Short Story Written by Eric Christopher Jackson
He can’t sleep.
The ceiling fan whirls above his head. Rays of light pour into his room through the window from the street lights along the corner. Derrick should be tired, but he’s not. Is that a cat? Crying, for some reason.
He’s had enough of this. Rubbing through the mess called his hair, he pushes the blankets away. It is quite cold outside. No matter. Can’t get any sleep this way. He knows just where to go.
Smoke rises from the icy streets, deep black down each alley. Rustling of garbage, strange, quick shrieks, bottles breaking, he’s heard it all before. A few cars roll by, headlights breaking through the hazy air. The diner is still open. As long as he’s up, he might as well eat.
Daisy’s Diner, one of the few places open at 3am. Letters from the sign’s lights struggle to stay on. A ring breaks the cold air as Derrick enters and looks around for the waitress. Wait. Someone in the corner, face covered by a hood. He’s seen that figure before.
“Hey, Derrick. Can’t sleep again?” Patty smiles as she exits the kitchen and comes around the counter.
Derrick rubs his eyes, “I thought I would be good for tonight. Guess I was wrong.”
Patty stops to look into Derrick’s eyes. She’s concerned. “You ever thought about seeing a doctor, hon’?”
Derrick walks over and takes his usual seat. “Yeah, he gave me some pills, but…I really don’t take ‘em.”
“You should think about getting a night job, like me,” Patty suggests as she takes out her pad and pencil. “You wanna try somethin’ new tonight?”
He rolls the thought around in his mind. “Sure, whatever the Special is.”
She pats him on the shoulder and walks off.
Derrick feels groggy and annoyed. Perhaps it runs in his family. He’s often wide awake after midnight.
Suddenly, he remembers, the figure sitting in the corner. Too small to be a guy, but he can’t be sure. The shadow from the hood hides a face. All black, down to the shoes.
The figure shifts slightly away, he removes his gaze.
Patty walks by him, to the figure, and sits a plate down on the table.
“There you go, sweetie,” Patty says hesitantly. “Is it..?”
Derrick raises an eyebrow thinking, ‘It is a girl.’
Her voice begins coarse and abrupt before she lessens her tone, “Too much. Too much,” as she cuts through the beef. “I need it to be…” The knife clanks down on the plate.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
Patty straightens up, “No worries, dear, I’ll have another one for you, right away.” She grabs the plate and hurries off.
So many thoughts run through Derrick’s mind. What’s her name? What does she look like? Why does she always wear that hood so far over her head? Only her hands were visible and that’s only when she cut through the meat. Will she talk to him? Should he try this time?
The courage builds within him as his legs gather strength to stand. He doesn’t want to seem like a creeper, but his curiosity has finally taken over. He’s careful not to trip over any chair legs as he approaches her booth. He can barely see the bottom of her chin.
“Stop,” she says, suddenly.
Derrick is frozen. Her voice, cold, yet, almost angelic to him. “I wanted to introd…”
“No,” she responded.
The sharpness of her voice increased. He backed away and returned to his table.
Patty returned to her table with a new plate of food. “Here ya go. Sorry for the wait. I think we got it right this time.”
She cut through the beef, “Perfect. Can I have this to-go?”
Patty is taken back, “Certainly, come on up to the front and we’ll check you out.” Patty picks up the dish and walks away. As she passes Derrick, “Need anything while you wait?”
“No, no, I’m fine,” he replies.
The woman walks passed him. He takes a quick glance, unable to see her eyes, though he can tell her skin is smooth, tan. He starts to say something, then thinks better of it. No reason to push the issue.
A ring of the cash register; a ring at the door. He glances back to see her dark figure disappear in the shadows. Gone.
He barely noticed Patty sitting the plate in front of him.
“I still don’t know her name,” Patty admits. “She hangs out with less people than you do.”
“It’s nothing wrong with that,” Derrick replies.
“Everybody needs friends, Derrick. But you don’t need ‘that’ friend.”
“I just wanted to talk to her.”
“She ain’t the talkin’ kind if you haven’t noticed.” Patty paused to think about it more. “Maybe a guy..or someone hurt her. She closed everybody off.”
“Maybe. I don’t know.” Patty walks off.
Derrick looks at his chicken sandwich and soup. It looks good. He realizes how hungry he is as he starts to eat.
