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Making my way back the way I came, I turned down the ever-familiar dead-end road and made my way to the second to last house. Almost immediately upon sliding the slender key into its lock, the old door creaked its way open. Taking note of the unusual, but not completely abnormal ease with which it slid open, I rapidly attempted to recall whether or not I’d actually completely closed it earlier on my way out. Weirdly enough, once I’d almost worried myself into an early head full of grey hair, a strange state of apathy settled within me. None of this mattered. Not whether or not I’d locked the door or if someone had managed to break in. It couldn’t even be broken by the smothering feeling that someone had disturbed my space. My fate would meet me regardless and nothing, not even the choices I could make at this moment would prevent it. When my familiar inner voice warred with the implanted one, another thought slipped through. One that ominously declared that there were much nicer houses in the area, therefore no one would bother breaking in here anyway. Upon my reluctance to accept the thought as my own, it carefully pestered me about whether or not I was aware of the fact.

Unfortunately, even now I’m wondering about whether or not its efforts were expended in vain. I was then not only suspicious of another’s presence in my home but my head as well. Deciding that emptying my home was more detrimental at the moment, I silenced my instincts that urged me to acknowledge the chills traversing my skin and the harrowing feelings stirring within my soul. My last line of natural defense being the voice within my head rising above the others to continue pestering me: Really Arcani? What if someone is waiting inside to kill you? What if they’ve placed hidden cameras and have been watching you for a while? Even if they’ve already left, they might return. Are you truly prepared to die when you’ve never actually lived? Have you made peace? Who would come looking for you? Do you really want it to be verified that you wouldn’t be missed?

When I quickly silenced the voice, it was only mostly in preparation for the impending inspection. I carefully removed my shoes, before proceeding through every room in the house meticulously scrutinizing every nook and cranny for anything hinting at another’s presence. When I’d confirmed I was alone, at least on the superficial plane, I tried to release a sigh of relief but my traitorous breath refused to dislodge itself from my throat. I still hadn’t managed to convince myself of Death having been thwarted for the time being.

In the next few minutes, I moved rather quickly along the spectrum from urgent fear of my life to disdain for the scent and other remains of the outside that clung to me. I stripped down before walking into my shower, all the while cursing myself for my insolence. How could I allow outside germs and energy this far into my home? Now I’d have to clean my house and my hair. Hours later when I’d finished thoroughly cleansing my body and my hair, I tugged on a shirt after completing the final twist in my hair. On my way to the kitchen, I stopped to shut my blinds and ensure that my windows and doors were locked. I grabbed the açai bowl I’d prepared yesterday as a quick snack and reheated my leftovers I didn’t eat earlier. Removing the new auras from my house was important but would have to wait until I’d reclaimed my energy. I scarfed down my food before rushing back to my room and flopping down on my bed after cleaning my feet. My last thought before the sandman tugged me into Morpheus’ realm was that perhaps I should’ve checked my phone one last time. Perhaps it might’ve held something different that time around.

My first thought after regaining awareness was that I was somewhere, yet I knew I was nowhere or at least within my usual scope. I recognized this place as familiar, yet possessed no recollection of how or its location. I was hyper-aware of the telltale feeling of sweat dripping down my back and beginning to gather about my brows as I continued to look around. My spirit grew more and more anxious as panic grasped feverishly at my sensitive nerves. My sweat dripped down into my eyes and though the salt burned I didn’t dare to close them. Over time, my breaths began to deepen and quicken preparing for the inevitable when suddenly a strong relaxing presence much like the one I felt earlier encompassed me.

No longer on the verge of a panic attack, I lifted my still slightly frail body from the ground. When I was finally standing, I gazed into the eyes of what appeared to be a woman. My initial and most prevalent thought is that she must be the Woman. Everything about her screamed nature and originality. Her rich, brown eyes reminded me of not only the soil which despite having a bad reputation, remains to be the true nutrients of life, but also the hot cocoa my Ma would make on cold nights. Her beautiful brown skin hosted a plethora of strawberry-like dots on her legs and arms that only resembled stars to me. Her face was graced by the highest cheekbones I’ve seen yet and almost directly underneath those mesmerizing brown eyes. And when I finally noticed how long I’d been staring at her, they gave way to the deepest dimples closely by the most beautiful smile. Her shine and smile couldn’t be dulled by anything, not even the gap between her front teeth or her slightly chipped tooth. She was ethereal. Truly infatuating. Her joy was so contagious that even though I knew I was the source of her amusement, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing as well. She was perfect. Society would hate her, yet stop at nothing to recreate her.

I failed to stop myself from attempting to take all of her in at once, I was aware of the impossibility of the feat but her presence drew me in. When I finally managed to restrain myself, I thoughtfully gazed at her outstretched hands unsure of how long they’d been extended. I tossed aside the notion of contemplating her intentions and simply latched onto her. The moment our limbs fully connected, an all-consuming brilliant golden light consumed my vision before I was conscious of no more.

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