I fall asleep and the dreams come again, no doubt borne of my restlessness earlier in the day. You did not want the rest then, they taunt, so you do not get it now.

Take it or leave it; use it or lose it. Only now, it is my mother's voice talking over her cut of brandy, and the sound of something sizzling on the stove is in the background. Something delicious, do doubt; fancy and special, made because I had nothing else to do with my time.

Use it or lose it.

A clock chimes from somewhere, and I look around; suddenly, I am alone. There is nothing cooking, no mother at the table, no cat rubbing itself against the chairs. Their shadows sit distinctly in the corner, and I wonder where the substance of them has gone. Did I neglect them too much; lose them through a lack of caring? That cannot be right, because surely if they were gone, I would be gone, too. Yet it seems possible, because the room is growing darker, the shadows advancing, ready to add one more to their ranks.

I am scared; I am terrified, what will happen when, on top of having no belongings and no identity, I have no form? Will I truly be forgotten, then, or is that how I have reached this point: no one cares enough about anyone but themselves that all people cease to exist?

No, I insist silently, that couldn't happen; people care. I care, about me, yes, but also about others: my family, my cat, even the nameless chicken that had gone into that skillet on the stove. And even if I do not care enough, surely someone does; Moira must. With the two of us, we can combine our caring and bring back everything we want.

The door opens and I look, expecting Moira to come through, glowing and laughing as she used to. But she is not there; it is only shadows, more shadows, replacing everything I know. They are chanting something to me: 'take me with you,' perhaps, or 'join us as we go.' I do not answer—one cannot converse with shadows, after all. Instead, I run once more through the woods.

I run far enough that the shadows are no longer there, but I find myself hopelessly lost. I had never been all that good at direction, and I am completely alone. There is a fallen log a short way off; I walk to it and sit on it. If I try hard enough, perhaps I can pretend that I am a young child again playing make-believe in the woods, or even a teenager out on a picnic with her best friend.

The scene changes, and instead of a log, I find myself sitting on my bed. Moira is there too, and we are both dressed up—she in her bunny suit, and I in my spangles—and we're telling each other everything we've missed.

"Tell me," she says, "do you love him?"

I know without a doubt that it is Nick she is referring to, not the Commander, and I roll my words over in my mind before saying them.

"What is love, Moira?" I ask. "I had it once; or at least I thought I did: Luke and I together, knowing each other's thoughts and feelings without even having to ask. That was back when we were still equal, back before he owned me."

I pause, unsure for a moment of how to go on.

"With Nick, it's so unclear whether either of us owns the other, or if we're just borrowing each other for the night. With Nick, it's simply a kiss, a touch, a look, a fuck; that's all there is to it. It used to add up to more when I was with Luke, or perhaps I'm imagining things. Perhaps all love ever was for me was a series of practiced actions. If love is the feel of skin, the warmth of breath, the sound of heartbeats, the knowing someone is there without asking possession, then I've found it. We should be equal, Nick and I, because neither can have leverage over the other, but that doesn't seem to be an issue. I feel as if we simply are."

Moira nods slowly, puffing on one of the cigarettes the always seems to be able to procure.

"What about you?" I ask, not wanting to discuss the topic any further—I've already said much more than I should have. "Have you managed to find love?"

Moira barks a sharp laugh and takes another drag on her cigarette, savoring the smoke.

"Love?" she asks with disdain. "Where would I find love, and even if I did, what would I do with it?"
"If you fell in love," I chastise her in a friendly manner, "you wouldn't need to ask."

"I'm not falling into anything but disrepair," says Moira, and as I look at her, I have to not that it's true: she looks older than the last time I saw her.

"What is love?" she asks, "Didn't you ask that earlier; didn't you want to know?"

I know better than to answer; Moira just wants to talk here, and it was rhetorical, anyways.

"Maybe love isn't what you mentioned earlier because it cannot be found in those motions, maybe love isn't at all; maybe love is just a daydream we have to make ourselves feel happier and important."

"But love has to be real," I say, "look what I had with Luke!"

"Then why can't you remember his face anymore," she asks, "why are his features blurring with Nick's?"

I have no answer, so she comes up with one for me.

"Love is nothing but a sentimentalist's notion," she says, "and now that you're no longer sentimental, you can no longer feel any love."

"But what about you?" I long to ask, "didn't you ever have a time when you felt like being sentimental?" but she has left, and all that remains of her is a faint smell of smoke.


As always, crits = love. Uh, figuratively speaking, or something like that. Also, two points to anyone who can guess how I was feeling when I wrote this.