Fio disappeared through the wooden hatch. Iris and Mira stood near the platform ledge, peering at the land. It was a long expanse of scrub and meadow, stretching out for miles, till the forest and low mountains that crept at it from the west covered it completely. Ringed by the sea, the forest, and the fields, the town seemed small, a single point of light in an empty place. If passerby stood from the nearest town, they would only see a pin-small shimmer of brightness, like the squint of a lighthouse or a forgotten star.

“It looks dead, all that land.”

“Really? I think it looks terribly alive. You never know what dwells in darkness.”

“Sure.” Mira hung her head and rubbed her nose.

“I’m sorry I yelled,” she said. “I know you were just trying to help.”

“No, I should have listened.”

“It’s just…” Mira took a long, deep breath. “You don’t know what it’s like to have been through what I’ve been through. Maybe you try to understand, but it’s not the same. I can’t even explain it. And I appreciate you, I appreciate that you try. I don’t think anyone else would even bother. But empathy isn’t the real thing. It’s close, but it doesn’t replace experience.”

Writing month, day twenty-one, word count: 20,113


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