don’t blink

a quartet of shadow-monsters approach, tall and whispery and faceless. they make no sound beyond soft rustles, and vanish from the periphery of the eye just as you’re turning to look.

there’s a micro-pause, and the invisible girl holds out her hand to you, grinning madly. she wants to run, you can see it in her eyes, the twitch of her other hand as if some unseen string is pulling her away and it’s all she can do to reach out, grab your hand before she goes.

(sometimes, you imagine a gossamer thread pulling her in every direction she runs. imagine it: fine and so thin, so whisper-soft as to be a trick of the light. imagine it: a faint shimmer in the eye, but then you blink and it’s gone –

so don’t blink, she’d tell you if you told her this. she’ll tell you everything as if it’s obvious and wait for you to catch up.)

the monsters begin to flank you, but your hand is in hers and she yanks, dragging you from where your heels have stuck in the ground. oh. it was a mental block all along that stopped you from running. you’d inspect the ground, but –

there’s no time.

your hands tighten on each other and you run, sprinting to safety, running so fast as to be careless.

(that thread is back, just for a moment, and she’d forgive you for using the cliche of being made by angels. sometimes you’d weep for her, for her eternal forgiveness.)

and now: you’re safe, laughing over the latest adventure, already changed out of grungy clothes and pouring tea like a benediction. it might be, in fact, but neither of you likes to treat it as such. tea is tea and your invisible girl is here with you, still, unchanging day by day.

(maybe if you look at her over the span of several years, you’ll see the way she pretends to be the same; pretends to never change while constantly changing.

pretends that the earth still rotates and nothing changes, but – shift your lens. the earth rotates around her, sometimes, literally, and she whirls across it like a storm. she leaves it changed all the time.)

and now: you’re running but it feels like standing still, and you’re climbing a building with little regard for structural support. you’re standing still and it feels like running as she tells you about the rotation of the earth, the way no-one ever stops and notices and takes stock of how long it’s been.

except the scientists, she adds with a grin, and runs off to get ready for another adventure. you stay still and think, listen for a while and imagine the humming of a machine, imagine it as the soundtrack to the earth’s rotation.

no, that’s not right. you replace the earth’s soundtrack with a screeching, whining sound, and it fits the bill far better than you could ever describe. she sticks her head around the corner, impatient about what’s taking so long when there’s an adventure to be had and monsters to fight, and wrongs to correct. sometimes, she wonders how you could ever stand still.

sometimes, you wonder how she could ever keep running. sometimes, she looks so very tired, and you want to throw a pile of blankets over her, leave her a cuppa and let her sleep, but you never do. instead, she brings in a stockpile of concealer and smoothes it under her eyes every day, so you never get the full impact. you don’t have to, really. it’s there in the way she sometimes sags against a wall, legs too tired to hold her up. other times she sort of slumps against the wall. this is when you know she’s at her most worn out, and these are the times that you leave her be. she won’t ever listen to your advice.

but you’ve become conditioned to running, to not knowing when where your days are going, and get used to seeing the way your hair grows faster, the way greys pop up sooner than you expect. you blink, and you’re two years, five months and eleven days older than you remember being last week. your body knows running now, it’s all you know.

you steal from the countless tubes of makeup to hide your own dark circles and fine lines, because your life is burning up to stay with her and you both pretend to not know it. in the mornings, it takes you a bit longer to wake up, and you know that she pretends to not notice when you don’t rub your eyes.

(can’t risk smudging up your concealer, after all)

she says nothing about the disappearing makeup, or the way your vanity is increasingly covered in products all designed to drag out the youth you’re racing through.

one day, you will collapse. all the adventures will take their toll, but you stay stubbornly by her side.

after all, you never know which adventure will be your last chance.


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