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march 25, 2016 • the end.
the glass around her broke with such ferocity that it shattered into millions of tiny beads and fell to the ground, tinkling as they all landed. she shielded her head with her arms until it became quiet and only the sound of the street could be heard. she heard someone gasp for air and when she looked down, she blanched at the sight.

on the bed below her, isla saw nate clutching his ears, the stream of blood dripping from between his fingers as he cried out in pain. she had hoped it was all a dream, but this was all too recent a memory for her and she clamped her hands onto his face in panic, moving off of him and to the side, his cries of pain shattering her heart.

"nathan. nate, you're okay. it's okay," she tried to console, thumb caressing his cheek on either side. her heart pounded heavily against his chest and she leaned forward to rest her forehead against him, eyes clenched shut as she prayed that he was okay. she shook, scared that this time would be worse than the last time.

they stayed like that a few minutes, his torturous cries and labored breathing slowly diminishing as the seconds ticked by. she looked up at him, hand to one cheek again, pleading with him to open his eyes and tell her he was okay.

he obliged. only, when he opened his eyes, they bled from the corners, his good one so severely bloodshot she could barely see it in his entirety. she cried for him, wiping the blood away with her thumb, but she could feel him tense beneath her hands.

"what's wrong?" she asked, pulling away as she sat back on her feet, keeping a hand on him as she always did.

without hesitation, he grabbed her by the throat and pinned her back against the bed, squeezing with the same weight slade had back in november. isla gasped for air, clawing at his fingers in attempt to get them to release his hold.

"you're hurting me," she tried choking out, but the more she cried, the more he squeezed. she tried to let out a wail, but he only pressed harder, now using both hands and squeezing so hard she began to lose focus and consciousness.

"i should have done this sooner," he hissed, the blood now dripping onto her as he hovered above her. "i should have killed you when you gave me the permission." the malice in his words were unmistakable, but she fought, clawing at him harder. she could only remember one time he had been this mad at her, but she fought hard not to think about it often. he fought harder, doing what he could to squeeze the life right out of her, and he was winning.

her strength easily matched his, but she couldn't focus enough to find it. she gasped for her final breaths, pleading with him to let her go, but he didn't and she slowly lost the will to fight back. isla wanted to tell him she loved him, that she never meant to hurt him. it was all a mistake, and that she was sorry, but without air in her lungs, all she did was gasp more, the hands that fought to pry his fingers from her losing strength and feeling.

she took a final breath, hearing him say he was better without her, that she was nothing to him anymore. another gasp and before she could plead again, he snapped her neck.

opening her eyes with a start and a gasp for breath, she sat up quickly and looked around, though this time she wasn't in a bed, in vietnam, or in a room with her mother. she was in the cab of a truck and it was hitting the heavily pocked road of which it traveled on into the congo. the driver looked over at her, puzzled, but said nothing.

"pull over," she whispered, hands at her throat as she strained against the all too real feeling of nathan's hands squeezing the life out of her. the driver obliged and she climbed out before the truck was even fully stopped. she moved to the edge of the road by a tuft of dry grass, dropping to her knees as she took a few minutes to herself.

it was when she looked straight ahead after several minute that she knew something was wrong. ahead, in the grass, were cynthia, nathan, and lorene castiel. she blanched and stood, unsure of whether she wanted to walk towards them or away from them.

there was something inviting about the way they held their hands out for her, and as if she were being pulled towards them, she started in their direction.

isla approached them and they welcomed her without words. nate reached for her hand and brought it to his lips as he so often did, to kiss her knuckles. she smiled and looked down at cyn, who had reached for her other hand. her mother, as she had previously, reached up and cupped her cheeks. "you look so much like your father," she said, brushing her hair away. "you remind me so much of him." the grip on isla's hands got tighter and she looked at each person on either side of her, panic rising in her chest.

to her left, cyn stood, burnt skin and broken sinew, repeating the words through cracked lips that she last spoke to isla. "sister, why did you abandon me? sister, why? don't you love me anymore?" she kept asking, over and over again.

to her right, nate stood, blood dried on his neck from where it had leaked from his ears. her doing, of course, and it was something she would never forgive herself for. "i should have killed you when i had the chance," he said, the venom heavy as it passed his lips.

she tugged, trying to pull away. "you're not real," she whispered, shaking her head in disbelief. "you can't be. this isn't real," she repeated, more to herself than out loud for them to hear. she fought them, the three bodies holding fast to her as she struggled to get free. isla cried for help, but upon glancing over her shoulder, she saw the truck was gone and she was alone. alone with them, the three that could unravel her until she was nothing but a sobbing heap laying in the dirt.

without a thought, she unleashed a canary cry so loud, it brought the four of them to the ground, but it didn't just break their hold, it broke everything. the whole world ahead of her began to crack and in the blink of an eye, it shattered like glass and fell away, leaving nothing. emptiness. a darkness so dark that even black could be seen against it. she shuddered and spun around before realizing that it wasn't real. it couldn't be real, because isla was just a human from boston, living her life-long dream in africa.

she paused and realized she wasn't living her dream, but her nightmares. cyn was fine, she was away at school and nate was okay, too. she saw him off at the airport just the night before. her mother was...well, she assumed she was okay, but she wasn't really too worried about that. she did all the things one should do to wake up from a dream, by pinching herself and telling herself she was in a dream, that she could wake up at any time.

isla felt a heavy hand on her shoulder, and she turned expecting to see nate there. her nate, not the one that killed her in her bed. but it wasn't him. it was no one, and she realized she was still alone. only she felt the hand again, and again, until it was violently shaking her. turning away from the sight of nothing, she looked to the other side only to see her mother, cyn, and nate standing there again. only this time, they were different. they weren't angry, or dead, or trying to kill her. they were there, looking as they always had. alive. happy. she reached her hand out for them, tears forming in her eyes, but just before her fingertips connected with her mothers, she felt another violent shake.

"miss. miss, wake up. we are almost at your destination and you have been asleep the whole time. miss, please wake up .... you are drooling."

isla snapped her eyes awake and sat up so abruptly she hit her head on the ceiling of the truck.