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And Then There were None

By Ryuuko (

Chapter 1 - Nighty Night, Zel-kun!

Somewhere in the busy royal palace of Sailoon, Amelia Wil Tesla Sailoon, crown princess of Sailoon, found some time to take a well-deserved break. Her father, Prince Philonel, had gone on another one of his countrywide journeys, seeking to punish evildoers, right wrongs, and spread peace and justice throughout his country. Surprisingly, the 20-year-old princess didn't go with her father on his country-wide trek, and was left to sort through piles and piles of paperwork dealing with foreign affairs, citizens' rights, living conditions of servants, proposal offers from a wide variety of young men, death threats from the lovers of the aforementioned young men, etc. etc.

To put it in a simple, abridged version, she was exhausted.

So here she sat, in a cool, quiet parlor of the many cool, quiet parlors in the palace, slowly licking at a melting bowl of Sailoon's finest soft-serve strawberry ice cream, letting her thoughts wander to wherever they pleased. She watched as her thoughts picked their way carefully among the flowers and bunnies and pretty pink things of her imagination, sighing contentedly at the nice serenity.

A sudden flash of red, like the light reflecting from a ruby, caught her eye and wrenched her out of her daydreaming. She looked around the parlor to see if anyone was there, and, upon not finding anything, dismissed it as her imagination. Still, the red reminded her of something...

Puddles, pools of blood, splashes of blood, a whole bloody mess. In the center of it lay a figure, so drenched in blood it was hard to make out the face...

Her mother. Oh god, it was her mother lying in a pool of spreading dark red blood, a stain spreading across the floor like a disease. Her mother, with a long, curved dagger that was so violently thrust into her, tearing through her pretty white dress so stained with red now, and then on to rip the flesh apart, hitting a crucial vein and more blood bursti--

Amelia snapped out of her flashback so violently that her ice cream bowl flipped over, flinging the spoon across the quiet, peaceful parlor and sticking it to the wall before it slipped down and landed with a clatter that seemed to slice through the pacific atmosphere of the parlor. In left behind a dirty light red smear, like a bird smashed against the wall and leaving a blo--

Stopping herself once again, Amelia forced herself to think happy thought. Her mind whizzed by all the usual, coming to a screeching halt as it passed by something that wasn't pink and fluffy, but rather blue and rough, something that had not crossed the path of her busy, whirling mind recently.

Zelgadis-san, I wonder how he's doing now? Is he still searching for his cure? Or has he found it already? Maybe he's near Sailoon and might decide to stop by, or maybe he's thinking of me and doing that this very moment!

Cheered by that thought, Amelia quickly cleaned up her mess and went back to work, humming a song some might recognize as Sasurai.

* * * * *
In some desolate corner near Sailoon, Zelgadis sneezed, sending up a larger cloud of dust than the one he currently had his head in. He tossed aside another ancient book in another ancient library. It landed on a pile of similar books, which, unbalanced, toppled from a four-foot-high stack to a growing collection on the floor, knee-deep already.

Another empty search. Another empty search, and in just two days it would be ten years of searching for a cure for the cursed body 'that damned Rezo' gave him.

He sighed and shook his head, then stood up, knocking over another pile of books. He bent over to put some order in them, drawing his attention to his own hands. Looking at them, he saw what he's seen for the last ten years. Stone. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see himself, or what he's become.

All these years...and everything I've chased has left me emptier inside...

The broody chimera picked his sword off a pile of books, strapping it to his belt. Just about to leave, however, he sensed something moving behind a shelf with his heightened chimeric senses, followed by a slight feeling that he was being watched. He went to check on the noise, keeping a stony hand on the hilt of his sword, loosening it in its sheath a bit. He thought he saw a glint of red, like a ruby, over there. Quickly crossing the ancient chamber, he peered behind all the dusty shelves. Upon not finding anything, though, he dismissed it as his imagination.

But the red reminded him of something, like... robes, growing larger and billowing out like claws which wrapped around him, crackling with magical energy, squeezing him, transforming him...