The day drags on as the sun comes up. Morning. Or…later the same morning. There’s a big difference. Are all alarm clocks annoying? Derrick rolls out of bed, knees hitting the cold floor, blanket wrapped around his waist and legs. He kicks around to free himself.
Three images of his reflection are in the mirror. He throws water on his face. Another day at the office. It’s time to go.
His car speeds around the bend into the parking lot next to a large building several floors high.
Out of the car, slow jog down a path to the first floor of the building.
“Mr. Bennett, you’re late. Get over here,” Tony Hilman calls out. “You look like crap. I thought I told you to take your ‘prescribed’ medication!”
“I know, sir, I…” Derrick tries to explain.
“Over here. See all those angry people waving at you?”
“Yes, sir.” A long corridor, offices on each side. Everyone needs something.
“Do I have to remind you of how important your job is, son?”
“Get to it.”
Derrick grabs the cart and hurries down the ridiculously long corridor. ‘What is the rush?’ Busier than usual this morning. Strangely enough, he knows he’ll be tired by the end of his shift…but he may still have trouble falling asleep tonight. Who is that woman?
Cars race through the streets. Horns ablaze. Yelling. Complaints. Kisses of endearment. Flowers. Gifts. Traffic. Life. Everyday. The sun goes down again.
Derrick rolls around in bed. He can’t even remember how good or bad his day went. All he wants is sleep. It’s the last thing he gets. Stumbling to the bathroom, he opens the cabinet and spins the bottle of pills around in his fingers. He slams the bottle down again.
How about a walk?
As he sees the diner in the distance, he can’t believe he forgot about the woman. His pace quickens to a trot, soon to a jog. His breath clouds his vision for a few moments as he slows down to see her through the window of the diner, eating.
A ring through the door, Patty finishes wiping the front counter and gives Derrick a smile, then a sad face.
Derrick feels faint; he sits on a stool and puts his head on his forearms lying on the counter.
Patty walks around the counter sitting on the stool next to him. “What are you gonna do?”
Derrick doesn’t lift his head, “I’m not sure.”
“Hilman is gonna be all over you if you don’t take those Meds.”
“I’m thinking about it.”
“I don’t like pills. If I take the pills, I’ll get hooked on ‘em. People get hooked on stuff like this.”
“Fine. But you’d better do something or else you won’t have money to pay for these meals at night,” Patty insists.
“I have to figure this out.”
A ring at the door. Derrick looks over. The woman is gone. Money left by her empty plate. He frowns at Patty, the obvious question on his mind.
“She tips really well, too. It may be extra ‘cause of her uhh…personality.”
He turns around, looking each way through the windows down the street. She’s gone.
“I’ll fix you some tea. You want some tea?”
“No, thanks, Patty…”
“It’ll help you sleep.” She walks through the kitchen doors.
Suddenly, an older gentleman steps through the door, food stains on his long apron, glasses on the edge of his nose. The grey has taken over his grizzly mustache. “Hey.”
“How you doing, Harold?”
“You came to see her?”
“Her? Oh no…I…maybe I need a new mattress or something.”
“Hm. So, you don’t come by to see her?”
“Not really, no,” Derrick answers.
Harold steps back into the kitchen. The door swings open slightly again. “Do you like girls?”
“Harold, what kind of..? Can I have my tea, please?”
Harold shrugs, “Hm.” Then, he goes back in the kitchen.
Patty returns with the tea, “Don’t mind him,” she smiles. “I know you like girls.”
“Thank you,” as he begins to sip his tea.
Derrick begins to cough, down the wrong pipe.
Harold sticks half of his body through the doorway, waiting for Derrick to respond.
His eyes dart between Harold and Patty. “I’m taking this tea with me.”
Harold slides back in the kitchen, door swaying back and forth.
“Oh, we’re just kidding, darling,” she laughs.
“I’m not!” Harold yells from in the kitchen.
Derrick backs out of the front door, “See you guys later.”
The temperature is dropping. Derrick puts his own hood over his head. He looks down each street wondering where the woman is from. The last time he saw her leave, she went west, up the road. Why not?
His hands are getting numb, his ears frozen. All he sees is darkness down each alley. Faint light comes from exterior lamps on each building. It is a depressing sight. He dares not go further as the thickness of the hazy air increases. He turns back.
