Closer

iii

Once, long ago, there was a girl of incredible beauty. She was all that a lady can be. She knew the eyes of desire upon her but quietly declined the baser passion. For she awaited love. The choice of many suitors was hers, but she knew the man she sought above the rest. So much like my beloved, the hand of death bore her away too soon. For the loss of this youthful beauty, all wept. With her passing the world seemed a little colder, a little darker.

To remember her always, they called upon the monks to preserve her flesh. They, not by the grace of God, but by the means of alchemy obliged. By formula obscure, they concocted that which was to be called the blood of saints. They infused her with its immortality and stepped away. Days and weeks and years rolled by and her features remained as they were in life.

Time passed and her name was forgotten, but her beauty was remained. When no one could recall were she came from or why, the monks claimed her as a forgotten saint. For all her radiance, they took her to a place of gloom and darkness. There she rested among the bones and leathery husks. Still, she was desired.

Those unholy men who crept among the dead ogled her with leering, hungry eyes. They committed their blasphemies in the candle-lit chamber of onyx. How dare they be so vile! How dare they desecrate her eternal rest! How many must have succumbed to her subtle temptation? Did they ever hear her whisper in that darkness? How many died by her daring request?

“Touch me…”

She had never known the warmth of a lover’s hand. She must have died aware that she would never know. Her sleeping eyes, I wonder, do they still dream of its promise? Does her heart long still for the love it has never known? Does she desire to feel its light in her tomb of eternal darkness?

Still she rests in that underworld, in those catacombs beneath the family crypt. The ruins of the monastery may still be traced there upon the hill. I have gazed myself through her etched, crystal coffin and upon her beautiful face unspoiled from all those centuries.

The saints’ blood is the method my line is still embalmed with, though a modern man would cite the effective ingredient as arsenic rather than magic. It preserves the flesh indefinitely, but leaves it fatal to touch. It is but a parlor trick to the true magic of her beauty. I see now why it matters not that I can not recall my beloved’s face. In the hearts of men there is and can only be one, no matter which face she wears.

She is the embodiment of desire. All of nature is wrong to leave her to this fate. Farewell, my love, I shall see you soon. When darkness has fallen, when the moon has risen, I shall listen then for thee.

 

Joe Stanley

Story by Joe Stanley

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