A tale about an old man who has led a life full of regret and despair. On the day of his death it all come flooding back to him.
The man's tears were full of sorrow. Like diamonds they fell from his face, shattering as they hit the earth. The night air was cold; the wind carried a bitter chill and caused the man to shiver and whimper silently, disturbing the eerie silence of the night. Thoughts of his distant past ran through the man's head like wildfire. Through his turmoil the midnight moon sang from above, accompanied by the ringing voices of a thousand silver stars, illuminating the garden where the man sat and wept. Heaven's light revealed the glowing radiance of the blooming summer flowers. Red and white roses shimmered and reflected the pale light, relishing in the chance to show their true beauty. The late snow drops joined the night tune, lifting their voices in harmony and cried out to the world. Despite this appearance of beauty the man continued to weep and his tears continued to flow. A pool of water lay at his feet, abundant with water lilies which now desperately tried to comfort him. They called fire-flies of every colour and made them dance before him, but the man could not stop crying; his past had finally caught up with him.
Suddenly the moonlight faded, the songs died out, the flowers withered, and the pond froze over. The man lifted his head to gaze across the ice and what he saw chilled his barely beating heart. An unearthly spirit was hovering over the frozen water lilies. The spirit's eyes were glowing red and its face showed an expression of pure evil. Without effort it glided over the pond and approached the still weeping man whose tears were no longer shining. An ethereal hand extended from the ghastly figure and harshly gripped the man's fragile shoulder. The fingers were icicles around his flesh, freezing it and making it numb. The spirit's eyes met his and a blaze of rage entered the man's soul. He found that his growing fear could not pry his gaze away from his; he was transfixed into staring at these hollow pits of hellfire. A voice now manifested in the man's head, it was liked the sound of chalk screeching over a blackboard and hearing it made him cry out in agony.
"Your life has been a tale of sadness and misery, you have known despair at every turn. Now you, yourself have become corrupt by it."
As these words screeched through his head memories of his past hit him like a spray of bullets. He felt his head implode with thoughts and feelings that he had spent most of his life trying to forget. Here, at night, and in the company of this spirit it all came flooding back to him. His mother, his wife, his love, everything that was dead to him suddenly became revived and now tormented his screaming emotions. His agonising screams reached a pitch, causing the withered flowers to descend further into the earth. It was then that the spirit removed his hand and the cries instantly ceased. Their eyes met again and more words materialised in the panting man's head.
"You have forgotten but you have never progressed, never moved on, never learnt. You may have survived but you have not lived. You are cursed through your own doing, and you will never be free of it;" The spirit now penetrated the man with his eyes; he could feel the heat of his stare in the back of his skull. "Even in death your curse will follow you. I can assure you of that."
With those final words the spirit evaporated in a wisp of hot steam. The garden was instantly revivified to its previous state, with the moonlight beating down, the stars singing, and the flowers blooming. The man sat in heated exhaustion with sweat hanging off his brow. He was concentrating all his energy on pushing back the memories he had just been forced to remember; but in vain. They drowned him in acid, tearing apart at his soul and feeding on his emotions. All the pain his life had caused him now came blasting out of his head and he just couldn't bear it, he couldn't bear to remember. Slowly a trembling hand reached inside his deep pockets and grabbed the cool steel hilt of the blade he kept on his person at all times. The feeling of the cold metal against his perspiring hand instantly soothed him and steadied his arm as it emerged from his pocket holding a gleaming silver blade which flashed in the moonlight. Silently he placed it on his lap and stared at it, weighing both the pain he felt now and the words the spirit had said to him. Minutes later his hand touched the blade and he gripped it tightly. He slowly raised the blade up so that it blocked out the moonlight, then with an inaudible word he slowly began to trace the outline of his heart with the sharp point leaving a red outline behind.
It was then that from the dark recess of the man's head a whisper materialised. He dropped the knife instinctively and sharply turned around. He knew that voice. He had heard his mother's whisper. Frantically he turned his head in all directions looking for the source of the whisper, he knew she was dead but he was sure he had heard her voice, it sounded so real. He heard a slight rustling in the bushes behind him and he sharply snapped his head to look at it. Through the thick branches of a tree he saw another ghostly figure glide towards him.
