by Iain Cambridge
[Continuing the celebration of the works of Iain Cambridge]
It was a warm spring day in 1948 that I first made the acquaintance of the young lady known to me only as Miss Harmony Reigns after having moved into the small two-bedroom house in one of the more affluent suburbs of Paris. I had recently acquired the residence at a bargain price due to the misfortune of another poor soul, for it had been part of a bankruptcy sale. On entry to my new home it was plain to see that some major decoration was needed as its previous owner had clearly fallen on hard times long before his home was taken from him. This was of no matter to me as I relished the chance to stamp my own personality on to this new abode, and so took to reshaping the rooms to my own design as soon as possible, and with great gusto.
The work was arduous and took more hours out of my day than I freely had to give. The lack of sleep, due to an enthusiasm to complete my new home, was sometimes reflected in my performance at work. Fortunately my superior was a genial man who understood the urgency of youth and allowed me, at such times, to regain the focus needed for my tasks, and to complete the work at my own pace.
During my renovations I would sometimes break for a light lunch, and would take to the little garden out back in order to enjoy the birdsong and silence that only this side of the noisy metropolis enjoys.
It was on such occasion that I first encountered Harmony Reigns.
As I sat, enveloped in the sounds of spring, there came on the wind the sound of a woman singing. Her voice seemed to mix in with the world around us, as if it had always been a part of the call of nature – heralding in the summer.
There was an old wooden fence at the end of the garden that separated my property from the one opposite, and it was from behind this that the singing originated.
Years of unkempt weeds had grown over the barrier between houses and had set themselves in such a way as to dislodge a part of the fence.
It was from here that I attained my first view of the owner of such a beautiful voice.
Sitting on the ground, below an oak tree that grew mighty and strong was a sight that would stop the beating heart of most young men.
Long red hair fell over a pixie-like face and flowed down her back like liquid fire and served as to frame her features that were pale in their complexion. Her eyes shone green and seemed to light up whenever she smiled. Unfortunately, this was not something she did a lot – for reasons that would become clear later in our relationship.
So as not to seem rude, I called over to her in order to initiate an introduction.
“Bonjour Madam,” I said. On this she looked up and around, seemingly confused as to where my voice was coming from.
“Over here Madam — the other side of the fence.”
Having located the broken panel she got up and walked over towards me and, bending at the knees, she peered though the hole.
“Oh! Hello,” she said. “I wasn’t aware that anyone lived over there any more.
I smiled and replied.
“I have just taken possession not two weeks since – pardon, but is Madam English?”
Her smile remained.
“Oh dear, is my French that bad”
“Not at all, but your accent gives you away.”
She laughed and said, “May I know your name, Monsieur?”
I blushed at my apparent rude behaviour at not introducing myself.
“Excuse me Madam; I am Phillip Rencall – at your service.”
“Harmony Reigns,” came her reply “pleased to meet you.”
“And I you.”
The fashions in Paris of late had dictated that young women should be of a slight build and enjoy a demure personalty that borders of the aloof. But Miss Harmony Reigns was not such a woman that would conform to another’s views and wishes.
She was confident in her manner and solid within her build and was a refreshing stray from the norm. We spent an enjoyable hour or so talking of many things of interest to both her and I. Sometimes we would find something mutual and dwell on the subject for a while. At other times we would spend a short time discussing a subject that was of interest only to one.
For example — Miss Reigns, it appeared, aspired to be an actress and a dancer, and longed to perform in London. I commented that she should also add singing to her repertoire, as I was quite enraptured by her earlier song. I told her of my work in the library, which by comparison to her lofty dreams of fame appeared quite dull. But the way she seemed genuinely interested in my work made me feel a little taller and less unimportant. That afternoon was as special a day as I have experience in a long time – if ever, and I would have happily spent my last day on Earth in this way.
