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The Withering of the Boughs

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She stays in the mental institution because it's easier to make people leave you alone when they think they got you caught. She stays because it doesn't matter for her where to train her body and mind, where to untangle the shiny black threads of her dreams, demon's growls and lesser monsters' menaces, distorted mirrors and bleeding eyes. She stays because it doesn't matter to her where to not be heard.

She is an enraged prophet, a furious Cassandra, and now it doesn't matter to her whether or not somebody's listening. She just needs to be able to say, when the time comes, yes I did what I could, and yes I screamed until my throat bled, and yes nobody believed me but I tried anyway.

They had their last shouting match with Abbie years ago, after the court, and Abbie was so angry with her for not giving up. For trying to warn everybody, for trying to be ready, for not keeping low and blending in and staying with Abbie and safety.

And yet Abbie is a cop, defender of the helpless and all, and Jenny's stuck in a place where they won't allow her to have shoelaces. Sometimes she thinks about it in the middle of the night and laughs until she's sick.

It doesn't matter. This man comes, Abbie's not-boyfriend with his weird clothes and weird accent and weirder word choices, and three, four years ago she'd have clutched at him and cried because he believed her. For saying calmly the same words she had been shouting at the world ever since she opened her eyes in the forest and saw something that didn't belong.

But now his arrival is only the final sign, the call that she awaited. The end has begun, and she's going to follow her prophecies by herself. To be able to say, when the time comes: nobody listened but I spoke anyway, and then I got up and did what needed to be done.

The demon in her dreams howls, and Jenny doesn't listen. The eternal ticking countdown in her head is finally winding down.

Three.

Two.

One.

Jenny Mills leaves her cage and goes to war.