In The Final Throes

There is a stutter, briefly, in her mind’s eye — she is looking at him, and yet through him, and she cannot comprehend.

There is a sting, a sharp cut to her cheek, shrapnel slicing a red line over pale skin.

The hole is wide enough that she can see a flash of color behind, and then it’s all just red, grey, red, pink, red, nothing but red, and he stumbles, falls, and lands in her arms, jaw working, body thrashing.

There is nothing else to catch her, and so they tumble to the ground; she sits down hard and utters a sound that feels almost like a laugh. So absurd — this isn’t happening.

He isn’t laid out, head in her lap — what’s left of his head — bleeding out as his soon-to-be-corpse twitches in its final throes.

His throat works, and she leans low, the wild curtain of her impossible hair spilling around him as she puts her ear down by his lips.

She hears his last words carried up on a font of blood that washes over this mouth and paints his face, and the hand that has found hers seizes closed, tight enough to begin to crush her fingers. She turns to look at the woman holding the gun, the woman who moved too fast, the woman who had, in a single moment, taken away everything, and made the world a lesser place.

That woman looks both triumphant and smug. “It’s done,” she said. “I’ve wanted to do that for years.” She drops the gun, and brushes her greying whiteblonde hair back from her face, pulling off her sunglasses and letting them hit the floor. “Go ahead,” she said, almost smiling, looking at the girl who sat on the floor amidst too much blood, “kill me.”

“Kill you?” the girl whispers, somewhat incredulous. She carefully shifts, laying him to the floor, and puts his lips to his, kissing copper, closing her eyes. When she stands, her lips are crimson, and she tips her head to the side, look look the woman over. “I’m not going to kill you.”

The woman looks at the girl, and is about to speak, when her eyes widen, and she makes a small sound of confusion, finding herself unable to move. “I–”

“You took away the only thing that kept me from being what you wanted me to be,” the girl murmurs, stepping closer. “Your monster. Your weapon. So here I am. You’ve pulled the pin. Tick-tock,” she whispers.

The woman’s voice lifts, suddenly, into an awful, wrenching scream.

“Now, now,” the girl whispers. “Let’s not get dramatic. We’ve hardly started. What you’re feeling right now? That’s each of your ribs, bending out. And that’s three of them too brittle to bend. While they’re breaking, they’ll tear the cartilage, pull away from the fascia. If I bend them farther, they’ll puncture and maybe collapse your lung. Can you feel it? Let’s see how long you can keep feeling that. I’m going to make you feel it as long as I can feel how he’s gone,” she murmurs.

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