My Midnight

Author’s Note: This is a story I wrote some time ago. It was written for a specific theme that I don’t suppose will ever return, so I thought I’d post it for you. I hope you enjoy it.


Image Courtesy Trevor McKinnon Unsplash.com

She bathed in the waters of the midnight sea unlit by the vibrant moon. Mysterious in her dark allure, she radiated a misting shade far beyond that of the night. An ebony presence outlined by rivulets of flowing stars, her slender figure slipped through the surf in silence. Even the sea gods shied from touching so divine a darkness. Her purity demanded it.

Almost spectral in those quiet hours, I observed her from behind the sand dunes. She gave no acknowledgement of my presence, or any other, so there I remained unable to tear my eyes from such exquisite a form. She made slow passage through the shallows taking her time as though savoring every delicious moment. I prayed she did it to tease me; a wishful fantasy. Unhurried, she passed my hiding place in slow, undulating strokes, fearless of those creatures that lurked near the ocean boundaries. Then again, why need she, the night was she and she the night.

And so it was I lingered on her horizon as I did each night since first spying her. Drawn to her elemental majesty, I watched from so near, yet so far. However long I dallied it seemed never enough and always over too soon. Time can play tricks on a person in such situations. How I yearned above all else to hold, kiss, love her; tell her I watched over her. But I could not. The coward in me prevented it and the coward within that proved too scared to speak up.

And so it was I made my peace in being content to look but not touch, listen but not speak. Still, what I wouldn’t have given to see her eyes just once. It would have been worth the risk to know the color of perfection, would it not? The same question every night. I must have asked it myriad times from dusk to dawn and back again. There was never an answer to quench my thirst for her.

Time moved slower than usual, or so I imagined. The October moon hovered in an obsidian sky, a diamond set upon a ring of night, and never once looked like descending. The silver orb cast its light upon the ocean, but could not touch she. That saddened me. Such beauty deserved so divine a spotlight more than any soul I had known. And so in a moment I would eternally regret, I revealed myself. Shattered, our tryst lay in tatters.

No sooner did I rise from my eastern berth like a dawning sun, at first slow just peeking above the dunes, then faster ever rising, did she depart. In a haze of smudged charcoals where the pair of us collided as sea mist, then fog, she vanished. My heart felt ripped from its all too mortal cage.

Cursed to never know the one soul I wished, I paced the dawn beach ashamed of my timidity. By the time the tide had swallowed her damp footprints, I had forgotten her. Or so I told myself. By night those thoughts would change.

Once again my midnight would consume me, and the heartache would begin anew. For I, a lowly fisherman did not deserve a goddess for a bride, though I hoped. If I could have talked to her, held her in a tender embrace, then perhaps she would’ve known and wanted me. Perhaps? Sometimes, I thought she already did. Sometimes, but not often.

The End


Thank you for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

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The Melancholy Divide

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash
Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

It was a miscalculation, nothing more. She expected something I was unwilling to give. Such is life.
We avoided the question for the first year, the good year. By the second, we were married, mostly through boredom, and the question arose more often.
I had, of course, known her feelings from the start. Her every motion suggested it. Her every thought touched upon it. She had no need to voice it, even in those moments after, when I was most suggestible.
Our third winter was the hardest. Snow piled around our small home like parcels around a rich child’s Christmas tree. There was no way out and nothing to do within. Lilith pressed me every hour until I conceded to her point of view.
We huddled together, illuminated by the light of a single black candle. Lilith smiled more in those few minutes than she had in the previous three years. And I remembered… And I recalled…
I was a doctor once. The thrill of saving lives outweighed the sorrow of losing them. Lilith was my most satisfying work. She’d stabbed herself with an onyx dagger, but she didn’t die, and I refused to let her not live. When she left the hospital, our dating began. Like I said, I was proud of what I did for her, even if she herself wasn’t.
Lilith withdrew the dagger I thought her to have lost. The thing glittered a terrible darkness and moaned like a lost puppy begging for food. “You first,” she said.
It was odd! We’d talked about it, pictured it so many times, but when push came to shove, I faltered. Lilith angered. We fought.
I buried my wife beneath a holly tree, when the snow melted enough to dig out the ground. A citrine spring light filtered down through the still empty branches overhead, casting angular, awkward shadows across her grave. That’s when I saw it, the inscription, one I had not made.
Here lies one who refused to give in to life.
I thought about that peculiar statement for many years until I, too, lay on my deathbed, teetering on the borders of forever. The female doctor bent over me as the breath faltered in my iron lungs, leaned in closer. She held a syringe in her hands, one of black glass, almost onyx, with a blade of stiletto thinness.
When you pass through the final curtain, your loved ones will gather around you like moths around a lantern. Their sadness shall wipe away your own. Unfortunately, I had but one lover, one to wait for me across the melancholy divide. She sneered and turned her back. I bowed my head in shame.
When I looked up, Lilith was gone. The gloom beyond the indigo curtain had also vanished, replaced by day. My hands bore no wrinkles. My knees no longer ached. I was alive to die again.
What had I saved in my youthful exuberance? Why did I care? Well, my friends and loyal readers, I didn’t. But she did. Her questions continued, though, in truth, it was only ever one. “Will you live, so I might die?”