Zelgadis blinked, then shook his head and decided to get out of the stuffy old room. He would get some fresh air and get the thoughts of another dead end out of his mind, and also to flush out the memory of hat fateful night he was turned into what he was today. Strangely enough, as soon as he thought that, thoughts of the fiery-haired sorceress with a temper to match the flames that spilled down her back appeared in his mind, startling himself. It had been five years, after all, and he actually missed the constant chatter that he normally would have strangled her for. He shook that thought away, and, just about to leave, his eyes were drawn to a book on the back shelf, one he must have missed seeing before. It was a plain brown book, covered in layers of dust. The cover was cracked with age, and it seemed to be wrapped in cobwebs. Zelgadis picked it up and slipped it into a bag with a few other items he acquired and pushed his way out of the books.

* * * * *
In some restaurant near the center of Sailoon, Lina Inverse sneezed as she dumped excessive amounts of pepper on her food. What the food actually was would be hard for anyone nearby to tell because it was covered with so many various spices, sauces, other dishes, etc. Of course, there wasn't anyone nearby to wonder what it was this flat-chested redhead in the center of the restaurant was eating because it was three hours past closing time and she and Gourry Gabriev, the tall blond swordsman with the vacant eyes, were the only ones left in the restaurant. So we needn't worry about that.

The poor (and indeed he was poor now) restaurant manager watched with intense disbelief as the two devoured every single dish placed before them as if the world was to end tomorrow and they wanted to eat all the food so it wouldn't go to waste. And he watched as his 'All-You-Can-Eat-For-A-Single-Silver-Piece' opening was eaten away, and all he had to show for it was two measly silver coins and a stack of dirty dishes that, between the cook, the three waitresses, and himself, would take until well past dawn to finish washing.

Nine-tenths full, the two with voids for stomachs walked out onto the night street. The stars shone brightly, for it was a clear night, though a slight chill wind passed through now and then, causing the torch lamps to flicker with it. In reaction to the chill, Gourry slipped a strong arm around Lina's slim shoulders and pulled her close, offering his body heat. She responded by slipping her gloved hand around his waist, the two snuggling close to shield each other from the wind as they set upon the task of finding a place to stay for the night.

Gourry's watchful fighter's eye kept an unwavering lookout around the deserted streets; wary of anything that might threaten his companion and himself. But it was a calm, peaceful night, nothing happening. So he allowed his usually idle mind to idle some more, letting it wander around heaps of food and food and more food and food and swords of light....

"Gourry...the Hikari no ken...yours now...take it...."

"But I can't...."

"TAKE IT!'s too late..."

The bladeless hilt of the famed Hikari no ken was shoved roughly into the young boy's hand as the fire blazed around them, hotter and hotter...

"Gourry? Are you all right?"

The tall swordsman looked down into large crimson eyes, laced with concern, and then gave a dopey grin.

"Of course I'm all right, Lina. Why wouldn't I be?"

Satisfied with this perfectly innocent reply matched with a perfectly innocent look, Lina tugged on his arm towards an inn at the side of the street.

"Then come on, we need a place to stay tonight!"

Laughing and following her, like he swore to her five years ago, Gourry ran after her as the two checked into separate rooms.

* * * * *


A young boy, clumsily hacking away at a tree with a small sword, murmuring his desires to become strong.


Tiny splinters of wood sprinkled into a tiny pile and marked an hour's worth of progress as he wiped the sweat from his dark hair.


A calm, confident voice spoke behind him.

"You wish to be strong, Zelgadis? I can grant you the power you seek. You will be completely transformed."

A tall man, dressed in red robes, his eyes closed in a peaceful state, stood behind the boy. He held a strange staff which glowed faintly, awaiting the boy's answer.


The staff thumped the ground, rings atop it clattering together, making an almost musical ringing. The glowing increased, magical energy crackled through the air.

