Allowing the gilded invitation to flutter to the patio, I wonder why your father is willing to tolerate my presence here after all these years. He swore I would never be welcome again, yet five years after your passing, four since my banishment from the estate, I find myself standing on this fertile precipice.
The moonlight, it beckons – how can I refuse? Slipping off my shoes, I place one bare foot upon the mossy grass, then the other. The scent of the cooling autumn air draws me forward. To the right, a path – our path – calls my name, offers a pang of joy as I recall delight and pleasure. I veer toward it; the smile on my face as bright as the orb hanging in the sky. Trees, old friends dearly missed, guide me along a sloping trail of memories. I hear your laughter, its resonating giggle, as we play hide and seek, only to catch one another, and play more amorous games amid these woods. A chorus of glee escapes my lips as I wrap my arms around a tree. Do you recall how we would clasp hands around a sapling, willing it to share in our passion? The tree I now rest my forehead against is a maturing recipient of that youthful, foolish notion. I press my lips to it in both greeting and farewell.
Further down the path, I come across the spot where we sat together as the night’s chill would shiver our bones. This night, I sit alone with my thoughts, reminiscing of things gone by. I think of you. I curl on my side, tell myself I’ll only linger a moment, but I stay much longer. Loath to rise, my lids slowly shut as a dream weaver carries me away to a more carefree time.
My fancy having come to an end, I draw in deeply the scent of the soil. I force myself to linger no more; one final caress of my hand, one final flutter of my heart. I continue to the end of the path and emerge into the clearing under the brilliant glow from above. I tilt my head to stare at our moon knowing it will never hang in my sky again. Turning away, I focus on the ground beneath my feet as I meander further afield. The path calls to me as I leave it behind; I refuse to indulge in its hypnotic plea. Lost to my own thoughts, I hear a slight sound but give it no heed until an overwhelming stench assaults me. By then it’s too late – he is already upon me.
Waking strewn on cold concrete, I feel the jagged broken steps beneath my torn aching body. My head is a fog of pain and confusion; I try to open my eyes only to find one running with blood, the other unwilling to respond. I reach with a trembling hand to touch my tender brow, explore my shattered cheekbone, and discover worst of all, a crushed eye socket. Ever so gingerly, I wipe the congealing blood from my remaining eye; it offers a bare glimpse of my surroundings. As I slowly pivot my head, I realize where I am. It’s the stone edifice I worshiped in unrelenting despair years ago. A place your father took great delight in exiling me from; your tomb.
The moonlight reflects off the leaden windows, my already blurred vision halos further. Then I hear it; a low guttural breathing from behind. Pain forgotten, I quickly scurry onto the platform before the doors. With my back pressed against the guardians of your crypt, I try to make out the figure standing before the stairs. He remains motionless. As my sight begins to clear, I see it is not a man, but a beast, the same beast that tore your exquisite body to shreds; ending both your life and mine on the night you went wandering alone. It growls something I cannot understand. I sit frozen in fear. It grunts the same utterance again, pointing this time in concert with its demand. I turn toward the direction in which it points. My eyes lock onto the object discarded on the stone; my hand immediately flies to my throat. It’s gone – the chain bearing the key to your mausoleum! I rush to it, bleating like a wounded animal. I grasp it, hold it close, cling to it for my own salvation. Not salvation from the beast, but salvation from ever having to part with it. It is the last of you outside these walls; it is my damnation, it is my sanity.
The creature motions a third time as it begins to climb the steps. Eyes glistening in the moonlight; its face reflecting a pain I know all too well. Frightened but curious, I listen more carefully as it utters the word again; it is saying ‘key.’ Shock and fear propel me to my feet; my right knee gives way and I crumble. It reaches the pedestal and extends a clawed talon toward me, cups my elbow, lifts me to my feet; supports me. It silently demands that I unlock the doors.
For a moment, I consider fending it off, holding some delusion of gaining revenge on your behalf, but the look in its eyes stalls me. It mourns genuinely. I raise my hand to the decorative window set in the door, glance through, then turn back toward the beast. It seems to share my remorse. I unlock the doors as though in a trance. As a stale musty breath issues from the vault, moonlight floods its pristine interior. Realizing I am unable to walk, it gently eases me within, resting my broken body against the cool wall. Running a loving hand across your marble encasement, it circles your sarcophagus once before letting out a sorrowful moan of agony. Then, it lays its head on the raised casket that shrouds you. Plaintive eyes plead with me, a soft mewl begs that I understand it would never harm you. Much like me, it survives only to be with you again one day. Could this creature belong to you as much as I? Looking deep into the sad eyes before me, I see intelligence, I see anguish; I see truth. This is not the monster that took you, but a creature who cherishes you.
Calmness steals over me; the beast seems to sense my resolve. I limp to the verdant marble, rest a hand upon the stone; yet another final goodbye – how many must I say? I lift my shaking hand and dare to touch its coarse hair; it doesn’t seem to mind and lets out what I assume to be a strangled sob. My fingers stroke through its mane; somehow I feel closer to you. Removing my hand and reaching to the wall for support, I hobble my way across the threshold and back out into the night. It glances upward as though thanking me. The starlight shines across its mangled features as I close and seal the doors forever, breaking the key within the lock. Turning, I make my way down the steps with no little amount of difficulty. The excursion having exhausted me, I draw a bloody smear along the wall as I slide down its surface to rest. The breeze whispers thank you along with my name. I sigh as I sit staring across the way. I cannot help but wonder at the cruel irony of your father placing this shrine in clear view of the path – our path; the one he found us on the last night I saw you alive. A braggart at best, a cruel drunkard at least, I still cannot fathom why he would allow me to attend the five year memorial of your passing. As my mind wanders, I hear yet another sound; this one a menacing growl. As a clawed hand rips my throat open, I catch the glint of your family seal on his gold ring.
A pained cry echoes from within your tomb.
Nina DÀrcangela (2015)
Writer/ Contributor at:
Sirens Call Publications & Pen of the Damned
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