I sense the moment she walks into the room.
“A little early for lunch,” I call over my shoulder, glancing at the large clock that hangs above the white board. “Just couldn’t wait to see me, huh?” I smirk, pour another liquid into the vial hanging above the Bunsen burner. “Don’t blame you. I’m pretty irresistible.”
She doesn’t speak, doesn’t laugh. My hands freeze where they are, the liquid in the beakers sloshing from side to side at my sudden lack of movement. I don’t turn around. I don’t have to. I know she’s there. I feel it.
She brings a mass of unspeakable energy with her everywhere she goes. Usually, it’s vibrant and warm, like being touched, embraced by a brilliant star. Today, it’s not. It crashes and cracks within her tiny frame like a thousand lightning storms.
The skin on my back prickles and burns where she stares. My eyes slip closed. I choke on the emotion her very presence conjures. My chest fills to the brim with pressure I can’t afford to release. So I exhale slowly, placing my equipment on the lab table, and force a smile as I turn to face her.
She stands no more than three feet away, her arm extended.
I’m staring down the barrel of her gun.
“You remember,” I say quietly. Shamefully. Her body shakes so violently her teeth chatter.
“Were you ever going to tell me,” she asks, and I hear the accusation of betrayal in her voice. It cuts through me like knives.
“Not if I could help it,” I say honestly. No use lying now.
“Where are they?” Her eyes are red. Bloodshot from crying. And empty. Horrifyingly empty.
“They’re dead, Norah. They have been for a long time.”
“How long?” Her voice breaks. The gun flails as she fights to remain in control. “How long?”
“Long enough,” I say and leave it at that.
Her eyes narrow. Gold specks darken within the brown depths. “You should have saved them.” An accusation. Hatred. So much hatred.
“It wasn’t my job to save them. My only job was to make sure I got you out alive.”
“And you can live with yourself? Knowing we left them behind? You really are a monster,” she whispers, shaking her head.
“Your monster,” I bite back. “Summoned by you, to protect you, to protect the lineage at all costs. I have only ever done what you asked, and yet you resent me for it.”
“I never asked you to love me,” she speaks through her teeth. “But you do.”
“That was inevitable. You are my Maker and I am your slave. I will love you always. You will never have to ask.”
“Then show me your love, your allegiance. Kill me. Help me forget.”
I tense. “I can’t do that. I wasn’t built that way.”
“I’m telling you to. I’m commanding you. Why should I survive when they’ve all perished? Why should I exist?”
“You know why.”
“Because I was queen? What difference does that make now? What difference did it make then? They died. They all died. Even me.”
Her sadness is unbearable. I step forward. Her hand tenses. Her thumb cocks the gun.
“Yet you’re here. Holding a gun in my face.”
“How many times have we done this, Lucan? How many times have I tried to forget only to wake up one awful day and remember?”
Endless, I realize. Endless times. “It was mutiny. They’d had help from members of your Royal Guard….”
“And like a coward, I allowed you to save me and left my kingdom to burn. How am I supposed to live with that?”
“You’ll forget soon enough,” I say sadly. “You always do.”
“It’s not enough. It’s never enough.”
She looks out the science lab window at the college campus, the many lives moving and shaping our reality, oblivious to us, ancient and lost within such young bodies, childhood friends yesterday, slave and Queen Master today.
“This is hell, isn’t it,” she chokes out. “Forced to live with my greatest mistake, my biggest shame, over and over again. Free me, Lucan. If you truly love me, take me out of misery.”
“You cannot die,” I say firmly, watching the essence of a Queen I loved eternities ago diminish behind hysterical brown eyes.
Human eyes. The eyes of a young woman unprepared for the brutal truth of our impossible existence.
“You won’t let me.”
I shrug slightly. “What’s the difference?”
“Do you think it’s still up there?” she asks staring up at the cerulean sky littered with puffy white clouds. “Our world? Do you think it exists among the wreckage?”
“It might. We could go back. We could rebuild. Someday.”
She laughs. Its a coarse, horrifying sound. “And repopulate?”
“And see who survived. See what souls we can pull from the cryo banks. We might be able to bring some back.”
“It’s unnatural,” she says, her voice deep, her gaze lowered, held by the body she’s been given. The fingers on her spare hand curl, and I see the surprise register in her eyes. As though she expected to malfunction. “You should have let me die.” Tears stream down her face.
“I can’t.” It’s a plea. A cry.
“Then, I’m sorry.”
I stop breathing. I know what comes next.
Her hand moves too fast for me to stop it. The quivering barrel points to her head.
“I’ll see you on the other side.”
She pulls the trigger and once again, she’s gone.