Zelgadis suddenly woke up with a start, trembling and sweating. The dream came often, but it never failed to shake him up every single time. Actually, he didn't have that dream for quite a while now, thinking he'd nearly forgotten about it, but why did it suddenly come back now?

He shoved his bedroll off to the side and grabbed a stick, poking at the dying embers of the fire he had lit earlier, trying to get enough going to boil some water for coffee. However, his efforts were interrupted by a low humming that just barely hit Zelgadis's chimeric eardrums. He turned his head slowly back and forth, trying to pinpoint the exact location of the humming.

He turned and saw his pack. It was glowing faintly silver, and the humming seemed to intensify as he noticed the light illuminating the rotten log he had left his pack near. Of course that gained his attention.

Stick tossed aside, Zelgadis grabbed his pack and upended it, emptying the contents out. An enchanted knife, a shard of purple glass, three silver coins, and a book glowing silver fell out.

The humming grew more intense as he picked up the book; the glowing intensified. Suddenly, Zelgadis was no longer kneeling on the ground, examining the contents of his pack, but standing in a forest glade. The handle of a short sword was in his hands, but it was far heavier than it should be.

Then he got a close look at his hands.

Human. Human skin and flesh, instead of the usual blue stone and small pebbles.

He dropped his sword, staring at his hands in disbelief. He drew the nails of one hand across the back of the other, blinking as a beaded red line weeping blood appeared. He brought both hands up to feel his face and, still surprised, felt smooth, soft skin.

He started to laugh. It was a hysterical, high-pitched giggle bubbling up from the bottom of his throat. He fell into a cross-legged position on the ground next to his sword, poking at himself and giggling an inane giggle.

A jingling noise came from behind him. It was oddly familiar, but Zelgadis paid it no attention and continued poking at himself in his state of mental imbalance.

"You wish to be strong, Zelgadis?" questioned a deep, calm, disembodied-sounding voice.

Irritated, Zelgadis turned around, about to give whatever interrupted him a piece of his mind. Then he saw.

"R-Rezo! No! We killed you!"

The Red Priest seemed to pay no attention to him, but instead pointed his staff at the former chimera.

"I can grant you the power you seek. You will be completely transformed."

The staff glowed a dull red color, like it was caked with dried blood.


Zelgadis crawled backwards to his much too heavy sword, picking it up and bringing it in front of him. His grip wavered and slipped. But instead of hitting the ground, the sword was hit by a beam of red magic. It slowly floated up and turned on Zelgadis, then thrust forward.

An anguished scream tore through the peaceful night outside of Sailoon as the sword pierced Zelgadis's human skin, slashing through his vital organs, hacking apart his spine. It pinned him to the ground like a butterfly mounted on a display, then pulled out and slashed at him, again and again.

The sword, forest, and Red Priest all faded away as Zelgadis's life ebbed out, lying on the ground in a puddle of blood-stained dirt and clutching an old, dusty book with a cracked leather cover, a burned out fire at his side.

Nighty-night, Zel-kun...

Chapter 2 - Life is Wonderful?

Somewhere underneath the piles and piles of paperwork Amelia was working on, she heard someone come screaming into the courtyard about a mutilated body of a young man found lying by the main road leading into Sailoon. Sighing and climbing her way out, she thought she might as well take a break to take care of it.

Two guards flanking her the moment she stepped out of the pile of papers, for there have been rumors of an assassin, Amelia walked down the large hallways of the palace until she reached the courtyard door. She stepped outside and was greeted by another guard, who nodded to her and reported on what was found.

"Princess Amelia, a young man was found in a ditch by the main road of Sailoon. No form of identification was on him, although he is dressed as a sorcerer of the shamanism type, and a high-quality sword shows that he was also a skilled swordsman. His cause of death seems to have been some sort of fight. It's a bit of a nasty scene, I don't suggest you look."

He gave her a look of concern, which was ignored by the princess.

"I can handle it. Take me to it, I'll see for myself."

The guard sighed and led her through the courtyard and past a row of buildings used for various storage purposes to a small side building, where bodies that are found are inspected to determine cause of death. He opened the door and swept his hand in a motion indicating that Amelia could enter.

