Memento Mori

(Malexmale) Struck by tragedy, Calael Black - a popular young artist - isolates himself in his new home in the countryside in a desperate bid to save his sanity. However, Semper Place is far from empty and abandoned, and the ghost that haunts the property is neither malevolent nor disinterested in him. On the contrary, the spirit of the beautiful Artemus Moon has been alone for too long, and the two isolated souls soon find themselves locked in a dark, toxic romance, reliant on each other for happiness.

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16. Chapter 16

Seamus scarcely slept that night. For a long while, before silence fell over the house, all he had been able to listen to was the conspiratorial whispering of his son alone in the next room, talking to himself. Talking to 'Artemus' .

If there had been any doubt in his mind that Calael was unstable, hearing that erased it, and filled him with the dread of any loving parent when faced with the prospect of danger to their child. He had to embrace the terrible possibility that Calael was very likely a danger to himself, and that killed him inside.

He knew, logically, that his son needed serious psychological help. He also knew as a father that there was no way the boy was going to agree to that. Margaret has warned him about it; that crazy people do not know they're crazy, as they have no way of being able to separate their own warped reality from the true reality.

Sluggishly, with all the willingness to face the day of one preparing to attend a funeral, Seamus dragged himself out of bed and made his way down to the kitchen, where he was greeted by Calael making two cups of tea.

He mustered up a very weak smile, so as to put him at ease, and asked, "That for me?"

Calael visibly hesitated, and then held out the mug to him. "Of course."

Seamus stared at it. There was a long, and almost unbearable silence between them as Calael's hand slowly faltered, giving his father a quizzical look. "Dad?"

"Is wasn't actually for me, was it?"

"What are you talking about..?"

"Son.. I need you to trust me, and hear me out. I have tried so hard to believe that there's nothing going on with you.. I really have tried. But the evidence is just.. Weighing up! I heard you telling those people at the gallery yesterday that the man you told me is your boyfriend is, well, someone you made up. And I heard you last night, talking to that same imaginary man! I think-" he breathed a deep, shaky sigh. "I think that you might be suffering from schizophrenia, or, maybe split personality disorder. I'm not a psychologist, but I've done my research.. Don't look at me like that- hear me out! You've created this character, Artemus - who I know you think is real, I know you think that - but he isn't, Calael! He's part of your mind. He's a way of coping with what's happened to you.. But he's not a healthy one. He's a figment of your imagination!"

Calael's heart pounded hard in his chest, his eyes wide in a distraught expression. "Don't you dare make me out to be insane! I'm not insane! So I lied about him being a living breathing man - all of this doesn't constitute me being insane!"

"It's the very textbook definition! Son.. I'm scared for you, can't you understand that? I love you, I'm scared of losing you; isn't it reasonable of me to fear that you could be a danger to yourself?" Seamus pleaded, with such tragic desperation in his eyes. "I don't want you out here on your own anymore.. I want you with us, your family who love you. Or at the very least, in a psychiatric institution, that can help you," he said softly, soothingly.

But that tone, that pitying and patronising tone, made Calael's thin tether completely snap. "Stop it! Shut the fuck up! Don't talk to me like a fucking mental patient! You're going to section me? You're going to section me with what evidence?!" he screamed, stepping forward and shoving his father hard in anger. "Get out! Get out, I want you out!"

"Calael-"

"I'm 25 years old and I'm telling you to get off my fucking property!"

Tears formed in Seamus' steely eyes. With not another word, he turned and fled from the house, phone already in his hand as he walked to his car.

Calael locked and bolted the front door once he'd slammed it shut. He was now pale and breathless, flooded with unmistakable dread and panic. Artemus immediately came rushing forward from where he had been waiting by the upper landing, woken by raised voices. He threw his arms around his lover and cradled his head against his shoulder as the man sobbed helplessly, his knees crumbling beneath him as he fell to the ground. Artemus slipped down with him.

"They think I'm insane! Oh god- oh god I made it worse- Artie I've fucked up, I've fucked up, they're going to take me away from you!"

"Shh, shh.. My love they could never do that. I'm not going to let them," Artemus soothed, running his delicate fingers through his hair, although a tight sense of panic was burning in his own chest at the prospect. "There is one freedom they cannot take from you."

Calael met his gaze through red rimmed eyes, his cheeks stained with tears, and he understood what he meant. He gave a quick, frantic nod. "I.. I want to do it now. I want to be with you forever. Before they can force me away from you- and ruin what's left of my life!"

"I know a way. It will work, it's guaranteed to work, and it will be painless," Artemus whispered, letting the distraught man lean into him against his chest, as he pressed soothing kisses to his forehead. "You can be with me, then. You can stay with me in our own little world away from all of the pain and the cruelty. It is so pretty, the way you see the world once you've passed over to the other side. The veil of reality is a terrifying thing. You will be happier here.. Everything will look like one of your paintings."

It was a beautiful picture Artemus so expertly laid out for him. Calael needed little pushing; now, he was sold. "Tell me how.."

"I have been growing Atropa Belladonna. You.. You might know it better as nightshade. That is why I told you not to touch the purple flowers in the garden, love; even the leaves are toxic, without the berries. And, you weren't ready to go just yet.. I ate one once as a young child, accidentally, and I was sick for weeks. They are deceptively sweet.. Ten berries is enough to kill an adult. This way, you'll pass on with the taste of sweetness in your mouth. Quietly, and calmly, in the way I would have liked. I will be yours forever then, my dear. I swear it. Forever."

