WITH TEETH

Prologue

His hands are rusted, mechanical things; blood caked in the webbings of his fingers, dirt clinging underneath his nails. His digits are frozen in talon-like formations – cold, deadly and unresponsive. He's unprepared – not a first. He would have brought a shovel or some gloves from the house if he had known he was going to kill her tonight. If he had more time, he would have better planned it; made it easier for both of them. If he had known she was running towards him. If, if, if.

He dug the grave himself, clawing at the earth like a dog. It's shallow. He knows she'll be found eventually. He's counting on it, for her soul's sake. He'd bury her properly if he had the time, if he could risk being found, if the sirens weren't sounding in the distance. Her pale and twisted limbs encased in sheer plastic lie beside him, lifeless and leaden, beside the weapon that ended her. A Lapith to his Centaur. Streaks of burnt red are cracked against the skin of her cheek, wandering from the wound at her temple to the white wisps of hair and her lips are parted slightly; her last breath cut short, his name on her lips as a whisper. He takes some solace in that he was the last person she ever saw, even if that honour was delivered by his own murderous hands.

Lightning rips across the sky overhead, slicing the sky in half and one by one, he hears the steady dripping of raindrops land on her makeshift plastic coffin. He never meant for this to happen, he can only hope it's not too late to fix it. He knows the powers of this place; and so, he knows its limits. If he was too late, if even by a hair's breadth, he'll never see her again. Never touch her again. Never see her face. Hear her voice. Her laugh.

Gently, he pulls her pale body into the earth, treating her flesh as if she were still alive – merely sleeping – and pressing a final kiss to her forehead, preparing for the worst. Amid suppressed sobs, he hastily covers her lifeless form with handfuls of earth, gradually burying his hope along with her. Finished, he sits back on his heels, stares up at the tempest with wet, ruddy cheeks and awaits the one ghost he fears will never appear to him.

Or never can.