A Valentine Lost
“Where are we? Cory, are you there?” Liry’s voice, quiet but clear, broke the solemn silence, which filled the darkness around us.
“Yes, Liry, I’m here.” I whispered.
I held her hand. Then, in the boundless darkness, we wandered.
“Where on earth are we? Why we are stranded here?” asked Liry, shivering with manifest fear.
I said nothing, but held her tightly in my arms. However, instead of her warmth, all I felt was an intense cold like a thousand knives cutting my skin.
“Cory, why is your body so cold?”
Her words paralyzed me. Don’t tell me that this place is…
“Liry, how do you like the scenery here?”
“It’s beautiful! I don’t know how to thank you for such a joyride!”
“You do not have to thank me, my sweet.”
“But Lohotle,” Liry said, beginning to worry, “don’t you think we are going a little too fast?”
“It’s only 120 miles per hour,” Lohotle sneered, “plus, you need this speed if you want real joyride!”
Liry looked up at the ever-winding path of the road up the mountain.
“But the road is so narrow and the turns are so sharp. Even though there are guardrails, beyond those small pieces of metal, there’s nothing…if we fall, the only thing to catch us is a
great, wide abyss!”
“You just stop being anxious. Don’t you trust my driving?”
Liry, frustrated, then gave up her attempts to talk him out of his dangerous speed. Instead, she quietly gazed out at the beautiful view passing through her window: the sapphire sky perfectly topping the majestic view of the mountains and valleys below.
This would be the last, perfect view she would ever see.
All of sudden, a car appeared, racing straight towards them at an equally tremendous
speed. In a panic, Lohotle made an abrupt turn, spinning the car out of the lane and then into the abyss the car went spiraling ever downward…
“Master, two spirits of dead have arrived for sentencing.”
“Show them in.” I said calmly.
Sentencing dead souls. It’s my life, the life that I am far too accustomed to and ever too bored with. Perhaps to a mortal it may sound ever so tantalizing and interesting, holding their fate in my hands but when you do a job for a thousand years, I suppose you just get used to it.
“So,” I asked the two, not particularly because I give a damn, but more out of habit, “What are you two to each other?”
“She’s my girlfriend,” answered the man.
“And your name?” I asked, still emotionlessly.
“And yours, girl?”
“Liry.” She answered, looking straight, defiantly, into my eyes.
My heart began to flutter. For the first time in a thousand years.
Liry? She has the same name…but why? It’s not exactly a common name after all…
I stared at her, and for a fleeting moment, I caught a vague glimpse of my Liry.
Could it really be her? After all this time?
No!! Why should I even care?! Whether or not it’s her, I remember how much I hated her. No matter how much time passes, that hatred will never cease to be a part of me.
I waved my hand at the simpering little demon that had ushered the hateful couple before me. “There is no need for us to address these two with such formal processes. Just send them down to the eighteenth level.”
“Why?! We are not some vicious, fucking sinners who deserve such a harsh punishment! What have we done that is so horrid to deserve eternal torment in the lowest level of Hell?! Huh?! Tough guy?! You just tell me why! Why?!” yelled Lohotle, having reached a point quite beyond hysterical.
In a violent contrast to Lohotle’s panic, Liry was calm, and abnormally apathetic, as if she was watching someone else’s sentence. It seemed as if she didn’t care about the judgment I had just made, and she somehow found nothing to be afraid of in what lay ahead.
“Hold on,” I finally asked, my forgotten heart somehow getting the best of my avid desire to get this girl out of my sight as quickly as possible, “Is your name really ‘Liry’?”
“Yes.” She said over her shoulder as she turned away from me toward the future I had cursed her with.
“Forget it. You merely resemble someone I once knew. You bear the same name. That’s all.” I responded, taking careful measure to make each word as emotionless and frigid as possible.
“Welcome to Hades.”
In the overwhelming darkness, a voice suddenly shattered the silence. The tone was such as no human ear had ever heard before outside of the realm of nightmares too horrible to remember.
“Are you afraid?” I turned to Liry, not quite certain what I hoped to see. Her face was pale but the light I so greatly loved still shone in her eyes.
“No, I am not afraid. As long as you are by my side, I am not afraid of anything.” Liry said, looking up into my eyes and firmly grasping my hand.
