I stood four steps away from the metal chain-link fence. Between it and me, two steps from either, she faced me silently. For a while we simply watched each other, not saying a word.
If it hadn’t been for the blue eyes, I would have thought I was looking into a mirror. And perhaps, in a way, I was. Maybe, I told myself thoughtfully, maybe we were never meant to meet our reflections in real life. Maybe we see them only in the mirror for a reason.
The brilliant, soft, sad blue was still focused on me. With a pang I remembered her eyes only looked like that when she spoke of, or was near, someone she truly loved. I winced.
To cover my thoughts I spoke. “You have a choice.” My voice came out abrupt and rough.
She was silent.
“You can either touch the fence,” I nodded to the chain-link behind her, and her eyes flickered in acknowledgement but never left my face, “or you can take this back.” I offered my right hand in her direction slightly, letting her see the ashen lump quivering in my palm. It was unrecognizable as anything ordinary. I doubted she would know what it was.
“My soul?” she breathed in astonishment. I was wrong; she had known immediately.
I nodded. “One or the other. Take this, or touch that.”
Her eyes glowed, but it was a shattered, broken glow. “Oh, how could you give me such a choice?” she asked softly.
For a moment, I pitied her. I had given her a difficult choice; I knew that.
Then, she continued, a painful whisper, “It isn’t a choice at all…”
My pity vanished in an instant, replaced by fury. So it wasn’t difficult at all, was it? Perfectly easy to choose, was it? I reached out my hand to her bitterly, but she was no longer looking at me.
As the last words had left her lips she had turned, swiftly crossing the two steps that separated her from the fence, hands outstretched.
She barely had time to lock her fingers into the metal links before she fried.
I stared. In that moment, that single heartbeat between the second she spoke and the second she died, I had thought that my old nickname for her had been misplaced. That she hadn’t been who I thought she was all along. But now, looking at her dangling limp against the chain-link, I knew I had been mistaken.
I looked down suddenly at the still-quivering grey lump I held. It darkened, turning black. Then the color changed, fading to a deep, beautiful purple. I smiled faintly. What that color had meant to us…
Then the thought occurred to me: What if she hadn’t known what her choice was?
“Oh…god…I thought she knew…” I whispered.
Then, impossibly, her voice rang softly through the air. The sound emanated from her soul, cradled in my hand.
“Of course I knew. Of course I understood the reference. Of course I understood what you were asking me to do.”
“I told you when you took that part of me, my soul, that I never, ever wanted it back. I proved over and over that I meant what I said. This was the last proof you will ever need, isn’t it?”
“I would have done anything for you, and I did—even die.”
I couldn’t answer through my tears.
“I loved you. I love you. I will always love you,” her soul whispered gently, each word falling like a hailstone on my heart. I was so full of holes already, that another eleven shouldn’t have done much harm. But now I seemed more empty space than heart.
As her voice died, her soul dried out, collapsed in on itself, crumbled to dust. It fell through my fingers as purple ash. Freed from its burden, my hand fell to my side without my instruction.
I was left alone, standing four steps away from a dead girl—a near-perfect reflection of myself—hanging on a chain-link fence, tears running freely down my face, wondering why I had asked for that final proof.
Depressing? Yes. Beautiful? I think so, but it’s your call. Tell me what you think in the comments.