Almost The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

The Serenity of the Moon

Photo by Luca on Unsplash

“It washes across you like a mother’s first kiss. You don’t remember the sensation, but it’s always been there. That tactile moment of skin on skin, of what was within being without. There’s nothing more magical.”
He waved away the horseman and drew his guest further into the fields. Tall and dark, only his flashing, bright eyes proved him there, unlike his guest, who wore scarlet. He assisted her over a small, uneven fence, the poorest of barriers, and led her on by the arm. He renewed his soliloquy as though never having missed a beat, he the actor and she his audience.
“No words written or spoken may explain nor surpass it. No other feeling comes close. This is the bliss of a perfect night. Alas, you only truly remember the last.” He turned away as though moved by his own words, a shadow within a shadow within a dream.
She spoke for the first time, light and hopeful. “And tonight, my love?” The girl shook out her usually ink-black hair to a deluge of silver, so bright was the moonlight, batted long lashes the same.
“More than any.”
She took him in all his brooding majesty. And despite his obvious melancholy, an almost perpetual predilection, and how the moonlight shied away from his form, she smiled a smile of utter contentment, of getting just what she wanted and when. “I think I’ve waited long enough.”
“Yes, my dear. I believe you have.”
The two nestled down in a quicksilver ocean of rippling grasses, disappearing beneath those unusual waves like breaching whales bound for an ultramarine abyss. Neither the hooting owl nor the gathering wind disturbed them. Not a watching ghost disrupted their repose.
Time passed.
#
It was many hours before they resurfaced, one head at a time, eyes rubbed awake and blinking. She of the waist-length hair came first and him second. The moon had barely moved, giving no evidence of time having altered, as though hung there by some invisible cosmic thread. The stars surrounded it still like a celestial shawl. Those ebony spaces between them engulfed the rest.
And so it was her amber eyes wandered, whilst his remained on her. Up they rose, higher and higher, defiant against both nebulae and shooting stars alike. Her head cocked to one side like an inquisitive robin, a look her outfit enhanced. She grinned as the moon winked daggers.
Secure in his gaze, she reached into her jacket and pulled out a tortoiseshell comb. There, beneath infinity, she brushed out that which marked her beauty, defiant in her belief that to him, at least, she rivalled the eternal night.
“Do you bring many women here?”
“Not here.”
“Then, I am the first?”
“Beneath this moon, at this time, and this place, yes.”
“I’m honoured. You, so privileged and dashing, might have chosen any woman.”
“Just any woman wouldn’t do.”
Her cheeks glowed a crimson to rival her dress. “Do you think we might return here every evening? Beneath this same moon? This same space?”
“We need never leave.”
“Good,” she said. “Though I am a little hungry.”
“As am I.”
He leant in close, closer, closer still.
Her heart beat like a moth’s wings, fast and silent.
The night breathed long and deep.
His lips met her neck and kept on going. Strong hands pinned her arms as his mouth bit deep. It was soon over.
The fields kept rippling as the moon shone brighter, and a man who’d seen more than he ought, wept.
Time stalled.
#
When his anguish seemed inconsolable, he stopped, as though God had suddenly dammed his eyes. He licked stained lips.
“I shall bury you, my love, as I have them all.”
He used his hands to scoop the soft earth from the ground, powerful arms to drive them. He excavated more soil in a minute than a dozen gravediggers might shift in a week.
Once finished, he stepped back. Looked down. Sighed. The hole stood not empty, but full. It brimmed with sloshing moonlight.
The man removed his jacket, ancient in its styling, bursting with brocade and lace. Next came his shirt revealing a milk-white torso, then his shoes and britches. He lowered himself into the hole-made-grave and, a second later, was gone.
One might have feared for the fellow then, but he had other ideas. Rising from those false, silver waters, he lifted the one whose life he’d taken and lowered her gently into the pit. He spoke as though in a trance.
“I shall make right what fate corrupted by sacrificial blood and flesh. For this, I thank you. Truly, yours was a gift. Thanks to you, I endure, not in hate or violence, but nocturnal bliss. Thanks to you, my dear. Yes, thanks to you. And I say this with a sincerity others would claim absent, I loved you. For a time, I have loved you all. But nothing, nothing, my love, rivals the serenity of the moon.”
Time pooled.

