The sunlight was the greatest insult.
My life was over, and the sun shone, brightly proclaiming its jubilance, sharing its celestial happiness with the world, in defiance of everything I had experienced, everything I had lost.
Her death had destroyed me. She was my world, every ounce of my soul devoted to her, my love for her burning like the sun that laughed at my misery, and giggled at my pain, bright, and fierce, and forever. Her image occupied my thoughts at all times, and her presence was more than enough to stir me from my pensive moods, her lips pressing against mine stirring the strongest of emotions from within my soul. Words fail to describe the emotion that her presence elicited within me, but the closest word in my simple lexicon is bliss.
And now she was gone, torn forever from me by the barrier, the impenetrable wall that is death. I was allowed to see her in her final moments, and, going up to her hospital room, I foolishly assumed that she would be the same happy, carefree soul that had enraptured my attention, and ensnared my love. But my folly was soon revealed as I cautiously opened the door of room 307, and, as the oaken door swung open, I stood, aghast, staring at the emaciated, jaundiced spectacle that bore the name of my love. In this tale, I have told you not the name of my love, through some idiocy of my own. Her name, let the angels hear, was Anne.
Her doctor had informed me of her condition some months before she had passed, thought the exact number I fail to recall. Her liver had failed, he said, looking at me through wire glasses, wearing a look that closely resembled pity, and an unusual blood disorder prevented transplant. Anne’s condition had steadily declined over the past year, and she had decided that she no longer wished to continue fighting this “futile fight,” as she worded it in her statement to me, in which she first revealed her desires. Despite my vehement protests, for my love, as I have stated, was celestial, she informed her doctor of her decision, simply stating, when asked what led her to this immense epiphany, that “my life is my own, as is my suffering, and I choose to end both.”
I recalled the dark day on which the choice was made as I gazed, dumbfounded, at what my lovely wife had become. I had been away from Anne for several months, as I had business abroad. I will not specify my occupation at the time, as it bears no relevance to the tale of wonder that I now relay to you, but I shall simply say that it took me abroad for long stretches at a time.
I had last seen Anne when departing for the last venture before her demise, as I quit the job soon afterwards, as the memories were too much for my broken heart to bear. She had looked her normal self, save for an unnatural pallor and an odd yellowing of the eyes, of which I took little notice, and asked but one question in passing in reference to the phenomenon, which she did not answer, but I soon realized the phenomenon to be the mark of the dreadful illness that took my love from me.
Her appearance now devastated my heart, as the yellow corpse before me resembled not the full, incredible beauty that I had left months before. Her brown hair was barely the color of weak coffee, her hospital robe barely clung to her emaciated frame, and her skin… it was…
Words cannot describe the corpse that lay before me, and I was convinced that I had arrived too late. In my despair I uttered a cry, and that it when my wife, my beautiful, hideous wife stirred, evidently from slumber, and turned to look at me. She opened her eyes, and another knife of sadness twisted its way into my heart. Her sapphire eyes, once jewels beyond value, had now sunken into her skull, the whites of her eyes now the color of sulphur, the radiant blue of her retina now a pale shadow of her former glory. My Anne, my beautiful Anne, was reduced to this, and my heart, my poor, shattered heart could barely contain the grief that I now felt.
She smiled, a thin, gruesome smile, her red-yellow lips painfully contorting into a grin, as the pain was obvious, her advanced stages of sickness making even these small movements difficult for her. But, even through the thick fog of pain, her love for me was strong.
I approached, cautiously, so very cautiously, as if a heavy step would shatter her frail, frail frame. I did not stop my gingerly walk until I reached her bedside, and reached gently, oh, so gently, for her yellowed and brittle hand. Her entire form was that of the pages of an ancient text, and, for fear of breaking her, I grasped her hand softly, and stared at the thing that claimed to once have been my wife.
