Conviction.
Confidence.
Bravery.
These are not the things little Stefs are made of.

Peter would have crowed and flown straight into the darkness. Hook would have sheathed his sword and strode in, musing about death being an adventure.
She’d done it once, even if that time, she’d been carried like the child she had been.
And right now, she’d never felt less like a grown-up.
Stef forced her to take a step forward, so that at least there was the illusion of moving towards her target, her destination, her life or her death.
The gate into darkness could probably smell fear.
Onwards to great adventure.
She ducked her head, and ran, plunging herself into darkness.
The darkness smacked her body like she’d jumped into cold water, stifling breath for a moment before it relented, leaving her vaguely floating in complete darkness.
‘I want to live,’ she said, her voice tiny against the blackness.
What is even this?
I don’t think you’re supposed to ask that question.
She thought about living, and looked up. She had to go up, she had to go up and not stop. The world shifted beneath her feet, and she felt something hard, something solid.
Stef took a breath, wondered if it was oxygen, then started to walk up the slowly-forming stairs.
One step. Ten steps. Fifty steps.
With every step, the staircase became clearer and clearer – it seemed to extend forever, as it would take a thousand million billion years to climb.
There was a tiny light up there, which twinkled like a star.
It was so faint. It was so far.
‘Up,’ she repeated to herself. ‘Up…’
Another ten steps. Another fifty steps.
The light wasn’t any closer.
I can’t do it.
The stairs disappeared, and she fell. It wasn’t a gentle thing, it was the same made, flailing scramble as it had been before she’d faceplanted on Dajulveed.
She threw out her arms, trying to grab onto anything, but the endless darkness provided nothing to grab.
I don’t want to die.
As suddenly as the stairs had appeared, there was a surface beneath her. She rolled onto her back, her fingers dipping down and through the darkness, and looked up, up towards light and life and everything she thought she’d never have.
Darkness, and coldness, started to crawl up her arms, starting to pull her in and down.
She was tired.
I can’t do this.
Her arms slipped away, and for a moment she couldn’t feel them. Stef sat up quickly, unwilling to do nothing to save herself.
God, I am so tired.
This is the poppy field, what do you think will happen if you fall asleep here?
But I-
Don’t say “can’t”. Please, Spyder, don’t.
She felt the stairs beneath her feet again.
But I’m a loser.
She took a step.
No one wants me around.
Ryan does.
She took a few more steps.
Am I even going the right way?
Keep walking, I don’t think you get forever in here.
Stef lifted a hand, and felt for a handrail – there wasn’t one, but one slowly started to materialise under her hand as she climbed.
She looked up, and saw the light again – now a little brighter.
Keep going, Spyder, keep going.
It’s harder from this side.
Don’t think about suicide. Not here.
She let one of her feet slide from the stairs and let it swing through the darkness. She looked up and saw a shadow of herself just in front of her. She yawned and her other foot slipped from the stairs.
Get back on the stairs! Don’t fall again!
What stairs?
Suicide had been an…easy non-decision. There’d been no conscious snap, just a feeling that an inevitability had come. It had been easy. It had been almost comforting, a knowledge that she wouldn’t exist anymore. That she wouldn’t have to think anymore, wouldn’t have to feel anymore, wouldn’t have to be conscious of how much of a monster she was.
Suicide had been a quiet day, a packet of pills, and the comfort of her oldest friend.
Alexandria had been there, someone to hold close whilst the end came.
And it had come, leaving her feeling like she was a on ledge, about to fall into-
Fall into the same darkness she was in right now.
She was sinking, unable to even see the stairs anymore.
It felt like drowning – there wasn’t even the need to draw in breath anymore, if there ever had been in the first place.
The darkness wasn’t evil, it wasn’t bad, it just was. It was a fact, and so was her death.
Ryan was waiting for someone who didn’t exist. He was waiting for a version of her that he could care about – someone she’d tricked him into believing existed. She’d done something wrong, she’d tried too hard to-
He couldn’t care about her. No one cared about her.
Mother had died. Peter had flown away. Hook had abandoned her.
Alexandria cared so much as a china doll could; and Prometheus – dear, whinging Frankie – would be glad of the break.
You don’t want to die.
No…but I’m not sure I know how to live.
She closed her eyes.
Nothingness, true nothingness, started to eat away at her.
No heaven. No hell. No new game plus.
Nothing was more frightening than nothing.
No.
She forced her eyes open.
Stef pushed up, not even looking for the stairs anymore – whatever the distance to the light, it wasn’t something that could be measured in steps.
She swam through the void, the light closer and closer.
Life was big and bad and scary. Life had pain and sadness and all the bad feels.
Life had tiny good moments; and days that weren’t bad.
Life was…everything. And any everything, even an everything that had all the bad stuff; was better than a nothing that had nothing.
The light was a tiny blue star, and there was the sudden, inarguable knowledge, that she was staring at her own soul.
She pushed on her feet a little more, and floated in front of her soul – it was now the size of a big beach ball, a flaring, speckled thing, almost too brilliant and bright to look at directly.
It was the sum of her existence, and it smelled vaguely of feet.
Stef thrust out a hand – there seemed to be nothing else to do – and it burnt her as she made contact.
She could run, she could flee, she could-
‘No!’
The heat grew under her hand, and she imagined her skin melting.
The soul-star-sun grew, and everything became light.
I want to live.
The light drained away, becoming blackness again.
I thought- But I thought-
Spyder?
What?
Open your eyes.
She considered things for a moment – she could feel coolness on her skin, she could feel tears on her cheeks, her eyes were twitching, and she could feel the small puffs of air as she breathed.
I’m- I’m-
I think you are.
Stef opened her eyes.
[table id=15 /]