Dawn Eternal

You will find her amongst the strawberries at dawn. You will see her profile, as she stands with dew drops in her curls, fingers outstretched toward the sun, her white, flowing dress whispering secrets to the wind.

Her face is peaceful; she has no memories.

She will not sense you at first; her lashes will not lift slightly, acknowledging a felt but unseen presence. Her breath will not catch for the briefest second.

This is the last innocent moment. She is pure. Vulnerable. Unbloodied. Unchanged.

Your heart aches, burns, twists. It has been one thousand days.

This is the time when you will gather every bit of strength you can muster.

You will not hesitate longer than this – you cannot.

Beyond this moment, the strawberries will begin to slither, to change, to writhe. Her dress will become ragged, first at the hem, then tearing itself into strips, whipping in the now-fierce wind. Her fingers will clutch, urgently grasping at nothing.

Now, you will be done for, should you see her eyes.

You will not look at her face. You will not see her pink lips turn black and necrotic. You will not see her young, supple flesh transition into something else entirely.

If you do not act now, you will never act. You will not exist outside of this moment.

You will slip the ever-sharp blade between her ribs. It will cause her little discomfort – the change is all-encompassing, and the blade is slender. And sharp. Its only task is to be quite small, and very sharp. Your only task is to wield it.

And so you shall; you may wish to have a choice, but you know you do not. You surrendered choice so many years ago, before you realized the truth of the bargain.

Here we are now. The not-quite-strawberries-anymore have taken on indistinct edges. There is an odd rustling, scratching sound, like talons raking through leaves. The spines along the ridges of your shoulders tingle, raising up. You stalk softly across the shifting earth.

There – there is the tiniest movement of her eyes; she knows. Move swiftly!

Your aim is precise and flawless, as always, as ever.

You catch her as she falls, her sighs dotted with blood.

She thanks you for the eighty-seventh time, calls you her love. Her kiss tastes of copper and ozone as you say goodbye.

Again.

Always goodbye.

You will see her again, as you see her now.

The strawberries resume their berriness. The talons quiet.

You fade as she fades, becoming the merest whisper of a shadow before becoming nothing at all.

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