Without a breath of wind, the galleon slid into the heaving fog dispersing not a ripple. Only the ship’s ensign, an empty circle black on white, fluttered in the rancid air. A nationless ship on a nameless sea and only me to sail her. Limbo our voyage, redemption our goal.
“Beyond the ocean where time stands still, beyond the starlit night and echoes of what was, lies a curtain. If one is brave enough, one can lift the fabric of existence and sneak underneath it into the unknown. I say if, for it is no sight for the weak-minded or those of no belief. There are treasures, my friend, those that await the dead.”
“Really?” replied the old man.
“Yes. This is the realm of he who imagined creation. There are no laws, no physical properties that one would recognise. In this space full of wonderment and exquisite beauty, there is enough perfection to make one weep, lower one’s head in shame, mourn one’s insignificance.”
“You don’t say!” The old man took off his cap and scratched his balding head, the wind making a mess of all that remained.
“Oh, but I do. Scholars have told of it, preachers have preached of it and the enlightened have visited it in dreams. This is the place I desire above all else. This is the place I shall one-day call home.”
The old man gestured to the young idealist, a simple two flicks of a beckoning finger. His companion hitched closer on their shared park bench.
“I shall tell you this, young man, for I have seen much in my life, things one should never have seen. I have witnessed death: associates; friends; family, and even a wife. So, I say this with a little more certainty than you who expound’s a possible truth, for I see in your eyes what your tongue exaggerates as hope. At the end, my friend, there is only the end.”
The old man patted the younger’s shoulder, creaked to his feet, then paused. It was with eyes as wet as autumn dew that he turned back once more and said, “Though, I wish you was right.” He then meandered away.
Moonlit, she drifted over the cobbles like a dandelion seed in a gentle, midnight breeze, her skirts never once brushing the puddles. Cocooned in night, I watched that lost soul from the alley, time weighing on my heart. She sought me, desired me, but I still wasn’t ready to go.
There lay a body on the slab unmoving in the evening quiet. People bustled over it, one prodding, another kissing blue lips, a third weeping, me looking down. The form, glazed eyes vacant, looked at peace. I felt at peace knowing it. Translucence slipped then, and all faded to gold.
Ghostlike, I drift,
A harmless melody
A lyrical note.
Inelegant stars twinkle
I am no more to they
Than they to me.
Questions without answers,
Facts made mischief,
But beckons still.
Is this my destiny
Is this what passes for life
Here in the nothingness,
My mind, wracked with indecision as it was, failed to function with the clarity to which it’d become accustomed. I stumbled as though in a fog, a blind assassin, a fool for love.
Marianna rested on the sheets of her sumptuous bed, her naked breasts liked heaped snow barely rising, almost dead. She was perhaps at her most peaceful at such times, the only times. To see her reclined as though whispering to angels reminded me of the fact I dealt with a person, a woman, a live and very beautiful contagion. I had to act whilst still I could.
The dagger the Visconte had given me shone in the near dark. English steel twinkled in the hand of an Italian murderer under the auspices of a French night. It seemed as though half the continent was involved in Marianna’s death, perhaps, it was.
I struck and slashed and stabbed and wept. When finally I ceased, my arms too heavy to lift for another strike, Marianna opened her eyes. The action did not last. A mere acknowledgment of her murderer, an account to be settled at a later date, she appraised me, loved me, and carried my name into Hell. I could not blame her, I deserved damnation.
I never returned to France. How could I? I disposed of the blade as the Visconte had instructed and fled.
It was many years later as I punted along the Arno with a beautiful young damsel named Annabella that I saw her. A glance, nothing more, Marianna’s emerald eyes flashed from in between the Ponte Vecchio crowds, then disappeared into the throng of humanity.
“What is the matter, Antonio? It is not like you to look troubled.”
“Oh, it is nothing, Bella, a mere moment’s indecision, nothing more. I thought I saw someone from my past.”
“And did you?”
“No, it couldn’t be, but I expect to see her soon.”
I sensed her voice rather than heard it, felt her words rather than understood them.
“Welcome to the next world, my friend.”
She smiled the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen, then offered me a freezing hand.
When I looked back, my body still rested in its deep, dark grave.
The line between sanity and insanity was a tightrope I walked each day. One misplaced foot should’ve cast me from my desired route without heed for my current wellbeing, nor concern for thereafter. This, we shared.
Revelations come but once in a lifetime for the greater populace; my own came daily. No sooner would I exude the brilliance of one theory than another should steal upon it of even greater magnificence. If my mind should’ve been able to cope with it, I might never have ended up here, but ifs were never factored into my equations.
I spent the first three months writing on the walls, chalk in hand and beard extending, without ever having realised I’d left my studio. I would concentrate on the task at hand, sing to the angels when conquered, then start afresh. This was my routine, the same I’d partaken of for several years. I don’t even recall when she left me, or if she’d been there to start with.
I heard the voices, but never associated faces to them. Disembodied comments echoed around the cavity that was my room with a general reluctance to settle on me. As such, I ignored them, for my work consumed every second of allotted time. I had to know. I had to know for everyone’s sakes.
I lay on a bed of white, in a room of white, in a place of white. How I had got there, or when, was knowledge I did not possess as it had no bearing on my work. If I was to die it would not be before answering that most pertinent of all questions. The shaken heads said different.
I died on September the first, I know not what year. I do know that only as I slipped from this realm to the next and into an all-consuming golden embrace that my theories were proven: we went on. If only I could’ve stradled the line between to confirm it. Sometimes, it is only once you cross the divide that the pointlessness of a truth is revealed.
“Is this it?” she asked.
Our small boat rocked in the wake of a shoal of moonfish. It gave me chance to sugarcoat a reply.
“If it is, I can’t think of a better way to spend it.”
“You seem pleased.”
“I am, and you should be, too. We have the moon and an endless sea, the stars above and beneath us, the peace and solitude we always wished for.”
“Hm, but I don’t really like the sea.”
“Watch,” I said. I swished my hand through the obsidian waters stirring a gold and silver luminance as I did. Cupping as much seawater in my hands as I might, I threw it into the air where it rained back down as snowflakes.
“Ooh,” gasped Francesca.
“Whenever you’re feeling sad or like our journey’s too long, I’ll do something even more spectacular to cheer you up. How’s that, my love?”
“Thank you,” she said, the memory of what had just occurred already lost, her eyes glazed and returned to the midnight horizon.
I sighed and pretended to look away. How could I tell her? What words did I have and how long before I, too, lost the ability to phrase them. We were ghosts, nothing more. We were whispers of corporeality, insubstantial starlight held within a dream. I wept, whilst still I could, unable to feel my tears.
Beyond The End
I close my eyes in bursts of you poised, unflinching, yearning. The day shines bright with new promises and bird song, but not to me. I look beyond to the shawls of evening to your reappearance, your haunting. It is not a thing to fear, but lust after. Eternally expectant.