"I wish you would never have shown me that picture of that frakkin' mandala. I dream about it and that bastard Leoben every godsdamn night. I feel like I'm losing my mind here."

the first night

The frigid air was seeping through her thin blanket. She curled her feet and legs closer and adjusted the blanket. Eyes open now, she stared at the distant wall. Not a gray metal bunk--it's the wall she'd painted in her Delphi apartment.

The mandala was like a black hole, pulling in the light and her attention. She could feel her heartbeat quicken, her muscles tighten. Before, she had painted or drawn the mandala, calmed by recreating the image she'd seen since... forever. Now her anxiety was heightened just by looking at it.

Feeling dizzy, she pulled the blanket over her head. She heard his voice then: "Don't turn away." She didn't look; instead she gripped the blanket tighter and woke up gasping for air.

the second night

The chair was cold against her skin in the blank room. She was drawing on white paper, small fingers trying to keep a grip on the colors. When she kicked her legs against the chair, her feet didn't reach the floor. She traced a red circle around the blue center then switched to a yellow crayon.

"That's right," he said, looking at the paper. "Keep drawing."

"Is it good?" Her high-pitched voice sounded eager.

"It's very good." He handed her another blank page when she finished the pattern.

the third night

Light shimmered into the room. She shivered as she looked at his body, red encircling it, the bright beams dancing around it on the pale floor. The shady side of the New Caprica apartment felt like a cave as she walked back and forth in the chill. Staring at his blue shirt she gasped when she saw it--the blue, red and yellow design made with his body and blood and the light. His eyes were open, glazed over. She looked at her blood-covered hands and folded them tightly across her chest.

He stepped into the room then, face calm. Walked over to her, gently pulled her hands apart. "That body was just a shell for him." The statement startled her. "You see it again, don't you?" She nodded.

"Don't look away." Staring at the colors of the mandala, she blinked as she drifted awake. Her hands were trembling; she stumbled down the hallway to the enlisted head and washed her hands until the skin tingled.

the fourth night

Cold. Sitting cross-legged on the hard floor, she stared at the mandala on the wall in front of her. Leaning forward she traced the hard ridges and swirls of the dried paint with the tips of her fingers. She tried scratching the paint off the wall but her short fingernails could get no purchase on the slick surface.

Grabbing a paintbrush from the floor, she used the handle to scrape, but the colors she had once slathered on the wall in a frenzy didn't budge. She stood and punched the wall in frustration, sobbing aloud. Her legs buckled and she sat again, wrapping her arms around her knees and leaning her head forward.

He came in and sat next to her. He leaned in close--this was familiar--and whispered her name. Placing his hands on her shoulders--this was new--he traced small circles on her shoulders and back. She hunched lower and tried to disappear while his warm hands created mandalas on her skin through her shirt. When she tried to scratch the walls again he grabbed her hands and held them tightly until she woke up.

the fifth night

It was important to him--to it. She wanted to destroy the image, bury it so deep that no one would ever see it again. Her anger at seeing it consumed her. The cold white paint coated her hands; she was obliterating herself, too. She knew that he'd try to stop her. Throwing the paint against the wall, her fingers created arcs of colorlessness.

He stepped behind her, breath hot on her neck as he whispered; his fingers warm on her wrists as he pulled her hands away from the wall. She wanted to kill him, to frak him and disappear; he was warm and she was so tired and cold. Even as they fell to the floor she was staring at it, its colors reappearing.

It never goes away, not even when she does.