I stand on the edge of a dark gray mountain and gaze down into murky water below. Each step saps more of my strength and soon I'm forced to crawl along the ground. Daylight has long since ceased to exist and dark, stormy clouds paint the sky an almost absolute black.
For a moment I wonder how it all came about; how a once blue sky faded into eternal twilight. Everything reappears in my mind and I find myself overcome with memories. I wish so desperately to live among those instants of happiness again.
Her lips had been so warm. Even now I could recall the sweet, salty taste of our sole kiss. It had been a moment of exploration for each of us, and our fumbling had seemed so pure. In our naivete, life had felt so boundless. There had been no end to the possibilities, but the images faded and I found myself thrust back even further.
Back in those days my sword had been the heaviest of my burdens. Each moment was a struggle to keep my grip on it. The false image of strength was all that mattered.
She'd been on horseback for most of what I could remember, and I always found myself being forced to look up to her. In so many ways I disliked her manner. It hurt to know that I was so far beneath her.
Whatever else may have faded from my mind, the fields still haunt my dreams. Bodies were crumpled onto the ground for as far as I could see. Animal and human corpses rotted alongside one another, death showing indifference to each. Yet even then she'd been strong, when I was forced to retch at the sight of it all. If one ever cared to look, they could see her purpose spelled out in her glowing eyes.
Months passed by and the hunt continued, stealing time and lives from our company. I rode with her then, and sat up with her at night, asking the questions that we all feared to have answered. Those moments I treasured, for they were the only respite we could count upon. There were times when I feared for my survival. So much of the world had changed before my eyes and I wondered how I could be expected to remain the same.
As unlikely as it felt, I outlived many of the others. Luck had been kind to me and throughout it all, my strength held steady. Perhaps I owe it to her resolve. She never even glanced behind us, always moving forward. Always pushing toward the end.
When we reached the temple, it was impossible to believe that we might endure the trials on us. There was also a growing emptiness inside me. The end of it all would pull me away from her and strand me in oceans that I'd rather have forgotten.
Now the hordes lay silent, gathering their numbers in the south. For once the air remains pure, but also cleansed is the beauty that I once knew. Gray and black are the only colors in this world, and even they seem paler than they had once been.
At last I conquer the mountain, though I know not how I managed it. In front of me is the lush forest, colorless, yet pulsing with life. A welcome change from the crags of stone behind me. My feet carry me forward faster than I thought possible, and at last I come to the cabin. The door opens at the slightest of touches. The emotion is almost too much and I find myself struggling to stay upright.
She stands there in front of me, watching with a curious smile on her face. We both know that the peace is only a brief calm before the storm, but it's enough for us. The moment is all that remains in our life.
Our lips touch and the void of her absence is filled. She parts her lips and we both begin to explore. When our tongues meet, I find it hard to tell where she ends and I begin, and all I can do is savor her wonderful taste. If moments could grow to fill eternity, this is the instant I would choose.
Eventually we separate, but our closeness remains. I think how wonderful it feels to have this instant to live with her, but as soon as the feeling consumes me I awake. All that remains to me is her image, and even her voice has faded from my mind. I can still almost taste her and the dawning of my hope turns to the bitterness of loss.
My tears dampen the pillow, for she has become dead to me, only a waking illusion. Yet I still see her face when my eyes are closed and I still feel her lips upon mine in the space between breaths. I find the slightest of consolations in knowing that the Princess never born lives in my heart. In remembrance she has almost gained a great gift: reality.