Panacea (Introduction)

She was standing in the rain.

There was no need for an umbrella, or even a coat for that matter. Catching a cold was not a concern for her, not anymore.

The dress she wore was one of her favourites. It was long black satin with a dark red trim that glistened like crisp blood, it was a dress she wore only for the most special of occasions, the dress she always knew she would die in. There was nothing more to do but wait, wait for the dance to begin.

And so she waited in the rain.

He watched her from the dark. Finding her had not been difficult, he knew she wouldn’t try to escape or hide, she knew the pointlessness of such effort just as much as he did. Of course he knew he would find her outside the abandoned festival theatre that once held grand and lavish performances to delight and thrill. Now the theatre was old and uncared for, it had not seen a show in twelve years, though it would see one that night.

He did not know why he stopped to watch her, he had never hasted in such a way before. Even though he had every reason to pause as he did, the specifics of the why eluded him. He couldn’t fight this fate any more than she could, no one ever had, not successfully anyway.

If the fabled Grim Reaper truly existed as many had once believed then perhaps the two of them could have been spared such a sorrowful future. Alas the spectre was naught but folklore, and the task of relieving souls from the burden of life was left to the living.

He knew she deserved better, but he also knew that what you deserve and what you get are rarely one and the same. The dance was to take place, though he couldn’t help but allow himself to pretend, just for a little while, that it didn’t have to.

He liked how her dress looked. He knew she would wear that one, it was an obvious but effective choice. Fitting for the dance. It sparkled in the soaking wet as though laced with diamonds. The dance required subtlety, but he still felt that she deserved to be seen more, noticed.  Sadly she never received the attention he felt she warranted, which was likely the reason he would perform this dance differently from the others. Indeed even he could never give her the attention he wanted, no matter how much he had wished to. It would be that dress, that rain and that night that would give him the opportunity to make her a spectacle for the world to see and admire. Though he wished once more that he had some other way.

He was wasting time.

He began to walk towards her.

She knew he had been there, of course, but she chose to let him wait. He’d likely need as much time as she did, maybe more. Though a part of her was glad that the waiting was over.

‘I knew you’d find me.’ She smiled as he approached. He was wearing his black suit with a crimson tie, she recognised it immediately. She had always liked how it matched her dress.

‘I knew you’d let me.’ He couldn’t match her smile. She lifted her head to the sky, facing the pouring rain.

‘We both know how this works.’ She spoke to the clouds, hoping the downpour would hide her tears.

‘I’m sorry, Alys.’

‘You don’t owe me an apology.’ She looked to him and held out her hand, beckoning for him to take it, ‘But you do owe me one last dance.’

Having hesitated enough, he took her hand in his.

In but a moment they were caught in a rhythm only they could feel, dancing to a melody that didn’t exist from a song only they could hear. As they twirled gracefully in their private ball the rain flew from their clothes like fireworks that faded into the night.

They moved their feet in perfect unison as they had been taught to do as children, their movements lit only by the street lamps.

Alys smiled a warm, nostalgic smile as they began to slow down. Their finale was fast approaching, their last bow.

It was time. He knew it, she knew it. There would be no resistance, no fight. He took the knife from the holster on his belt. She pretended not to notice.

They continued to dance, moving effortlessly as though gliding. The music in their minds also began to slow. As she had done a thousand times, Alys bent back and allowed him to catch her in a dip. A finale he thought warranted an applause, a standing ovation all for her.

With one hand he held her and with the other he stabbed the knife straight into her heart.

There was no gasp, no cry of pain, there was only a sigh of relief at the wait finally being over, the deed finally having been done. Alys looked into his eyes and smiled one last time.

‘Goodbye, Benn.’

The dance was done.


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