A dark figure sits still at a bus stop. Derrick stops, squinting his eyes. He moves closer, less cautious, fear giving way to his desire to find her.
“Why are you looking for me?” the woman asks.
Derrick loses his thoughts for a moment. “I know you don’t know me, but…I just wanted to…”
The woman gets up and walks away.
Without a second thought, he follows as she goes down an alley.
“Don’t follow me. Ever.”
Now he’s upset. She disappears into the darkness.
“Fine.” Derrick shakes his head and begins jogging back towards home. More thoughts race through his mind. ‘What a waste of time. I shouldn’t have tried in the first place.’ But he couldn’t get the sound of her voice out of his heart. Still, he wanted to try.
A few nights later, Patty is fixing Derrick more tea.
“I think this stuff is actually working.”
Patty stares at him, “Or maybe you had something on your mind. At least it’s the weekend, now. Friday night. You’re supposed to be up.”
The elephant is in the room. Silence in the air.
“I really don’t want to talk about it.”
“I’m sorry, Derrick, but come on!”
“There’s nothing to…”
The bell on the door rings. Dressed in all black, head to toe, the woman walks to her normal seat.
Patty’s mouth hangs open. Derrick follows her lead.
At a quick pace, Patty goes to her table. “Welcome back, ma’am!” With a warm smile, “The usual?”
She nods her head, refusing to look up.
Patty walks away and raises her eyebrows at Derrick.
His emotions are bouncing here to there, Derrick doesn’t know what to do. But then, the pain of her walking away a few nights before returns. Before he realized, Derrick was standing in front of her table, a few feet from her.
“I’m sorry about before. I just wanted to know your name. I didn’t mean to… That’s all.”
She doesn’t respond.
Now, he’s more annoyed than before. He turns away for a split second, then does a 180 and sits across from her in the booth.
She lowers her head.
He can’t see her face. Where should he start? “You don’t have to be alone…or be afraid of me. I mean, I know some parts of town can be rough, but…I’m… I’ve know the waitress, Harold, he cooks the meals just the way you like them.” He realizes that he’s rambling. “I’m sorry.” Derrick gets up and returns to his usual table.
She stays silent. Eating her meal. Paying for her food. Leaving the diner. Not a word.
Derrick feels like a jerk. The waitress pats him on the shoulder. He leaves a generous tip and heads out the door.
The air is a bit clearer tonight. He doesn’t question his motives. There is no plan. He just jogs onward with hope in the slight chance… A dark figure at the bus stop. He walks closer, cautiously. “Excuse me?”
In the night sky, faint lights appear; a buzz in the air. A car drives by slowly, but surely.
The woman gets up and walks toward one of the buildings. She opens the door, leaving it open behind her.
Derrick can almost feel himself starting to sweat, even in the frigid air. He stops just outside the door and looks in. The woman is taking her clothes out of a dryer. It’s a laundry room for the apartment building. Strangely…normal.
The woman puts the clothes in a laundry basket, hood still covering most of her face. She turns and begins walking abruptly towards him. He backs away. As she walks by he’s tempted to get a better look at her face, but she’s off, walking away at a quick pace.
He keeps her in sight down the dark alley until he loses her as always. Suddenly, a door opens, faint light breaks through the darkness. He follows still, cautiously.
He peers around the corner, into the complex. He hears movement, voices upstairs. Finally, the woman comes down the stairs to and passed him. She continues down the alley.
Derrick bumps into something, trying to find his way through the darkness. Light from an old lamp post flickers. There, she is alone, leaning on a short concrete wall. More thoughts. Perhaps her face is bruised or scarred. What if she’s being abused? What if she can’t tell anyone? Restricted. By whom?!
He stands at her side. “You can talk to me.”
“About what?” she asks.
She’s speaking to me? Finally! “About anything.”
Derrick continues. “Are you in trouble? Are you hiding from someone? I work at a place…I know someone can help you.”
“What’s your name?” the woman asks.
“I…my name is Derrick. Derrick Bennett.”
He walks closer, wanting to lean on the wall next to her. “What’s wrong?”
“Are you some type of concerned citizen?”
“Yeah. I guess I am.”
“I promise, I won’t hurt you.”
“Why do you stay awake so late?”
“Well…I’m a night owl, I guess. I have to plan my day out, use enough energy so I’ll go to sleep at night.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t work all the time. Lately, it hasn’t worked as much as I’d like.”
