing. She says nothing really loudly. You absolutely hate it when she does that.
"Let me guess, you've come to gloat again. Man, do you ever get tired of that?" You plaster on a smile. “Not that I’m complaining! I’m bored to death.”
The last part doesn’t even get an eye-roll.
“Seriously, are you going to say anything? Or are you just going to stand there, staring at me like a giant creep?” You rise, brushing sand off your pants. It stings less than it should; you flinch inwardly, think, harder, and your palms are suddenly pocked with deep, small scars. “Who am I kidding, it’s you. Of course you’re just going to stand there.”
You’re examining your hands when she says, “You don’t listen.”
“Sure I do! I’m listening right now.”
“No. You never—” She breaks off. “This is pointless.”
“Jeez, Megido. You sure know how to make a girl feel special!” You wipe your hands on your thighs, cross your arms like you’re the one in power here. ”Anyway, you didn’t answer my question.”
“Just stop talking.” She takes a step toward you. In the space around her, the memory seems dimmer, less real. Colors mute and mix, shapes blur; the lines of her stay strong and bright.
“You really are a creep,” you tell her.
“You really should be quiet,” she tells you.
You don’t want to look at her. You shut your eyes. She moves closer, and it’s like one of those stupid novels Kanaya didn’t know you knew she read: Her undead heart began to beat anew. She is such a freak. You are such a freak. Why hasn’t she kissed you yet? You tilt your head back, waiting. All you can hear is blood thundering in your ears, and the faint, constant crashing of the waves.
Hold on. Did she just snort?
Yes, she definitely snorted. And now it sounds like she’s laughing for real, though quietly.
Shit. Could you have imagined those other times? When she kissed you, when she said—fuck. What if they were just dreams? Sure, it hasn’t happened before, but it’s not like you experience reality in a linear fashion anymore. Can you even assume that she’s here right now?
“Wait a minute.” You open your eyes. “Bluh bluh, I thought something was going to happen but it didn’t, very funny. Before I embarrass myself more, how about you prove you’re real?”
“Uh?” The tiny amused smile (you hate that smile so much) vanishes from her face. She blinks. “How exactly am I supposed to do that?”
“I don’t know! You’re the mature one who plans so far ahead, you think of something.”
As usual, the jibe barely registers. “Why does it matter?”
She reaches for you just as you curl away. You are busy trying not to cry, so you don’t notice her sweeping the hair from your neck, sliding an arm up your back. Her nails stab into the flesh of your side, and one of her legs hooks around yours. She bites down at the join of neck and shoulder, breaking skin.
She bites till blood comes. It’s warm and thick and panic-making, and all your feeling gathers at the spot. She licks at the blood, then nips the thinner skin at your throat. You can’t help but shudder. The hand at your side seizes your hair and tugs. You hiss, leaning into the pain. She smiles against your neck, vicious and delighted.
“I’m not convinced yet,” you gasp.
“I don’t care what you think,” she says, and licks your ear. “But if you want me to stop, you can just say so.”
You don’t say so, and her quiet glee is insufferable. She moves her mouth to your other shoulder, starts bunching up the hem of your shirt. That’s so incredibly 0k with you, the other stuff doesn’t matter. Almost.
She’s got one hand in your hair, one hand up the back of your shirt, and a shit-ton of teeth wreaking havoc on your neck. What do you have? An ache between your legs, the memory of a pulse. The sand beneath you has forgotten how to be sand; it feels solid, stable, and you figure you might as well. If you stepped just so, you could take her down…
“No,” she says, catching your wrist.
You try anyway. She flips you over.
“Not today.” The words brush against your ear, you’re on your stomach. You feel her move to straddle your lower back. She grabs your arms, pins them under her thighs, and whispers something else into your hair. Could be “child,” could be “bitch.” God, she is so weird.
“The reason you fail,” she breathes, “is you don’t know when to give in. When to let fate take its course. There are a lot of other reasons, but that’s the main one I can think of.”
You say, “Wow. Okay.”
“I can think of more if you want.”
“That’s…accommodating of you.” It would be a lot more accommodating of her to get up and let you breathe, even though you don’t technically have to. But you don’t mention it.
She sits there for a moment, considering. “If I let you up, will you not attack me?”
You nod. She eases off you. When she’s on her feet again, you roll onto your side, then stand. You are definitely covered in fake sand. That'll be a hassle to get out... Not.
It hurts to look at her, so you don't. You feel her gaze raking over you, your rumpled clothes, bloodstains and bruises. You wonder if she knows you want more bruises. She probably does. Bitch knows everything. You recall her flesh-hands fisted in your shirt, her robot-fists shattering your bones. It hurts not to look at her. You look at her.
A little of your blood is on her mouth. "I'm needed elsewhere."
"God, no! Don't say that. You know I don't do anything but cry when you aren't here."
"Um, I'm pretty sure that's not true."
"Fuck you," you say, and kiss her. She makes her lips soft against yours, not biting like you wanted. Ugh. She's on to you. To retaliate, you grab a handful of her ass.
"You need to ask before doing things like that." She plucks your hand off, cool as solid carbon dioxide. "Maybe I need to teach you manners." You make a face.
"Next time" are her parting words. You don't remember how she leaves; you never remember how anyone leaves. The sand is beginning to disappear, which means the memory will switch soon. Maybe you'll see John again next. Maybe you won't see anyone. It's still almost dawn. You scuff around on the shore for a while, restless. You decide to enter one of the caves, just to look. After all, it has been a long time.
The walls of the cave are so utterly dark, you can't see a thing. The ceiling dizzies you: shifting coiled forms like metal pipes or tentacles, superimposed over with innumerable stars.