Once inside, the musty smell of death was heavy, despite constant cleaning of the room. There was a large table in the center of the room, a white cloth pulled over it. Something bulky lay beneath. An old man, whom she recognized as one of the doctors around who didn't use any magic in his practices, was standing at a counter at the back of the room, brewing some liquid over a small candle flame. Upon hearing her enter, he promptly spun around, knocking over a few empty glass beakers in the process.

"Oh, P-princess Amelia! I'm s-surprised to s-see you in here!" he stuttered out, while righting the beakers before they had a chance to fall and break. He put out the flame with his finger and shuffled around the table and put a hand on whatever was underneath the cloth, leaning on it.

"Wh-what can I d-do for you, P-princess?"

"I came to see the body, doctor," came Amelia's response. This obviously surprised the doctor, who sent a questioning glance at the guard. He received a shrug and a sigh in response.

"W-well, I don't think th-there's anything you can do ab-bout it, but if you ins-sist…"

He shuffled his way back around the table and lifted a corner of the cloth, hesitating a moment, then pulled it off, revealing what was beneath.

Amelia let out a slight gasp as she saw the body. He wore a complete suit of beige, consisting of long sleeves and pants, gloves, a large cape, and a hood. The front of his shirt was stained completely red, his stomach was split open. The blood was already dried, coating the table with a crusty layer like crumbling rust.

There was something oddly familiar about this man, but Amelia couldn't put her finger onto it. But then her eyes nearly fell out of her head and threatened to roll away as recognition finally hit her.

"Ze-ZELGADIS-SAN? Human? ….dead?"

She fell to her knees, a hand over her mouth, staring unblinkingly at the gaping wounds on him. The world felt like it was spinning, and a guard had to catch her before she hit the ground.

* * * * *

Lina awoke to a beautiful, sunshiney day. A bird was singing on her windowsill in the joy of just being, dim sounds of street merchants showing off their wares, and the sweet, sweet scent of breakfast wavered in from the dining area of the inn.

Then she awoke again to a pounding thunderstorm. Rain lashed against the outside walls, sounding like an angry death drum. Flashes of lightening lit the dark, gray morning, followed by thundering booms that shook the building from ceiling to foundation.

Wondering where this sudden spell of crappy weather came from, Lina yanked the covers further over her head, drifting back into her wonderful dreamland of food, riches, food, riches, and more food.

* * * * *

It really was a pathetic funeral

In fact, if Amelia hadn't demanded a burial, the scientists of Sailoon would have ripped Zelgadis's human body apart. It was rare they had a fresh specimen to study.

Well, most of the body was pretty much mutilated, anyway, so that ruined most of the point.

So Zelgadis had a funeral in Sailoon, of which five people attended: The princess of Sailoon, a gravedigger, and three heavily armed guards.

The thunderstorm poured on and on, as if the sky was weeping for the human turned chimera turned human. At least it seemed that way to Amelia, who was crying so much that her tears soon ran dry. But that was okay, because the rain made up for it by keeping her face wet.

Shovel after shovel of thin, runny mud slopped onto a fairly cheap coffin. A canteen that held one of Amelia's bracelets lay inside, along with the body. It was the only thing left after his sword, money, and magical items Zelgadis carried were all taken and donated to Sailoon's charities.

Well, almost the only thing left.

When all that was left to see was a mound of dirt and a gravestone with nothing more than "ZELGADIS GRAYWOODS" carved in ugly block letter on it, the gravedigger left. Amelia, now kneeling at the mud because she hadn't the strength to stand, clutched tightly in her hands an old brawn book, the only thing she found with Zelgadis that she managed to salvage.

"Princess, we must leave now," one of the guards said, gently nudging the princess.

But Amelia didn't move. She stayed right where she was, in the cold, sloppy mud, unwilling to leave Zelgadis lying cold and alone in a wooden box a few feet underground. He'd been cold and alone a good part of his life, and didn't need her just walking off to leave him again.