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

The Cellist

Photo by Tanya Trofymchuk on Unsplash

The Cellist

There’s something about the cello that ruins the soul. It’s as if whoever first built one had fallen from grace, and in so doing, torn their heart from their chest and strung it from ear to toe. Before bleeding into the land, into history, into nothingness, they’d picked up a twig and begun to play. Death was not an option. Only a life of unending sorrow remained.


I recite this story to my secretary as I sit here and play. The notes rise and fall with her breaths. My fingers rest only when she blinks. I pour my everything into this most personal performance, not to impress, but to explain.


She smiles when I desperately wish her to weep.


Thank you for reading

Richard

Within

Courtesy Axel Eres on Unsplash.com
Courtesy Axel Eres on Unsplash.com

The ghosts ate the sky first.
As albino Swallows, they nibbled and swooped, munched and slurped. They spared nothing. Like strands of candy floss pulled from the whole, the ghosts sucked them away. For a time, the sky couldn’t have been clearer.
We watched mouths agape, eyes rubbed raw, minds flittering in disbelief. The cleansed sky grew brighter with each passing, shining in sapphire, glittering in gold. I liked how it sparkled just before they ate the sun. I’d seen rainbows give their all and then disappear, fill the atmosphere with hope and beauty and dreams before shattering them, but I’d never seen it with the sun. No one had.
They took the moon before it breached the mountains, sucking it up like spilt milk. The stars never stood a chance.
We prayed in small, circular groups. The eldest told us to shut our eyes, but I suspected them scared. It was an excuse, a white lie told for their benefit, not ours. So, I set my vision on one of them, less a bird now and more a blanket, and that’s where it remained.
It was odd following the ghost’s haphazard movements. One might have thought it blown, or tugged like a kite, but neither explained its ability to travel wherever it wished. I envied it if truth be told. I wanted to roam the air. And then suddenly, I did not.
They dove as a luminesce squadron. Perhaps it was their insatiable hunger, perhaps not, but the ghosts required new sustenance, and we were it.
They took the men first and the odd large woman. Their mouths yawned wide like aerial whales, and we were their oversized plankton. People fought back, but to no avail. They swiped and bashed and kicked and screamed, but all ended up in the same place: Within.
The children held their parents until the last seconds of their adult lives. Some lost their hands they gripped so tightly. The rest of us ran.
Some ascended, others descended, whilst I hid in plain sight. Actually, that’s not entirely true.
I ran inside, petrified. Up the stairs I hurtled, and through my bedroom door. My mind relaxed for an instant. I stumbled, fell, got entwined in my sheets. There I lay, gasping.
Coincidence ushered them in at that moment, sweeping through the windows, pouring through the doors. I quaked. My teeth chattered. The ghosts saw and heard nothing.
They left when they realised the house empty, and I breathed again.
It took several hours to muster the courage to step outside, and even then, only long after the screaming stopped. I wished I’d stayed inside.
There was nothing: no mountains, woods, or cities; no rocks, trees, or grass. The lake was as empty as my stomach, and the distant ocean roared no more. I was alone. Well, almost alone.
They hovered and stood and lounged and lay, everywhere and nowhere, up, down and all around. Their job was done. But what was mine?
In a moment of divine inspiration, I approached them.
Hello, I said, though not a sound came out.
The ghost nodded, or dipped, or wavered.
Why?
If it was its head, the ghost cocked it, or slumped like a half-empty bag of coal.
Why not me? I said. It was the bravest thing I’d said since, Stop!
A void opened where a mouth ought to have been. The ghost attempted to form words. It failed.
And I thought I might never know why I alone survived humanity’s cleansing.
I slipped out of the sheet and cast it aside. Not one ghost gave me a second look.
Kill me. I don’t want to be the last.
My desperate eyes slipped to the ground like April rain, and there written in the dust were the words:You’re already dead.
I knew they were right, had for a long time. But when you play and sleep and act human, as I did the night he hit her and I stepped in-between, then you almost convince yourself you are. Almost.
It was then that she came for me. I’d have known her anywhere.
It was all for me, but was it in my head, delusions of a spectral brain? Who knew? Who cared! She was there and that’s all that mattered.
I realised the ghosts had never taken us within, but me that had stepped outside.