“And the pills?”
“Nope. I’m dealing with this myself. My way.”
Derrick begins to feel at ease around her…for some reason. He kneels down in front of her.
She quickly turns away, keeping her face covered.
Derrick doesn’t move, wanting to see her face. “Sorry. Umm…can I know your name?”
Derrick stands up. “I’m sorry.”
“My name is Seline.”
Her name, her voice, it pierces his heart. “Nice to meet you, Seline.”
She shutters slightly.
Derrick takes a step back.
Her head rises. For a moment, their eyes meet. Then, she turns away.
Derrick is lost, almost in a trance. He questions what he saw. Beauty.
She pushes away from the wall to stand up straight. Pulling her hood back, revealing her full face in the dim light.
He suddenly realizes, beneath this rugged exterior of dingy clothes, she is naturally beautiful…shy…and sad. But why? “Why are you hiding?”
She begins to speak, then changes her mind. “Thank you for helping me.”
He frowns, “I haven’t really…”
“Yes, you have.” Her eyes become watery. “You need sleep, too, Derrick.”
“Can I see you again?”
“Seline…” he walks forward.
She puts her hand on her coat, “I’m sorry.” Seline puts the hood back over her head and walks off.
Derrick follows, “Wait a minute!”
She reaches the apartment building.
Derrick calls after her, “I’ll go back to the Diner!” He calls through the door as she closes it. “I’ll wait for you!”
The sun rises over the darkened grey buildings on the skyline. More cars begin to fill the streets.
Patty comes out of the Diner to meet Derrick. “What happened?!”
“Her name is Seline,” he responds.
Patty is silent.
“She’s the prettiest woman I’ve ever seen,” he thinks aloud.
“I have to see her again, but she…”
“Come on, it’s freezing out here! I’ll walk you home.”
The day goes by, thoughts full of Seline. What if she never comes back? What if he never sees her again? How could he find her? Can a person fall in love so quickly?
He thinks of her face, her eyes, her voice. He can almost hold her hands.
The moon is high, full, and bright. The hazy air shows spotlights on the horizon. He hasn’t slept in several hours. He feels like he is going to pass out.
He looks at his watch. Close to midnight. The Diner. Maybe she’s there. He grabs his things, throws on his coat, and races out the door.
He waits at the Diner, watching the time. Over an hour passes by.
Patty walks up to his usual table. “Hon’, you need to get some rest!”
Derrick simply sits, waiting, wondering. “I’m gonna go see her.”
“Derrick, no! I’ll get the back room ready, you can sleep right there,” Patty argued.
Derrick kneels down on one knee. The lack of rest has caught up to him.
“I’ll get Harold. He’ll help you back there,” Patty hurries off.
Small specks of snow fall from the sky as a few cars rush by.
Harold exits the kitchen, Patty behind him. “Where is he?” Harold asks.
A ring as Patty rushes out the door, looking down the street each way. “He’s gone!”
His brain is on automatic. He can’t tell if he is dreaming or actually walking. The streets are silent again. Derrick stumbles down the dark alley until his instincts find the door. Locked. He moves forward, willing himself to see her.
He stands in the same spot, next to the wall, where they stood before. “Seline.” He can’t yell. How can she hear him? He drops to a knee and leans against the wall, still questioning what is reality.
A dark figure emerges from the shadows, “What are you doing? Why?” Seline asks as she looks down at Derrick.
Derrick doesn’t say a word, though a smile grows on his face. She shakes her head and returns the gesture. To him, this trip is now worth it.
She puts his arm over her shoulder, they stand up together and walk to an abandoned building nearby.
The place is gutted out. Old wooden planks scattered. Concrete walls, broken, holes, small sections missing. A pile of hay, mixed with old bags of concrete is in a corner. Seline lays Derrick on top of the pile. He rests finding a soft spot in the hay. She leans back next to him.
Derrick looks over to notice she’s not wearing a hood at all. Her hair is long, too her waist. Blue jeans, an old, white t-shirt with what seems to be marks of paint on it. Her jacket is similar to his, but streamline. Her eyes sparkle in the uneven ambient light.
Haze and dust in the air. The smell of old burnt wood. Not a resort, but he is with her. He takes her hand. She flinches, but intertwined her fingers with his hesitating throughout the process.
