Friday, February 19, 2010

The Ruby Pendant

(Note: this is a dream I had several years ago. Yes, this is a real dream, though I have fleshed out some of the details. Now, if you know anything about me, you know I often have interesting and unusual dreams. When I told this one to my late supervisor Virgil Mann (GRHS), he stared at me in disbelief for a few moments, then told me I ought to sell it to Stephen King. Just a couple of things, the dream does a strange time warp at the beginning from modern times to sometime in the 1700's, and the parents in the dream aren't my real parents.)

I was in Wal-mart that day, buying things for my upcoming wedding. Though it was no longer the custom, I had agreed to an arranged marriage. I had misgivings, but I trusted my parents. I was their only child and they doted on me. I knew they would not do anything that would bring me harm. They would choose a good man for me. Still, I wondered what he would be like. His temper and mannerisms. His character. His appearance. The only thing I knew about him was that he was several years older than me.

As the day of my wedding approached, things were very busy, both with wedding preparations and my parents moving. They had given me the family home, and were moving into a cottage about a mile away, but still on our estate. They would be close enough for me to visit every day, but far enough away for my husband and I to have our privacy. This suited me greatly, for I did not want them to be very far from from me.

The estate had been in our family for many generations, though I was not sure how it came to be ours. The house was ancient, but well kept, except for the back wing. It was old and in ill repair. It had been sealed off years ago--so completely that a wall had been built where the entryway had been. As a child, I had found an outside entrance to the old wing, and had spent many hours playing there, exploring, pretending to be mistress of my own home. I found all sorts of forgotten treasures--knives, remnants of crumbled tapestries, jewelry, scraps of silk--all sorts of things a young girl would love to collect. Those were happy days, until the day my father discovered me. He forbade me to enter the ruinous wing again, saying it was not safe. The walls were unstable, he said, and the whole place could come down on top of me. That was the end of my playing there.

Finally, at long last, my wedding day arrived. My groom had requested the ceremony be held at dusk instead of the customary noon hour. I was uncomfortable with this change, but my parents acquiesced to his request. The hour spooked me. Neither day nor night, it was the hour the ancients called The Time Between Times. The time when strange and magical things happened.

Even more so, the lateness of the ceremony gave my mother more time to fret. She always did worry herself silly over every little thing. It drove me crazy! Just when I thought I would pull every last hair out of my head, the wedding was upon us. As my father escorted me into our family chapel, I got my first look at my husband to be. I was pleasantly surprised. He appeared to be about 35 or 40 years old, but I didn't know his exact age, and though gray peppered his otherwise dark hair, he was still very handsome. As for his temperament, well, when he smiled at me with kindly eyes, I somehow felt that everything would be OK.

I remember very little of the ceremony itself, mostly the smiling faces of my family, friends wishing me well, showering me with gifts. Entering the chapel with my father, leaving with my husband.

The wedding feast lasted well into the night, until finally it was time for us to retire to our bedchamber. My maid and I went ahead to get ready. She brushed out my golden hair and wove tiny pink flowers into it, then dressed me in a lacy pink gown. I then climbed into bed to wait for my husband.

He didn't come.

I waited, and still he didn't come. As weariness overtook me, I thought to myself, 'He can wake me up when he gets here.' With that, I drifted off to sleep, alone on my wedding night.

I awoke to the sound of birds singing in the dawn light. As I lay there, wondering why my husband had not come, in he walked bearing a breakfast tray. I asked him why he hadn't come last night, and he responded, "I thought you would be tired from the wedding and the feast. I decided I would let you sleep." What a kind and thoughtful man I have married, I thought, though I wished he had let me know before I waited up half the night. And so I began my married life.

I soon fell into a comfortable routine of managing my home--keeping busy with all the mundane necessities of life. Every morning, I visited my parents. Afternoons and evenings were spent with friends, needlework, drawing, piano, and all the other accomplishments young women are expected to be proficient in. If there was any darkness in my life, it was my husband's continued absence from our bedroom. For the first few weeks, he made excuses--he was in town late on business, he lost track of time, he wasn't feeling well--but eventually he stopped making excuses. He just didn't come.

As the weeks went by, I gradually noticed a change in my husband. He grew more and more distracted, and more and more irritable. I often heard him muttering something about a family legacy. When he bothered to speak to me at all, he was short and testy. Days would go by when I wouldn't see him at all. I began to be glad of it. Then came the night...