The sound of a man’s voice shattered the air and ripped the placid calm that had encompassed the day. It was a brutish sound, filled with anger and violence. At his call, Harmony’s face drained of the little colour it held. She jumped almost in fear. “I am sorry” she said weakly “I have to go”
With that, she stood and almost ran to answer his call.
I could not feel but cheated of my pleasurable time with this most engaging woman, but I figured that this man had clearly laid claim to her affections long before I arrived and I was therefore in no position to complain.
This rational did not stop the feelings of jealousy though.
The next day, and the three days that followed were filled with images of her face.
Her voice echoed in my thoughts and dreams. I feared that my affection for Miss Reigns had crossed the line of decency and would not be seen as appropriate. I scolded myself for having such a childlike crush on this woman, of whom I had met only once. I washed the thoughts of her from my mind, buried myself in my work and lost the memories of her within my home making.
Until one week later.
On taking a break from my renovations I found myself back by the broken fence once more. I dared to sneak a look in case by some chance I would see her sitting under the oak tree.
To my utter delight – there she sat.
“You have been gone quite a while Monsieur,” she said without looking up.
“It does seem a long time, Madam Reigns, but after your hasty retreat on our first encounter I felt it would be only good manners to leave you to your business”
Her head remained bowed as she spoke once more. “Did you not enjoy our afternoon?”
I knelt down a little further, in order to gain a better view of the woman that had caused so many sleepless nights. A woman that had called into question as to what I would deem “decent behaviour” from a gentleman”
“Indeed I did Madam”
She laughed gently to herself.
“I think we know each other well enough for you to address me as Harmony”
I smiled to her unseen face.
“Then Harmony it is”
At this she turned to me and smiled.
As her hair fell away, the smile that I had reciprocated with left my lips, for, on the left side of her face was such an abrasion that could only have been caused by an aggressor. My exclamation caused her to raise her hand to her wound and turn her face from me once more.
“Miss Reigns – Harmony, what on earth happened?”
She lowered her hand and turned slowly to me again.
“Sometimes I speak too loud, and too candid.”
“And this is his answer?” I exclaimed, more in anger than I meant to. But to be fair of the situation, it did demand a reaction that would show disgust for any man that would raise his hand to a woman. I composed myself a little so that I might continue.
“I am sorry, Harmony, but violence is never the answer.”
She smiled at me and tilted her head a little, as if addressing a child.
“I am of the opinion that it depends on what the question was.”
I was a little shocked at her statement. “You surly do not condone his actions?” I said.
“I do not – but then I do not condone mine either.”
The pause in the conversation was such that it drew compassion from Harmony as to my struggle against what was clearly out of my control.
“Do not worry my friend, I have handled a lot worse and I have grown to live with his moods. He is not always like this, it’s just that sometimes the demon drink takes him over and I am not quick enough to recognise the signs.”
“Signs?” I inquired.
“Signs that I should start to curb my loose tongue.”
It angered me so much. Not only that this kerr of a man had spent his anger on a woman of such devotion, but also that her devotion had now caused her to defend his actions. She had obviously sensed my discomfort and chose that moment to change the subject.
“And what of you Monsieur?”
I looked at her face in question. Even with the swelling and the angry purple bruising, she still held my heart captive with her beauty.
“How have you filled your time during our hiatus?”
I smiled at her joke.
“The making of a new home – work. Nothing that would hold the interest of anyone but myself.”
Harmony looked at me for a few short seconds, a small measure of time that seemed to last a lifetime under her gaze.
“Tell me Phillip – is there someone in your life that you would share your affections with?”
I took my time to answer the question, a pause that evoked a small gasp of exclamation from Harmony’s lips.
“Do I presume too much as to ask such a personal question Monsieur?”
I smiled. “Not at all Madam — there is someone of whom I care deeply for, but alas she is betrothed to another.”
“Is she beautiful?”
“She is the spring and summer dressed as one. She is joy and happiness, sadness and woe. My minds eye sees nothing but her, and my heart beats only within her presence.”
