"Hey, get ready. Fifteen seconds ..."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm ready."
"... five, four, three, two, inhale—"
The burnt-lemon smoke burns her throat as it goes down, leaves her feeling rough and raw. Spasmodic coughs shake her body.
"—there, I think you got it all. Sit down ..."
Her head feels hot as her friend's hands guide her down to the carpet's cool embrace. It's so soft, so yielding! The perfect place to be, the perfect place to stretch out her legs and wiggle her toes and giggle and fall over—
If her friend is still talking she doesn't hear.
She stretches out and stares up at the ceiling, at the distant sun-flecked sky, at the ocean of stars hidden beyond; at all the places she could be. It would be so easy to be in one of them, in a place more fun than her friend's carefully decorated bedroom, so she is.
The transition isn't quite as easy as that, though.
The world is a single slice through a vast and eternal crystal; a single path for refracted soul-light to dance along. She sees that now, sees it with eyes that she never knew how to open, sees how easy it is to nudge—
The air grows thick around her, wandering atoms blossoming into a crystalline lattice; diamonds grow from her exhalations and veins of ice spread like cracks from the suddenly dry emptiness around her. A thousand sparkling motes of light, an unfamiliar taste on her tongue, and—
Crystals bubble and fade unnoticed around her; she has no eyes for such mundane miracles, not when she's so busy being entranced by the place around her—a thick mossy bed beneath, a far-off sky painted in the splintered light of orbital prisms, a ring of trees towering around ...
Everywhere there is the gentle touch of deep time.
The sky is a broken cacophony, vast rainbow rings shattered and falling, light cast in all its myriad hues with no thought to rhyme or reason. The ground beneath her is prickly and dry; the trees long dead, rotted through.
It doesn't feel empty.
It should, it really should, but she feels watched in the way a child does as it plays beneath its parent's watchful gaze; not loved but treasured, like she is not yet a person but will be soon (or perhaps that's all turned about. Perhaps it's backwards).
She basks in the feeling for a long, long moment, as the carpet's countless fronds sway beneath her and a few little pseudopods, rejuvenated by the sweat that drips freely from her skin in the dead air, stretch up curiously and tangle around her fingers.
It's warm and quiet.
Her throat has forgotten to burn; her thoughts have tangled themselves far away. The only noise is the wind whistling through fallen towers and the far-off windchime screams of the sky's slow fall.
The moment stretches around her like taffy and love.
And then she recoils as she stretches and feels something hard and sharp stabbing into her thigh, soft sensitive tissue marred by its intrusion; a stabbing pain, a twisting wrongness in her cut! The sure and certain knowledge that she will never truly find peace—
The world breaks around her again, a tape running in reverse; the air full of a confusion of crystalline growths once again, dripping up from the floor to fade away into empty air; the world seen from a slightly different angle, back to where she was, back to how she was!
It hurts. It hurts her so fucking much, more than the return usually dies. THe world wasn't ready to have her back, not quite yet, and so she returns to a world subtly wrong. It's less real than it should be, more malleable.
The world shakes and sways like a sheet in the wind.
Also, she's screaming. That definitely doesn't help.
There's blood dripping from her leg, she can feel it! She clutches at it, fingers questing for the warm wetness that will tell her where to bandage herself; pleading mewls spill from her lips, begging for help—
"Hey! Hey, calm down, it's okay, it's fine, I'm here ..."
Her friend's arms are warm around her, a soft hug enveloping her body as she begins to realize that she's not bleeding.
It takes a long time before she's properly calm; nearly as long as it takes for the drug to wear off. The feeling of wrongness persists even after that, no matter what her friend says to her, no matter how many chill pills she takes. Her mouth tastes weird, her throat hurts, and ...
She tries not to think about it.
Tries not to let it become real.
Certainly doesn't tell her friend about the squirming thing she feels beneath her skin, just where the dying moss bit her; a wound without blood, just raised dots and growing discoloration, just something that can't possibly be there.
It feels ▒▒▒▒ to have it inside her.
It's almost like a tiny bit of the warm peace and endless decay has come along with her; a fragment of a goddess she never knew she needed nestled in her body, waiting until she's ready for it to sprout.
Her secret, horrifying and precious.