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drowning butterflies.

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They will only live once we are gone. A hero's sacrifice. That is all we have left to give.

That is what he tells me. The floor beneath our feet is cold and gritty with dirt. It is the only tangible thing to me. I feel like I am floating as we walk. The shackles around our ankles clank loudly. Our bodies are battered. Our bodies are bruised. I cannot feel the rapid beating of my heart. My blood races in my ear like a tidal wave. I think of the glittering blue ocean. We saw it once.

I swear that I taste salt on my tongue. There are dark shadows looming over us. Their teeth gleam white. I taste acid now.

They will only live once we are gone. We have served our purpose. It is time for us to go.

I do not want to go. I thought we had more to do. I thought we had more to give. He told me we did not. We had given all we could. I think of the well in the courtyard. I think of how it had been stripped clean of water. I think of the red liquid in it now, the red, shining liquid that threatens to spill up over the sides. I imagine it flooding the courtyard. I imagine it drowning us.

They will only live once we are gone. We are monsters. We are not like them.

We are different. I know we are different. He tells me we are not. He tells me we are all woven with the same thread. We are all intertwined. We cannot change who we are. We cannot erase what they have done.

They will only live once we are gone. The blood in the well? We did that.

We did not. It had been them. Them, them, them. They did that. They are the ones who need to take responsibility. Why are they silent now? Why are they letting us go?

They will only live once we are gone. They are caged birds. It is now time to release them. 

We are birds too. I imagine us as doves, pure and white, but my mind tells me that is wrong. We are not white. We are not doves.

We are black. We are crows.

They force us onto our knees. We go willingly. Our bodies have already given up. All that is left is our minds. They know how to break them. They know we are fragile. They know we will crumple beneath their blades once they are pressed against our necks. I imagine growing. I imagine myself with longer arms, with longer legs, with a tremendous mouth with a slack jaw. I imagine a scream. I imagine shattered glass. I imagine bodies that lay prone at my feet. I imagine carnage.

I tell him so. He looks at me knowingly.

They will only live once we are gone. We want to destroy them. They are only protecting themselves.

Protection.

They get protection and we do not. I think it is because they know we can save ourselves. That is not the truth, however. They do not protect us because they want to get rid of us. We are disposable. They do not need us. Not anymore.

The war is over. It is time to walk away from the battlefield.

They remove our chains. They let go of their leashes. We are no longer their pets. We are no longer their aces. We are battered, we are bruised, and we are of no use to them.

Something cold kisses the back of my neck. I tilt my head back and look at the sky. There is not a cloud above us. There is not the slightest brush of wind. There is not a single bird's call.

There is only silence. There is constant, maddening silence. He grips my arm.

They will only live once we are gone. Darling, we were meant for this. We must do what is right, do what we must.

He whispers the words against my temple. His breath is damp against my skin. I picture that it curls off in big white flumes of smoke that disappear into the sky. I picture my hand curling tight around his to press our sweaty palms together. My fingers itch to feel him against me, but I cannot move.

I am frozen in place, awaiting my fate.

Their blade presses deeper against my neck. The pain is lost on me. I imagine it rolls away with the droplets of blood dripping down my back. My hair is sticky with it. I must be quite the sight.

End me, I say. End me, end me, end me.

His breath rises in pitch. It feels like a sharp knife. I wonder if it can pierce me.

They will only live once we are gone. We were humanity's hope, love. We did everything we could.

Humans, I think, are cruel. They say they are better than the monsters. They say they are not monsters. But I always see a monster when I look into their eyes. They are driven by greed, by fear, by the desire to dominate, and I wonder if that is who I am inside. He tells me it is not. We just look human, he says, but we are not human.

I feel the blade being lifted off my neck. I close my eyes and exhale softly in anticipation.

Not human.

I can live with that.