“You two died in the name of love,” the voice, no less frightening, emerged once more. “Because of your sacrifice, you may go on to await your turn to begin your next cycle of life. The River of Nai is three levels above you.”
I felt a sudden urge to ask the voice who he was. However, I never spoke because it occurred to me that asking would just be in vain: we could not come back to life with that knowledge anyhow.
“The river ahead of us is Nai.” I pointed forward, towards the river of forgetfulness.
“Then the bridge over it is the Nai Bridge?” Liry asked in a somewhat surprising cheerful tone.
Looking at her naïve face, I nodded.
It seemed odd to me that our conversation did not seem any different than those we had when we were alive and not merely ghosts awaiting a new life.
“So, let’s go across the bridge then!” Liry grabbed my hand and pulled me forward.
“Wait a second!” I held her back, pulling her close.
“Liry,” I continued, “you should know that in order to cross that bridge and enter the next life, we will have to drink the Meng Po Soup.”
“Meng Po Soup?” Liry asked, looking confused and oh-so-innocent. However, it didn’t take her all that long to suddenly remember the tales of our youth, “You mean the soup that makes us forget everything we experienced in our previous lives?”
“Yes,” I nodded, tiredly, “and we will forget each other, and forget our love. We will forget everything that ever mattered….”
“No!” Liry almost cried, “I do not want to forget you! Ever!”
I touched her hair. Soft and black.
“Are you sure that you want to sacrifice your chance to start a new life? Are you sure you want to be with me forever, even as a soulless ghost floating in the eternal darkness? Are you sure you will not regret your choice?” I asked, my voice picking up speed with every question. My heart stopped in the moments before she answered.
“Yes, oh yes! I just want to be with you, even as a couple of ghosts! Besides, my new life will never be complete without you! Maybe it’s crazy, maybe it’s dumb – but that’s the way I feel and I don’t give a damn what kind of life I could have if it’s not with you!”
“Liry!” Once again I held her tightly in my arms, afraid of losing her.
“Perhaps our love can never continue in the next lives…perhaps….”
Weariness suddenly possessed us. We were haunted by an intense, indefinable drowsiness and, with no other apparent options, decided to rest awhile under a tree.
“Liry? Where are you?” I could not feel her by my side.
“Liry?!” I frantically searched around, but not a slightest trace of her was to be found. Without knowing it, I suddenly found myself racing along the banks of Nai River. Even once I could no longer run, I wandered along the cursed river’s banks, running my hands through my hair and desperately calling out her name.
After what seemed like years, I saw a figure ahead of me at the end of the bridge Liry and I had so recently discussed together. I decided to ask the stranger if he or she had seen Liry.
As I approached the stranger, I was met with the sight of an elderly woman, perhaps the type one might imagine as a grandmother. Yet she still left me with the impression of some wizened old sage from which I might have acquired knowledge in my youth.
“Hello, my son,” the grandmother greeted me, “please drink this Meng Po Soup before you go and enter the next life.”
“No, thanks. I have no intention to start another life. I was merely wondering if you have seen a 19-year-old girl who was with me. She is a great beauty, with a light that shines in her eyes.” I asked politely.
“A 19-year-old girl? Just a moment before you came here, there was a girl as your age. But she already drank the soup and crossed the bridge.”
“What? You must be mistaken. She would not cross this bridge. She promised me only a moment ago.” I was astonished. It couldn’t be true.
“Yes, she definitely drank the soup and crossed the bridge.”
Slowly I fell to the ground. I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t move. It couldn’t be real. It couldn’t…
Why did she leave me? Did she change her mind? Or perhaps, after all, she truly is afraid of eternal darkness and she still wants a new life? Either way, she broke our promise: she betrayed me!
“Liry! Why did you do this to me! How could you be so cruel?! Why?!”
I wanted to cry and to wail until I no longer had a voice but I could not, perhaps because a ghost has no tears to cry.
I heard my cries echoing in the vast plains of the empty fields surrounding the river. The scenery was so surreal. It made it even harder to believe the harsh reality that Liry had abandoned me.
I lost heart. I feel my soul slowly decay, just as my body surely did somewhere in the previous world.
Again that hellish voice.
