The snow was a blinding light, igniting the world in angelic shadows and powdery clouds.
In the distance, a lone tree stood, swaying obediently in the lonely breeze, tempting the girl to adventure forward. She wandered through the quietude, entranced by this delicate form of life existing in absolute nothingness. How a single plant could contain so much green intrigued her. Despite the stretched fields of blanketed white, life flourished beautifully in this single tree; fighting, surviving.
The girl suddenly grew frightened as the wind snatched her by the wrists and yanked her forward. It gave a fearsome howl and she was soon pressed against the tree, wincing at a burst of fiery pain igniting at her side. She willed herself to put her panicking thoughts to ease and tried to observe the damage, yet the wind resisted her efforts, pinning her face into the rough bark.
Tears formed across the girl’s eyes as crazy scenarios raced through her mind causing her to cry out in desperation.
It was then she noticed the rose.
Darkness bloomed into a sliver of silhouettes, colliding, merging, melting into a single mass flickering with an ominous glow. The girl held her breath as she gradually picked out the first curled leaf, then the second, and the stem, and the thorns.
The girl exhaled in wonder.
It was nothing but a rose yet it was also everything. Resting in the heart of the living and surrounded by lands of the dead. A rose so fragile, resting in a peaceful sanctuary, untouched by the corrupted. A rose with no flaws, perfected from each and every end, portraying an appearance of delicacy and everything pure.
Not only had the girl noticed the grace of this flower, but an odd feeling of familiarity washed over her. A sense of belonging and possession.
This rose was hers and hers alone.
This rose was a part of her whole existence.
This rose was meant to be in her hands and protected from all who dared take it from her.
With a grunt, she pushed deeper into the trunk of the swaying tree, unfazed by the distant roar of a coming storm. It slipped past her, the quivering branches, the fallen leaves. Impervious to all, mesmerized by the urgency of claiming her prize, she ran, she glided, she soared to the center of the universe. She was exclaiming, yelling, growing delirious with her inexplainable desires.
Something deep inside her ripped open and claws flew outward, gripping the ground in a furious rage. She growled and howled, all reasoning disintegrated in the midst of the sacred place. Her kindness had bled through to the floor in piles of black, forming cackling shadows and weeping darkness. Her hair faded away along the stretches of her back into clumped masses of blackened feathers, flickering with bolts of uncertainty and delusion, slashing blindly into the abyss. Her shadow grew larger, pulling itself from it’s prison, rising at last to the surface, no longer contained by it’s own master. It wrapped around the thickened neck of the still sprinting girl, suffocating, climbing into open eyes, ears, and mouths. Gagging, she pressed on, losing all she was with each step, remembering only that she would have that rose all to herself.
Years shot by, then decades, then centuries and still the lost creature continued forward to her destination. As she ventured deeper, her newly grown bird-like appearance became more and more blackened, molting into piles of ash at the world she left behind. Her sanity was slowly fading away into a heaping mass of broken promises and a stranger whom she no longer knew. A cracked smile tore into her mouth, rising up to her eyes exposing lines of jagged fangs flecked with red and black.
When she finally grew tired, her pale blue eyes sapped of her radiant youth, her grin splashed with bits of her lingering shadow, her eyes pounding the rush of blood in her head, she collapsed.
Completely spent. Alone. Confused with the last fragmented pieces of her memory vanishing. And defeated. She felt a horrible, aching, swelling shame of admitting defeat. She could not go on. She would never reach that rose.
And so she broke down and cried for all that she had lost for the pursuit of something never to be gained.
Then her form grew smaller and smaller until all that was left was a weeping young girl with lively blue eyes and a kind smile and a heart full of images, of remembrances, left shivering in the whiteness of snow.
And before her sat the single red rose. Still flawless. Just in arms reach.
Take it? (Read below)
Leave it? (Read the passage following the next passage)
With trembling fingers, pulsating with a slight reluctance, she reached for it. She simply couldn’t help it. She was entitled to the thing. It existed to only be touched by her.
Smiling, she released a single nervous chuckle as the stem grazed her. Soon her chuckle began to crescendo into a fit of giggles as her hand engulfed the rose, caressing it, testing for reassurance that this wasn’t a dream. Without a doubt it was real. Here she was, finally by her beloved object, shoulders shaking with a deranged excitement. ‘Mine, all mine’ she thought to herself, beaming at her trophy.
Her face then distorted that to a demon.
Her grin dissolved into a frightening sneer as her palm snapped closed around the thorny stem, dripping red, and she yanked with all her might.
Thunder exploded, lightning crashed. A terrifying wind howled through her roaring ears, tearing into her darkening eyes. Feathers rushed past her surprised face and tore at her flaked skin leaving tear stained marks.
Searing pain licked at her trembling fist, still clutching the rose. She tried to comfort herself, tried reminding herself she had captured what was lost.
But what rested in her hand wasn’t the rose she thought it was.
Thorns had stretched out, grasping the girl herself, portraying broken skin and exposed bone. A foul stench fell over the atmosphere smelling of singed hair and something metallic. The petals had begun to wither into wrinkled flakes, falling away at every touch. Leaves curled frantically upon themselves, bursting into miniature flames, spreading along the stem.
And the core. The very center of the rose… overflowed with a hideous red, pouring down her throbbing wrists, dripping into the white, staining it, covering her lunatic screams.
“Why?! Why?! Why?!”
Until her mouth had been completely filled with the sickly red. And her eyes grew dim. And the tree mourned for the girl that had been lost by looking for something
… she never had.
For a moment she stared at the rose with an eery fascination, wondering for a moment just what could her life be? She began to wonder if her mother’s sorrowful cry would leave her. She began to wonder if her father’s blank stare would be eradicated from her pounding head. She began to wonder if all those meaningless days of living and wondering what more there could be would ever come to leave her.
She wanted more. She wanted better.
She didn’t want to come to the same silent dinners. She didn’t want to constantly avoid the pathetic attempts of interaction between her friends. She didn’t want to be home. She didn’t want to return to the teasing. The uncertainty, the self-loathing. She didn’t want… She didn’t want…
Her eyes darted to the tree, swaying patiently, creaking with curious rhythm. The girl felt watched. She began to shiver violently, cradling herself, sobbing. She wanted a blanket. She wanted the warm embrace of her mother. She wanted the gentle pat by her father.
She wanted her life back.
She wanted her old life back.
She didn’t want perfection.
She didn’t need complete purity.
She wanted to live.
“Please…” her voice croaked with wavering gasps, “Please… take me… back…” she sniffled and pressed her knuckles to her eyes, pushing, continuing to beg the tree.
“I… want… to go…” she coughed, staring at the rose, still red, still pretty.
Yet so… hideous.
“I want to go home!” she exclaimed, leaping to her feet, running to the nearest branch of the tree. Without second thought, she began to climb. She pleaded, she begged, she apologized, she promised redemption. She promised for gratitude.
She promised to love herself.
Then the tree began to shake, and the world began to spin, and the next branch she reached for snapped.
She fell into a ripple of time.
And she finally woke up.