Chapter Nineteen: Nothing Important

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From the darkness, a woman with long limbs stepped out onto an inky-black surface. Her hair billowed behind her, skin glowing like porcelain. She made no footsteps as she walked, and her only blemish on her naked body was the black, smoking scar stretched across her face.

Ash watched her as she approached him. He couldn't sense his own body, and discovered with dismay he had no hands when he lifted his arms up to check. He couldn't remember what he looked like, or even if he had a body to begin with. In a place like this, it was impossible to tell whether it was simply a dream or the threshold to a world unseen by mortals.

She stopped before him, a towering, intimidating presence. She could easily have been over eight feet tall, or Ash had shrunk in her very aura. She looked down at him, almost nothing but slender hips to discern her as female, but Ash knew who she was.

He just couldn't remember her name.

Who are you? He tried to ask, but no words would come, and they stuck to his throat like glue. Her form was blurry, obscured, and weirdly, shrinking, becoming his size. They faced each other, noses almost touching.

Ash's memory was denying him any information about her, which he knew was inside of him, but he couldn't even ask her who she was. He looked deeply into her eyes: the pupils were stark white, and the sclera white. Her scar pulsed and throbbed like a black artery, and one of her hands reached up to touch his face, right across the brow of his nose, where he knew something was missing from his own face, but he couldn't remember.

The woman pursed her lips and shushed him gently, her other hand closing around his shoulder and she pulled him towards her until their lips touched.

Nectar, a sweet honey bled into Ash as they kissed, covering his tongue and throat with a familiar sense he couldn't place in his memory. What was her name? The question seemed almost irrelevant as she cradled the back of his head with her hands, deepening the kiss they shared. Ash had never been more at peace than in that blackened void of nothing.

The woman finally pulled away and reached down to take his hands. He looked down as the skin appeared, fingers flexing in her gentle grasp. The glow ebbed from her flesh. His glow, his life seeped into his body from hers, but still she continued to smile as she faded into the darkness.

*****

The hospital ceiling was becoming an uncomfortable familiarity. Ash groaned at his pounding head and the cotton wool that clogged his senses. Through the muffle, a soft and rhythmic beeping could be heard, and foggy silhouettes danced in and out of his limited vision. A flurry of wild, blonde hair stood over him. His eyes widened, and he jumped up, only to find himself tangled in a saline drip and the heart monitor clipped to his finger.

Almost as soon as jerked up, he began to regret it as various lances of pain caused him to yelp. The beeps of a pager and maybe a machine he had disconnected in his alacrity to sit up sounded all around him. Before he could even question where he was, hard lights were being shone in his eyes, his ears.

As it turned out, he had collapsed after breaking into the arena with Derek, Molly and Kal in a bizarre publicity stunt to mend the rivalry between the two performers - all nonsense of course, but that was what Ash had been told. He was happy to go along with it, particularly given he could barely remember the actual events of the night.

Molly, Kal Derek and Bernie had been admitted to hospital too, but he hadn't seen them since he woke up. The solace of a private hospital suite was just starting to strain when he grew tired of his mother's visits, as sincere as they were, there was only so many things to discuss, get well cards to arrange on the windowsill or flowers to fuss with in a vase. When Molly walked in with one arm in a cast and the other bandaged, Ash couldn't have been more relieved to see her. She smiled carefully, as one side of her face had a few skin grafts due to the burns and they were still sore and healing. He elevated his bed so they could talk.

"How are you?" he asked, instantly feeling foolish for having asked such a banal question. Molly merely shrugged.

"Surviving, mainly. Had far too many operations, I've lost count." She smirked and winced. "You did too, I heard."

"I can't really remember, to be honest." Memories from the last few months had been hazy at best, everyone seemed to be missing the odd, key moments from their recollections, but mainly put it down to the immense trauma suffered that night when they had allegedly broken into that arena.

"How's Kal?" Ash asked.

"Better than I look, at least. He'll live. Mainly burns from the fire we started."

Ash couldn't remember starting any fire that night. But he remembered the heat and the light, and mostly the pain. He looked at Molly, and she was watching him carefully.

"That scar's almost healed, at least."

"Huh? Oh, yeah." He touched it subconsciously, only a minor indentation stood as a relic to its former glory. "I got this first time I performed there last year, do you remember?"

Molly nodded. "Everyone thought you were dead."

Something flashed across Ash's mind. A flicker, a spark of something. He sighed. "Felt like I did too. I wish I could remember more."

"Your mind's just doing you a favor, I wouldn't worry too hard. You probably didn't even forget anything important."

Return to Ash, came the unbidden memory, but it was devoid of context or meaning. He looked at his friend, and smiled.

"You're probably right."

THE END.

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