“Now that you know of her cruelty, why do you insist on remaining here in this darkness? You are the most loyal spirit I have ever encountered. I actually appreciate your personality,” the voice sneered, the sarcasm of his words further searing my heart, “Actually, it would be great if you would stay and work for me. However . . . it is your choice.”
“There is no meaning in starting another life if I must again endure her cruelty. If for a spirit who wanders in the darkness the most desirable thing is a ray of sunshine, I no longer desire any sunshine because I would rather remain a part of the darkness itself. . .
What can I do for you?”
“Well said, Cory, now I like you even more. You will reside in the second level of Hades and fill an empty position which has caused me much headache.”
“What shall I do?” I asked, fervently.
“Judge. You shall sentence the dead spirits.”
This foolish girl. What right has she to bring forth such memories? Even if she is the same…then she deserves the sentence she has received.
But what if she is actually Liry…
“Master, the girl named ‘Liry’ wants to see you.”
What? She wants to see me? Is she really Liry?
Fool! She can’t have remembered anything from the past…
“Bring her in.”
I felt an unexplainable impulse within. Maybe I still feel for her…No! She deserted me and I will never cease to hate her! I cannot forgive her!
How would this be? She even knows my name!
Despite the surprise on my face, she continued, “Cory! I know it’s you! I recognized you from the very start. Even though it’s in Hades, I’m so happy that I can finally see you!”
“Liry?” I sneered at her, even though my foolish heart still raced at her eager smile, “So my instinct is right. What do you mean by ‘recognizing me’? You remember me still?”
“When I was young, I saw you in my dreams. The dreams were almost continuous, once every week. To my surprise, as I grew up, you grew up with me in my dreams. Seems like you are always around me and there for me, like the closest friend. Every time I dreamed of you, I felt so happy within those dreams. Ha,” she smiled, “I never wanted to wake up. I was looking forward to dreaming of you again…” Her eyes never moved away from me.
“Those are not just dreams. That was our childhood.” I murmured, with astonishment. “Is your name really ‘Liry’?”
“Of course, and I never changed my name. In life, I mean.”
“What a coincidence . . .” I tried hard to sneer at her again, but I fear it wasn’t all that malicious, “Your name, and all those dreams. But didn’t you find it strange? As soon as I saw you, I sentenced you to the eighteenth level of hell, the most severe level.”
“Because you hate me.” Liry said, peacefully.
“What?! Why do you say that?” I was startled.
“I concluded that from your reaction towards me. As I was describing my experiences in my past life, your face was full of coldness. You did not care about it at all. Except for hatred, is there a better reason for your apathy? You are quite different from my dreams. And you called me ‘Liry’ several times and mentioned ‘my instinct is right’, so I figured there must be one girl with the same name, and she must have hurt you very deeply.”
“You have no idea the pain I felt, and it wasn’t just any girl - that girl was you!”
“Me?” Liry asked, taken aback.
“All the things in your dreams, they happened a thousand years ago. And Cory, the one in your dreams, he’s been dead for just as long.”
“You can’t be serious…” she said, stepping closer to me.
“Do you think I need to make it all up?! The anguish I endured for a thousand years, don’t you understand? It’s all because of you! You! You broke our promise! You betrayed me!” All my pretentious coldness faded away in front of her, my previous love.
“Cory, though I’ve truly forgotten what it is that I did to you, I am so very sorry and I am willing to face any punishment you will impose on me. However, Lohotle should be free, he should not be responsible for my fault.”
“It is too late. My decision is irrevocable. Unless…”
“Unless what?” Liry looked up at me, her eyes begging for the next word.
“Unless you find a soul to exchange his.”
“What should I do?” The speed with which she responded both astonished me and tore at a wound I didn’t know could still feel pain. So she loves him that much……
“Go and kill some one and bring his soul back to me.”
“What? Kill someone? Doesn’t that mean that I would have to sacrifice another innocent person?”
“This is the only way. You decide.”
She paused for a long while.
Finally she spoke, “Well, fine. I’ll do it.”
“I can send you back to the human world for seven days. Within seven days, you should be back with the other soul. Otherwise, your will lose your soul and vanish forever. You will possess a young girl and kill her boyfriend.”
“What? Can’t I decide whom I want to kill?”
“I assign this and you should follow obediently, otherwise, no bargain. Here is the poison that you will use to kill him.” I took out a small bottle.
