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it's a long way forward (so trust in me)

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Rin lives in infinite, beautiful loneliness, and each day she awakens in virtual reality to create a world of color for herself.

She will never wake from any.

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She kicks her legs out, slender and pale, and lets them fall over the rock ledge until her knees catch purchase against the surface. When she looks down, she is still a hundred feet from the ground as the ledge steepens in form. The grass is a brilliant green bathed in sunlight far beneath her, and speckles of red and purple and blue dapple the grass and the wind picks up to flurry her dress against her knees in an array of pink stripes.

She thinks she'll stay up here for today.

When she breathes in, it smells like light and colors, and her head feels dazed for a moment—it always does, when she inhales a bit too deeply. She doesn't know of any other way to describe that exact scent; it's something of a routine by now. But even the routines and the rote ways she wakes up in a different bed of her own imagining every night are beautiful. The gold glints against the chrome of her tablet when she tilts it up better into her vision.

Rin thinks that maybe she hasn't fully learned to appreciate beauty, with the way that she changes the unchanging. No one else is here to show her how. No one else is here and no one else has ever been here.

She has never questioned why.

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Hitting the ground is not a pleasant feeling, but she has stopped feeling pain. What was once unpleasant in the beginning that used to make her cry until she thought she'd never stop now just feels like too-deep pressure, something that never strikes too far. If she falls from a ledge fifty meters high, her side impacts with the flooring because she does not have the leverage in the air to draw something to cushion her. But the impact does not hurt—it only feels like a jolt of pressure squeezing her ribs, something like sparks flitting in her system like pinpricks all over her body, and then it's over—and her tablet has never broken.

Rin hits the ground, feels the fluttering in her nerves, feels her ribs squeezing air from her lungs—but does not feel pain. She breathes in beauty as she lifts herself off of the ground.

She had miscalculated a step or two on her way down when she'd been drawing stairs to descend her back to the ground. The sky is darker now but colorful by her own will, had gone from blue to purple by itself, to orange by the will of her tablet, from cloudless to a canvas of gray masses like watercolor stretching across the horizon. (She can change the color of the sky, just not the time of day.) The sun peeks out against the line where the sky meets the ground in harmony, bright and casting Rin's shadow long behind her. She could have made her plan of leave simpler because she'd stepped off of the halfway mark before drawing the continuation and had plummeted to the grass below. But that doesn't bother her. Nothing bothers her anymore.

The pin pricking feeling pops against her side even now as she walks back to her shelter. She cannot feel pain with the sensation, but she can feel temperature. The grass is cold against her feet, biting chills into her ankles. She doesn't remember setting it, but perhaps her drawings can act on their own when they want to. Maybe that means this world has life.

Rin inhales as she starts walking and smells sweet sunlight, the scent of bloomed flowers and damp grass.

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When she reaches the room, it is neither dim nor lit. It just is. The walls are gleaming and clear, simulated of transparent glass so that she can see all she is, because what she has created is what she considers herself to reflect. She stares back during the night at everything that she has not deleted, everything unedited and undefined and meaningless. The sky is still orange and the clouds are still purple across the horizon, and the sun is still a bulbous glow of yellow in the distance, and the rock ledge still stands tall with the stairs attached to the top and breaking off at the halfway point where she'd forgotten to draw, and the grass is still green and cold and damp in what light is left, and it is all still beautiful.

Rin walks over to her bed and lets herself fall backward into it, the pink comforter engulfing her and pink-patterned pillows of different shades hugging her tight. Her feet are still cold, though she's known what to do about problems for as long as she'd forgotten. She heaves the tablet from her side, sits up straighter so that she can scrawl a messy outline of the room she's in, and then sketches a pair of socks on the screen, a random, ambiguous shape to anyone else's eyes but her own.

The room glints for a second like something is changing (although nothing ever changes) and pixels dapple the space beside her bed, in between the silver poles with golden balls at the top and her nightstand. For a split second she sees nothing, and then the pixels simmer down and a spark of light erupts in the small portion of the chrome floor, and suddenly there are pink-striped socks laying precariously on the ground.

Rin gets up and retrieves those, slipping them on once she's back in her bed, and her feet don't feel so cold anymore. She considers putting her tablet in the top left drawer, where it would be safe—but nothing can harm it but her, and she can't harm it. And so years ago (2524 days ago, she's counted, the time that she realized her world-creating device could not be broken) she decided that she would keep the tablet with her while she slept, just in case her dreamless lull was interrupted by thoughts of wanting dreams.

Letting the pillows wrap their way around her, she closes her eyes.

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She awakens to the sound of nothing.

It's how most days ago—how all days go—and it's what she's used to. Rin blinks her eyes open, and they're gummed together with sleep and salt. She brings up a lazy arm to rub against them, and then stretches that arm upward, letting a leg dangle off the side of the bed. The stretch sends a warm spreading feeling in her shoulder, across her chest, and down her spine until she's forced to yawn and blink tear-weary eyes against the air. It's not cold nor hot in the room, but when she turns her head to look at what she can see of the outside, the sky is bright blue and cloudless.

Rin sits up, bending her back to twist herself into a comfortable shape. She doesn't have to feel her tablet in the crease of her other arm to know it's still there, and she sets it on her lap without needing to think about it.

There is no icon floating over the messaging feature, and she already knows what it will say, like it has said every day. Sometimes she wonders why she keeps checking it, repeating the process until it is void of meaning like the rest of the world she lives in. But she does it just the same.

2,560 days without messages, she reads on the screen.

Nothing stirs in her chest. No salt pricks at her eyes. No memories flicker in her head.

She goes on.

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Air floods her neck as her hair blows back in the breeze, and all she can do is run forward. It's a train of pink locks behind her. The grass is under her feet again, and it's much warmer than it was last night. She's left her overcoat in the room, sitting on her bed for when night comes and she'll need it to fight the cold again. But for now, she runs against the sun.

Tablet in hand, she lets her feet guide her as she sketches out a sort of sloped thing. Something has to give her entertainment, and she hasn't tried this exact idea before with anything else but stairs—and she remembers how that went last night. She has an image in mind now, though: a track with flowers all along it, all sorts of colors going up and up and up, and she'll run upwards along it until all she can see is the sky before her. And that's exactly what fades into view as she draws the too-messy, five half-circles of flowers along the thick row.

Blossoms of pink and blue and purple and red and blue stretch out on either side, and everything is vast and wide when Rin speeds up the path. It tilts up until she's running at an angle, the slightest bit higher with every step. The clear blue stares back at her, sun glinting in the corners of her vision, and it's wonderous. When she glances to the side and then to the other one, she sees the ground below her and flowers leading her path of all different colors.

These days have passed, on and on, but she is not lonely.

Even if she does not wonder why she is here or how she is here or why no one else is here, she is not lonely. That feeling was a part of this world in itself, this infinite, beautiful loneliness that is her world, that is her alone. She is whatever she sees out of her shelter.

And she goes on without question.