It happened again and again. Merrie would somehow wake up to silence and have to pull her body together again. By the time she started to regain her senses, the sunlight came and set her on fire.

It was torture, slow and inescapable. Every time she woke up to the silence in her chest, she knew she would be immolated before she could rescue herself. The silence became a terrible dread, a fear and loathing for whatever kept her coming back to life only to suffer again.

Time slowly intruded on her mind. When she first awoke, it was a moonless night. Later, she watched the moon rise as a brilliant shard of light that she couldn't suffer to look at. She knew that she would grew accustomed to the stars, but the moon refused to be anything other than painfully blinding. At least it didn't burn her skin away.

She also saw that she had limited time. The trees and plants were still rotting away, the leaves falling to the ground as they died. The poisoned stream continued to rot away at the forest. It also removed more of her protections from the sunlight; it speared her body faster every morning. Soon, she wouldn't have much time to do anything besides die if she didn't do something.

After a few cycles of pity and death, Merrie realized she couldn't give up. She learned how to coalesce her body faster. Her waking wasn't just regaining consciousness, it was also pulling her body together from the darkness around the trees to regain her shadowy form. The anchor was her collar, the shadows naturally gathered around it as soon as the evening light faded.

Punctuated by the rhythm of rebirth and immolation, Merrie began to change her environment. She spent an entire day pushing leaves into the pit. She took another day to drag a branch over to her waking spot before she burned away. Day after day, she created a nest to protect herself from the shadows.

Each time, she worked in silence. She wanted to hear her heart beat in her chest, to feel it straining as she shoved a pile of leaves with her face and breasts back into the pit. The stillness hung around her, a dread that did nothing to darken her life.

She remembered her master, Kine. He used to finger her when they had a quiet time together. It was the same rhythm: beat, beat, beat, silence. It was his favorite part of a song that she couldn't remember anymore. Just three notes and silence, but he used it when he fingered against her, when he drummed against the table in impatience, and that rhythm kept with her long after he was gone. She remembered how the collar had thumped against her chest with the same beat before the Lord of Shadows had consumed her.

Memories of Kine's death haunted her. It kept playing over and over in her head, the agonizing emotions and sensations of having her heart and spirit ripped out clawing through her consciousness. She cried out silently as she pushed herself to create a shelter. She felt the tears on her cheeks splashing down against her skin and along the ground. The trail behind her was always rotted away from her sorrow.

It was easier to face his death when it was sealed away in a pit of despair. But her fight with Lemetri had cracked open the mental barriers that prevented her from experiencing the full onslaught of the memories.

She couldn't stop. Tears continued to rot the ground as she force herself to push more leaves and branches into her shelter.

Just when she had enough leaves and branches to shield herself from the day, she lost a day just thinking about her former master. She missed him. She craved the times when she teased him and when he caged her. The fighting, the fucking, the loving. It was supposed to be the end for her, a peaceful life where she finally had everything she wanted.

It was a new despair that held her down as she just watched the sun rise up. She didn't even cry out when the light burned away her body, sending her into a torment of light before the darkness took her.