Harmony Reign held my gaze for what seemed an eternity.
“Does she know of these feelings?”
“Alas, she is unaware of the effect she has on my soul.”
We left each other shortly after, as it was getting late. I could see that she was getting increasingly distracted by the oncoming hour that marked “his” return.
But there was many a time after when we would meet by the broken fence and talk of things and of people. She would expand on her dreams of fame. I would sit and listen, totally enraptured by her presence, bathing in her beauty.
On occasion the sleeve of her dress would ride up and I would catch a glimpse of the bruising caused by the grip of a man’s hand. When she adjusted her position, in an attempt at a more comfortable seating, her skirt would fall away from her knees.
I would turn my head away naturally at these times as to save her modesty, but not before catching a glimpse of more bruising to her upper thigh.
I said nothing as this subject seemed to be taboo between us, but it still tore at my heart.
The day came when I had completed the project that had kept me busy between work and my secret liaisons with Miss Harmony Reigns.
My small house had become a home.
The night drew in on that day as I made my way to my bed with the full intention of inviting her to lunch the next day. I would offer her of a tour of my new home. I wanted her to see what I had achieved. I craved her approval and sought deeply her praise.
As I lay awake, making plans for our lunch date, I heard the most terrible scream.
I sat bolt upright and the blood in my veins froze in fear of what I instinctively knew to be.
Another scream caused me to throw back the bed covers.
I ran down the stairs, through the kitchen and out of the backdoor that led to the garden. I could see a light streaming through the broken gap in the fence and so made my way toward it. Through the hole I could see the lights from her house – a light that illuminated both her and the object of my jealousy. As I watched I saw her run from him, calling to him to “stop” and to “calm down.” He, in turn, was yelling at her and calling her names that would have drawn me to defend such vile comments.
Instead I sat and watched the dark play unfold itself in front of me.
When she reached the oak tree she stopped running and turned towards him with her hands outstretched, pleading for him to stop and think. This was to fall silently on deafened ears as he continued his ranting, and his relentless pursuit.
When he reached her he pushed away her hands and clamped his own rough hand around her throat. I nearly called out in anguish, but my cry caught when I heard her strangled cry of, “Papa – please!”
Papa. This man that I thought as her husband — was her father.
This realization caused a feeling of elation within me, for my love was attainable and not locked within a violent marriage. Her loyalty was that of a daughter and not of a wife. With this revelation came the resolve to stop this madness that had come between us, and put an end to this mis-understanding that had stopped me from opening my heart.
At that point my soul found its voice and I called to her, hoping that this would cause a distraction long enough for me to scale the fence and interject myself between my love and her assailant.
On hearing me, both Miss Reigns and her father turned toward me. Harmony looked directly at the hole in the fence, whilst he turned this way and that, trying to locate the owner of the demands for him to stop.
I used this time to find something to stand on as an aid to climb the fence. I looked around frantically until I saw the small stepladder that I had used to reach the higher points whilst hanging the wallpaper. I ran to retrieve it and returned to the broken part of the fence. Having erected the ladder I climbed so that I could see over and into the garden of Miss Harmony Reigns.
What I saw though mystified me – for I saw nothing.
No house, no garden – nothing.
All that was to be seen was miles of open fields with not another house in sight.
Unsure of how to process this I jumped from the ladder and looked back through the hole. There was the scene that I had encountered earlier, only this time it had the pleading face of Harmony looking directly at me. Her hair hung limp and damp with perspiration and her eyes, that once shone so bright with laughter and happiness, now grew dull with fear and pain. I leapt to the ladder once more in the hope that what I had seen before was nothing but my imagination.
The scene was the same and yet the screams of Harmony Reigns still echoed within my skull. I dropped to the other side of the fence and ran aimlessly around in circles, trying to locate what could be so clearly seen from the other side. I spread my arms wide in the vain hope that I would touch what had become invisible, whilst all the time her cries for help became more strangled as they were forced though an abused airway.