It wasn't until the guard scooped up the wet and miserable girl and took her inside that she fell into a fitful sleep in her bed, clutching a silver book.

* * * * *
Gourry slept.

Gourry slept and drooled.

Gourry slept and drooled and snored.

Gourry slept and drooled and snored, but because he is of lower intelligence, we're not sure what he was dreaming about, or if he even dreams at all.

Gourry slept.

* * * * *
A silver book glowed under the covers as Amelia slept. But it didn't just glow, it pulsed and throbbed and hummed, all but donning a tutu and tap-dancing on the moon. And while the book's magic was working, Amelia dreamed. Memories buried in her subconscious resurfaced and replayed for her.

I hate this, I hate this, I'M LEAVING!

Koi ni koi suru, onna no koni wa…damn it, why do I have to do this?!

That's because I'm one-third human, one-third golem, and one-third b--ow……

Amelia, how much do you weigh?

…I'll think about it…

Each scene of the chimera's interaction with her played back, over and over, reminding her of what once was but now gone.

Amelia woke right when she was handing Zelgadis her bracelet, making him promise to return it in five years time, regardless of his current situation. Sitting up in bed, she sighed and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, looking around her room for a bit of comfort.

Her room was dark; it was in the early hours before dawn, so she didn't see much beyond her bed. A shaft of moonlight shone through her open window, however, conveniently illuminating an old family portrait.

It was drawn when she was young, so young that she hardly remembered it even being done. Her father, Prince Philonel, stood in the back, bushy-mustached and looking a justice-filled as usual. A young girl, Gracia, stood next to him. Amelia barely remembered her, either, because she ran away not too long after the painting was done. And in the center, holding a young toddler that was herself was….

Amelia      noticed something wrong here. Where her mother was supposed to be standing, holding her, smiling, was no more than a faceless, faded, and vague figure.

Wondering just how tired she was, Amelia closed her eyes, then looked at the picture again. No, whatever was happening was still there. And not just still there, it was getting worse.

While she stared at the faded spot, her face practically pressed into it, it seemed to fade more and more, until it was completely gone. Not a trace of it. All that was left was a dark-haired toddler, seemingly floating on nothing.

And that was the last thing she saw as the canvas was torn through from behind, right where the floating baby princess was placed, by a rather sharp knife. The tip of the knife broke through Amelia's forehead, cracking through her skull and severing the tissue of her brain.

Life is wonderful? Ah, quite the contrary, ne?

Chapter 3 - Ano......

Mmmm...a big, floating, roast chicken...better eat it before Lina tastes so, it doesn't. It tastes bad. Really really bad. So bad, I must be dreaming.

Gourry woke up. He rubbed his eyes, taking a moment to remember that he was at an inn. An inn in Sailoon, actually. He and Lina checked in last night to separate rooms (which he still didn't understand, because it was a lot cheaper to stay in one room than two. Besides, he'd seen lots of 'bodyguards' stay in the same room as the one they're protecting...)


A big, shiny book was sitting on the nightstand. How it got there and who put it there, Gourry didn't know. Actually, those questions never even occurred to him.

He flipped himself over so he was lying flat out and facing the pretty book and stayed there, staring at it for a little while.


All right, a LONG while.

In fact, it was such a long while that he had fallen asleep staring at that pretty silver light....

Hey, where'd that book go? Oh, I fell asleep. Hey! It's that tasty-looking roast chicken again! I was eating it...but then I stopped...oh yeah, it's because it tasted really bad. Hey, maybe it'll taste better in a few more bites...

Gourry didn't remember waking up. Then again, he doesn't remember much, so nothing's out of the ordinary about that.

Ano.....was that poison I put in your food? Gomen!

Chapter 4 - Roses Are Red...

Gone. They were all gone.

It was hard to think of them like that. Sure, they're been apart for years, but they had promised to all meet back at Sailoon one day. They were always there, but never...gone.