"Hello, son." The spirit said with a monotonous voice.
The man was in shock. He had not seen his mother for many years yet she still looked just as he had remembered her. Her hollow grey eyes looked deep into his, he thought he saw a flash of emotion sparkle through them, but it passed to fast for him to be sure.
"Mother?" He asked, "Is that really you?"
The languid voice responded, "Yes, I am here."
Small tears began to surface once again in the man's eyes. They were not tears of sadness, nor of joy. He was not sure what emotion they represented for he had hated is mother. He remembered the bitter relief he had felt when news came of her death, but like everything else he shut this guilt deep into his heart, never wanting to remember it.
"I am not proud of you, son." She said, "You have not become the man I wanted you to be."
"And what was the man you wanted me to be!" The man stood up and shouted out in defiance, "I never planned on living my life based on what you wanted me to be. Why are you even here with me now? As if I would ever want to see you again."
Again, another flash of emotion ran through her eyes.
"Son..." she averted her eyes, "I came to warn you."
"Of course you have" he blurted out, "what great wisdom have you got to share with me now?"
"I have seen the other side" she spoke as if reading of a script, "I have seen Hell. The same Hell you will soon be seeing yourself."
"What..?" the man said, taken aback.
"I have come to warn you that He will soon come for you, soon you will join me in Hell." With emphasis on that last syllable she, too, disappeared in a shroud of steam.
The man stumbled back and collapsed onto his seat. Hell he thought to himself. Have I really deserved that? He did not know the answers, and a large part of him did not want to find out. He tried to remember some horrific deed, something he had done that could justify such a punishment. He could not think of anything. After a mute minute he suddenly started laughing out loud.
"The old hag!" he screamed in his fit of laughter. "This was her last act of vengeance! Well it won't fool me!" he yelled into the sky.
His laughter slowly faded away and any doubts that were raised he immediately locked away, like he had always done. After some time in silence he began to think, Well that's my mother crossed off the list. Who else is there...? As if on cue another ghostly figure materialised before him in a whirlwind of fire. A very alive looking character stepped out of the whirlwind and immediately looked at the man with her silver eyes. This was his wife.
His wife held him in her gaze and tiptoed towards him. She extended her hand out to him gently when she reached him but he did not take it, and after an awkward silence she eventually lowered it. The look he gave his dead wife now did not contain love, for he had never loved her. He had grown fond of her, true, but he had never felt anything more than that. He wasn't even sure he felt happiness at seeing her now. As if she had read his thought she took a small step back and gazed at the ground.
The man sighed at this and said "And I suppose you came to warn me as well?"
"No," she replied coldly. "I came to find out why you went through with our marriage. I came to find out why we were married for forty years and not once did you lay with me, not once did you so merely kiss me..."
The man did not know what to say, how he could possibly explain everything. His wife softly stepped up to him, and before he could protest placed her ghostly hand on his shoulder. His eyes widened and everything disappeared in a chaotic swirl of red and black.
Sunday 24th January 1593
Today I met my wife. She was not what I imagined and far from what I wanted, yet nevertheless she was going to be my wife and I had to make do with her.
I remember the proceeds of the day extremely well thanks to the persistent planning and scheduling from my mother, everything "had to be perfect" and she made every effort to make sure I got that message. She made me dress in my finest outfit, something I had only worn once before, and checked on me every five minutes telling me to "hurry along" then stopping to help me with some small item of clothing that she thought I needed help with. She constantly reminded me of the time; whilst she was barely ready herself. By the time we had to leave I had washed, dressed, and was looking immaculate just as she was sorting out what to wear.
Mother had arranged a garden party, and I must admit it was a beautiful day for one. However, as the time approached for my future wife to arrive I began to feel slightly nervous. This was going to be our first meeting and I could tell straight away I wasn't going to like her; after all, mother did pick her out. She explained to me that this is just one of the customs for people such as us to partake in, but that explanation did little to help me.
