What have I done?

Everything seemed like it was made from liquid glass. The lights, the cold ceramic under my thighs, the shrieking alarms. The smell of burning hair and skin. My head. Everything.

“Oh, God….” I tried, but the words were on the other side of the cavernous, empty room, and deep in my soul, and dripping from my mouth and down my fingertips, dark red and shiny. It was too loud, and too quiet and too much and not enough.

Nothing could ever be enough.

I was too late. Everything my family had worked for was gone.

Now it was dripping down my throat. I could taste the acrid burn of it, the disgrace and terror. Cold anxiety, and shame, and despair, pulling my stomach down to the floor. I could feel the tension building, seconds away from snapping back up and out, all over the tiles gleaming with red.

No good. I tried to cover my mouth to stop it, but my stomach whipped into a roiling surf. I was too late. There was just too much blood. How could anyone survive?

Still the warning shrieks blasted on, like attacking birds shrieking up and down, echoic and whisper-quiet, like someone turning the volume dial up and then down and then up and then down and then….

The lee of my desk shuddered quite suddenly, and I ducked, fearing another explosion, but as I moved away, the rattling stopped. I hugged myself, trying to stop the shaking and figure out where I was, what was going on, and why I was holding a notebook with its edges soaked in blood. And what happened to the prototype vault at the Lab?

I could remember now, I think. There had been an angel, and she – or he? I always seemed to be a bit fuzzy on that one – had told me not to worry, that everything would be fine once we got to the beach. As a matter of fact, I could feel the sun on my face now, the cold sand under me, and the incessant screaming cry of seagulls, searching for a place to land. One of them alighted on my arm, actually, and wobbled back and forth as it flapped, trying to get its balance, shrieking and shrieking.

Suddenly, the man let go of my arm and took my face in his hands, shooting his eyes into mine. “Hey!” he shouted, and I flinched. The shrieking stopped, and I tried to swallow to put the fire out in my throat. “Hey,” he repeated, quieter. “It’s okay, you’re safe now. I’m Detective James Reid. Can you tell me what happened here?”

I blinked, trying to focus. The sun was so warm on my face, and smelled clean, like soap, but also gritty, like blood. Suddenly, the roiling waves inside me stilled, and I tasted the red salty water on my tongue, dripping down my fingers and onto the sand. Gazing into the deep, blue-green of the water, it reminded me of a long-ago time, right here on the beach. I struggled to reach for the memory as it glittered just out of reach on some far-off island. I could see her there, watching me, stalking me, reaching out with cold, soft fingers to squeeze my heart. But I wasn’t afraid. The sun was gone. I wasn’t hot. I wasn’t cold. I wasn’t…anything.

What happened here? I wondered, as the sun set and the glitter winked out. So beautiful. I wish I knew…

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