Emily could see all of the people standing over her, looking down at her, trying to figure out what had happened, what was wrong. She didn’t want to see any of them, she didn’t want to be where she was, she wanted to be with William. He had been in the house, he had been there when the explosion occurred, and there was nothing that could be done, no way she could save him. She tried to run but she couldn’t; there was no escape from here, she realized, deflated. Her arms seemed to be pinned down in some way, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to free herself. Where was she? She had little recollection beyond the explosion, and no memory of getting here, wherever here was. Emily closed her eyes, and smelled smoke, and there she was, back again in Yorkshire, that night, tonight, or last night, or whenever it happened. She saw the house, smoldering, burning, destroyed; she saw herself on the moors, running toward the house, hoping for a miracle, hoping for anything other than what she saw right in front of her; the devastation, the pain, the loss, the overwhelming grief that choked her, suffocated her, until she was on the ground again. She rolled onto her back and looked up to the sky, trying to understand how, why, this had happened, why so much pain must live her heart forever. She had lost everyone now, no one remained, except her. She flashed to the white room; she flashed to the moors and the smoldering house. She no longer knew where she was, where she had been, nothing, it was all chaos and pain swirling around inside her devastated mind. When was this? Where was this? This white room, this damaged land, all of it lost to her slipping mind.
Her parents were lost, to an accident. Her brother was lost, to the war. Now William was added to the list of those lost to the ages, where they would live forever in her mind, and nowhere else. You can create eternity in your brain if you let yourself lose reality along the way, something Emily knew very well, and had accepted, embraced even. William had survived his time fighting on the continent, fighting for the right cause, fighting for King and country. But now, home on his own soil, far away from the bombings of London, and Europe, and everywhere else the war waged on, William had been lost. Sheer bad luck, bad timing, bad life, all of it an absolutely unbelievable mess. She should have taken him up on his offer to walk with her, he’d still be here then, she realized; and that realization was nearly too much to bear. She felt ill, very physically ill, and could barely even keep her eyes open. She felt a searing, sharp pain in her right arm, and began to feel quite tired almost immediately. She wished to return again, to see the house, see what remained, but she knew that would all be for nothing. Emily didn’t need to go check on the house, and see if anyone had survived. She’d been in London during the blitz, stayed hidden in the Underground during the bombings; she knew that no one could survive a hit like that. So she lay there, on the Yorkshire moors, staring up at the dark, English sky, filling with smoke, and wondered how a person could come back from all of this. The odd thing about that moment, though, was how it felt familiar, normal, as if she had experienced it before. As if she had thought that before, wondered how a person could survive. She felt as if she had been there at some point in her past, lying on her back in the countryside, seeing this house smolder and burst into flames. Why? How did it feel like she was having déjà vu? She let the smoke engulf her, inhaling it, allowing it to fill and burn her lungs, not caring about the damage to her organs, or her inevitable fate. She wished to burn. She wanted to burn with William, so she allowed herself to smolder, a mirror image of that house on the moors.
Emily still felt that throbbing pain in her arm, and felt another string pull very, very tightly in her head, that familiar pulling, that familiar pain that she had grown accustomed to, welcoming it into her mind, to set up shop and stay. Then suddenly, it was too much to take anymore, too much to accept, too much to live with. The string snapped, harder, and with more ferocity than ever before. This wasn’t like it had been the first or second time she felt the snap, where it was manageable, and she was able to maintain her surroundings and mind. Each string had snapped with more fire than the one before, and now it had reached the peak of its strength. The string snapped loudly, and began echoing, booming, shaking her head, until she was rolling, hands over her ears, screaming at the top of her lungs. Screaming from pain, from grief, from loss, from everything. She couldn’t stop screaming, her mind and heart overwhelmed by everything that had happened, and she continued shrieking and rolling and shaking her head until she felt another sharp pain in her arm, and suddenly felt tired all over again. Although this time, she gave in to the exhaustion she felt, and finally fell asleep, and she smelled the smoke wafting around her, and all the hands on her body. Those hands, whose hands? Where did they come from? She felt herself grow weaker, and her body fill with smoke, and she welcomed the slowing down that she felt, she welcomed the smoke as her savior.