Anne whispered something, and I strained to listen, my ear coming ever closer to her mouth until the words were clear. I listened, nodded once to signify that I had heard, and raised myself, still gazing at my wife. As I gazed at her, I saw her chest rising and falling, in a shaky rhythm, and, as I watched, a deep breath came forth from her mouth, and her chest rose no more. I did not understand this until the monitor in the corner, sounding the beats of her heart like a tolling bell, now resounded with a long drone, and the evidence came crashing down on my simple mind. I cried out, a sound of immense pain and loss, and shook her, as if that could bring my darling, my love back to life. But to no avail. She was dead. Anne was dead.
Doctors soon arrived, hurrying down the long, white hallway, down which I had walked not five minutes earlier, so very full of hope, and nurses rushed me out, pushing me and shutting the door in my face, as I screamed, demanded to see my bride. The door blocked all noise from the room, but, through the small window in the oaken door, I could see nurses rushing about, bringing the doctors, who were fiddling with mechanisms and pressing defibrillators against my beloved’s chest. After five or so minutes of defibrillating and injecting her with miscellaneous syringes, the doctors stopped, the nurses disconnected the technology from Anne, and one doctor took her bed sheet, and pulled it over her body, up so it even covered her face, a makeshift funeral shroud in the white and darkened hospital room.
Another doctor came to the door, opened it, for the nurses had locked it to prevent me, in my frenzy, to enter and disturb the doctors. He uttered two words to me, two words that, to this day, I remember. I’m sorry, he said to me in the hallway, before, like his compatriots, he departed, leaving me, the empty door-way, and the shrouded form of my wife, in heavy silence.
I stood there, in the silence and the grief, for a time, the amount of which I am unsure. Soon a nurse asked me to leave, as the visiting hours had closed. I stared at her for a moment, unsure of what she had meant, for I was visiting no one, as Anne had departed, and I had considered myself the guardian of her body, a sentinel, making sure none violated her corpse. But, upon the nurses second urging, I gave in, and walked out of the hospital, silent and brooding. I walked home, forgetting until next morning that I had driven to the hospital, and my car there still remained. I lived quite a long while away from the hospital, but I noticed not, as, by the moonlight, I could think of nor see anything else but my deceased wife.
I arrived home near midnight, about three hours after I had left, and I opened the door to the darkened house, as if the home itself was mourning the loss of its mistress. Submerged within a fog of grief, I entered, locked the door behind me, ascended the steps, and entered the room Anne and I had shared for ten years. In this room, my heart shattered, and I wept, I wept uncontrollably, crying out to Heaven, cursing the doctors, cursing God, even cursing Anne herself for taking my beloved betrothed away from me. I realize now that these curses were foolish, and I retracted them the next morn, but in my incredible pain that dreadful night, they, and many more foolish curses, seemed reasonable and real. I wept for three hours, before, exhausted and in pain, I pulled the covers over my shaking body, and closed my eyes in an attempt to get some sleep after the long day, but, as I closed my eyes, I still saw those dead, sulphur eyes staring at me, staring at my soul, and sleep came not.
The funeral for Anne was two weeks after her death. Some friends of ours came, but not many, and this fact plunged me even further into the vortex of depression I had entered on that fateful day two weeks prior. Her coffin was kept closed at all times, for I did not want the grotesque spectacle of her corpse to be seen by all; it would be my secret. The funeral was short, and, afterwards, walking out at the head of the funeral-procession, I saw the mocking sunlight, mocking me from the moment I walked through the maple-wood double doors that lead to the cemetery from the funeral-home, mocked me as Anne was laid to final and eternal rest in the ground, and kept mocking me until I entered my car, and drove home, still in my fog of desolation.
Many years passed, and, slowly, the magnitude of Anne’s passing lessened, and I was able to function without the despair of her death crushing me. I could sleep again without the burning sulphur-eyes of her dead face coming to me, and I even fell in love again. Mary was her name. We met eleven months ago, when one of my friends, celebrating the pronounced happiness that now enveloped me, took me out for a celebration dinner. We ate and laughed, talking about old experiences, and recalling the good times that we had had with Anne. Her name still brought me some pain, but it passed as I raised a glass to her good name, and we resumed our meal, still laughing and discussing times long gone.