“What do you want to know?” she asked.
“Can we have lunch together?”
Derrick is disappointed.
“I grew up in a place like this.”
He looks around, ‘great.’
“It was home, though.”
“Do you have family here?”
She pauses. “I did.”
He wants to ask the obvious question, but her demeanor is too sad.
“You want to go out on a date, don’t you?” she asks.
“If you want to. We’ve already eaten at the Diner together…almost.”
She smiles. “I always thought you were cute.”
His head pains him as he tries to sit up, shocked by her confession.
“A girl does pay attention.”
“Yes!” Derrick suddenly realizes his inner monologue isn’t working.
She gives herself permission to laugh.
Derrick feels himself dosing off. Not so perfect timing. “Why…are you so (yawn) isolated?”
“It’s better this way.”
His vision begins to cloud. He’s fading. One more question: “How?”
Seline rubs his hand and kisses his forehand before Derrick doses off to sleep.
Derrick wakes up, looks around. Seline is gone. He looks at his watch. Close to dawn, but night still rules the sky. He stands up, an eerie chill in the air. He walks out of the abandoned building. The haze is frozen in mid-air. Is he still asleep? Dreaming? He peers back through the door of the abandoned building to see patches of blood on the floor.
His breath leaps from him. He grabs a fractured wood plank and heads back to where Seline lives.
No one around. The door is partially open. He sticks his head in the doorway. Trails of blood on the ground. “What in the world..?”
A man tackles Derrick. They fall into the doorway. Up off the floor, the man puts a gun to his head. Derrick refocuses. A Soldier of some kind. Full military tactical gear. He holds his assault weapon to Derrick’s chin.
“I’m only gonna ask you this one time, Bennett. Have you seen her?” the Soldier demands.
Derrick struggles, “Who?”
The Soldier throws him to the ground. “I suggest you stay here. If Hilman thinks you’re involved in any way, sorting out our mail will be the least of your worries, boy.” The Soldier heads for the abandoned building.
Derrick is afraid for her and puzzled. What is going on? He crouches down and heads for the abandoned building. Shots are fired. Screams. Silence. Derrick picks up his pace, still feeling groggy from the lack of sleep.
He takes a look inside. More blood was spilled. No body on the ground. Then, he sees someone coming out of the shadows. Seline. Trails of blood from the edges of her mouth down the front of her shirt. Tears stream from her eyes.
Derrick whispers without realizing it, “What happened?”
She walks forward, slowly, holding out her blood stained hands, “It’s inevitable. One day…they would find me.”
Derrick loosens his grip on the fractured wooden plank. He looks back outside. Cars, headlights, parked along the road. The spotlights, normally in the sky, on the horizon, are now directly above them.
The Diner is locked down. Military commanders are searching the place. Patty and Harold stand together, his arm around her.
“I think you’re story is checking out,” the Commander tells Patty.
“Good,” she replies.
“Are you sure he said, ‘Seline’?”
“They’re the reason this town got torn up in the first place! You know how long it took us to get back to semi-normal?” Harold responded. “If there’s even one more left, we gotta take ‘em out.”
“Commander,” another officer interjects, “No contact, no signal.”
“Two, five, seven. None of the men are responding.”
“Leave two teams here. Make it three. We take no chances with this one,” the Commander added.
He and his men exit the Diner, load into armored jeeps, and drive off.
Derrick is hiding behind crates. Seline is gone. Shots are fired. The abandoned building is being surrounded. Derrick runs through more rooms. He spots Seline opening up a door leading underground. She goes in, he follows her.
The area is solid, steel frame, difficult to see through the musky, brown air. But Seline has waited for him. “What are you doing, Derrick?” she whispers.
He stands a foot away, trying to understand how, why, when. Blood.
“Are you going to kill me now?” she asks.
He sees the flashes of black and red in her eyes. The fangs…unique only to vampires. “I was going to ask you the same thing?”
Her face contorts; she wants to cry. “You showed me that…it’s okay to love again. Thank you.”
Conflicted. Never has he felt so attracted and so repulsed by the same person. “How did you survive this long without…without…”
“I adapted. Almost starved to death. I haven’t been perfect, Derrick. I had to hide…from everyone,” she explains. “Now, somehow, I can live quite well, actually.”
“Yes. No victims. Lay low.”
