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I was the only person on the bridge when the distress call arrived. I stared at my glowing phone screen underneath the gray and hazy sky. Several texts had come in. I read them one by one.
She needs you.
I leaned against the rotting wood of the bridge and closed my eyes for a moment. A breeze swept across my face, teasing the tears at the corners of my eyes to tremble and trickle down my cheek. I wiped my face with the back of my hand and rode off on my bike as lavender and taffy clouds bled across the horizon.
The house was a concoction of peeling butterscotch paint and ivory shutters. I stared at its exhausted stoop and laid my bike against the squeaky deck railing. The front door opened and my best friend’s mother, her face a collage of puffy red and stern white, gestured for me to enter.
Rem’s bedroom was unusually silent. The band and movie posters had faded long ago and only white-streaked paper remained. The desk had crumpled notebook papers and broken pencils littered across its surface, appearing like a ravaged forest gasping on its side.
The worst sight was Rem. Her copper colored skin clung to her bones like paper to wet glass. Around her head like a melting halo, her glossy black hair was crumpled on her pillow. When her dark eyes lifted and met mine, a tiny gasp escaped from my mouth.
“Avalon?” she whispered. Her hand twitched on the blanket, beckoning me forward.
“Rem, don’t look now but there’s a beautiful girl in bed,” I said, sitting down on the edge of her bed.
Rem grabbed my hand with her frail, cold one and smiled a little. Her mouth trembled in place before falling back into the heavy frown. “You flirt.”
I grinned and squeezed her hand. A sob thrust against my throat and my lungs filled with the thick scent of death. I forced myself to look directly into her brown eyes and not notice the purple crescents weighing down on her bottom eyelids. I noticed the two pretty peaks that lifted her top lip towards her rounded nose, and not the way the darkness around her grew thicker as the lights in her eyes dimmed.
“I need you,” Rem exhaled. She let her cheek fall against the pillow. “I need you to fight for me.”
I swallowed hard and replied with a stiff nod. I pulled the desk chair to the bed and relaxed in the chair as I slipped the blinking metal ring around my head. An identical silver machine sat on Rem’s head, blinking a dark red.
“Close your eyes,” I said, grabbing her hand.
An all consuming white replaced the bright pink of my eyelids. A single pop-up screen blinked at me. I willed my consciousness to reach out and accept the invite. Within moments, the white dropped away like a curtain and I entered Rem’s mind.
I stumbled into a snow-laden field surrounded by black evergreens that glared with black spikes and torn bark. When I breathed in, the acrid smell of smoke clawed its way into my lungs.
An old fashioned turquoise car slumped into the slushy mix of red dirt and gray snow. From the driver’s seat, a blazing tower of fire roared at the cobalt and marigold sky. Rem stood before the car, covered with a long lace dress and ankle boots. Her shoulders were stiff as she gazed silently as the brilliant exhibit before her.
“Rem?” I asked. When my hand landed on her shoulder, she whipped around. Black pits stared back at me. A body of swirling tangerine, canary, lime, and garnet wore Rem’s black bob and lace dress. My hand turned a dark sapphire at the contact with the moaning creature.
“Get away from Rem!” I screamed, tackling the creature and tossing them to the ground. “Leave her alone!”
The creature grew in size as I gripped its pulsing throat. My arms were quickly consumed with flaring violet and indigo. Its violent glow brought forth tears to my squinting eyes. The creature seized my waist and flung me towards the spiny obsidian trees. The needles gathered on the crisp snow bit into my palms as I crashed. The creature hurtled towards me and lifted its clawed hand to swipe across me.
“I LOVE YOU!” I screamed.
The creature faltered and its colors stopped swirling.
“I love you so much, Rem” I said, my voice cracking.
The creature bowed its head and dropped to its knees. As they hit the ground, honey-colored petals exploded into the air and I was transported to a sunflower field.
Rem laid on her side in a rolling sea of gold flowers. Her hair fluttered in the light breeze as she gazed at the folded sunflower beside her face. I approached her slowly, feeling the flowers bend and snap beneath me.
Rem continued gazing at the ground as she said, “I can’t find the light anymore.”
“It’s still there,” I said.
“I push and climb and I always end back in the cold mud,” she whimpered. “I’m always alone and forsaken.”
I knelt beside her. “You are not alone or forsaken. You’re just lost.”
Rem raised her brown eyes. They were tender like the soil beneath her. “Why is it impossible to escape this?”
“It’s not impossible. You just can’t do it alone.”
Rem reached out her hand. “Am I loved?”
As our hands met, our fingers intertwined. “So much.”
“Do I matter?”
“Don’t let go,” she whispered.
I kissed her forehead and said, “Never.”
The light of the sky softened to a pale pink and the sunflowers were whisked away as I scooped Rem into my arms. When we both woke up, Rem collapsed in my arms and cried.
“Thank you,” she said, her face pressed against my chest.
“Everything can be overcome,” I said, laying my head on top of hers and sighing.