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

By Evening Lights

Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash
Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash

The traffic lights distort broken garages. Three hues combine to bathe all in a coruscating dream. And still, the rain pours upon this rainbow somewhere. I mourn it, welcome it, beg for more.
This place has a bleak desperation which compliments their own. A simple truth recognised. This place demands truths, for the lies stand dark and vivid. Even their shadows slide around in pairs.
I twitch a recollection.
A memory of a robin flies under my feet, a crimson inspiration. The vision makes no sound, but I recognise the confusion in its throaty chirps. Searching for worms as they search for each other, it pecks a pointless day. When the night comes and the same tricolour lights that illuminate my evenings bring relevance to this place, perhaps then he’ll succeed. Perhaps, not.
The recollection fades. If ever it was one?
My paranoia is boundless. This inner desperation destroys me. Life is no life in limitless longevity. Only in the rain-washed luminance does hope remain. Only in liquid crystal am I the man I remember. I need no sun!
Darkness returns.
She called me a bat, an occupier of the night, un-living. She claimed I hated the day because the sun revealed my faults. But none of us are faultless. None of us are perfect. None of us were born to continue through death.
How boring now, this sterile world.
The undercurrents of societal want disgust me. People are no longer tame. Minds hampered by expectation require the spotlight illuminations of day, not the gentle pulses of night. The traffic lights’ displays mean nothing in the daytime, mean nothing until dark. They possess no more power to enforce man’s will than a collar on a stray dog.
Incisors slice, not grate together like theirs.
Bring on the rain. Bathe me in amber. Dress me in green. Fear me in red. Yes, fear me. For a colourful death is my calling card, my gift. I can make one distinct in an existence rendered boring.
I watch the lights change: one, two, three. Such simple symmetry. A distraction worth noting. They note it, too. One woman. One man. They hold hands as if these subtle warnings were sent to terrorise. They aren’t. All they do is provide one extra moment, one extra pause before the storm, to a being who no longer needs either.
I count down from green to amber to red. The latter signals their demise, the favour I do them.

Besides, is it not better to die part rainbow than to live a golden blur?

The Endless


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

One Evening Above the Moon

Artwork by me.
Artwork by me.

I awoke to a view of curving, milk-white rock, perforated in places, smooth as silk elsewhere. My bedroom window was gone, as was the bed I lay in, sheets, pillows and all. There was me, the ground, and a sky full of stars.


Midnight landscapes and closed-eye sleepscapes had always been my thing. Mum said I came into the world with my eyes shut and only opened them when hungry. I had no reason to doubt her, for what was there to open them for. “How are you going to see what’s coming if you can’t see where you’re placing your feet?” she’d moan. I always replied, “I’ll feel my way.” She’d shake her head and go back to her knitting.


Give me the serenity of a cool winter’s night over a sweaty summer’s day. Give me the moon and the stars. I leapt to my feet as though them made of rubber and took in the view. The stars still shone a constant reminder, but what was the other thing, the bright cerulean ball? There was no hovering moon because I crunched upon it. And then it hit, and I smiled for the first time since she passed.


Mum died at midday on some nondescript August date. If I’d written it down, it would’ve made it real. Besides, who wanted to remember the worst of the worst, when the rest was only slightly less shitty. Aunty Gladys had dressed her in lemon, saying it’s what she would’ve wanted. I’d protested, preferring black. The sun shone as they lowered her into a basement home. It wasn’t even near a tree. No shade at all.


The bright blue object made a merry jewel in its polished, obsidian socket. It hurt my eyes. So, I turned away and set off to explore, bouncing across the chalky surface like a demented kangaroo. I thought I might pluck out a star, roll a galaxy between my thumb and forefinger, but always fell back to the ground empty-handed. Still, it was fun to try.


I bounced between jobs, girlfriends, diets and pretty much everything else. The one constant was our home, by which I now meant mine. This was my sanctuary, and I grew reclusive. I lingered like a ghost, only appearing at night through the cracks in the curtains. My face lost its glow, replaced by a spectral pallor. I lived off my savings, ordered in, and I wasn’t talking food, gave up. It was inevitable, the bank’s foreclosing. They had to scrape me out.