“The hood was…”
“You’re not the first man to think I’m pretty.”
Shots ring out above them.
“They can’t find me. So, it’s just shooting up the place.”
“You know what they do to vampires when they catch them?”
“I won’t let them catch me, Derrick.”
“There not gonna let you escape.”
More shots fire. Grenades explode. They’re getting closer.
“You have to.”
Derrick shakes his head, ‘no.’
“There are so many secrets. I can’t even admit how old I am to you.”
The hinges are blown off the secret door above them.
Seline moves in to kiss him, but stops as she remembers the blood of others spread across her mouth. She whispers in his ear, “Do it. Please. For me. For us.”
Derrick drops the fractured wooden plank.
Seline is gone.
Derrick falls to a knee and wills himself out of the path of the soldiers.
Flickers of light. Is she dead? He wonders. Suddenly, he’s being choked.
“I told you to stay put, boy!” the Soldier hollers. He punches and kicks Derrick to the ground.
The Soldier is tackled to the ground. Derrick hits him with a flurry of lefts and rights. The Soldier counters, trying to break his arms. They wrestle.
Fifteen soldiers move ahead. Seline darts by the group. Shots are fired. One man’s neck is broken. She’s not in sight. Another flash. Two men are down, one knee fractured, another’s leg is broken. The remaining twelve soldiers light the surrounding area with bullets.
Derrick is being choked as he reaches for the wooden piece. He bashes the Soldier across the face gaining the upper hand. He’s out cold. Another soldier grabs Derrick around the neck.
Seline grabs one of the soldiers from above and pulls him to the ceiling. He’s dead before he falls back to the ground.
“Back to back! Back to back, men!” the Commander calls out.
More shots are fired. Three more soldiers fall.
“She has our weapons! Cover, cover!” he implores. Eleven men left.
Derrick flips the soldier across his shoulder onto his back. Another swipe of the wooden piece, the soldier rolls in pain.
Seline dives in and out of the group. Grenade pins drop to the floor. After successive explosions, only three soldiers remain, including the Commander. Separated, she knocks one man off his feet, chest crushed. The next man is spun around and slammed into a protruding metal rod.
Only the Commander remains. He grabs his radio, “Send them al…”
The radio is kicked out of his hand. Seline grabs the Commander by the vest and lifts him up in the air with little effort. She glares at him.
He laughs. “You think you’re little boyfriend’s gonna make it?” He laughs all the more.
Her punch to his gut penetrates his armor, flesh, and bone. Seline looks over the see another squad of soldiers moving in on Derrick. Shots ring out. She charges ahead.
The burning sensations become intense heat. Still, Derrick fights to remain standing. Flashes of Seline go by in a blur. He can’t keep track of her movements and neither can the soldiers.
Their bodies are thrown here, there. Two become temporary shields for her until she moves on to the next man. A soldier hits the wall upside down. An uppercut sends another hurling backwards. The last soldier is caught across the neck and stumbles to the floor.
He sees his blood covering the mix of dirt and metal on the floor. Still, Derrick tries to control his breathing, though his heart is beating unbelievably fast. Seline kneels down, pulls him up enough to get her knees beneath him.
She places her hand over his wounds. His vision is fading. She grabs his face, “Derrick, hold on, hold on!” Ripping the arm of his jacket, her eyes grow dark, she brings his forearm towards her mouth.
“No…don’t,” he replies.
She shutters, “This is the only way. Please!”
“No…it’s okay. I…”
“It’s not okay! You’re dying!”
“Seline,” he whispers.
“I’m not going to let you go!”
“Seline…this way, I’ll always be a human. You’ll remember me…” Derrick feels cold. Then, he feels nothing. He can almost still hear her voice. What was so angelic, now, screams of despair.
She holds Derrick off the ground, wanting to cradle him like a baby. Her baby. Now he’s gone. And she’s alone…again.
A buzz rises. Closer. Closer. Seline hears a whistling sound, loud, intimidating. She kneels down, kissing Derrick on the lips. So cold. How does it feel to die, she wonders. The sound of a whistle is deafening. She looks up to see the sun quickly breaking over the horizon. So, that’s how it looks.
She hugs her love as her skin rejects the heat of the sunlight and the whistling ceases to become a wave of fire. As her thoughts fade away, she realizes, ‘After seven hundred years, the end has come, when I had finally found true love.’