Then, abruptly, there was silence.
I jumped at the fence and dropped to into my own garden again.
As I looked back I could see that my love lay still and lifeless beneath the oak tree, in much the same position that I had first encountered her.
This time there was no singing, no laughter.
I turned and sat with my back to the fence, my heart as broken as the fence that allowed this impossible view.
I wept for a loss I would never have – for a woman who had never been.
My reports to the authorities were met with ridicule. My story of a murder – taking place as it did at a location that did not exist, and with the victim being that of a mere phantom – was treated as madness on my part.
A question spun around in my mind. Was I mad? Had I joined the ranks of the insane? For as I am talking to you now, I would have sworn that she was no trick of the light, no mysterious entity.
She was real.
* * *
Twenty-three years had past since that strange time in my life, and since then I had faired a little worse because of it. Solace for me was sought at the bottom of a bottle. As a result, I lost my job having tried the patience of a good man too far.
With no income to speak of I fell to the same fate that befell the previous owner of my home and had it sold from beneath me. I began to imagine that this place was cursed and counted myself as just another victim of its evil.
I wandered the streets for many a year, alone and invisible to society, ignoring all, and ignored by all.
Fate is a fickle mistress, however, and salvation came to me in the most unlikely of packages. Whilst sleeping under a railway bridge just three miles from the Gare du Nord I noticed a small child playing on the railway tracks.
She was nothing but a street urchin, a parentless ragamuffin.
Her long blonde hair was matted and greasy from years of neglect, and her face was smeared with the grime of the city. Her clothes did not deserve the title, as they were mere rags, arranged merely to cover her modesty. She seemed healthy enough having grown a trade of begging and theft, as was necessary to stay alive.
I watched her playing for a while as she walked the rail tracks, involving herself in some sort of balancing game. The poise and grace she adopted in order to stay on the rail-line was a small marvel to watch and provided me with both a little afternoon entertainment and a distraction from the half empty bottle that never seemed to leave my lips.
“You seem sad Monsieur,” she said.
I was so involved in her play that I did not register that she was addressing me.
“I am sorry, little miss, were you talking to me?”
“Oui, Monsieur,” she replied. “I come here most days to play and I have noticed that you have stayed longer than most. Is it your sadness that keeps you here?”
I smiled at her forthrightness, and at her broken French. It indicated to me that this was not her first language, but a gutter speak derived from a life amongst the human flotsam and jetsam of Europe that had washed up in the streets of Paris.
“You are correct, little miss, but for a brief while you have made me a little happier.”
She stopped her play and hopped off of the rail track.
“I am glad,” she said and proceeded to sit next to me.
I looked down at her for a while and wondered what had invoked her interest in me, until a thought suddenly struck me.
“Are you hungry?” I asked. With that, I fished around in my bag for some bread and cheese. She looked up at me with bright blue eyes. “No thank you.”
She looked down, and at the source of my comfort contained in that half drunk bottle.
“Are you thirsty?” she inquired. I followed her gaze and then looked back at her.
“Sometimes a little too thirsty,” I said, and placed the bottle into my pocket.
“Then maybe it is time to be hungry now?”
Her words were as an ice shard plunged deep into my soul. Had I become so worthless that I could incur pity from a child? The shame of the image I presented to the world was thrust back at me through the eyes of this innocent young girl. Her comments were not meant to be malicious, but their truth spoke to a part of me that I thought long dead, along with the spectre of Miss Destiny Reigns.
I removed the bottle from my coat and examined its contents.
Another derelict shell of a man, such as I had become, shuffled past at that moment and I thought for a while before offering it to him.
“For you, sir.”
He looked at me with suspicion.
“Your need is greater than mine, my brother,” I said to him.
He took the bottle tentatively and with a slight nod of his head carried on his way toward whatever hell was to be put to him on this path.
I, in turn, took the first steps away from mine.
