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You freeze up briefly as the cliffs—the eyelids—come sliding in towards you. If you don’t move, you will be crushed by them. You know that, but this isn’t exactly a situation you’ve had time to prep for. Even without memories, you are fairly certain that ‘getting crushed by blinking’ never crossed your mind as a possible way to die.
As they rush in, you force yourself to move.
First, you drop the heart down the front of your hoodie and pray that it won’t fall out the bottom as you move. Or, worse, get squished along with you. (Why is that worse? You just somehow know it is.) But you don’t know how much you’ll need your hands, and you can’t risk everything by not having them free.
You consider your options as quickly as you can, gaze flicking rapidly around, your own eyes straining for anything that might be an opportunity. You could try stomping through the soft place beneath you and hoping you slip beneath the ?ice?. You could try lunging for the cave and hoping you fall into it as the lids close, leaving you safe. You can reach up and let the horrible, unknowable, foreign stars take you.
In your confusion and growing panic—I don’t want to die! Sweet, help me!—you try to do all of them at once.
t h r o u g h
It spins. It yanks you around and whirls you and you are sick and lost and you do not know who you are, you do not know, you do not know, you do not know.
You didn’t mean to go far, but you did. You have. You are too far, perhaps, but you feel as though you’ve been too far this entire time.
When you land, you find yourself on a hilltop. It is a cold autumn night and you are crouched, arms wrapped around your midsection to try to protect your heart. Tears are blurring your vision, and you are humiliated and afraid, sobbing, trying to catch your breath. You wish someone would shield you from this.
(“Sometimes we need other people to make decisions for us in the heat of the moment.” Who had said that? Why can’t you remember? Someone’s missing, the person who would say that. You feel a fondness for them, a jab of pain, of fear.
But that’s just another incomprehensible thought in this incomprehensible place.)
You close your eyes so you cannot see whatever might be around you and you try to pull the ragged, shaking pieces of your mind together so you can be you, practical and reasonable. You know that about yourself. That you try to stay calm even when things are beyond reason. That you’re practical. That you have a powerful imagination, sometimes, but you know how likely it is that it’s just imagination.
With your eyes still closed, you stick your face down into the front of your hoodie a little, hiding. The heart is in here. Still cradling it inside, you bring it up a little to your face and inhale its scent. It smells …
No. You focus.
It smells… sweet. Strange. You don’t know how a heart should smell, but probably just meaty—right? This smells like sap on old, damaged trees. You remember going on a field trip once as a child and they poured the tree blood out onto the snow and told you to give it a try. You were young, and you were upset. The trees were being hurt. But when you tasted it, you tried to believe it was all right. The trees would be fine; they told you that, and they should know. That was their job. You tried to believe the trees would give it to you willingly—it tasted so good. It was so sweet.
Without meaning to, you stick your tongue out and taste the heart, a quick, tentative lick.
It tastes like it smells, syrup and sugar and nature.
You want to eat it.
A hand grabs your shoulder and shakes, and you jerk your head up, pretending you weren’t just rubbing your tongue over the disembodied beating heart of some unthinkable creature, that you weren’t just tasting an impossible, inhuman organ that you have stuffed into your hoodie.
You don’t recognize the man there, or, at least, you don’t think you have any way to. He’s wearing a robe, though, and you don’t think you’ve known anyone who wears robes any time except Halloween.
(Isn’t it Halloween, though?)
“Do you have it?” he asks.
You stare at him, then look around. With the tears gone, you realize that there is an altar in the clearing on the hilltop.
The man pulls you up by your shoulder. “Do you have it?” he asks again impatiently, as he drags you to the altar. “If you don’t have it, we’re right fucked. We have to wake him up or the rituals are for nothing. I swear, if you don’t have it, I’ll pull your heart out and sacrifice that instead.”
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[Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]