I am cursed to cry, crystal, clandestine tears, because my eyes miss my mistress, and nothing can fix the fever that breaks and regroups, like a relentless army, when she is not by my side.
My lot in life was light until she let herself in the open front door, that waited with hopeful eyes, for some kind of company, closing whenever someone knocked, until she just strode in, with a whirlwind of smiles and affirmations, that cleared the way for the door to close out of satisfaction, rather than fear.
It didn’t end there. It never could, never would, because life continues to live on after happy endings, and as the curtain falls, we continue.
She would always come back, but she had no choice but to leave, in and out, like the changing weather and my changing moods, and whenever she was near, I was blessed, but the second she was out of my sight, the curse returned, and I was a storm, destined never to subside, until she was by my side, once more.
My best girl comes to call as the night falls, like the shimmering stars across the blood moon, never able to keep away, because the Devil dared me to take her heart, and so, I reached in, with manicured, meek little fingers and smiled as I felt her warmth.
Hell looked pretty on the postcards I sent to soul, and as the moon went from blood to blue and back again, I stayed by her side, lost in an underground paradise, where the weeks went by with a quickness that felt cruel.
Summer ended so soon, chased away by bitter winter, who had forgotten how to smile, and decided that nobody else ought to either, so there I was, separated from the heaven of hell, back in a boring, grayscale world, when I could still taste technicolour on my tongue.
I could always remember. I would wait by my window for the moon to make eyes at me, dressed up all pretty in her favourite colour, and the Devil would drop my darling at my door, with a satisfied smile, and the key to her heart.
The next two days were a blur. I counted down the seconds until Wednesday, when Willard and I were scheduled to meet, but as is always the case in Northlay Falls, it was never going to be that simple.
The beast returned on Sunday night, while we were sleeping. My mother’s scream woke me early the next morning. I unlocked my bedroom door and ran through the house, following her voice to the front lawn, where my mother was knelt in the grass.
“Mum, what’s going on?” My father walked past her in silence, walking towards the pub without looking back, and I ran to her side. “Mum?” I fell back in shock as I reached her.
It was Richard, or what was left of him. His head and a few fingers were strewn on the lawn, blood splattered across the grass and flowers as my mother reached across to me and grabbed my hand.
“What would you like for breakfast?” She brushed the tears from her eyes and walked towards the house. Once again, carrying on as if everything was normal. It wasn’t a surprise to me anymore.
I never loved Richard, but I wept at his side, running my fingers across his soft face as he stared up, with glassy, long gone eyes. My fiancé (his words, not mine) was dead, and I had a sinking feeling that I was to blame.
Nobody said anything about it, and I knew that they wouldn’t, but it still shocked me. I found Mr Hithe, giving his usual warnings outside my father’s pub, and I stood with him, telling him what I’d seen in my garden that morning. He believed that the beast was sending a message, and as we parted, he repeated Willard’s warning about the drinks.
I nodded and hoped, perhaps naively, that things would get better.
They didn’t, of course. I’ve never been that lucky. The next day, Mr Hithe was waiting for me in the garden. The beast had left him intact, for the most part, but had claimed one of his legs.
I closed the blood soaked front door and hid in the house all day. I felt like a coward, but I didn’t know what else to do. I just counted down the hours until Wednesday morning, so that I could meet with Willard, get on the boat and get out of Northlay Falls. Mr Hithe was gone, and I was all alone. It was my fault. So much death, in such a short time, and all of it traced back to me, but nobody said a word. Nobody cried. Nobody thought about it too deeply, or they’d go mad.
A loud crash woke me at about three AM on Wednesday. I didn’t remember falling asleep, but I was grateful to be pulled from the horrifying nightmares that plagued me as I slept.
I knew that the beast must have been hunting, and dreaded the offering he would leave in the garden.
There was light outside my window, which seemed odd for the time of day, and as I rubbed my eyes and leant up against the window sill, I saw a crowd gathering outside of the house.
There were candles and lanterns in the hands of the villagers, and I could see their mouths moving, almost in unison.
It was one of the strangest sights I’d ever seen, outside of the obvious. I opened my window, to try and get a closer look, or to see if I could hear some part of their conversation, and as the sounds became clear, a chill ran down my spine.
“The girl must die.” It wasn’t one voice, or even a few, it was a chorus of chants, monotone and emotionless. “The girl must die.” Every single person who was crowding our house was saying it, over and over, all at once. I was the girl, and they seemed ready to sacrifice me.
Willard and Mr Hithe were right. The drinks sent over by the beast were tainted. The beast was controlling them, somehow, seeping into our every day lives and bewitching us, or at least those of us that chose to drink from his nectar. That was almost everyone, of course. After all, there was nothing for anyone to do in that place but drink, so the people were helpless to his spell.
“Ivy?” I snapped the window shut, rushing towards my door and turning the lock as fast as I could. “Ivy, what did you do?“ My father’s voice on the other side of the door had a nervousness that was oddly reassuring. There was some kind of feeling as he spoke, which was more than could be said for the baying mob outside. “Ivy, I need you to open the door.” I stared at the lock, not knowing what to do. “Did you make him angry?” My father tried the door, fruitlessly fiddling with the handle for a few seconds as he spoke.
“Who?” My voice was a weak, mousy whisper.
“The beast.” Just as Mr Hithe said, the people had an awareness, they just didn’t want to anger him, and as I took another quick glance out of the window, I understood why.
“He took Ray, Daddy.” I leant up against the door, tears in my eyes as the pressure of everything I had seen caught up with me. “I just wanted to get away…” I ran my fingers across the lock, wondering what to do, unable to think clearly with the constant chaos all around me.
“Just open the door and I can help you.” He said softly, barely audible over the deafening crowd outside.
It’s easy to say that you’re a grown up, especially when you live in Northlay Falls, where girlhood ends as soon a man decides to make a wife out of you, which seems to happen sooner every year, but in that moment, I had never felt more like a helpless child. I was in too deep. I had made a mess that I had no chance of fixing.
The beast approached, with his army of spellbound subordinates, and it seemed that everything was so hopeless, so for once, after so much time, trying to be independent, I just needed my dad to hold my hand and tell me that everything would be alright.
“It’s all going to be alright Ivy.” I slowly pulled the lock back and opened the door. He pulled me into a hug, and the second that he did, I knew it was all over.
“You’re not my Dad…” I sobbed. Just like the sailors, like every fool in that village, the beast had tricked me. His claws dug deep into my shoulders and I saw my real father, down the hallway, stood amongst the crowd that advanced towards us. His eyes glazed over like the rest of them, the horrific calls for my sacrifice escaping his lips, just like everybody else.
Willard was there too, standing just in front of my father, giving me an apologetic stare as he broke from the pack and mouthed a single word to me.
In the end, I got out of Northlay Falls, but I will never truly escape. I can write our story but nobody will ever read it, and I’ll spend the rest of my life on this boat, with Willard and the rest of those traitors. Back and forth, back and forth across the lake. Always so close to freedom, but never quite able to taste it.
She was worried that the world was going to shit, but to me, the world was a limitless playground, so I beckoned her, with pink, poorly manicured fingernails and told her that I could take her anywhere she wanted to go.
She had the whole world on her tense, tired shoulders, and I planned world peace between the soft sheets that she stayed up all night in, I asked her how she felt about trying to relax a little.
My glacial girl was aflame, glowing in the dark night, hours after the moon had fallen asleep, because life was all over the place, and it was hard to find her place, with such frustration as horror found its way to our front door.
Perhaps, it isn’t the case that falling in love can drown the flames of fascism, but “darling”, I said with my sweetest smile, “isn’t it worth a try?”