Lina had lost them before. It was years ago, when Hell master Phibrizzo, the psycho 10 year old-looking Mazoku, had decided to use the city of Sairaag as his playground. He took all her friends, killing them one by one until she was forced to use the forbidden, near-uncontrollable spell, the Giga Slave, to take him out and bring her friends back.

That had almost ended in disaster, and would have resulted in the destruction of the world, but the legendary Lord of Nightmares stepped in and took Lina away from her friends.

But Gourry took her back. Gourry, the fool he was, chased after L-sama and dared to take Lina back. He had succeeded, and brought Lina back to her friends.

And now she couldn't return him the favor.

Lina had come down for breakfast late that morning, just as a really bad storm had cleared up. She was halfway through her buttered toast and eggs when she overheard two women talking at the table behind her.
"'s really a shame, isn't it?"

"Yeah, I wish they would find out who did it soon..."

"To think, someone murdering a girl, much less the princess of Sailoon..."

Lina had choked on her bacon then, and for one of the few times in her life, she forgot about her food. It was left lying on her plate as she rushed outside to find the nearest posting of news.

There, right outside the inn, papers posted all over the wall, papers telling of new shops opening, of lost pets, of upcoming festivals...

And there, right in the middle, a poster about the death of Princess Amelia Wil Tesla Sailoon.

It didn't say much, at least not enough for Lina. It was just an announcement, stating that the princess has been murdered, and a public funeral would be held X day at X place, and a nice drawing of the Princess. Further down the paper was a statement that the murderer was unknown and follow-up reports would be posted soon. Not near enough to satisfy Lina Inverse.

She had turned and started to go inside to get Gourry when something else caught her eye.

Once a week, an obituary would be posted. A name, and occasionally a rough sketch of the deceased would be listed, and today just happened to be the day when one was posted.

It was just a quick drawing, obviously by someone not very skilled at portraits and probably just looking to make a quick sack of coins. But it was enough for Lina to recognize a humanesque Zelgadis. If she hadn't, then the name "ZELGADIS GRAYWOODS" written next to it would have clued her in.

Lina had cared for Zelgadis, and she could tell he cared for her as well. IN the last five years, he's managed to get several letters to her, no matter where she was. They were nearly all alike, saying that he had not yet found a cure, where he would be staying by the time the letter reached her in case she found a lead and wanted to give it to him, and that he was looking forward to the group's reunion in Sailoon. Yes, Zelgadis had cared for her, and he'd obviously found his cure, and he DID make it to Sailoon for the reunion.
As if the death of one extremely close traveling companion and friend wasn't enough.

Oh yeah, it was enough for Lina. Now she was going to Gourry's room, wake him up, and leave Sailoon. They'd stay a few nights outside the white magic capital, and come back in time for the group's reunion. Amelia and Zelgadis would both be fine.

"Gourry? Are you up yet? We're leaving."

Lina's question had not received an answer. She took the silence as a 'No' and knocked loudly, calling out again.

"Gourry! Wake up! We're leaving now!"

By now Lina's short temper and patience had maxed out, and she decided to resort to something more effective than shouting through a piece of dead tree.

She kicked the door down.

Then she went inside, Lina didn't see Gourry still sleeping. She didn't see him up and getting ready. She didn't even see him on the ground, trying to get a rat to come out of a hole in the wall. She didn't see him at all.

"...GOURRY!!" she saw him.

He was lying behind the bed, so that you had to come in and walk around to the other side of the room to see him.

Not that anyone would really want to see his ashen, swollen face, his open, unseeing eyes staring straight ahead, his stiff hands pressed against an open mouth where a deep crimson, nearly black foam was dripping.

And now, here she was, sitting in the corner of his room, and looking over a book she found on the table.

There was nothing on the cover of the book. There was nothing on the first page. There was nothing on the second page. In fact, there was nothing on any of the pages as Lina flipped through.

