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Flute wakes up in her bedroom, feeling groggy and a little lightheaded. The blanket feels heavy as she stirs beneath it, her hands reaching for something that isn’t there. It’s a sunny day; the golden rays filter in through the curtains, light trapping itself between her eyelashes, and she rubs at them, vision flickering and forced into alert.

Outside the window, the morning is still young, despite the brightness spilling into her room. The sounds of the working villagers are faint, seemingly distant amidst the birdsongs and the rolling breeze, and it’s as if she hasn’t slept a wink at all. Her mind is muddled, the side of her head throbbing — she feels like she should remember something, somehow, even though she doesn’t know what, or why she feels so bothered by the fact that she can’t.

Flute wonders if her grandfather has woken up yet. She’ll need to make breakfast soon, she reminds herself, as a diversion, and climbs out of her bed, her toes curling at the floor’s cold. Her gaze meets the cross hung on the wall behind her in the mirror as she passes by it, and then she closes her eyes, pretending that she hadn’t held her breath.

Flute wakes up in a room that isn’t hers, staring at the patterns in the marble ceiling. The mattress is too soft, too lavish, and she feels as if her body is sinking, her shallow breathing smothered between the sheets. Someone must’ve brought here here.

Flute’s mind dimly registers yesterday’s events, then, scenes jumbled and twisted like torn pages from a book, and her stomach clenches, something sick and acidic bubbling up her throat and choking her from the inside. Her eyes are dry when she rubs at them, and she doesn’t know why she expects otherwise. The bedroom is dark, because the lights are off and the curtains are drawn. She doesn’t know what time it is.

The castle is quiet, and if she closes her eyes again, she can pretend that she’s somewhere faraway, somewhere where time stands still, a place without fires or destruction or suffering. She doesn’t, though. She can’t afford to. She thinks of her hometown, of her grandfather, and then regrets it immediately, feeling her skin prickle with dread. She wouldn’t be here if she could.

Flute understands — but no matter how she tries, the only thing she can think of is why? She understands, but why won’t she accept it? The villager’s words ring in her head, their last pleas, the same sentence repeated over and over again in unison.

Perhaps I am a selfish person after all, Flute thinks, and then turns over on the bed, waiting for the morning to come.

The girl wakes up in a room she doesn’t recognize, her consciousness reeling and lungs burning, somebody’s voice echoing again and again in the back of her head, calling out to her. Her breathing is uneven, desperate, as if she’d been held by her neck, her throat, sunk nose-deep under bubbling water. But, she thinks, that’s not right, is it? It can’t be. Her clothes are dry. She isn’t dying. She can’t be — she’s awake, and she’s still alive, isn’t she? She’s fine, the girl tells herself. She’s fine.

Flute, the voice calls, from somewhere, a place she doesn’t remember. Her head hurts, and she screws her eyes shut, wills it to go away. Flute! Flute!

Is that my name, the girl wonders, and then thinks that it should be, somehow. But the syllable sounds foreign when she whispers it to herself, like she’s never heard it before in her life. Her memory is empty, cleansed, and when she tries to search through it she feels like she’s flipping through the blank pages of a book. There should be writing here, she thinks, but she doesn’t know what it should say.

The girl blinks, eyes flitting here and there, and before her gaze catches her own reflection in the mirror on the wall, she looks away and outside the window instead.