Beside You In Time
She awoke. A slow waking, limbs stretching lazily, eyelids opening and closing. She felt the warmth of the sun on her skin. And there was no pain.
Her eyes opened.
Her body unfurled, her skin shimmering. She unfurled, and there was no pain. As she moved, the music responded, shifting between chords. It faded in and out, following the rhythm of her body.
It soothed her. Liquid exoskeleton elixir.
She stood, contemplating her new skin. Running her fingers across her arm, the music pulsated. Her skin danced over her fingers, cold and soothing. Droplets fell on to the pavement, rolling and merging, snaking their way back to her and crawling up her leg until they disappeared into the flow.
She wondered if this was a morphine dream.
She wondered if she was in heaven.
Someone approached her, brushing past, knocking her and setting off the music in an arrhythmic jangle. Her skin burst open and fell in a shower, before collecting on the pavement and joining her again as the music evened out.
She was near the riverbank. She hadn’t been here since his death. Everything looked the same.
And then she saw herself.
Down by the river. She sat with him, just as they had been all those years ago.
They didn’t acknowledge her as she approached. She sat next to them, but they didn’t see her.
They were listening to the song she had become, the piano notes flowing, soothing. They held hands and he leaned his head on her shoulder.
She longed to touch him. She wondered if he would feel it, if he would feel her new skin, if she could touch him and no longer feel pain. But when she approached him, her skin fell apart, tumbling to the grass and snaking its way back to her.
She watched herself kiss him goodbye and leave.
She remembered this. This moment had haunted her for years. This moment, these seconds.
She fell to her knees. She told him to leave, but he heard nothing. He leaned back, resting on the palms of his hands, turning his face to the fading sun.
She watched herself walk away, and she thought of all the years it had taken her to come back here. All these years and all it was to her was spectacle. She thought how perverse it was that she had worked so hard only to witness his death.
She wondered if she was in hell.
She tried over and over to touch him, to move him. She shouted at him, her yell disappearing into the music, her impotence echoed by the silent beat that broke the rhythm.
She sat with him as he lay back on the grass, dreaming, floating. She sat with him, listening to her music-skin.
She heard their voices first. The music shifted to a heavy arpeggio as they emerged from the trees by the path. He heard them too. They broke his reverie, and he sat up, looking at his watch. As he made to stand up, the first blow came.
These senseless seconds, unfolding in ease and simplicity.
The kick to the face sent him down, his blood spattering across her body, exploding the music in a fury.
They all laughed, and the music became a low vibrating hum as the droplets returned to her.
He lay in the grass, spitting out teeth. They dragged him up, unsteady on his feet, hands raised in supplication. They punched him and he was down again.
She watched them as they took pleasure in those seconds before they moved in on him. She felt the spark of expectation. She remembered the report. She remembered what they had done to him.
As they circled him, her music-skin churned. She collided with them, her skin fragmenting.
Small slivers of music-skin sliced into them. The music retained a steady rhythm, a gentle soprano drifting over the piano. With precision, skin was flayed. The fine blades of music-skin hit one of the assailants with such force that veins were torn from his arm.
Now she was Hades. A liquid mellifluous death.
They lay at her feet, stripped.
Kneeling down, she enveloped him. The droplets of music-skin returned to her and flowed over him.
She was poison-cure. The great destroyer, the great healer.
In this twilight, the music hummed.