Cold As Ashes

Waking up in a bed was weird. It didn’t happen that often, these days. She opened her eyes, sticky and crusted with blood, and groaned at the obscene amount of sunlight in the room. Everything was quiet — the outside world was oddly muffled and far away.

Pulling on a pair of pants and a T-shirt from off the floor, she stumbled into the next room.

A cigarette was burned to ash in an old takeout container. Others were stubbed out in a puddle of dried rice and grease.

Folders and newspapers littered the apartment; she checked the dates and found that some of the stacks were new. Notes on papers, connections made, but not in her handwriting.

She wandered around and looked at everything with new, aching eyes. There, a glass of whole milk that wasn’t hers. There, a plate of food with a fork instead of chopsticks. There, a thin black tie, wrinkled, not for her neck.

She could taste blood in the back of her throat, and couldn’t remember how she got home.

Then again, this wasn’t home anymore. Or at least it hadn’t been, in a long time, at least.

She spun in a slow circle, looking around, feeling the hairs on the back of her neck lift up.

“…hey?” she called out, but no one answered.

Nothing answered. The room was dead of sound, except for what little she made, clomping about. She strode to the bathroom, flinging the door open.

Empty.

She dropped to her knees and retched into the bowl, clutching the cold porcelain as though she would fall off the earth when she let go.

She spat once, twice, and then scrubbed her face and rinsed her mouth with cold water, spitting into the toilet before she flushed.

Eyes closed the whole time.

She didn’t look — she didn’t want to know.

When she finally opened them, she stared at herself in the mirror, navy blue irises muddled beneath bloody sclerae, bloody tears, bloody cheeks. Blood in her hair. She looked down at her clothes.

Bloody.

She walked back out to the other room, and picked the milk up. She drank some, and spit it in the sink.

Warm.

She put her finger in the ash of the tray.

Cold.

Looking around once more, she moved to each window, and the door, and locked them, pulling the shades down, drawing the curtains. Everything was shut up tight, and the lights were all turned off. She crawled back into the bed, peeling out of the bloody clothes, and laid her face to the pillow that she’d never think of as hers — the pillow that had been as cold as the ashes for a long, long time.

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