“Yeah, I decided that it may be time for you to go home when you suddenly seemed way too fascinated with the owner’s description of the air duct system,” Cotton told me. “He was telling us how he had to install some new vents and you were like ‘Wow! Are you kidding me?'”
“I don’t even remember anything about the air duct system,” I laughed. “No, I’ve just had a really stressful couple of weeks. See, after [April] and I broke up, I joined Tinder.”

Ash is a predator.
They go after systems and traumatized, mentally ill persons without a solid sense of self. They seek the under-aged or monster-like alters or “past-lives” for their own sexual gratification. They will synthesize a sense of belonging using religion and magic, and then turn the tides against you once you either learn to say ‘no’ or you start questioning too much.

“It’s an apology– kind of. Like the ones actors make when they realise there’s no way they’re not getting cancelled. You can read it now, if you want.”
I shook my head. “I can’t let her have the last word, Cotton. Otherwise, she’d win.” I’d meant that as a joke, but that was answered with another question about how much progress I’d made on finding a therapist.

Champagne would always taste like freedom, like the Tuesdays I spent without April. I opened my eyes and saw Kaspar beside my bed at Ethniu’s, pouring me a glass in a flute. It motioned for me to raise my glass, then it clinked it with his own. “I’ve heard tell that you’ve been liberated from monogamy at last! This calls for a celebration!”

Names of the fallen did flash on the telly. It was static, with that sensory hell of hissing that went along with it, warping as if text itself couldn’t handle the truth of it all. Everyone was gone. Everyone.

Ash fell silent for a moment. “Who– who else thinks this?” Their tone was accusatory, as if we were all having a laugh at their expense and not terrified they’d end up in a double suicide.
“It’d– uh, be a shorter list of those who don’t think it. And I think that’s limited to–… you and… Maybe, like, his cat.” I don’t try to be a smartass; my dickishness is au natural. “