Watching her walk away from me with that bottle, I felt no sense of guilty at all. Maybe I really have turned into a devil.
“Master, the guy named Lohotle wants to see you too…”
One day has passed since I sent off Liry. She had a heart of gold, so I predicted that she would wait until the last day to kill the poor guy.
“Cory, I now feel obliged to give this to you.” Some one walked towards me out of the darkness.
“And you are…” I had no memory of this person.
“Who I am is not important to you. I did not mean to, but I overheard the conversation between you and Liry. After your decisions, I have decided that I must give this to you.” He then handed me a cloth bag.
I opened it. Inside lay a jade bracelet and a letter.
“These were the things that Liry left you. I needed to obey the regulations and I was not allowed to deliver things to people. However, now I feel that I can hide no more: giving these things to you will release the burden that had been imposing on my mind for a thousand years time.”
“What? You mean that all these are things that Liry left me a thousand years ago?”
“Yes, and, actually, I never should have told you. However I can no longer carry this burden. Now take your time and read it. I will go and turn myself in right away.”
I urgently opened the envelope and there appeared Liry’s small, neat print.
“My dear Cory,
After a long time of consideration, I have found that we are both silly. When you love someone, you want to be inseparable from each other. However, sometimes you have to succumb to “destiny”. I truly cherish everything you did for me. Nevertheless, it occurred to me that love still needs the nourishment from the sunshine: love might lose its color in this eternal darkness. The greatest love that one can achieve is wishing each other everlasting happiness, even if it means giving each other up. I do not want you to be in this hellish world forever. Even if we are doomed to forget each other in the next life, isn’t it beautiful that we have shared this great love, at least once in one lifetime? Moreover, there is no greater purpose of love if we cannot make each other happy. I will be right there waiting for you on the other side of Nai River. Perhaps, our fate has not ended, and we will be able to continue it in the next life.
I will always love you,
I was speechless. It took me some time to return to reality.
How could I be this stupid? I should have thought about it earlier! It is not until now, a thousand years later, that Liry came back to Hades again. She had been waiting for me at the end of Nai River for a thousand years!
Compared to Liry’s endless waiting, the pain I endured became so trivial.
“Your Highness, Lohotle has come back.”
“This quick?” I thought to myself. He is really just a selfish snob. While Liry asked for a way to spare him instead of herself, he just asked for a way to spare himself. Liry, I feel so sorry now: how could someone like Lohotle deserve your love?
“I have successfully completed my task, and now it is your time to keep your promise!” Lohotle was nearly yelling, with conceitedness and joy.
“You are truly cruel - it has only been one day!”
“Of course, it is human nature to fight for one’s own life. Anyways she is not my real girlfriend. Strange thing though, she had a bottle just like the poison you gave me…weird, huh?”
I was shocked.
I yelled, “Just go!”
Lohotle hastened away from my wrath, towards the Nai River, where he could start another life.
Why? Why I am always being cheated by destiny! With all the couples in the world, how can it be that they would possess the same couple? Although the poison would merely kill humans it would destroy a dead soul forever!
“Liry! Have you left me already? Have I lost you again? Are we doomed to be apart, even when we meet again? Didn’t you say that we would be able to continue our fate? Liry…”
I shouted, with agony of losing Liry, my valentine, for the second time, and for the last time as well.
Tears began streaming down my cheeks and into the hollow darkness.
Now I realize that spirits still possess tears, just as devils are still able to feel inconsolable heartache. Was this our fate all along? Why, even when we turned into ghosts, we still could not escape this fate?
I held the bracelet that Liry left me, which was also the last gift I gave her. At the same time, I pulled out a bottle, which contained the shining, greenish liquid that can efface me from this world forever. The bracelet was glittering, through which I seemed to see Liry, who still possessed the most charming smile in the world…
“Liry, do you like this bracelet?”
“I love it! It’s so beautiful!”
“Here, I’ll help you put it on.”
“Thanks, you’re so sweet!”
“Cory, will you be with me forever?”
“Yes, I will.” I held her tightly and kissed her. “We will never be apart: I will hold your hand even when we reach the end of this world. I will never let you go.”
“You are my valentine. I love you.”
We lied on the grass, gazing at the clear blue sky.
Suddenly, a gust of wind blew over us. The sky began to dim, and turned into a pale grey…