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Calponia sat on her bed, surrounded by sunflowers

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Calponia sat on her bed, surrounded by sunflowers. They grew up straight up from the floor, from the walls.

"I always loved sunflowers. They have such dark hearts, fringed by tangible sunshine."

She looked to her right. A man sat next to her on the bed. He could have been her twin brother. Melvin caught her eye and smiled.

"Am I dead?"

Melvin pursed his lips. "I wouldn't say that no. You've lost yourself."

Her pulse tripped. She remembered now, the pain, the indescribable pain as Henderson forced her into the barrier surrounding the heart. "What's happening? What happened to the Edgewise?"

"Well that depends on you," said Melvin. Shadows moved across the eyes.

"Who are you really?"

His features shimmered. Calponia stared into a dark mirror of herself. She looked into the yawning pits of her eyes and knew.

"You're me, the part of me that is the bête noire."

Her darker self took her hands, her thumbs rubbing circles along the side of her wrists. "You must wake up, Calponia. I can't exist without you. None of it can exist without you."

Warmth trickled down her face. Tears splashed down on her lap. "Are you sure we should exist?"

How easily Henderson used her in the end. She did exactly what he wanted. Now that she knew what she was, how was she safe to be around anyone?

Someone pounded on the bedroom door.

"Who is that?" Calponia sniffled.

The bête noire brushed her hair behind her ear with pitch black fingernails. "Two entities that longed to be human. Do remember what we wished for?"

"You wanted to live," said Calponia. That desperation filled her now. A ferocious need to survive that kept her chained to this mortal coil, no matter what the cost. She thought it was a selfish desire.

The bête noire raised a brow. "It is the desire of all mortal beings. Can you honestly say humans don't cling to life with everything they have?"

"They also sacrifice themselves for the greater good," said Calponia. The pounding grew louder, more insistent. She frowned at the door. Who was trying to reach her here?

"Do you want to live Calponia?"

Her attention swiveled back to her other self. She remembered all her doubts, her fears, and that terrifying moment when the bête noire's power destroyed the Krakens. She was capable of decimating something so powerful. That potential for disaster would always be a part of her, it was who she was. Wouldn't it be safer for everyone, including the Edgewise, if she ended here? Probably.

"Yes," said Calponia, "Yes, I want to live."

Her doppelganger's hands slammed down on her shoulders, giving her a hard shake. "Then remember what your other half wished for, you silly twit!"

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