The tenuous thread that had held him this long was fraying. He could see the fibers weakening and unraveling as he glanced upward at them. Below, the grey waves crashed into the jagged stones coated in frost. Above, the verdant green landscape was clinging perilously to its own existence.
He sighed. The warmth, the lush garden full of life. He missed it, though he knew full well he had no right. It had always been a fleeting gift. He'd known that from the start, even if he'd refused to admit it. The lands of the living, those spaces that flourish with openness and affection beneath the rays of a benevolent sun...they had never been his home.
Somehow, he'd slipped past all the usual guards, and managed to trespass into this kingdom of vibrant glory for a time; but it would seem his presence had finally been noticed. He was being cast out, dragged back down to the depths he had clawed his way out of.
Whilst he was far from surprised, it did little to ease the ache blooming in his chest. He could be remarkably talented in the gift of lying to himself when he chose to be. It never paid off in the end, but he supposed, few of his endeavors ever did.
The gleaming golden strand that had attached itself to him when he'd first entered this place – something of an umbilical cord that would allow him to experience all the kingdom had to offer – was dulling in color and withering before his eyes.
In stark contrast to the obviously failing health of his lifeline, the black tendrils of shadow and ooze that crept up from the edge of the water along the face of the cliff seemed to be quite persistent. He watched warily as they made their way slowly over the ashen expanse of stone, yearning to sink their thorns into his flesh once again.
He had to give them credit for their tenacity. One might think they'd have given up, and opted to pursue other prey instead; but these damnable strands of despair burned and pulsated in their desire to slip their noose round his neck anew.
A rustling sound drew his attention back upward, seeking the ridge from which he dangled so precariously. The silhouette of a figure appeared, made ambiguous by the shimmering golden and emerald backdrop. When he slit his eyes, he could almost detect enough features to place an identity to the being. However, given the situation, he didn't need to rely upon compromised vision to pinpoint the name of the spectator.
Against all logic and reason, he reached up slowly, curling his fingers delicately around the fading tether to this world. The cord hardly had the durability to allow him to climb his way back up. His gesture was more of an appeal, a final overture to the silent observer above to aid him.
For a moment, his breath lodged in his throat as the bystander leaned out over the ledge, seeming as though they were about to reach out to him. He detected a hint of movement, a glitter of something caught in the blazing heat and light overhead. He traced the motion as best he could from his rather lacking vantage point, and as the pieces came together in his mind, he felt a rueful smile curl his lips.
He closed his eyes, held his breath, and felt the weight of it all fall away as the cruel, thin blade severed his disintegrating bond to a realm that had never been his in the first place. For a long, frozen moment, he hung, suspended by nothing before he dropped like a stone, and the ravenous black coils rose up to greet him.
As thorns and barbs dug deep, glistening blood a harsh shade of pitch streaked over porcelain skin, he choked forth a dismal laugh that floated all the way back up to the ledge, and the lone witness of his fall. The vines wound tighter around him, crushing him in their greedy embrace. He could not even appreciate his final glimpse of all that was being lost, for the view had long been obscured by the tears already icing over in his lashes like black diamonds.
He clung for only a moment to the dying sensation of warmth radiating upon his skin before succumbing the the cold, bleak depths of the writhing waters, and letting the current drag him inexorably further down.
'I am stubborn, but not unshakable. Resilient, but not invulnerable. I have a breaking point. Even I am capable of seeing when a fight is well and truly lost.'
Then, all was black once more.