Fingers claw at my arm as she struggles for a breath that will never come. Her legs churn the cold grey water, spraying my face as I lean over her, hands grasping her throat, pressing her pale face beneath the churning liquid.
Her chest spasms and her widened eyes disappear behind a curtain of bubbles as her failing body makes one last desperate attempt to return to the womb it has never felt, sucking in the cold liquid in a doomed attempt to draw oxygen from the water.
Soon enough, her legs spasm one last time and then go limp, sinking downward beneath the dead jellyfish of her orange dress. As the water stills from grey froth to a black mirror, I see her eyes gazing up at me amid the cloud of her hair. Her finger unclench from my wrist, releasing tendrils of red blood which swirl around her lacquered orange nails and pale white skin, as if she were trying to extend her own life by extracting my soul in a blood ritual. My daemon rises up, screaming in terror at the sight of blood mingling with the water, but I choke it down.
This is no time for fear or equivocation.
She must die.
I hold her until the end, watching dispassionately as her face goes limp and life fades from her eyes. When it is finished, I release her into the clutches of the lake and watch as she slowly fades from view, a figment of white and orange dissolving into the shadows until nothing remains but a memory. I know that she will always be with me, she and all her kin rising up from the depths to torment me in my sleep, until I at last surrender to my daemon and embrace my own death.
I stand and push my cold, bloodied hands into the pockets of my overcoat. The bitter wind whips fresh snow into my eyes as I gaze across the dead grey lake and consider the woman I have just murdered, and all of those who came before her.
I can’t help wondering if she will be the last of us to die.