Unfortunately, the inevitability of time kept the clock ticking, and at precisely one-o'clock an elegant horse drawn carriage came to a halt on our neatly arranged gravel driveway. A slender leg materialised out from the door as the driver opened it and soon a young lady followed. Her hair was short and brown, her eyes green, and her lips intensely red. She wore a very elegant white dress that was lose fitting and dropped below her knees. The way she held her posture as she sat down with my mother and I gave her an almost dusty look, as if she was being forced to sit up this straight. Her manners were insanely polite, and frequently annoying. As she sipped her tea I stared at her face, trying to find some degree of attraction to her, but I could find none. She was beautiful, there was no denying that, but there just seemed something wrong about her that I could not place.
Soon my mother left us, claiming she has cleaning to do, as if she can be bothered cleaning. However, for the first time ever I was reluctant to see my mother walk away. An awkward silence developed between us and the table at which we sat opposite soon grew to become a wall. All this time she was staring at me with her green eyes, even when my mother was here she had never taken them off me; it was an uncomfortable feeling. I reached to the table to take a sip from my drink and as I had my hand on the handle she reached across and covered it with hers, all the while continuing to stare at me. Her hand felt warm, I was surprised at how warm it was. It felt nice, feeling her flesh upon mine. When I shifted my gaze to her face she had finally diverted her eyes and was now looking at out entwined hands. She gently removed it, stood up, and walked around the table until she was standing in front of me. Without warning she once again lifted her hand and placed it upon my face and started to caress it. My eyes were closed as I felt her warm skin, it did not feel awkward; after all we were going to be married. But my heart was screaming at me. I promptly stood up and backed away, coldly staring at her questioning face.
It was then my mother came screaming out of the house, delighted to see us standing, and so close to each other. She hugged the girl, and then regrettably, me, before calling over the driver to escort her back to the car, shouting her goodbyes until she disappeared into the horizon. Mother was calling this a success and started pressing me hard for details, when I refused to tell her she gave me a sly wink and then said she'd leave me alone for a while to think about it. Thank heavens.
There isn't much to think about. I do not like her, and my heart will not let me. I am mad at her for touching me like she did; and I can still feel my heart's cry ringing through my head. I am stuck in an impossible situation, I do not want to marry her yet I see no escape from this fate.
Tuesday 9th March 1593
My wedding day. A hectic and chaotic assembly of people I hardly knew, even the one I was marrying I still barely knew! It has been under two months since we first met and the memory still made me shudder. The start of the day had been horrible. I was surrounded by an ecstatic mother who would just not leave me alone. She kept fussing about my clothes and was running over the plan for the day as if the world was going to end if things did not follow schedule.
After our first meeting we had met my wife a total of five more times, just whenever mother wanted to organise another garden party. They were mostly un-eventful and I made sure she never touched me again. We were made to talk a few times and she told me about her childhood and I then told her about mine. They were remarkably similar stories. Because of this I found her quite dull, yet I will say that in part she does interest me. And after all, it is nice to have someone to be with, even if it is through an arranged marriage.
However, the ceremony was a disaster. As I write, a screaming mother and a crying bride are arguing outside my bedroom door. It is my own fault, but I refuse to take the blame for my heart. When it came to ‘kiss the bride' my heart was screaming again and I knew I just could not kiss her. I pulled away as she leant in and let her kiss my cheek instead, to the shock of everyone watching. Afterwards mother pulled me and started yelling at me, embarrassing me in front of everyone's stares. But I do not care, I never wanted this wedding, and I do not love my wife.
Tuesday 16th March 1593
I have been married just over a week now. Already I can feel the life draining out of my soul. The first few days were the worst; I made it clear right from the start that we were not going to share a bed, she burst straight into tears, but I was not going to do it, I couldn't. Mother came round every day, always scolding me for reducing my wife to tears. She eventually bought us a single bedroom flat out in the country-side. She had spent most of the last few days making it "fit for a married couple". When we moved in the first thing I did was buy a new single bed, again with crying outbursts from my wife. I was starting to get mad. I had told her I didn't love her and I had told her I wasn't going to lay with her, she just didn't seem to get the message.
