I woke up today and wanted to write for...some reason. And as some might have noticed, I have a particular fondness for a certain piece of the Madoka Magica soundtrack.

Welp. Here you go.

The ground here had long since grown sour.

It hadn't ever been anything that Aya could sense. No, that was the sort of thing best left to the real aurin. It was immediately obvious to anyone who wandered into the gnarled wood that this part of the forest wasn't 'right'.

She'd thought Cursewood to be the darkest of Celestion, but as time passed, her own sanctuary proved to be a type of wrong all its own.

It'd taken awhile for the thicket to reveal its most prominent wound.

Why had it been so impossible to find up until now? She'd wandered this part of the wood before, time and time again. Yet, only on that day and since, she'd finally been allowed to see what twisted and tortured these woods.

This was what had been hurting her protectors all along.

In the early days on Nexus, a factory once stood here. The blame, she'd thought, was so easy to place. The Dominion. Back in those days, she'd still had faith in those who fought beside her. Would Exiles do such a thing?

It lay in ruins now, already being taken back by the vengeful wood. The thorns grew dense and wild here, grasping onto whatever intrusive, unwanted remains they could find. Even in its illness, the land would fight back.

But it could only do so much. The young aurin began to find herself in the midst of something awful as she passed one decaying creature after another. Dead, dead, dead.

She thought the empathy within her had already gone, but as she reached the top of the hill, she found that there were still greater pains left to feel.

A pool of stagnant, toxic sludge lay beneath her. The exit pipe that fed into this filth still spewed forth something so rancid that Ayana found herself beginning to gag. Her stomach twisted and churned as her gaze flew from one thing to the next.

The waste stretched for miles, mingling with what almost seemed to be a man-made swamp. In the midst of the sickly waters, bodies lay. More dead animals. Decapitated. Deformed. Cages were scattered haphazardly. Whether they'd died from starvation or drowning was hard to tell, but the contents of the cages were bloated and rotting and horribly disfigured.

Not all of them walked on four legs.

With weak and trembling steps, she began to descend down towards the muck, paying dangerously little mind to what littered the hillside. More black gunk.

Her foot slipped. She let out a cry of terror and clambered desperately back upwards. Looking back, she'd been lucky then. To fall into that pool would have been a gruesome fate.

In the months that followed her discovery, Ayana would return in a hazmat suit. The chemical burns on her hands and feet alone made it clear that this was more than mere pollution.

Whoever had caused this injustice was now far from her mind. At first, she'd wanted vengeance. But vengeance wouldn't heal the hurt that had already been done. That any plants had survived at all was little short of a miracle.

There wasn't much she could do. This was painfully clear. But what she could do, she did with such spite that her rage itself probably could've made the tainted water boil.

It didn't, of course. She had no such powers.

Still, she worked. Her first action was to stop up that pipe. Enough of the debris would do. Bits of scrap and netting and rubber were finally put to good use. Even as it splattered on her yellow hazmat gear, she furiously clogged that pipe with all she could find. All short of the dead.

That came next. Even as small as she was, she dug what felt to be a thousand holes. An exaggeration, surely, but each grave was to be deep enough so that its occupant would never again be disturbed. These holes, she dug further from the disaster. These were on drier land. Closer to her own home.

It was dragging the bodies that was the hardest part. It was probably a good thing that she'd long ago been desensitized to things like this. She was no longer capable of disgust. All she felt was anger. The bodies were heavy, even as decayed as some were, but the sheer anguish on their part lightened her load. She hardly even noticed anymore.

At some point, she'd built a dam around a section of rusted fence left behind. Anything she could find in her home or otherwise would do. Sandbags. An old mattress. Various appliances. She didn't need them anyway. It wasn't like she even had electricity to power the stupid things anyway. But it seemed that junkyard hoarding finally found its use.

As for anything else...

She did what she could.

She'd left messages tacked on the bulletin boards in town for help. Pleading for the aurin who could truly do something to come and fix this.

It wasn't that they hadn't tried. So many tried. So many.

Some found themselves lost in the wood and couldn't find anything Ayana had marked on the map. Those, and others, were driven away by something the white-haired hermit couldn't even see, hear, or feel.
What was the nightmare that drove them from this place? Even as someone who'd lost so much hope in her own people, she knew that the aurin that came weren't spineless. What could they see that she couldn't?

The oppressive silence carried with it far more than what she noticed on the surface. Those still connected to the Weave often found the atmosphere choking. The trees remained silent. Others reported an increasing terror in the pit of their stomach. Paranoia. The feeling that they were being watched. Some had run from the treeline in tears.

Maybe being severed from the Weave as she was had been for the best. Did she really need more noise rattling around in her head?

And, alone as she remained, she did what she could.

(You can do nothing.)

She brought water. Clean water. She laid clippings of flowers on each grave she'd dug. She would go back to those ruins and clean the debris.

(You're useless.)

