The Black Room revolves around us slowly. The constant spin of black curtains and checkered tile is sickening. My stomach turns uncomfortably, twisting into knots. Revulsion is an acidic tang in my mouth.
My inner demon is held at bay for the moment, but it is always here, always with me. A monster of my own creation, inescapable. Tangible only here in this warped room, but never really gone. I can feel it lurking just out of sight, at the very edge of my perception. It is a constant presence, whispering at the back of my heart, tossing delicate threads, weaving insidious webs of insanity in neglected corners of my soul.
There is no respite from it. Silence is a half-forgotten dream; solitude a passing fantasy. Sleep provides no reprieve, for I am sucked into this hated place even in my dreams. The imp ensnares me, conjuring images and shades of places and people I know when words alone prove ineffective. It takes sadistic pleasure in painting scenes splashed red with blood and black with insanity, in creating twisted alternate realities where Maka is dying in my arms and I am not strong enough to save her.
Maka's fist beating against my bedroom door is the only salvation I am allowed. It is hard to remember the time before these dreams, when such an awakening was not welcome. It is hard to remember anything anymore.
These jaunts into the Black Room do not help me any. Each time, it is harder to leave than the last. My control slips just a little more—the demon gets a little stronger. This is his domain, and though it may be my soul, in this room we play by his rules. Rules designed to break me.
I am clinging to my sanity by fingernails.
It's been too long that I've been besieged, too long that I have not earned rest even in sleep. Too long that my soul has been divided, stretched to the breaking point by a vicious tug-of-war. I grow weary of the struggle. I am losing this fight. There is nothing left for me but surrender, no choice but to succumb. I am not strong enough to—
Maka's hand touches my face.
Oh. Right. Soul Resonance. She knows what I'm thinking, more or less.
"Sorry," I murmur, glancing at her guiltily.
She nods, accepting my apology, but keeps her thoughts to herself. I catch the gist of them anyway. I won't lose—she isn't going to let me.
Her certainty soothes my trembling soul. Her confidence is infectious; much more so than my latent insanity and fatigue. Soul Resonance waxes stronger as my erratic wavelength settles.
I don't have to fight alone. I've never been fighting alone. She's with me, fighting just as hard. Harder—she's never been able to shake the feeling that it's her fault, that her weakness and fear were responsible for this. I don't like to know that she feels that way, but there is no convincing her otherwise. She takes responsibility where she thinks she is right.
Our dance ends abruptly at the piano as she steps out of my hold. We are resonating without dancing. Maka gestures at the piano. I sink onto the bench obediently, and begin to play. It is a song about her.
The notes flow, and they are different than my usual cyanide-and-death compositions. This one shines like happiness, dances like joy. It is uplifting and inspiring; enduring, strong, willful. It is my tribute to all that is Maka, and everything she embodies.
She is standing next to me, watching my hands as they move across ivory keys. Her soul is visible to me, a byproduct of Soul Resonance that I have yet to tell her about. I cannot interpret what I see as she can, but I know without question that her soul is exceptionally strong, exceptionally beautiful. Her soul is winged.
My song is drawing to its end. The final note lingers. A single feather- elegant, graceful, and impossibly white- drops onto keys of ivory and ebony.
Maka is gone; I am alone. I reach for the feather, holding it gently between thumb and forefinger. Lifting it to my face, I brush it against my lips. It is satin smooth and soft—a ghost caress.
How does the saying go again? Oh, right.
Hope is the thing with feathers.