Every time I came home there was always a large weight of guilt upon me. She would greet me with a cooked dinner and warm words of love which I could not return. She openly praised me and said she loved me even if I didn't love her. She said it was enough to merely look at me every day. However, I knew that was a lie. I of all people knew what it is like to feel that way, and if anything, looking at them makes it worse.
Now I have begun to pity her. I hear her crying at night in her separate room and I see the way she looks at me when I'm around. I feel sorry she had to fall in love with me, of all people.
When the man awoke he was lying on the cold grass with his ghostly, translucent wife standing above him. Cool tears fell from her face and lightly touched his skin before evaporating. It had been forty years but finally she knew how he truly felt. Without even muttering a word to him she let out a despairing sigh and boiled away, leaving no trace.
The man stood up, his heart was burning with guilt. He sat back in his seat and stared blankly at the stars. He said nothing as remorseful streams trickled down his face. It's not my fault, he reasoned, I did nothing to make her fall in love with me, why should any of her pain lie with me? His un-answered questions lingered like fog around him, and, heavy like his heart they refused to disperse in the air. Solemn minutes went by as thoughts of his wife came drifting out from his soul. He could feel no regret for what he had done, after all, it had been an arranged marriage, and he had no choice in the matter. He felt no regret yet still the guilt stabbed at him. Was there something I could have done? He wondered. However, soon the inevitable reality revealed itself to him, I caused her death. Those words lodged themselves in his head; he could not shake them from his mind.
Thursday 9th March 1595
My second wedding anniversary. I have been married for two years now, and it has certainly been difficult for me. As of late my mind has wondered once again to thoughts of il mio vero amore and my heart has become wild with grief. Whilst I sit on my bed and write my wife's absent sobs are distinctively noticeable. The silence seems wrong, as if something is missing.
I remember back to my first anniversary. She had insisted I take the day off work to be with her, and I reluctantly agreed. She spent practically the whole day preparing a spectacular banquet for dinner as I sat, watched, and "rested". When it was ready she placed me at the table, and with a beaming smile, that even I could not help but smile back at, she unveiled her feast for me. She simply sat and watched me eat, her eyes never left my face, and I thought back to our first meeting. At one point I asked if she was going to have anything and she simply shook her head and continued to watch me. Afterwards she led me with her hand into her bedroom and placed a leather bound book into my hands. They gripped around it and felt the cool leather. I read the title first: "Racconti dal giardino di mezzanotte" and then the author, it was written by her. I stood thetr and held the book as she told me about it. Tears seeped out her eyes as she told me it was a story about her love for me, and I awkwardly listened. She began to break down into further cries so I left the room, still clutching the book in my hands.
That night as I tried to sleep the echoed cry of my wife still hammered against the wall separating our bedrooms. I sat myself up and opened up the leather skin binding of her book and read the first page "Per il mio unico vero amore che ha fatto fuori con il mio cuore. I miei occhi non cesserò mai di contemplare il vostro splendore." But I put it down straight away, and shoved it into the dusty recesses of my wardrobe. I had no desire to read whatever this was.
Now, a year later, my wife is not crying. Instead, I am. My hands are still soaked with her blood, which I cannot seem to wash off. It's as if she is still trying to cling to me; even in death.
This morning, before I even got out of bed, I could hear her cries. They were like the cries of a wounded animal; I could literally hear her pain. I became genuinely concerned for her, so I approached her room. I knocked on the door only to receive harsh shouts and foul words. I backed away promptly. Many hours passed before I saw my ruined and decrepit wife emerge from her room, still crying, and still in pain. I went up to her, trying to bring comfort by placing my arm around her shoulder and hugging her close to me. Her sobs worsened and became screams of torment. She moved away from me reluctantly and ran out the front door.
That was the last time I saw her alive.
Minutes after she left I heard an ear splitting scream. I can't even begin to describe the horrific scene that lay before me as I ran out after it. All I knew now is that my wife had killed herself, on our second wedding anniversary.
