Time's been nothing but a circle ever since that night. Round and round, folding back into itself sharply, cruelly, endlessly. Clasping onto his mind. Like heavy handcuffs around his wrists.
The smell of iron and despair and Death.
Does he know that smell from before? Did he never know it at all?
Tempting. Black. Deep. He knows the skin it belongs to. Cold like a snake. Green-hued and hollow.
Did he invent it?
Why did he invent it?
Falling in love without being seduced is the cruellest game of its own because once you end up with a rope around your neck you know that no cold, gentle hands will help to tie it. It is always you. It is only ever your obsession, painting him green, painting him lavender, thick colours on pale canvas.
Does he know the story from before? Did he only invent it? Convenience. Repentance.
Time's been nothing but a circle ever since.
I saw your reflection before, on polished iron bars, behind the silver of the mirrors, below the surface of the lake, shaking under the delicate waves. Beckoning me. Beckoning her.
Is it truly a lie when reality is bleaker than the invented truth? Can he even remember the details? Is it wrong to replace the mystery with something so familiar and yet unknown? Isn't it the truest to himself if it is all crafted by his own imagination?
How did it go?
Geneva. It was an unusually beautiful day, sunshine, cool wind, laughter in the air. Or so is the way he thinks about it now. Or so he remembers it beautiful now, the moments of choice, free will clashing with fate. He could have walked away. He could have but he would not do it now should you give him a chance.
A tall person in dark clothes and a wide brim hat sits on the nearby bench, seagulls circling around, cobalt lake. By nature, his eyes are drawn to the dark figure, unusual, proud, spitefully aristocratic. Different. Lured in, like fish attracted by glitter beyond their understanding, he walks closer, so he can attempt to see under the hat.
There is no reason for him to be here at all, he exists now without a purpose: the person he came for will not show. But it is such a waste to have come here for nothing. He needs to find someone else.
Under the hat, a white face, sharp nose, distinct features. Be it either a man or a woman, he would not be able to tell. Not that it matters. He doesn’t care.
For a moment he forgets about his purposelessness, peeking under the shadows, examining the stranger's features, milk white skin. Their chest scarcely moves. Forgets about the reason he came, and the reason he will stay for. The smell of iron, and despair, and Death.
Head spinning, for another moment he thinks of sitting down next to the stranger, to have a sniff of their perfume, perhaps to coax a word out of them or two, but they simply lift up a newspaper from the empty space between them and start reading, obscuring the view. He stands there, petrified, unable to move, unwilling to move. Life freezes. Time stops. The newspaper's end hangs like a veil between them, separating them, and for a moment their eyes meet above the curl of the paper.
Eyes black like the void. Tiny beads of beetles. Nothing reflects in them. Nothing.
I know you. I saw your reflection before in the soft foams of the lake, in the cry of the seagulls, in the black of the Empress's eyes, beckoning me, beckoning her.
A moment passes in idleness and the stranger is gone. He doesn't remember looking away, but when he looks back there is nothing anymore, no trace, no stranger, even no wind for a moment. Life freezes, time stops, only to restart in a vicious circle soon enough, folding into itself, moments turning backwards. It hasn't been the same ever since. It's only ever been the same ever since.
He wants to follow the stranger, the blade itching in his pockets, thirsty for blood, thirsty for a change. It could be perfect. He isn't picky. But when he turns around, there is nobody else. Not even the laughter in the air. Only the morning newspaper, catching him by the neck. He opens it, purposeful, purposeless.
It hasn’t been the same ever since. If he could choose he would choose this all over again. Since he can choose, he keeps choosing this all over again.
I know you, I felt you in the air, lingering, swift and deadly. I felt you behind the wall of mist as it emerged around me, dizzy, white and pale. Cold arms around me, creeping up from behind, barely touching. Something, soft wind tickling below my ear as you whispered, “kill her, kill that one, she wants to come to me.” I saw your reflection long before, behind the silver of old mirrors, in the sharpened edge of the blade, pulling the strings. Each and every time, I see your reflection more, and more. A belt around my neck, and yet you never came to claim me.
He must have seen that face before, behind the veil, pale and cruel, and soft and in love, beckoning her – but not beckoning him.
He must see it again. More, and more.
(But instead of being welcomed by the sight, finally beckoning him and only him, inviting him to rest, time has only been a circle, ever since.)