The moon from above was even more spectacular than from below. No amount of longing, planning, dreaming, could’ve prepared me for that solitary joy of frolicking amidst the cosmos. When I leapt, I defied gravity. It was like I broke every law known to man. As I hung there at my zenith, I was one with everything I’d wished for, from the quiet reverence of midnight to the pinpricked spotlighting of the past. This was what I’d closed my eyes for all those years. But it wasn’t the past. The past had put me there. It was time to come down.


I visited Mum the day the drugs dissipated from my system. I took a snow-white lily and placed it on her headstone, and then fell asleep on the grave. When my eyes blinked open to a world turned white, one pitted and weathered, yet embellished with such smooth curlicued writing as to haunt Poe, I recalled that night on the moon. And I was there again, for a while, and this time, Mum was with me.

The End.

 

Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.


Compunction

Courtesy Sharon McCutcheon Unsplash.com
Courtesy Sharon McCutcheon Unsplash.com

Author’s Note: Corrine and the narrator here are current characters in progress for my next body of work. I hope you enjoy


I have no compunction to acquiesce to her wishes. Despite the provocation, I still love her. It is a dilemma.
The night surges around me like a redundant coal mine, the memories of such excavations as to tire an army of dwarves recalled, but discarded. It closes in. I am surrounded.
Her eyes appear first, always her eyes, flashing from this false midnight like two black holes. They hover, darker than dark, drawing in those vestiges of light surface dwellers take for granted, gorging. I would have them gorge on me, too, but have not the energy to ask.
Corrine has a flair for the dramatic, always had, in both life and death. She whispers sweet promises, offers life eternal, a never-ending dream, but is this not what God promises, too? Whether corporeal or incorporeal, one exists. The only decision to make, one unfortunately decided whilst the former presides, is where.
This deep darkness pools like a subterranean sea, tugs with a relentless persistence, one which wears. I capitulate. Corrine wins.
She is here, everywhere. I breathe her, filling my lungs with sorrow. She circulates my system, sluggish in blood made unctuous, taking a slow perusal of all I have to offer. I have nothing to offer, but it still takes time.
When I wake, it is to her raven self. She looms over me in a burgundy chamber, lit by a single black candle with a putrescent flame.
“Make it easier on yourself,” she coos, like a demented dove.
“No.”
“I ask nothing.”
“You ask everything.”
“I could take it.”
“No, my once darling, you cannot.”
I lay for interminable aeons debating this simple truth, as the cosmos unfolds around me, suns blinking in and out of view, universes unfolding like paper swans set loose in time’s ocean. She thinks it will break me, but it only strengthens my resolve. She should never have awoken me.
Corrine enters my perfect prison with a cup of cold water. Condensation drips down the glass like diamonds-made-emeralds in the unnatural light.
“Drink,” she says.
“I’d rather watch it.”
“You never gain anything by watching.”
“No, you gain everything.”
She throws the glass to the floor, but it fails to smash or spill a drop. It is as illusory as she, yet more substantial than ever I’ve been.
Light arrives in the form of a tangerine dawn. I soak up every vitamin, savour every second. There is something about a sparkling new day that transcends description. One must feel it, taste it, love it like there’ll never be another.
She is here.
Corrine snatches the memory from my thoughts and swallows it whole. A slug-like tongue circles her lips as if to ensure every atom sampled. She laughs the laugh of the lost, this demoness. She glares, flares twinned supernovas and is gone.
It takes time for reality to realign.
I climb from bed as though it just another day, throw aside the curtains to the orange skies of my dream.
The sun sits amongst them. It is black.


Love cannot be taken, nor shared unwillingly, nor even explained. One might see it and snatch it momentarily, nothing more. My love for the dawn was not my love for her, if ever it was love at all.


I resist the temptation to sleep this moonless evening. “Not tonight,” I say, as the devil tucks this damaged soul into bed. “I have no compunction to acquiesce to your wishes.” I haven’t. No, I haven’t. 
But I have.