Anger, hatred, and agony surfaced on the man's face to form an ineffable look of pure despair. His heated emotions formed tears and trickled down his face, burning him and leaving marks where they travelled. His emotions spiralled out of control and were twisting and turning within his body. He felt like he could not contain it, he felt his body would be torn open by them. His torment continued. He had killed his wife, he was to blame; he could not process this thought. How could he have made someone's life so terrible that they would resort to that? I am a monster he realised.
As this thought questioned his humanity a white golden sphere materialised before him, glowing with heaven's light. It hovered not three metres away from him, swaying gently in the breeze. Staring at the sphere calmed the man, his heated emotions cooled and withered away. Warmth was kindled within his heart, a feeling he had not felt in a very long time. The feeling trigged a memory; a memory lost to the man's past. He grabbed a hold of the memory, clung to it, and drew it out into the open. As the memory returned the sphere grew in size; swelling at an exponential rate, and becoming brighter still. The man's heart sprinted, his breath quickened, and his nerves tingled as the memory of his love came to full view of his mind. He now saw her, smiling and standing with a perfect posture. With the image firmly in his mind the sphere exploded, the shock wave rippled through the garden and the man gripped his chair tightly, half out of fear and half out of panic. But, when he saw the figure that emerged out of the sphere his fear instantly left his eyes; Love took its place. It was her, Rosabella.
Like a beacon she stood before him, glowing like the sun. She did not look like the other spirits, translucent and grey, no, her flesh radiated colour. He stared at her with confused bliss, looking into her glossy chestnut eyes; they were so deep and so beautiful that he knew they were reflecting the purity of her soul. And her hair, Oh, God, her hair, fell like a waterfall from her head and shone in the moonlight like a polished sheet of bronze. It was so straight, so fair, so spectacular to gaze at that the sight of it sent pure ecstasy raging throughout his body. The man glared at her every feature, taking it all in like a drug. He longed, burned, and ached for every part of her; there was nothing he did not want. Soon standing and staring became too much for him, an audible moan slipped from his mouth and he sank into his chair, speechless and dumb.
Rosabella looked at the old man, limp upon his chair, and smiled a spectacular smile at him. The garden lit up as her lips opened to reveal her dazzling teeth. The man's heart stopped beating and the full intensity of Love ran through him like a raging river, every second of her smile sent more and more love racing through him until he was full to bursting point with raw emotion. It was then that she lifted her delicate feet and started to glide over to where he sat. The man could only watch as the garden around him focused on his angel, the flowers turned their petals to her, the trees stood in salute, and the grass bowed beneath her. The man's excitement could not be contained, he felt young again as his heart was rekindled. Energy flooded into his legs as he leaped out of his chair and ran frantically to his hovering love. He approached her out of breath and mad with adrenaline, love, and excitement. She held out her hand for him and he grabbed it tightly, lifted it to his face and kissed it deeply, pressing his lips firmly against her velvety skin.
Thursday 5th July 1590
I can't believe it... I'm actually in Love. From the moment I saw her today I just knew. She was dressed in the purest of white and walking softly down the road, accompanied by two older women. She was so perfect, and so dazzling that for a very real moment I went blind with passion and desire. She turned towards me briefly and our eyes were locked. I felt a connection and my soul open up as Love was poured into me. In the lady's ineffable courtesy she smiled at me and greeted me. It was too much for me to bear. My words stumbled out as gibberish as I took my leave.
It was then I fled to my room to think about this most wonderful lady. Since I met her earlier this morning she has not left my head. I can still see her now as plainly as I did in reality; she haunts my mind with her brilliance. The thought of her always brings a smile to my heart; it fills me and warms me. Blessed is this day for this day is the day I Love!
