Gray Metal Faces – January 20

Annie raised her head above Ophelia’s, the teen’s face red with exertion, hair matted to her head with the river’s murky water. Without looking, she commanded Rune to press on Ophelia’s sternum, as she continued breathing into her mouth.

The Bird wanted to tell them their efforts were in vain, that there was no hope in trying to save a doomed character. But then, she realized her friends were playing their own role in this drama — and their performance had to be completed. So she stood silently, watching their desperate efforts, like a doctor watching the agonized face of a patient that can’t be cured.

The Bird figured Rune had known within a minute that their cause was lost within a minute, but had continued on for at least a few minutes more, before gently calling Annie’s name. “It’s — there’s nothing — she’s gone.”

But the daughter of Carl and Laura Hutchinson continued breathing into Ophelia’s blue lips, twisting away from Rune’s touch on her shoulder. She came up to catch her own breath — “I can’t let this happen” — but when she tried to resume her rescue effort, her body suddenly spasmed; she turned away, wretching violently.

The Bird joined Rune in comforting their friend, her body contorting in eruptions of sorrow and sickness. “Nobody — nobody listened to her.” She wiped a stream of mucus with the back of her hand. “I was there with her — and she still died alone.”

The Bird looked behind them, was hardly surprised to see that Ophelia’s body had already disappeared; the revelation did not upset her two friends, either. Rune snorted — “Guess they needed the body, for the next scene.”

Still kneeling on the ground and slowly regaining her composure, Annie nodded slowly. The Bird asked Rune if he had found the graveyard; the greasy-haired teen shrugged. “Geography of this place is all messed up; one minute you think you’re going up a hill, then wham!, you’re in the middle of a forest.”

“Yes.” The Bird pointed towards a wide field on her right. “When I came from that direction earlier, it was a forest. But even though it looks totally different now, for some reason — I know it’s where we need to go next.”

“Huh.” Rune brushed hair off his acne-riddled forehead. “You notice that too, Annie?”

He and The Bird turned to where Annie had been sitting, only to find she was no longer there.

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