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

The Signs

Photo by Chris Ensminger on Unsplash
Photo by Chris Ensminger on Unsplash

There were no indications of illness, no — how does one say it — telltale signs. Not at first, anyway.
Her eyes were the key, how they darkened from a silver grey to near pitch, like storm clouds eclipsing the moon. Her mood moved the same, whereas mine remained cheery throughout. Another mistake.
She remained in bed most of the time, venturing out at night when I fell asleep, or pretended to. That’s when I’d follow her out onto the meadow and up the trancelike hill. She’d stand there and howl at the moon, unafraid and rabid. Others howled multiple returns, whilst I whimpered like a beaten puppy.
The first three months came and went in a flash of angry exchanges. The fourth marked a difference, as she chose not to speak, or simply forgot how. I tried harder to understand her then, but understood nothing.
They came for her when the supermoon kissed the meadow in argent beams. A glistening silver-white, it was like day had come to the night on the one night I’d sooner it darker than the abyss.
I loved my Marie. I loved her with all of my heart. She loved me the same. Perhaps that’s why she ate it?

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

The Black Rose

Courtesy Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash.com
Courtesy Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash.com

Ours was an unusual romance, one bordering on desperate, teetering on brave. Whether squawking like crows or cooing like doves, we loved and hated with equal passion. She was the black rose with thorns so barbed as to puncture, and I was the unwitting gardener who cultivated its cruelty.


Corrine was a hateful woman until one got to know her. She discouraged this by using a wide variety of scowls, sneers, and shakes of the head. If one got close, she stepped closer, sudden and sharp. If one spoke over her, woe betide them. The darkness in her eyes steered all in the required direction, drove the rest away. All except me, that was. I couldn’t run. My pride wouldn’t allow it. We grew close. Some might have claimed us entangled.
We took a tour of Europe by train, The Orient Express. You may have heard of it. Despite the indisputable luxury this vehicle offered, Corrine bellyached non-stop. At first, I agreed with her, employing appeasement. Soon, I grew as disenchanted as she, not with the train trip, but Corrine herself. Despite her unrivalled beauty, her exquisite lines, hair to die for and eyes to drown in, there was only so much one could take. I had taken enough.
I stepped from the train as we crossed a viaduct. Dramatic, but true. I had, of course, threatened to leave first. “If you don’t stop! I’m warning you! I’ll do it! Don’t tempt me!” Etcetera, etcetera.
“Promises, promises,” her always reply. She’d blow smoke from her cigarillo right into my eyes, as if us trapped in a Parisian haze. The urge to scream became unbearable. So, I did. I’m unsure when I stopped?
So, as mentioned, I leapt from the train whilst my strength remained, my will still intact, and most of all, whilst Corrine was, as we say in polite circles, momentarily indisposed.
I hit the water as her scream shattered the landscape, sending boulders crashing and birds flooding into the sky.
The question came after thrashing my way to the riverbank, where I lay like a floundering fish until the moon rose high and stars blinked a welcome: Why? Why would a woman who so discouraged interaction, actively oppose it, be bothered? In the greater scheme of things, what difference did my escaping her make? Here was the key.
Schemes are like flower bulbs planted so deep as to go forgotten. Only when they burst unexpectedly from the cold, hard earth into rainbows of unexpected colours do they become apparent. I was her colour, and she the darkness that buried me.


We met again quite by accident at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan. I had taken a liking to this country so unlike my own, where a shrug meant more than a novel and kindnesses were only ever a handshake away.
Turandot: Opening night. The performers were so close as to sing in my ear.
I don’t know why I turned, looked up, stared. Why I held her gaze when I should have slipped down in my seat, or better still, run. She was older then, her raven hair now closer to lead. She wore black, trimmed in lace, as an Italian widow might. Her face was as pale as snow.
As the music played, she mouthed something at first unreadable in the fragmented light. At first, but not by the end: You killed me.
Curiosity forced me up there to that empty stall. Curiosity or madness? Getting even never came into it. She had gone. Only a solitary black rose left snuggled in a seat proved her ever there. This, I took.


London, and home.
The rose remained un-withered, as fresh as if picked that very morning. This, I planted in my garden.
When I awoke the next day to Big Ben’s incessant chimes, breakfast was on the table. I had no servants? The windows were thrown open, the curtains flung back and a stench of decay permeated the atmosphere. Confounded, I wandered outside. The rose was gone.
Corrine’s fingers slipped around my throat like a noose.
“I always wanted to visit London,” she breathed. “So kind of you to bring me.”


We argue daily. Life is not good. Yet in my heart of hearts I know this, I missed her misery, her melancholy ways, and she missed mine. For what is life without the threat of death to keep the world in balance. No, seriously! I need to know?

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard