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Memory

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Memory 

She sat at Lilith’s feet, an illusion of an illusion that fed on illusions until even that last layer faded away and she seemed mere shadow in the dark. She had been restless for a long time, though even she could not have said if it was one day or a hundred years that had passed. Time had very little meaning for shadows. What thought was left of her illusion clung to the false hope Lilith offered in vain to the figure of Pauline, who stood in sunlight and laughter.

She turned her head, or the memory of her head, out of habit, towards the sound of laughter. For a moment, she wanted nothing more than to follow the light, to touch the golden flecks that filled the air, radiating from Pauline’s form, and gather them to her shadow. In the silence in the laughter, she almost remembered. But the moment was broken by Lilith’s shriek.

In that instant she experienced a lifetime. Before, behind, around the shadow flashed her own form—a child sitting on the corner of an otherwise occupied hospital bed, now an older child sitting in a corner at school, a woman at work with her back to a wall. A woman stood on a flowered path, watching a man walk away; a young woman walked down the path, hand-in-hand with a young man; a girl on the same path waited for a boy who would never come back. The young woman clasped hands with a much older woman, whose dry whispering tales filled her ears; the tales begged to be put to the page where she might be noticed. Pages and pages turned before her eyes, and the shadow grasped at some of the forgotten words—at silk and leaves, dancing flame and sparkling ice, a lunar eclipse and a last dance, a lost dance of once-familiar phrases, of the sunlight and the graveyard, ashes to ashes, dark dreams——

A sudden thin wail followed the shriek, the wail of all those dead who cannot endure joy. The advent of that pure content struck at the foundation of the Hill and the wail went up from all the mortal who writhed in sickness and the immortal who are sick for ever.

Her cry rose with the rest; she barely noticed as the hidden cave grew dark once more. She felt only a twinge of relief that the joy in memory was gone, a twinge of regret that it was gone forever, and knew no more.