The waitress that had brought us our meals was very attractive, and my friend, a married man, caught my frequent yet conspicuous glances toward her. He laughed at first, but then he suggested that I ask her for her name, and number, as he thought it would be good for me to “get out there.” I chuckled at his suggestion, for I considered myself unattractive, and I knew the only woman in the world that would love me was Anne. My friend continued to push, however, and, from the combination of the attraction I felt towards her, and the few sips of wine in my system, I decided to ask her.
She was quite friendly, and, as I asked, her face did not change from the smile that was ever-present on her face. She, to my incredible surprise, complied, and soon, on the back of an unused napkin on the table, her number was mine. My friend congratulated me on my success, but it did not feel like one, and, though I knew it was irrational, I, throughout the remainder of my dinner, and until my eyes closed and sleep took me, I worried about Anne’s wrath.
We married ten months after that particular event, Mary and I. We were happy together, and I cherished her presence at all times, her emerald eyes sparkling twin stars, her blonde hair was flaxen-gold, and she was more beautiful than any woman in existence. She moved into my house, and we lived together in harmony. She was so beautiful, and so brilliant, that I never wished to leave her side, and she neither with me.
My dreams, however, were filled with turmoil. I envisioned Anne, her yellowed, emaciated corpse, rising up from the patch of earth on which it is buried, and coming to exact her revenge on me for marrying again. I awoke each night in a panic, shaking and on the verge of tears, with Mary sleeping peacefully beside me, or awake at the sound of my panic, comforting me in my fright,
I became more and more anxious, every night now a battle for my psyche, and I found myself clinging to Mary in my sleep, desperately wishing that she would stop the nightmares. She did not. Anne came, in every nightmare, on every night, for a month straight, tormenting me, threatening to come for me and take my beloved Mary from me. I could do nothing to stop the dreams, and, with each passing night, they grew more violent and disturbing.
One particular day, though, again, the date escapes me, I had just returned from my friend’s thirty-seventh birthday party, and I was greeted by Mary, as usual. Her sapphire eyes sparkled with happiness at the sight of me, and she rushed forward, embracing me in a long, passionate kiss. When we finally separated, I told her I was too tired for what she obviously had in mind, for I knew her thoughts as well as I knew my own, although I was surprised at this advance, for she was very reserved when it came to this. She nodded, not saying a word, a look of subtle disappointment on her face, but I was far too exhausted to entertain her. I climbed into bed, forgetting only for a moment that sleep meant dreams, and dreams meant her.
However, as I drifted off, no grotesque corpse greeted me, to my surprise and infinite jubilation. All that stood before me was blackness, and I embraced it warmly, relishing the time spent in sanctuary from my night-terrors. The blackness was so soothing; I wanted never to wake up. Now, to the normal mind, I may seem like a mad-man, but no mortal may understand the pain and torment through which I had gone for that long and brutal month. In my state of desperation, I greatly preferred unending nothing to what horrid spectres and nightmarish phantoms that had made themselves known to me the last four weeks. And the nothing continued, to my delight, for hours upon hours, ceasing only as I finally grew bored with the lack of stimulation before me.
I awoke to streaming sunlight, as I had neglected to close the window-shutters last night, due to my exhaustion. Sleeping peacefully beside me was Mary, brown curls piled around her resting head, her breaths slow and rhythmic, the sunlight making her pale face glow, like an angel had tripped, fallen out of Heaven, and was now recovering from the long fall in the bed beside me, curled up in white sheets, the picture of resting beauty. I rose, careful not to disturb my wife, and I readied for work. I had found work again, yes, but, again, I shall not divulge the line of work into which I entered. I shall simply say that I worked in an office, for modest pay, enough to support both my beloved and I.