In the past week or two, she'd started doing something else. Something she hadn't done since she'd been ripped from her home planet.

(How stupid.)

She'd made herself forget, but the urge lingered. Each day she refused and tried to stave off the memories. They'd persist and grow louder like the beating of drums.

(What's the point?)

And drums were meant for dancing.

[solti ola i--]

It started as wandering. Maybe a slow twirl here or there. What came with the most difficulty was what she'd once believed was her single greatest gift. In the beginning, her song remained little more than a whispered lullaby.

"Amaliche cantia masa estia..."

It was now that she finally realized the sheer weight of the silence in the forest. No birds. No rustling of leaves. No wind. Nothing but herself. And that was the snap of the final thread.

(You can't do anything right.)

Someone had to shatter the silence. And if no one else could do it, then it'd have to be her.

(Why don't you just die already?)

"E sonti tolda i--!"

She'd bound through the forest now, looping through trees and splashing through ankle-deep water. Wearing boots, of course. The water was still tainted, but it would be diluted by passing time.

She'd forgotten how much fun it had been to twirl around in the dirt.

"--emalita cantia mia distia!"

The songs that she sang now weren't really anything special. Things she heard on the radio, mostly. She'd bought herself one of those recently. Anything to break the silence. Even gibberish. Or maybe words whose meaning history simply left behind.

"A litia dista, somelite esta dia!"

It didn't have to make sense. Nothing made sense anymore anyway. She wasn't even sure if it would matter. What had made it special back then? Why did it seem so important?

(What kind of idiot sings to trees?)

"A ditto i della! Filioche mio, solti tola...!"

Could they even feel her? Were they as deaf to her as she was to them? It hadn't always been like this.

(You are̼͉ ͏̦̬̖̳ͅͅd̻͍̗͚̞é̩̯͖̩̬̘̺a̖͔d͎̫͖̀ t̺̟̙̞̺́o̸̳͕͎̥ ̼̹̲͢ͅt͍͈̱ẖe̛̹̺̟̖̭m̠͎̣̞͍̦̤.͇̻̟̺)

In some time long ago, she'd never felt alone a day in her life.

"Solti ola i! Amaliche--cantia masa estia!"

(You are not fit to be aurin.)

"E sonti tolda i, emalita cantia mia distia!"

The trees were alive. That much she knew. Even after all this time, they'd never given in to the toxic soil. She was envious of their resilience.

(̫̗͖̖̱̫̼͙͖͘͜͡ͅÝ͇̜̫̠̳͇̥̜̀͘̕͠Ò̸̮̹̜̤͇͇̻̦̙͎̪̜̲͘͟U҉̩̦̗̦͔̱͔́͢ͅ ̸̖͎̜̮̤̭̯̺̫̙͜A͏̨̹̫͓͉̱͈͖͈̻̖̠̺̰̭̝̣̝̀͠R̰̯̹͔̭̗̙̪͝͠Ȩ̵̧̨͕̝͕͔͝ ̡̭̘̫̠͍͇̲͇̲͎̗̯ͅW҉̕҉̴̟͕̘͉̤̤̟̠̘E̶̡̩̪͙̝͙̬̠̖̺̗̻̫̪͕̫̠̠̤͠A̛͉̞̫͖͚̼͉̮͉̣͕͔͖̖͖͙̫͘ͅV̵̡̩̟͕͈̱͎̫̖͎͖̳̯̜́͢E̛̦̱̺͕̠͔͍̰͓̜̕͞B̨͏̰̜̪̘̯̣̘̪̮̤͍͚͉̺̙͈̭̠ͅR̴̙͈͍̰͎͡Ó̸̢͈͖̪͖̙̰̠͕̪͍̠̠͖̟̬͉̮̜̀K̶̷̸̯͕̮̖͖̟̥̯̩̼̼̲̺̬͙̳̀͢ͅE͏̨̢̟̘̲͎̣͓͕͖̤̬͔͔̻͢ͅŃ̶̮̺̗̬̦͖͕̙̤̼̫͇͔̺̥͚̕͡͡ͅ!̴̵͖͚̝̻̼͉͕͍͖͖̠̭̝͚̩͜ͅ)̕̕͏̶̵̪̬̟͇̝̲̩͚͔͖͍͉̖͙͔͓̮͚

Ayana ached to feel it again. The life that ran through everything in this universe.

"Alita della! Maliche sonta dia!"

Did she even 'live'?

Every day, she did this. This was what she did when she wandered in her sleep. She just hadn't realized it yet. Every day, she fought herself and the static and the noise to cry out a plea to the essence of everything that was.

But she was so small.

Was she just singing to herself in the lonely wood? Day after day after day. She'd told herself that it was pointless and silly, but she persisted each time. Once more, with feeling.

"--dia, dia..."

She slid down the trunk of the one closest to her and looked up into the canopy. Bare branches, tangled together. Keeping out the starlight. The snow-haired girl let out a sigh.

"...Can you hear me now?"