I woke suddenly in the middle of the night. I'd heard a noise coming from the hall. I heard it again, and got out of bed to go see what it was. Unexpectedly, I came upon my husband in an old, old hall. He had a pickax and was attempting to break through the wall that had been erected to seal off the oldest wing of the house. All the while, he was mumbling, "I have to find it. My family legacy--I have to find it."

Shocked and amazed as his behavior, I asked him what he was doing. He turned and saw me. Enraged, he rushed at me with the pick raised as if to strike me with it. Fearing for my life, I reacted without thinking. In self defense, I picked up a shovel that was leaning against the wall and swung it at my husband. The flat of it hit him on the side of the head, and as he fell, I was horrified to see his head roll away from his body. Stunned, I just stared for a moment. I hadn't hit him that hard. The odd thing was that there was no blood.

Even odder was that my husband's head continued talking. Yelling, really. He demanded that I put his head back onto his body. Numbly, I swallowed my revulsion, and picked his head up. Again, he demanded that I return his head to his body. I began moving to comply, when

"Don't"

came the soft command from behind me. I turned to see my husband's butler standing there. He was the only servant my husband had brought into our home, and was a man ancient beyond years. From the head I was still holding came a torrent of foulness and hatred the like of which I had never heard. Gradually, though, the sound faded, and I knew that my husband was dead. It was then that Butler told me the story...

My husband's family had been the original owners of my estate, until the day his grandfather had been forced to surrender it as payment for a debt he owed. It was one of my ancestors who became the new owner of the estate. Legend told of a legacy in my husband's family of such great value that if found, it would repay the entire debt and restore his family's estate, and more importantly restore his family's honor. My husband had vowed to spend his life searching for this legacy. "What was this legacy?" I asked. Butler then withdrew a scrap of parchment from his pocket and showed me a drawing of a gold and ruby pendant with a stone so large and so perfect that it could have bought the entire estate.

Then a thought struck me. How could this be possible? The estate had been in my family for 600 years. Butler continued with his story. As my husband aged, he began to fear that he would die before finding this lost legacy. So, he lured a young man out into the forest and beheaded him. Then, using dark arts, he attached his own head to the young man's body and continued his quest to find his family legacy. When the new body aged, he found another young man, killed him, and repeated the evil sorcery. In this way, he had managed to survive for 6 centuries.

When he'd heard that my parents were arranging a marriage for me, he felt that if he could win their confidence and wed me, it would be the perfect opportunity for him to gain access to the house, so he could continue his search for the elusive jewel.

"But didn't he realize," I asked, "that by marrying me he once again became the rightful owner of the property?"

"After carrying his obsession for so long," Butler answered, "his mind had lost the ability to reason. He could think of nothing else. He could only continue to search."

Now his search was over.

"You will stay on with us here?" I asked Butler.

"No," he said. "For 600 years, my life has been bound to his. For 600 years I have walked this earth and served him. Now I have finally been released from this dark magic. I am tired. I am ready to rest." With that, Butler shuffled off to his bed, where I knew he would finally slip the bonds of mortality that had held him captive for so very long.

"Rest in peace," I whispered after him.

Once again, I looked at my late husband's head, still in my hands. In the intervening moments, it had grown cold and as withered as the ancient bodies sometimes found in the peat bogs.

Overcome with compassion for his tortured soul, I said, "You can rest in peace, too. Your family's debt has been paid in full. Your family's honor is restored." With those words, I reached into the bodice of my gown, to the gold chain that hung around my neck and withdrew

a gold and ruby pendant with a stone so large and so perfect that it could have bought the entire estate.

.

4 comments:

Steve said...

I normally dread hearing other people's dreams, but that was very cool! I highly recommend that you submit it to a short story contest!

Sus said...

I am always amazed how linear your dreams are and how much sense they make. Mine always have some random thing pop up like my 8th grade science teacher would show up and start talking about the strata in the stones in the wall or something. This one really is a complete short story. Love it!!!

Kristen said...

All that time searching for worldly treasures when he should have searched closer to the heart. He ignored love, and it killed him.

Martial Arts Mom said...

Oh, Becky - I love it! You know it all started with a dream for the author of all the Twilight books. She had a dream about Edward and Bella and it grew from there. The characters were so real to her that she had to write about them and she has even said they remain real to her and that is how she continued to write them. You should really find some kind of venue for this story Becky - if nothing else, a woman's magazine or something like that. Very cool!

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