After dressing in my work-suit, readying my things for transport, and making myself a small breakfast, some form of cereal, if I recall correctly, I was surprised, though pleasantly, by the feeling of Mary’s lips on my cheek. She had roused herself a few moments before, and had come, swaddled by the blankets that were once on our bed. I turned to face her, and we kissed once more, for a shorter amount of time than last night, and, after we had separated, she pulled me into an embrace, and whispered words into my ear.
“Take care, my love. I shall see you soon.”
Then she pulled away, and I left for my office, feeling quite perplexed suddenly. I could not explain the feeling that had now come over me, nor could I explain the source of this sudden, pensive mood. I initially dismissed this feeling as nothing but the result of digestion, but, as I entered my car and began the short drive to my work-place, the feeling of perplexity and, dare I say, dread, grew to levels previously unknown. All throughout my day, I was distracted by the enigmatic dilemma that I could not fathom, nor could I, even after hours of silent contemplation, explain the source of this odd and irregular mood that had seized me, as suddenly and as stealthily as a burglar.
The day passed with little event, save for the dilemma that had occupied my complete attention for the entire day, and I was surprised to see that I was free to go home. I entered again my car, still thinking on the pensive mood that had so completely absorbed me since Mary’s parting words that fine morning. Once again, time passed suddenly, for I had parked my car far sooner than I expected, and I exited the vehicle. To my surprise and horror, it was not my house that I saw in front of me, but, and, to this day, I cannot understand what supernatural force compelled me to drive to this wretched spot, the grave-yard in which, all those years ago, I had said my final farewell to Anne. I urged my body to return to the car, and drive back to the safety of my house, but I instead, through some magic, walked through the gate, down the moon-lit path, though how it came to be night-time, I do not know; it was several hours before twilight when I had left work. I walked and walked, unsure of where I was going, though I had a dreadful suspicion of where my excursion would end; these fears were confirmed when my legs finally ceased their movement, and I stood before Anne’s grave.
The moon-light fully illuminated her simple granite headstone, and the inscription was plainly visible in the dusk:
Let the angels watch over her soul as she rests here
A tear formed as I read this; it had been years since I had thought of her simple headstone, and, standing there, in the bleak dusk, the crushing sadness of her death came rushing back, and, unable to stand up anymore, I fell to my knees, the emotions overwhelming me. I wept for my first beloved, for the first time in years, but it did not last long, for, as I wept, the moon-light bent, and, as I raised my head from my hands, watching, bewildered, a phantom, for, even now, I lack the proper words to describe what I saw in the grave-yard, on that fateful moon-lit night, appeared before me. I recognized it immediately; it was that of Anne, before her illness had taken her away from me, the form of her immense beauty, the woman who had enraptured me with her divine beauty and uncanny brilliance. As I watched, bewildered, her form opened its eyes, for they had been closed before, eyes closed and mouth in a smile, the blissful smile of someone who has attained true happiness, and her sapphire eyes, though I expected them to be cold and piercing and judgmental, they were warm and loving; they were a summer’s sky: cloudless, and friendly, and I soon realized that this, this was the woman with whom I fell in love all of those years ago, before her sickness and death and the haunting of my dreams. Her smile remained, and, as I rose to meet her eyes, to once again look at the face of my love, she whispered words into my ear, with a voice of an angel, words, familiar words, words that had caused this pensive and dark mood:
“Farewell, my love. I’ll see you soon.”
And then, despite my vocal and heartfelt protests, the apparition faded, and I was left alone, staring at the air in front of my beloved’s tombstone, tears still flooding my face, desperately wishing that she would come back, if only for a moment, so I could say goodbye, one, last, broken-hearted goodbye.
Her words were still ringing in my ears as I finally forced myself to walk back to my car, as my tears finally ceased. Those words…they were Anne’s final words, whispered by her broken and yellow corpse-body in her final, pain-filled moments. The words still repeated themselves in my head, accompanied by another sound, one I could not yet identify, as I drove myself home, still thinking about my experience at the grave-yard. When I finally reached home, it was late, as the moon was at its zenith, and no other cars accompanied me on the road previously.
