Curiosity roots through Ash’s thoughts. How does it feel? How does it smell?
It doesn’t, she realizes. It doesn’t smell at all, and somehow that doesn’t bother her as much as it should.
“Touch it,” Emil dares, echoing her own thoughts.
“Why don’t you?” she shoots back without thinking, defensive out of habit. But she doesn’t want him to touch it. It wants her, not him. Someone like him couldn’t even understand it.
She takes a step toward it, but Emil’s already stomping past, likely propelled by some childish determination to appear brave, to make up for his breakdown before. Unless—and her fingers curl at the thought—unless it’s called him too?
She stalks closer, keeping a wary distance from Emil while trying to get a better look at the tree. Something writhes beneath its bark, and Ash’s skin prickles with excitement. Its fallen leaves, too crisp, too angular to be natural shatter beneath her feet like glass, like she and Emil shattered. Are the leaves on their way to another dream world? Is the tree full of people just like them, wandering, trapped between one plane and the next?