The young lady went by the name of Monique, and from that day seemed never to leave my side. It was as though she had taken pity on this lost soul and had adopted me as one would do with a stray puppy. We would stroll together along the banks of the Seine talking of life and of the events that led to our current situation.
Hers was not as selfish a reason as mine, for unlike myself – who had given up on my sanity and had allowed my weak mind to fold in on itself – Monique had been given no such choices in her short life. With parents of limited means, and of limited health, Monique soon found herself out on the streets begging for food in order to feed a hungry family, until one day there was a family no more. With both her mother and father taken by illness she left her home and sought out an existence with the underclass and the forgotten.
* * *
Years past and so did my responsibility to this ever-growing young lady.
Due to my reputation in Paris, being that of a madman and a drunkard, Monique and I both made our way across the channel to England, in the hope that I would gain employment under a new name. We assumed the guise of father and daughter and whilst I worked my days in the shipyards, she attended school, funded by what money I could earn during nightshifts taken in the local bars around town.
She had become my atonement for a wasted life, and a salvation for my own lost soul.
As she grew into womanhood I began to notice that she had started to gain the attention of several young men. This troubled me greatly, as it would do for any protective father. As a way of steering her away from temptation and from the admiring glances of varying gentlemen, I moved us to a small village close to the sea, just outside the main city. It was a small dwelling and suited us both. Monique loved to tend to the gardens and stroll along the beachfront, and I, once again, had started to involve myself with my books in the hope that further learning would lead to better employment, and a secure future for my adopted daughter.
All was well. We were happy.
* * *
“Who is Harmony?”
Her question came out of the blue one morning as we were enjoying breakfast.
Such was my surprise at hearing a name that I had not heard for some thirty odd years that I nearly choked on the piece of toast I had already started to swallow.
Having coughed myself to a halt, I wiped the tears of excursion from my eyes and said, “Where on Earth did you hear that name?”
She smiled as she sipped her tea. Something had defined her as quite the English rose of late.
“When you fall asleep after the nightshift, you tend to talk in your sleep”
“Indeed, and the name “Harmony” comes to your lips on the occasions when you are very tired. Was she very special to you?”
I stood up and started to clear my plate from the table. I looked at her pale face, with those big blue eyes that seemed to look into your soul.
“Not as special as you, Mon Amie.”
She returned my smile and tilted her head in such a way as to suggest that, for her, this was not an answer. I sat down again and refreshed my coffee cup.
“I do not know who she was,” I said sadly, “but what I do know, is that she only lives within my fantasies.”
I proceeded to tell her the whole story.
From my first encounter with Miss Harmony Reigns within the gardens of my new home, to the witnessing of her murder, and onwards to madness and depravity. After I had spent my sorry tale, Monique stood and walked to my side of the table. She knelt down in front of me and put her arms around my neck. She hugged me for such a long time that I felt hot tears of joy run down my cheeks as the weight of all those years fell away. Never in all our time together had she shown such affection, but this simple action secured forever the bond between father and daughter.
* * *
Monique came to me a few weeks later with a request to join the school drama club.
As she was now at the age of eighteen I was in no real position to refuse, nor would I have done so. Yet, her request showed me that she valued my opinion and felt the need still to run decisions past me. She had opted to stay on college for further education as she had missed a good six years of schooling, before had decided to start our new lives together. She felt the need to catch up. The drama classes were her way of becoming a little more social and to express herself in a way that would be restricted by living with an old man such as myself. Now, at the age of fifty-eight, I was starting to think more and more of my retirement.
My body was older than my age, as I had abused it terribly over the years. I was starting to feel the complaints it had started to make in protest to my unforgiving lifestyle. As an aid to dull the aches and pains of the day, I had started to take of a little port at the end of the night in order to ensure a good night’s sleep.
But this folly was to ignite old habits. Before too long, I had retreated back to my old ways of drunkenness. On occasion, I had seen fit to defend myself against varying protests from those around me.
