A Dark And Twisted Heart
There’s a ringing in my ears and it won’t stop—just one more thing to add to the list of torments in the Afterlife. I’ve escaped my dear, dead girls for a few moments, and I hide in the forest, crouched low behind thorn bushes and beech trees. Right now, my dead girls are flying through the canyon. Their voices echo, shrill and high-pitched, so loud I wonder if the living can hear them.
It’s enough to wake the dead.
I chuckle at my own joke, then I freeze, worried that I accidentally let a sound escape and my beloved tormenters will come looking for me.
This is my existence. Hiding in fear. Trying my best to be invisible. Hungering to be human again.
I worry that the desire to be human will never fade away. I wish I could forget the wonders of a good meal or a glass of wine or time spent in the arms of--
I stop myself. I don’t want to remember Katrina or Adelle when they were sweet, fair creatures.
Instead, I focus on my surroundings. It’s a lovely forest, even if it is Dead Man’s Wood—an unholy place that can capture your soul and hold it prisoner. There’s a reason for the malady of this place, but I don’t know what it is yet.
Katrina knows the secrets of this forest. I’m sure of it. She wanted me to die here, to remain trapped where she could taunt me.
Shadows move throughout the glade, sunlight sifts down through a lacework of oak branches and leaves. When a sunbeam falls upon me there’s a moment when I feel whole again. Katrina used to stop and drink in the sunlight, like it was a healing bath and she was going to step out of it stronger, happier.
This is a magical place, I’m sure of it.
I haven’t seen anyone else in the forest, no ogres or trolls or faeries, but there’s someone in this place beside us dead humans. Whoever it is, they sing at night. Like a chorus of voices, something calls.
Adelle doesn’t notice it.
But Katrina perks up—like she hears the voice of her savior. Sometimes I think she can understand the words. To me, it’s still gibberish, syllables from an ancient language or some invented tongue. Maybe there’s a madman standing on a high cliff, singing to his muse in a language only the two of them can comprehend.
I imagine he’s a giant and, after he finishes his song, he lumbers off to destroy whole villages and devour small children.
I never expected death to be like this, with evil creatures lurking about.
“There you are.”
I cringe. ‘Tis the voice of my dark-haired love. Katrina stares down at me, as if she can’t understand why I’m hiding.
“You’re going to wither away to nothing if you don’t fly about and scream once in awhile,” she says. She stretches, bony arms spread wide, her head tilted back to catch a beam of sunlight. Her expression turns rapturous and I envy her.
Death suits her.
“I’m glad I killed you,” I tell her.
“I know. I’m glad you’re dead too.”
She doesn’t look at me; she just keeps her face angled toward the light. A few patches of her raven hair have fallen out, but her face has reached some quality of spectral beauty I never expected.
“You’re more beautiful now,” I tell her.
“Of course I am. And you’re just as horrid as ever. I don’t know why I ever fell in love with you.”
I laugh. It’s a long, dry cackle that rises in pitch and then lowers. It echoes through the forest and startles a flock of crows; it sends them flying through the trees. Their cries join my laughter and, together, we are magnificent.
Katrina glances down and almost smiles at me.
“You’re a nightmare,” she says, her voice soft.
“So are you, my love,” I answer between laughs. “So are you.”
I hope you enjoyed A Dark And Twisted Heart.
All content © 2017, Merrie Destefano