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it gets dark in here

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She knows her memories canʼt be trusted. She knows somethingʼs wrong with her in levels she will never fully understand. But she’s nothing but stubborn, and each night, before she goes to bed for yet another sleep full of nightmares, she writes down whatever memories have graced her. She owes it to her daughter – to herself.

Mimi DeLuca has never been known for giving up without a fight. She’s not about to let whatever disease she’s suffering win this battle. Maybe someday Mimi will lose the war, but she’s sure she’s not going down without biting back just as hard.

The page stares blankly at her, mocking her as she tries to father her thoughts. She can feel the haze claiming her, she knows that once it reaches her fully she wonʼt be able to remember anything, and this sweet recalling of Maria being the sweet, intelligent seven-year-old that has been dancing around her head needs to be out down into words on her diary before the haze blows everything away.

The memory fades quickly as she can’t write anything, the trembling in her hands too violent to be controlled. She sighs. There wonʼt be any remembrance tonight. She stands up and walks slowly to the bed in the small room she’s been given at this care center; she feels so alone in here, but she understood Maria’s reasons, and her daughter comes to visit every day. Mimi just wishes her condition hadn’t put Maria between a rock and a hard place. She still has some memories left with her – mostly vignettes from a happier time, when she was younger.

Poor, poor Jimmy Valenti.

Mimi lies on top of the sheets, the air too hot for sleeping. She has to try, though, because in the morning she has one of those group chats where she’s expected to voice what’s going on in her head. There are people in this care home who have been through so much more than she has – people who have locked their memories in a box and shoved it to the darkest place in their minds – but she’s different. Her memories are jumbled and noisy, and all that’s left when the wheels in her mind begin to spin is a whirlwind of emotions she can’t easily separate. She closes her eyes, willing sleep to come and take her. She jumps into the abyss of her exhaustion, and allows herself to keep falling.

When she opens her eyes, Mimi knows she’s walking through a dream. She’s surrounded by her mother, long lost to disease when Maria was just three, and by her sister Dana, who disappeared in smoke and fire. She doesn’t talk about Dana any longer, and it’s been a while since Maria last asked about her aunt. But in this dream, they are both alive, and Mimi knows that if she looks at her reflection on any mirror, she’ll see herself at sixteen. They are all waiting by the small café in the corner between Main and Second, and if her memories don’t fail her – and they usually don’t, when she’s dreaming – any time now, Jimmy Valenti will turn around the corner along with Jesse Manes, ready to pick both DeLuca girls and take them for a weekend of freedom at the old Valenti cabin.

“Jimmy,” Dana greets smoothly when both young men show up, riding in the beaten Ford Jesse managed to salvage from Sanders’. “You’re finally here.”

“We didn’t take that long,” Jesse replies as Jimmy jumps out of the car and hugs Mimi’s mother. “You just hate waiting.”

“That’s true,” Dana smiles, grabbing her bag and motioning for Mimi to do the same. Jesse has now moved to greet Mimi’s mother while Jimmy scoops Dana in a tight embrace. “Oof, Jimmy! You’re crushing me!”

“What, a guy can’t miss his girlfriend?”

Mimi remembers the crystal clear laugh of her sister while she allows Jimmy to twirl her around. Mimi remembers the carefree feeling of having their whole lives planned out in front of them – Jimmy’s going to become sheriff in no time, and Jesse’s going to outrank his father in the military. Mimi knows Dana and Jimmy will get married as soon as Jimmy’s training is over and Dana finishes her studies in Albuquerque; Mimi knows Jesse will settle down with some good girl from Roswell and will have four kids. She knows because she’s seen it whenever they allow her to read their aura.

Jesse’s darkened sometime during his last year of high school, and Mimi hasn’t been able to get a good reading on his future ever since, but the snippets she gets always revolve around pain and fire, and the image of a black-haired small boy bleeding on the halls of a way too big house; all of them mingling with the small images she got about a brighter future. Her mother has always told her that the future is alive, it changes and morphs. There’s nothing set in stone. Mimi knows this first hand.

The ride to the cabin is a merry one – they sing and laugh and roll down the windows so the desert air of New Mexico fills every part of the cab with sand and high temperatures. Mimi is all smiles, her soul singing in tune with Dana’s rich voice belting out the latest rock hit from one radio station Jimmy has found. Mimi places one hand on top of Dana’s, the force of her sixteen years of peaceful life colliding with the calloused fingers of her sister’s hands, and all of a sudden there’s lightning coursing through her, ripping her in two – one half fighting to remain attached to her, the other lurching forward to entangle itself to Dana’s.

For a brief moment she thinks she’s shrieking, but it seems she’s trapped in her own head; the rest of the world has slowed down, and the rest of the gang isn’t paying her any attention. Jesse’s holding the steering wheel with a firm grasp, Jimmy’s turned around to joke about something with Dana, who’s looking out the window. None of them seems aware of Mimi’s pain, and Mimi’s beginning to think this is a nightmare, that she’s fallen asleep on the ride to the cabin and she’s just dreaming, but the burning sensation is too real, and that’s how Mimi realizes she’s having a vision.

She doesn’t actually see anything, but she’s feeling a heat crawling up from her feet, licking at her legs and burning her skin wherever she’s touching Dana. Fear cripples her insides, the feeling of loss laced in her soul, so piercing that Mimi has to double over herself in an attempt to control the pain. There’s a void where Dana’s sitting, her presence replaced by flames and red hands glowing in the dark, Jesse crying out for help, Jimmy screaming at the top of his lungs. Mimi wants to yell as well, but she feels as though her lips are sewed together. She tries to move, because they are no longer in the Ford but somewhere else, somewhere darker, but she’s stuck in place.

She can only stare as the flames engulf them all.

When Mimi opens her eyes, it’s to the hot room in the care center, to a present where her sister no longer exists, where Jimmy is gone for good and Jesse has turned out to be the monster he warned them about. Mimi sighs, turning onto her side and allowing herself to grieve for the souls she lost so long ago before slipping back into a dreamless sleep.