No, that wasn't right. There were words the second time she looked through the book, words that formed a poem, written on the first page:

Four little indians chopping at a tree,
One got sliced up, and then there were three.
Three little indians taking photographs of you,
One photo faded, and then there were two.
Two little indians eating and having fun,
One was poisoned, and then there was one.
One little indian reading all alone,
She went and picked a rose,

This confused Lina, as it made no sense to her. But as she continued looking through the book, more words came into focus, red lettering burning their way across the silver pages before fading into brown.

If you are reading this, Lina-san, then it would only mean that I've successfully killed off your friends. And if my timing is right, just before your reunion in Sailoon. I imagine you should be very grieved and angry at me now, and would kill me without a second thought - if you could, that is. Sigh. I know you don't consider me a friend - a hardly trustworthy ally at times, perhaps - but surely not a friend. And you understand you are the same to myself, nothing more than a tool that I use when I need, and discard when I do not.

The time thing group has been traveling together has been most entertaining. Countless laughs, satisfying meals, endless entertainment. But, sadly, you became dull. That's too bad.

Tooooooooo bad.

See, I decided to have one last bit of fun. And what other way to have one last bit of fun that to kill you all?

So in parting, I leave you another poem as a gift:

Roses are red,
A deep crimson hue,
Just like the blood,
That will drip from you.
Enjoy! ^_^

The rest of the pages were blank, and what was written had started to fade away, like the burned-out embers of a fire. Lina closed the book and stared at it, the silver glow fading into dull, cracked leather. She sat against the wall, clutched the book, not really seeing or feeling anything. He tired, unfocused eyes closed as she drifted off to sleep, mostly from exhaustion of too much emotion before breakfast.

* * * * *

Floating in the darkness
Seeing nothing
Hearing nothing
I open my eyes
Trying to see something
But something I never see
I reach out my hands
Trying to feel something
But something I never feel
Floating in the darkness
Floating in oblivion

Lina looked around, seeing nothing. She leaned forward and had a vague sense of movement, but in what direction she couldn't tell. Just ahead of her, a tiny pinpoint of light appeared, like a flickering star, and then died out. Something was better than nothing, so Lina leaned in that direction.

As she neared the spot where the light seemed to appear, Lina could still see nothing. She continued pressing forward, not having much sense of direction or space. She knew that if she kept going in one direction, sooner or later she had to reach something.

Up ahead, there was a single rose. It was floating, like her, in the midst of emptiness. Desperate for something real to cling to, Lina reached out and snatched at the rose. It bit her finger, and tiny droplets of blood oozed out. They didn't fall; rather, they floated out around the rose before thinning out and fading away.

As Lina transferred the rose to her other hand, she poked her bleeding finger into her mouth and sucked on it, the blood having that taste of iron and dirt, like unwashed vegetables.

When her bleeding finger stopped, Lina held the rose carefully, with two fingers between the sharp thorns. As she examined the soft, red petals, though, she felt another prick, and another, and another. Her gaze shifted down to her hand, where the thorns of the rose had grown, the stem crawling down her arm.

Lina was oblivious to the pain as the tugged and pulled at the rose with her free hand, but as she did the thorns bit deeper, halfway up her arm now. There was nothing she could do to stop it from cutting through her flesh and dripping blood, all of which hung, poised in the air, as if waiting for a signal before dissolving into the darkness.

Now it had reached her shoulder, and Lina thought for a moment that it was going straight for her neck, but it seemed that as she thought this, the stem of the rose changed its path and curled around her body. It grew three more branches, one spreading down her other arm, and one to each leg, the main stem staying at her shoulder. At the same moment, when she was completely twisted within the sharp, bloodthirsty thorns of the rose, all tightened at once, biting deep and cutting through her.

She was still alive, however, her will strong. Even as she hung, bleeding to death, she recognized the eyes that appeared in sharp focus, contrasting against the darkness blurred by the red of her own blood. Her mouth moved, for she had no breath after the thorns had cut her throat open, but the name was on her lips as the last of her life's blood drained from her.

Roses are red, just like you, and you will be dead, dripping a deep crimson, I need to work on my poetry...

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