I opened the door carefully, as not to disturb Mary, who was undoubtedly asleep at this hour, but, to my surprise, I saw a figure standing in the dim candle-light, and I uttered a cry as the electric light was turned on and the figure was completely illuminated, for, standing before me, clad in Mary’s night-gown, was Anne.
She was the spirit-in-image of my deceased beloved, down to the faint asymmetrical characteristics of her nose, standing before me, in the flesh. Anne, or Mary, or some sinister combination of them both, was mad, mad that I had taken so long returning home, before storming off to her room, locking the door behind her, forcing me to sleep in the living-room. That is when I realized that I had been a fool for the past month, as I had seen, so slowly that my stupid brain had not realized, that Mary had transformed into Anne, from her sapphire eyes, (were they not emerald when we first met?) and her hair, once flaxen-gold, now brown as the hair of my first love, or was it always? Could I be trusted with my judgment and perception of the world around me? Had I truly gone insane, and this is simply the ravings of a lunatic? Or had something supernatural occurred and I had just now seen the result of this tampering to the reality around me? I frenetically pondered these questions as I lay on our couch, my mind spinning as the unidentified noise in my head began anew, subtle at first, but rising in intensity as sleep began to claim me, and, as I finally collapsed into the mists of dreams, the noise became clear: the beeping and tolling of the heart-beat monitor that I had heard in the corner of Anne’s room all those years ago, the constant tolling of the bell that sounded off the beats of her disease-ridden heart.
I spiraled into dreams, the monitor sounding off quite loudly now, nothing but blackness and the tolling, tolling, tolling of the bell, the heart-beat bell, the requiem-bell, and, forever, or so it seemed, I sat, or stood, in the never-ending darkness, listening to the bell, and pondering those things which I had named some time ago. Ages passed, or minutes, for time worked in complex and enigmatic ways here in this blank and dark purgatory in which I now resided. At long last, long past when the boredom, the natural and crippling boredom that all men must face, the constant tolling of the requiem-bell became nothing but a constant drone, and I recognized the sound, as it had been seared into my memory as the sound of the flat-line, the sound that took my beloved Anne away from me. And I woke up, in cold sweat, my mind thinking of nothing but what the sound, still droning away in my ears, could mean for my beloved Mary-Anne, as that is what I had decided, in my dream-pondering, to call her, or them.
I rushed in panicked gait to the bed-room door, knocking in loud repetition as soon as I arrived at the oaken door, and I cried out in heartbroken sobs at my love, pleading, pleading for her to open the door, and let me check to see if she was safe and well.
My cries were unanswered, and, in a frantic desperation, I kicked the door, and, in my adrenaline-enhanced state, it came off of its hinges, and the sight that greeted me was enough to stop me dead, and make me fall to my knees, for…for…
Anne lay there, for there was nary a doubt in my mind that Mary and Anne were simply the same person, jaundiced and emaciated, like I had seen on Anne’s death-bed, and in the dreams that had haunted me the month of this occurrence. Her eyes, one sapphire, one emerald, were open, the whites were sulphur as they were last time, the sign of the malady that had now twice taken my love from me, and her mouth was twisted in an eternal scream, a cry of pain and desperation, a final cry to me, appealing to me to save her from this fate that she had twice now experienced.
And now, my heart and mind broken by the loss, the twice-loss, the depression that now returned in a tsunami of grief. I decided that I would transcribe the narrative of what had transpired in these last few years, and use the story, however fantastic it may appear, as my note, my suicide-note, for I have decided that I am going to join Anne, reunite with her in eternal paradise, and hope that she will forgive me for ever deciding to marry again, and not immediately join her in death, as I am sure that’s what she met by her final words. To her side I go, and the bells sound for me, and for Anne, wedding-bells and requiem-bells together.