Content Note: Brief mentions of gender policing.
I own nothing.
She's having the dreams again. Akemi Homura, pale, sickly, hospital-bound, has had recurring dreams off and on, for her whole life.
There are creatures, great, hulking creatures lurking in the shadows or nestled in the midst of a nest of un-reality. Lovecraft himself could not have envisioned forms so grotesque as what Homura sees in the hazy world of her dreaming. They seem to wish to devour the world, to take everything into themselves and make it theirs. Homura hears their voices in he head, urging, whispering.
'Come to me, my love.'
'Why don't you just die?'
'You never did care for anyone but yourself, did you?'
'You tore the world apart over a stupid schoolgirl crush.'
'Why don't you just die right now?'
These voices press in on Homura's head, screaming and burning, leaving her feeling as though her head will split in two. But then, there's a gentler voice. A voice of infinite kindness, which says, 'No, it's alright. There's no more need for despair, Homura-chan.'
The creatures vanish, evaporating like mist confronted by the sunlight. In their places are bright flashes of light, blue and gold and red and pink. Young girls, about Homura's age now, striking the darkness and all the despair in it to pieces. One is bitten by living darkness and falls to it, her head tipped back in a soundless scream. Their faces look familiar to Homura, so achingly familiar. She feels as though she should know them, feels as though she's been reunited with a long-lost childhood friend when she sees them.
But she doesn't know their names.
It all evaporates again, and Homura is standing before a smooth, dark mirror. And in that mirror she sees herself, but different.
'You don't remember, do you?' her reflection whispers. 'You are an egg, waiting to hatch. One day—"
Homura wakes up with tears on her face.
Oh, not again, she thinks to herself fretfully, dabbing at her cheeks and eyes with her bed sheet and reaching for her glasses. I don't understand why I always wake up crying after having that dream. Homura checks her cheeks for wetness, and upon finding only dry skin, nods. Good. She tries to put thoughts of the dream from her mind.
Today is her last day in the hospital (At least until my heart starts acting up again, and they stick me right back in the hospital, she reflects gloomily). Homura has been in the hospital off and on her entire life, missing school, missing the passage of time, missing out on life altogether. This has been one of the longest stints so far, one spanning several months. She's quite glad to be leaving.
A couple of days ago, Homura heard a couple of the nurses whispering about her—they must think she's deaf as well as disabled. They were commenting in pitying tones about how Homura never gets any visitors. 'Oh, poor thing. Oh, poor dear. She's been completely forgotten here.'
Like that's a bad thing.
In truth, Homura doesn't really want any visitors. She has no family, no close friends—no friends at all; it's not like she ever had enough time to make friends, in the long cycle of going to school and then back to the hospital. But in the dream—No, don't think about that! You'll start crying again, and the nurse will just start… She draws a deep breath, sitting on the edge of her bed and brushing her bangs and forelocks with a comb; the rest of her hair's bound in braids and doesn't need brushing.
Homura has no family. She has no friends. The only people who would visit her would look on her with pity for her frail body and disdain for her infirmity. Homura tries her best to be polite and not get angry at anyone, under any circumstances; she's a girl and she's supposed to be sweet and kind, after all (At least, that's what the nurses tell her). But Homura has little tolerance for pity, and even less for disdain. She doesn't think she could stand it if she was confronted with both at the same time.
Soon, very soon, Homura will be starting at Mitakihara Middle School. She'll be out of this hospital soon enough; she doesn't see why she should be so concerned about a lack of visitors. Homura smiles brightly at her calendar, but that smile fades a little bit almost immediately afterwards.
If there's anything Homura is worried about, it's how she'll do at school. She's so far behind, and she's always heard that eighth grades is the grade when everything starts to pick up, school-wise. Will she be able to succeed? Will she fit in? Will she be able to make any friends? Or will she just make a complete hash of it, like she has before?
No, don't think about that either. If you start thinking you're going to fail, than you certainly will. Just… just don't think about that.
But Homura can only shove so many thoughts out of the forefront of her mind at once, and eventually, something has to leak through.
The dreams, then.
These dreams have come to her off and on her whole life, even back from that hazy time when her parents were still alive. These weird dreams have been a fixture of Homura's life for as long as she can remember. But lately, the dreams that had once been vague and ill-defined are growing more vivid, more lifelike. It all seems close at hand and less and less like a dream.
I've never seen any of those monsters. I've never met any of those girls. I don't see how any of it could be real, but it seems so vivid. It—
Pain clefts Homura's skull in two; her comb hits the floor with a clatter as she clutches the sides of her head. Just as soon as the pain erupts, it vanishes, but leaves Homura weak and shaking, leaves her changed.
"It was real," she gasps feverishly. "It has to have been. I can remember now. I remember fighting, I remember holding a gun in my hand. Their names… What were their names?"
Then, a purple glint catches Homura's eye.
A purple gem in the shape of an egg sits in the windowsill across the room. It gleams bright with a dazzling light, but that light seems to pulse and emanate from within the stone itself, rather than a simple reflection of the morning sunlight outside. Strands of purple light dance on the ceiling like an aurora.
Homura slides from her bed, uncaring of how cold the floor is beneath her feet, uncaring of the way her nightshirt slips from one shoulder. "That's right," she murmurs dreamily. "That was mine." Every step takes her closer to the windowsill. "It was mine, back when… back when…"
Her fingers curl around the cool stone, and Homura stares down at the gem for a moment. It looks like something a girl would latch to her cell phone or the strap of her purse, but it's so he. What is it…
Suddenly, a blinding pulse of light flashes from the gem.
Then, it starts.
Pain unfurls in Homura's chest this time, hot and burning. Homura's legs give way beneath her and she collapses to the floor, struggling to draw breath, sure that she's having one of her attacks. She tries to call for help, but her voice is quite, quite gone.
Bursts of light explode in front of her eyes. The pain in her chest splinters and shatters, flowing through her blood to every inch of her. This must be what dying is like, she thinks, and indeed, Homura is dying, in a way. Her consciousness as an innocent girl is going away.
It all crashes back on her in an instant. Tomoe Mami, Kyubey, Soul Gems, Witches, Miki Sayaka, timelines, Sakura Kyouko, blood, fire and water, time bending backwards, truth, Walpurgisnacht, Kriemhild Gretchen, a struggle never to be won…
The Akemi Homura who existed up until this moment die sin a harrowing moment of dread and despair. She who rises in her place remembers everything.
She remembers everything.
Homura wakes up in the hospital for the last time, with the weight of the upcoming month, relived countless times, sitting on her shoulders. She awakes to find that the work she had devoted an eternity's worth of effort to has been irrevocably undone.
And Madoka is dead. No, worse than dead, because she will go on existing for the rest of time, and Homura will only see her again at the moment of her own death.
Everything I struggled for… Everything I lost… Every time I watched her die… And for it all to end like this?
Homura curls into herself, shaking on the cold floor, howling, utterly desolate.
All has been undone.