Love at Twenty-Seven.

It was an ordinary but unordinary morning in which the octopus arms of Love became suddenly and alarmingly suffocating, as if the near decade of embrace were summed in a violent instant.

You could not understand how quickly Time had left, wisping past as a smoke ghost as Love took you away. Pathos was gone, for you had everything you needed. Love's words were poetry, but they were not infallible. Once you saw a boy with Ambition, a powerful presence that would have made you stray if you were not overwhelmed by Fear, its gray teeth bared and snapping at the air. It was always hungry for soft yellow-bellied prey. Were you yellow? There was also a girl accompanied by Lust. They walked free and glowed with an alien light. You were told it was wrong, and hid that odd attraction. Nobody should know what you felt. What did you feel?

There was once a rabbit. There always was. Running about with poor spatial relations and performing binkies in parsley patches.

There was once a reflection in the glass lake. You often looked, enchanted by Vanity, who looked back critically and lovely. Would she be there, waiting for you, pointing out wild strands of hair or the bruise-mauve beneath your eyes? The asymmetry of your smile has worsened as embittered smirks. Soft lines have etched into your face. When? You would not dare to look for her.

Love woke finally. "I need you," it croaked. Love was always needy. It once flew as high as the clouds, but coddling had molted the feather coat and revealed cold tentacles in place of wings, which left their bloody imprint on your self. Sometimes metal scales lifted from its tentacles and they hurt. You threatened with ultimatums. It pleaded with beautiful music and the pain was forgiven.

"I have made you a monster," you said.

"You have, but I forgive all." It yawned and with a slick limb pulled you closer. Once its touch filled you with an other-world fire that pressed your blood to the surface of your skin. Now it was clamminess that left goosebumps on your form. It reminded you of cold poultry, devoid of its brown feather coat. Were you always so chicken-skinned? Because you felt just as exposed and just as sprightly.

"You need somebody who will make you beautiful again," you replied. If there was somebody out there who wanted Love, they had been wise to risk its pursuit. "As how I met you."

You were once so impressionable, at fifteen, and someday, there would be other fifteen's yearning for the wrong things.

"Or you could change for me," it said.

"Are you afraid of living without me?"

Love speaks in many voices, and the first began, "Fear keeps you here. Hope feeds me, as you cower and plot in the dark." A second: "You are my parasite, when once we were in symbiosis." A third: "I am the scab you pick to feel and heal again," and a fourth concluded: "I am the doubt in the plans you make. Once a huntress free to choose any path, I am the chain that restricts your footing."

"No!"

A knife revealed. It had always been there, hidden beneath a taupe jacket, nestled in its case; hot from Rage, which bloomed all around in a deadly garden. Sacrilegious. Most would be satisfied with everything they ever wanted, build a fortress around that quiet bliss full of routine. Some would still itch at the wrist to find an end to the silence in a single blade.

But you escaped Love's hold with only a threat instead with the serrated side on the flat of your inner forearm. Love would not let you destroy yourself.

You paced toward Fear and let it pounce. The knife never left its casing again. All you needed was to steady your hands over its mouth, even as its erratic gnashes pierced callous fingers. There was no blood, or pains, only that instinctive need to recoil from its grasp but you did not. You pried its mouth apart so wide it tore its head off and the rest collapsed in a heap of dark, musky fur.

It would be cold from that point on. You would be cold. No light would kindle your heart, or Anything.

You cloaked yourself in Fear and began chase after lost Time.

Love didn't stop you.