She Lives Again - Part 7

Content Warning: Firearms

Even in the closeness of the vault, the light from the sky above shone brightly enough for her to take in the curve of the hollowed cheeks and the artificial color added by the mortuary to the pallid lips. They had arranged her lover’s features into a credible resemblance of the expression she often wore in her sleep, so that, with a treacherous flicker of momentary hope, she almost persuaded herself that she had only to rouse her with a soft kiss on the lips to see those bright eyes open once more.

Then, as hope faded into bitter resignation, she knew that she had achieved all she needed from this visit to the threshold of the underworld. Her lover was not here, and the abandoned shell lying in this monument to death held nothing she cared to possess. Still, since she had known and loved even that evacuated dwelling place, she honored it one last time by pressing her lips to the cold and unmoving forehead.

As she stood to leave, she heard footsteps and voices echoing on the stair. At the same time, a flicker of torchlight lit the walls as it approached, and she blinked as the vault flooded with orange radiance. Four men appeared on the stairs. The first two halted at the bottom when they saw her, frozen at the sight of her dark form hovering beside the coffin. The other two, not realizing at first why their companions had stopped, shouldered their way forward, then likewise froze, astonishment and rage mingling with the light of the torches to lend a diabolical cast to their faces.

“Fiend,” said one of them at last, breaking the silence filled only with their breathing. “How dare you enter this sacred place?”

“The monster must die!” screamed the smallest and most mouse-like of them, the one to whom her lover’s parents had betrothed her against her will. He started toward her, as if to accomplish the feat himself, but the two on either side of him clutched his shoulders.

“Be cautious, my friend,” said the one who had first spoken. “She has confounded us before.”

“I have never wished for enmity between you and me,” she said, keeping her voice soft and even. “We’ve all lost someone we loved very much. We can do nothing for her by quarreling or violence, and she would be grieved to witness this scene.”

“Don’t be deceived,” said the first man to the others. “We must rid the earth of her kind, or the evil will spread. Remember the oath we all swore.”

The other two, who had up to now kept their peace, nodded, and both produced pistols from within their coats, leveling them at her.

“Your weapons will avail little against me,” she said. “Let me depart in peace. Despite the evil you have done to me, my heart is against killing you.”

“That we can never do,” said the leader. “The evil you have done among us—to our beloved friend—must die with you tonight.”

“I tire of your posturing,” she said, “Leave me alone now, or you will regret it for the remainder of your miserable lives.”

She Lives Again - Part 6

She let the feeble push propel her to the window, even as she heard a hand on the doorknob. Still, with one foot on the ledge, she could not resist a last look at her lover’s face, and she turned toward the bed once more.

For only a fraction of a heartbeat, their eyes locked, and in that infinitesimal moment a sudden, wild joy blazed within her. Then the door opened, and two men burst into the room. They halted when they saw her, escaping through the window like a thief, the red blood still shining on her lips. Her lover raised herself on her pillows with a choking cry and an outstretched arm, but they rushed toward the window as she leaped away into the cold dawn.

Thus, long after those who would have forbidden her presence had gone away to mourn in the private comfort of their homes and commiserate together on the loss of their friend and beloved, she stole through the quiet dark of the cemetery, passing by each headstone with scarcely a glance at the records of those whose mortal remains rested beneath them. As she crossed beneath the eaves of the tall family mausolea, with their self-satisfied imitations of classical grandeur, the moon cast faint shadows over her, and each time she quickened her steps to escape them, despising herself for her dread.

As she neared the tomb where her lover lay, the pale marble of its walls seemed to glow of its own accord in the reflected moonlight, a ghastly, haunted facade that scarcely masked the decay within. Almost longing now for the dark embrace of its interior, she laid her fingers on the handle of the door. The sextons had locked it, but, now determined at least not to be deprived of one last look upon the face of the one she had loved, she put forth her full strength upon the barrier. The marble groaned, then cracked, then burst around the latch as she forced it inward. Stepping over the splinters of stone as she entered, she descended the stairs into the crypt.

Her lover’s coffin stood upon a pedestal in the center of the wide floor, surrounded on every side by the banks of individual tombs within. As she approached, she saw that the sextons had covered it. Pushing the great stone slab of the lid to one side until she could grip the edges with her hands, she lifted it away and propped it up against the wall at her back, then looked down upon her lover’s face.