Wednesday 27th November 1591
Despair is digging into my heart like a dagger and my tears are carrying away fragments of my soul. I cannot believe what I have seen today. At first I thought my eyes had tricked me or that some witch had put a spell on me, but no, what I saw was as real as the earth beneath my feet. I saw her; her in the embrace of another man. She was in his arms with their lips pressed together. At first I was overwhelmed with shock, and then the pain kicked in. My stomach did a backflip and emptied itself onto the balcony from which I was watching them from. The next breath I drew in was one of ice and it chilled me from the inside out. My chest expanded and I could feel my heart becoming tender and grow as it absorbed my misery. Soon my eyes became blurry with a cloud of mist. My legs animated themselves and ran as far away as they could. When the pain became un-bearable I started to scream. After that it only worsened, I thought this pain would cause me to die. I took my head in my hands and smashed it against a stone pillar, a second time, and a third. I was driven wild with despair; I heard a roaring in my ears, my nerves were set on fire and the world turned around me. With one last smash I saw and heard no more and the pain finally stopped.
When I woke up I was still in the same place and the tears quickly caught up with me. It seemed impossible that anyone could ever feel as bad as I felt now, and I am very sure I am right, for what can be worse than watching the woman I Love in the embrace of another man? How can anything contend with the cruel fact that my Love for her is not repaid to me, but to someone else. Oh, today is a day in which the gods themselves could weep at my heartache.
I let go of her hand and staggered backwards. Memories were rushing through my head once again, memories I so desperately wanted to forget. I took another glimpse at her; Oh, God, isn't she perfect? You could bring me all the jewels and gold in the entire world, pile them before me yet I would still choose this most amazing woman. But that's the very problem... I don't have a choice, that's the hardest thing to accept. She's the one with the choice, and she didn't pick me. I could beg with the gods, offer everything I owned yet nothing could ever change her mind or ever make her Love me. But that doesn't make me Love her any less. After all, is it not worth going after eternal happiness even if there is only a one in a billion chance...? But that's what I did, and now I am old with nothing to show for anything. Yet, I still Love her. I look at her now and my heart pounds like a drum! Even though I have nothing, when I look at her eyes it all seems like it was worth it. I took a chance and missed, but oh, how I would have hated to not take a chance and regret it forever. That would be torment for my soul! Anything, I would give anything but to have but a few seconds of her loving me. ANYTHING!
At this the man threw himself at Rosabella's feet and screamed into the floor. "Love me! Oh, please Lady, I beg you with all my will. Love me!" Tears quickly came to his eyes and insanity layered his speech "Say but what I shall do and I will do it! Walk to the ends of the earth? Swim the oceans? Anything my Lady, you have to but say it and I shall do it. But please, please Love me like I Love you!"
The man looked up at her, praying for some response but she just stared blankly at him. Suddenly a chilling breeze swept over the garden and the man shivered. When he looked back into her eyes he saw them glowing red and observed a similar face of evil painted upon hers.
"You have failed the test" It said in a half sigh. "Here, at the very edge of your life, with nothing to show for yourself but your memories you tried in desperation, out of selfishness and madness to make someone love you when they simply do not. Out of everyone you've seen tonight, including yourself, this woman is the only one to live a truly happy life, a life you evidently cannot seem to appreciate. She fell in love with the man of her dreams, and the man of her dreams fell in love with her. They shared the most strongest of True Love bonds and it will endure for eternity. Yet you did not think, and be happy for the woman you love. True, you may Love her as much, if not more than anyone else, but to her that doesn't mean a thing. You have not learnt to let go, and now, I am going to tell you the last thing you will ever hear. Had you learnt to let go you would have found a new Love, you would have shared the same bond of True Love with somebody else, and it would remain a testimony for others for centuries to come."
As the last word faded into the distance the evil look left Rosabella's face. She smiled one of her illuminating smiles as the ground beneath the man's feet opened up into a chasm. The fires of Hell opened up to receive him as Rosabella ascended into the starry sky. Satan needed to devise no punishment for the man, for he had been driven insane by the spirit's last words. He had imprisoned himself in and endless spiral of eternal torment. However. The spirit was wrong; his life did indeed serve as a testimony to others. As his life was retold into legend it served as a warning for those cursed with unrequited love. To this day rumours of whispered warnings in the heads of those afflicted have still survived. However, occasionally, the whispers of his madness break through and another life is ruined. It is a fact now that love is the biggest killer of them all. All one can truly do is hope, but not too much, and not too little. But enough to survive and to move on.