Unfortunately, sometimes this defence would be physical in nature.
At this time Monique had been offered a part in the school play, and had even gone as far to as to be given a singing role. She would come home of an afternoon in order to sing to me before I had to go to work.
Her voice was that of an angel. It would bring me to shed tears of joy and of pride.
She explained to me that the part that she had been given was that of a young woman who had been spurned by her lover and the song she was to sing reflected her loss and sorrow at his actions.
“There is not a man foolish enough to let you go and not a woman in the world that could compete against your beauty,” I said one afternoon.
She smiled at me. For the first time, I saw that she was coy at my remarks.
“Oh, Papa,” she said, “you are bias.”
“That does make it untrue.” I said.
She hugged me and kissed me on the cheek.
“Go to work foolish old man.”
At that I left for the evening, but not before explaining that I would not be returning until the next afternoon. I would finish late tonight and would start the early shift tomorrow. I would sleep at the dockyard bunkhouse, as it was easier than coming home at that late hour.
“I will have a surprise for you then,” she said.
She seemed so excited at holding in the secret that I thought she would burst.
“We will be doing a full dress rehearsal tomorrow, and so I will be in character when you return.”
I kissed her on top of her head and said my goodbyes.
“I will look forward to it,” I said as I left for the night.
Things change – but not always for the better.
My night had been long, with the temptation of the demon drink ever present. With the following day being harder still I felt the need to stop on the way home in order to dull the pain that had worn away at me all through those long hours.
On my return, I was a little the worse for wear. The liquor inside of me bubbled like a witches cauldron with the same promise of a darkness to come.
As I entered the small parlour I looked out into the garden to see if I could locate Monique. The sound of voices wafted in on the warm spring breeze. I assumed that maybe she had asked someone back to the house, to rehearse her lines, and the discovery of the script on the kitchen table seemed to confirm my thoughts.
I picked up the manuscript and flicked idly through it until I came across her character, at which point – my heart froze.
On seeing the name “Harmony Reigns,” the anger inside me rose and I bellowed at her to come into the house.
She ran to me with panic in her eyes at what could have caused such outrage.
“What is this?” I shouted as I waved the script at her, but words caught in my throat as I suddenly saw what she had done to her appearance. In a bid to make herself look more like the woman in the play, Monique had dyed her hair a bright red.
Old memories flooded back like a poison within my veins.
“Why would you do this?” I asked.
She looked at me with questioning in her eyes.
“Why would you betray my memories with this cheap imitation?”
“It was meant to honour your memories,” she said. “When I told my teacher about what had happened to you …”
“You did what?” I interrupted. “Do you know how long I had to wear the stigma of madness because of that time? You of all people know what I had to go through to get us to this place – why would you jeopardise our lives here?”
At this, she riled against me.
“It was our journey and we both had hardships to endure. I have jeopardised nothing. You, on the other hand, seek to drag us back again by revisiting your old ways. You stink of port and rum. This is our betrayal, not my homage to a lost love.”
At this, I am ashamed to say, I lost what little control I had and struck her across the face with the back of my hand. From some inner room in my mind I watched in horror as she spun with the force of the blow and dropped to the ground. I ran from the room and locked myself in my bedroom in an attempt to hide from my shame.
What had I become that I would seek to destroy the one beautiful thing in my world?
What monsters lay within me?
I passed out into a fretful sleep only to wake again in the small hours. I had missed my shift at the tavern, but I did not care. My mind was awash with the image of Monique, and of the act of cowardice that had dealt her such a savage reprimand.
I crept from my room and made my way downstairs in order to find her – to throw myself at her mercy and to beg for her forgiveness.
On the table I found a bottle of Iodine and blooded swabs as evidence of her attempts to repair the damage to her face.
My heart ached, and jumped at the sound of her voice from behind me.
“I will clean that up in the morning”
“Monique- I …”
She held her hand up.
“Please don’t,” she said.
