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Dear Ilyana,

I do not envy you that meal of butter. Thinking about it makes me want to throw up a bit in my mouth. Christophe seems to have led an interesting (after?)life, even if he is a bit of a glum chum. And Azra, well. I suppose you can excuse someone whose identity is pinned to pulling people out of graves a bit of weirdness. Do you see him often now?

I visited the old well in the Vesper Woods, the one that you named the Well of Loneliness after the one in "Donal Óg." We had Friday off and the unusual good weather had persisted, so I decided to make it out into the woods again. The last time I had gone was when Dad and I found your body. I spent the entire day there, sitting by the well with my notebook. “Well of Loneliness” seems pretty appropriate for that, doesn’t it? I don’t know, maybe “well of solitude” would work better. I didn’t feel lonely exactly. Sad without you. Lonely without you. (I wish we could watch German Expressionist movies together at the silent film near your house.) But I’m often sad and lonely and it wasn’t as bad when I could feel the stone’s chill seeping through the cloth on my back and watching the way the brightness of the sun grew and waned throughout the day.

When I left in the morning, a thick, gnarled fog clung to the leaves and branches like cotton wound around them. It was hard to see anything but bright headlights of the few cars in the streets when I was walking to the woods. And do you remember how mysterious and magical everything seems when the fog obscures everything like this? Even convenience stores seem more intriguing. And then there are the trees, their autumn colors struggling to shine through the fog, not quite deadened but faded, farther away from our world in a way. That morning, the sun burnt away the fog so swiftly and when the gentle rays of early morning sunlight bathed the trees in its radiance, everything seemed golden. The golden undertones in each branch, each leaf were highlighted for a transient, brilliant half-hour before the dawn settled into day.

It was during that half hour that I spotted the girl on fire again. She was hovering beyond the clearing, partially obscured by the thin stalks of the trees. I noticed her eyes first, that bright seafoam color so unlike any a normal human would have. They were the sharpest, clearest part of her. Everything else fizzed and faded and as much as I would try to focus on her figure in the trees it would blur. I can’t tell you anything really about what she looked like, other than those irises, bright as glass beneath the sun, and the vague miasmic flames that enveloped her body. I’m trying to remember, not even to find words for the images, just the images themselves, but I can only see her eyes.

I spotted her before I noticed she had been watching me, but once I looked upon her face, our eyes locked and I knew she wanted me to follow her. So I got up and walked towards her slowly. Something about her made me wary of startling her, even though I knew she knew I was there. As soon as I was within three yards of her though, her image wavered and reappeared farther into the woods. I started walking toward her more quickly, but each time I got close to her, she would disappear again, faster and faster, until I was running after her flickering image. I’m not sure how long I ran, but it was long enough for my lungs to ache and my feet to feel flattened and sore against the fallen leaves trodden into the dirt. My eyes locked onto hers and I just followed their light as they shuddered in and out of existence; I paid no attention to the groves I ran through and I have no idea how we ended up where we did.

When she finally stood still, I stumbled to a stop before her. And we were there. By the river. A few miles outside of Fairview, where I found your body.

“Why did you bring me here?” I asked the girl.

She smiled, revealing sharpened teeth. “Here is where you can begin to find the answers you seek.”

“But what questions am I supposed to be asking?” I glanced around me and found nothing unusual about the area. It was grassy. There were a few rocks, here and there.

“What questions are you asking,” she corrected unhelpfully. “The answers themselves are not here, but you can find their beginnings.” She waded into the river as she spoke, never breaking eye contact with me.

“Wait, what are you doing?” I called after her. Involuntarily, I felt a lump rising in my throat, a cold, sensation of fear at seeing someone enter a body of water.

She didn’t respond, but turned away from me, walking farther into the river, submerging more and more of herself in the water (completely unaffected, though, by the force of the current) until her head disappeared below the surface.

I don’t know, Ilyana. I guess I’m asking a lot of questions now. What was all that about? What do you think? What do I do?

Love,
Emma

May 2015

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