It's the first thing you come to, before you even open your eyes.
There's a sharp ringing bouncing off the sides of your brain and your entire being is set aflame. It's a paradox — your body feels like death but your subconscious tells you that this suffering is proof that you are still flesh and blood.
Your eyes are barely adjusting to read the date when your problems kick in.
They begin with the face of a boy hovering over you.
He crops up like a phantom and you can't help but scream. In the haze of your mind, you recognize this reaction to be the result of what's called 'panic'. Before you know it, strangers are barging into the room asking you what's wrong.
But what scares you most isn't the fact that this boy has horns and he's defying gravity or that there are strangers talking to you as if they know you.
What scares you most is the silence in your head.
You don't know how you came here.
You don't know why you collapsed.
You don't know why these people have come here for your sake.
You don't know why they care enough about you to ask you if you're hurt.
You don't even know their names much less your own.
So how are you supposed to know whether or not you're okay?
You can barely draw the line between sanity and insanity, because no one else can hear this boy.
No one else can see him.
And even though he might be some kind of hallucination, you continue to talk to him as if he were a real person. You follow his guidance without question.
Because he's the only one who's willing to give you answers to your current predicament. Even if there's a possibility they are lies. Sure, maybe he really is a spirit from another world that only you can talk to. But whether or not he's a malevolent one or a benevolent one, you can only take the risk in trusting him. He's lending you a hand and the world he's weaving for you has a semblance of context. It's a world where someone like you can mimic the routine of living. And so you take it in and hold it tightly so that you can fill your emptiness.
This is fixable, Orion tells you.
You want to believe it.
You want to believe that one day you can be a girl again.
In the meantime, you continue to wear your plastic smile as the worlds of others continue to spin under your feet. You'd like to think it's so that you don't hurt the feelings of the people around you, when maybe it's really just to protect yourself.
The girl across you is pretty, you suppose. Small stature, fragile looking and rather delicate like a flower. Her doe eyes are a vibrant green shade, but all you can notice is how lacking they are as a human being. She's supposed to be your reflection, but you feel like you're looking at a television screen instead of a mirror.
Regardless, you feel attached to her in a way.
You want to know more about her, her dreams, and the places and people she loved.
You want to be her.
In your attempt to put the puzzle pieces together, though, you run into more paradoxes.
The object in your hand is a phone and you apparently know what it's for and how to use it. But you wouldn't know how to hold a conversation with anyone in your contacts list.
You know what a maid outfit is and you know that it's your work uniform, but you're not sure how to serve your customers.
And even if you feel like you've recalled a fragment of something, you're not sure what triggered it.
Memories are a strange thing.
They aren't empirical evidence like a video tape or a photo. With each one that you pick up, the confusion only grows bigger and bigger. Sometimes they'll match up with the memories of others. Sometimes they'll only contradict them. It gets to the point where you're not even sure if you can even trust those either. And it terrifies you. If you can't even trust those memories, then what do you have left?
At the very least, you used to think, you could trust the laws of nature.
A body that goes into flames can only come out as ashes.
A body will break at all sorts of angles when you toss it off a cliff.
A body is paper tissue thin in the face of a car going 45 miles an hour.
You're supposed to be dead.
But then you wake up and everything is the first of August all over again.
It's the same reaction each time.
Whether his eyes are red, blue, green, or gold. Whenever he draws close, you instinctively push him away and keep your distance. It's not that you're afraid of him or that you hate him. You'd like to think you're not cruel enough to hate someone you barely even know.
But it's understandable that he would think that.
He's supposedly the love of your life but you aren't meeting him halfway.
But you wished you could.
Oh, how you wished you could.
Because the portraits of the girl he painstakingly paints are beautiful.
A girl who's charmed men who could woo any woman with just a look or solve complicated math puzzles in the blink of an eye. She's saved some from the penance of isolation and at the same time taken shelter under their knights' oath.
She's incredibly lucky, in a way. To have the devotion of so many, though you're not sure what they see in her.
You've seen her face and while there's a certain charm to it, it's nothing special. She's no Helen.
But, you soon come to understand, they love her for her heart.
They love her for something you don't have.
And you can't help but be jealous of her even when you share the same face.
Because if you had her heart, then you'd have what it takes to share her happiness. You'd be closer to a semblance of a happily ever after.
In theory, she was you. So you should be able to become her.
But you're afraid of what you might feel if you allow yourself to sink in his passion.
The one in front of you is a man who loves her, so you should feel safe enough to trust him with the truth. Even in your condition, you know what intimacy is supposed to feel like. It's the ticklish delight of his breath on your skin and your reflection in his hungry eyes. It's electricity running down your bones and heat spreading through your fingers as your rhythm of your heartbeat accelerates.
What scares you most is that if you allow him to touch you, you will only register the sensation of flesh brushing against flesh and nothing more. And the subsequent emptiness in the place where a soul should be will be inescapable.
And then the suspicion you have about yourself will turn Orion's promise into lies and chain you to a reality that would surely break you.
That you do not have what it takes to become her.
That you're only just a human shaped container wearing the skin of his beloved.
Just a hollow object.
An 'it' that was never alive this entire time.
You suppose the throbbing ache you feel each time you see the hurt in his eyes is called guilt. Because when your reaper comes for you once more, you do not resist.
You close your eyes.
And you hope that he will still be there when you open them.
You hope that the wish you made on that shooting star many Augusts ago comes true and you've finally become a real girl.
You hope that if such a wish is impossible you never wake up ever again.