“But I …”
“ No!” she said. With that, she left me alone in the room with only my shame for company. This sickness of mine had poisoned what we had. I feared that it would never recover.
The mood of that day hung in the air like a malignant spirit for more weeks to come, casting a shadow of despair over each day. The more I tried to explain and resolve the situation, the worse it became. With each rebuttal against my attempts to receive forgiveness, the more I drank.
Until that awful day.
On my arrival home from working at the tavern I stumbled into the house and called to her. She opened her bedroom door and stood, silhouetted in the doorway. Her newly-dyed hair shone like fire when illuminated by the light from her room.
But now there was something different, something I had not noticed before.
“Your eyes,” I said.
She looked down at me with the scorn she had adopted since her assault.
“What of them?” she asked.
“They are green.”
She laughed at me – at the drunken clown I had become.
“They have been green for weeks now. I have been wearing contact lenses, but you have been hiding at the bottom of a bottle for so long that you fail to notice what is in front of you.”
She laughed again as if mocking my stupidity – a laugh that seemed to burn my very soul. The rage inside me grew, fueled by the demons that hide behind a drunkards cowardice, until I lashed out once again in a bid to wipe the past from my mind and rid my life of the ghost that had tormented me for so long.
Everything from that moment was a patchwork of fog. So horrible was the result of my anger, that my mind would not put together a solid memory. It was as though I was protecting myself from the madness that had taken me all those years ago by denying my actions as being the truth. As the mists cleared and my temper retreated, I saw the results of my insanity, my obsessiveness and my pride.
For there at my feet lay the ruined body of Monique.
I knelt by her corpse.
I wept at what I had done.
I had everything, and destroyed it all.
A wail of anguish left my lips as I called to the winds in sorrow. For a moment I could have sworn that they called back to me as if to answer my cry.
Through my tears, I became aware that there was another who seemed to be sharing my woe. From the end of the garden, through a break in the fence I could hear the inconsolable weeping of a young man.
Long distant memories began to spark an impossible realization, and so I made my way slowly to the fence and dared to look through the gap.
There, sitting on the floor, with his back to his side of the fence, was a young man who was – but could not be – me.
I sat back and placed my hand over my mouth to save myself alerting this echo of my past to my presence.
How was he here?
How did a simple wooden fence connect our time and distance in such an impossible way?
Fate, as mentioned before, presents us with choices to make, and paths to choose. At that moment, I suddenly saw, with the clarity of a grief filled insanity, a way to end my suffering, the pain of a young man and that of my beloved Monique.
I would make sure that Harmony would indeed Reign again.
I thrust my hand through the hole in the fence and clasped my hand around the young man’s throat. I squeezed with every ounce of strength I had, ignoring the pain of his fingernails racking at the back of my hand. I felt blood spill from the wound, but still I kept my hold on him as he writhed and fought for his life – for my life.
As the last of his air gurgled through his crushed windpipe I spoke softly to him in our native French.
“Je suis désolé , mais elle vaut plus que vous et moi.”
His struggles became less and less as his fight for life left him. After a time he stopped moving. I kept my hand in place for a while in case of trickery on his part, but he had breathed his last and I had begun the end of our torment.
From where I speak from now, and to where I am going is not known to me.
Since taking the young man’s life – my life, I can feel the threads of my existence becoming undone, and as my tale becomes unwritten I cannot help but wonder what will become of my little Monique in this — her new story.
I fantasize that the little gutter snipe that gave an old man a new hope, became the actress she wanted to be, and I sneer at fate for making her the reason for me needing salvation. I see her now, standing on the rocks by the sea, her red hair blowing in the wind and sea spray wetting her pale skin. The same wind blows on me and starts to take apart what was broken, in order to build what should have been.
I leave now having righted what was wrong, but I have the feeling that the universe has not finished with me yet.
It mocks me still.
This is the third story published in Helios from Iain Cambridge. If you enjoy them, please leave a comment.