Calael gazed at him tearfully, then wrapped his arms around his neck in a desperate and adoring embrace. "I fucking love you, Artemus Moon.. I love you more than anything."

"I know you do.. And I love you too. You really want to do it today? Are you completely certain? Once you commit, there is no going back.."

"Yes! Yes, I'm completely certain.. It needs to be soon, before my dad can have me sectioned or anything of the sort.. I won't be taken from this house. I won't leave again," Calael said with rampant determination. He was certain in this course of action, and had no intention nor cause to back out.

"Go to the bedroom.. My bedroom; it's beautiful, exactly as you designed it for me. Is it there that you want to go..?"

"Yes. Yes. Anywhere as long as I'm with you.."

"Go and set it up to be as pretty as you can. It's practically our wedding day, after all," Artemus said with a soft smile, gently guiding him up to his feet. Calael slowly collected himself, taking a deep breath in and out, and found that being reminded of that truly comforted him. It didn't have to be a melancholy occasion after all. He wasn't ending his life; not really. He was beginning a new one with the man he loved.

"Of.. Of course, Artie," he breathed, then started towards the stairs, while Artemus turned and headed out into the garden to gather his poison.

Soon, Calael reached the room and  prepared it as well as he could. The curtains were drawn, and Calael had been about to gather up his LED candles, until his eyes fell on the old wax ones he had had bundled into a cardboard moving box. He realised in that moment that he had nothing to be afraid of anymore. He positioned them across the dresser, the windowsill and their bedside cabinets, before lighting each one with a cooking match, providing a natural, romantic light to the delicately decorated space. It was a glowing hue of orange that, in some deeply hidden corner of his mind, he had so missed.

 As he waited for Artemus however, he took pen and paper and sat down to write his will by the candlelight, with calculation and calm. After all, through all of this, he had always been a rational thinker, and even in his fury at his parents actions they hadn't always been so senseless. He wouldn't be either. He was going to go out with all the dignity they would have deprived him of. He bequeathed his belongings to them, but any remaining paintings to the local gallery; as a means of leaving his final mark on the world. Perhaps he would forever be remembered as the tortured artist, a dark and melancholy soul, but in his art they would be able to see what little beauty had remained in his narrow world towards the end. 

The house, he left in nobody's name. It would have to go back to the local council. Because it was his, his and Artie's, and they did not plan on willingly giving it up to anybody for as long as they made residence there.

He saw Artemus hovering in the doorway as he was signing the paper. The blonde was carrying in his hands a mosaic bowl of what appeared to be ordinary, purple berries, rather sumptuous looking at a glance, but he knew the dark purpose that they held. "I picked fifteen, just to be certain. It will be a very quick and quiet passing that way.. You'll simply feel as though you're falling asleep," Artemus explained softly. He stepped closer and knelt upon the bed, and Calael did the same to face him, the bowl positioned between the two of them against the crisp white sheets. 

Artemus smiled. "Are you ready, my love?"

"Yes.. I'm ready to go."

"Take my hands. Let's say our vows," he whispered.

Calael had been rehearsing this moment in his mind ever since the idea had been mentioned. The vows were clear to him, and natural, and made his heart swell with an odd concoction of joy and melancholy.

"I, Calael Black, take you, Artemus Moon, to be my husband," he said, so softly. "To have and to hold, for better or for worse. For richer, for poorer
In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward.. until-" he hesitated briefly, and gave his lover a lopsided smile, which prompted a bemused little chuckle from the man. He smiled warmly, and remedied the script, whispering, "-until our souls do part."

"I, Artemus Moon, take you Calael Black, to be my husband. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health
To love and to cherish from this day forward, until our souls do part," Artemus breathed, a beguiling smile of dizzy love upon his rosebud lips. "Do you know the meaning of 'Semper', Calael? Did I ever tell you?"

"You didn't."

"It means always. Ever. Eternal. This is our forever place now; as husbands.. Nobody can ever tear you away from me. You and I will never again have to be alone," he whispered, before pressing their lips together with passion and love. He hand dipped down, and gathered a handful of deep purple berries from the mosaic bowl, which he slipped into Calael's palm.

 As their lips parted, Calael brought his hand to his mouth, and ate the first handful of deadly nightshade. 

Only after this moment did the severity of his actions finally, truly hit him. But he did not feel regret or fear or any of these things; he felt peace in the knowledge that this would all soon be over, and he could live in blissful sanctity with the one person he felt he truly had left. 

Without hesitation, he scooped up another handful, and then a third, until fifteen berries of the lethal poison had entered his system and his lips were stained with the juice. Artemus' saw him begin to sway, and reached out to slowly guide his new husband back against the soft pillows. "Shh.. It won't take long now, my love. Go to sleep. Rest, and when you wake again I'll be right at your side, I swear it," he soothed.

Calael's mind was whirring and spinning, overcome by dizziness. The sweet taste in his mouth however, and the feeling of his lovers hands in his hair, did much to distract him from the sensation of his eyelids growing unbearably heavy, and a warning, throbbing pain pounding like a drum in his temple.

"Do you have any final words for me?" Artemus asked softly, and Calael gave a weak, breathless chuckle that made his chest hurt, a tear sliding uncontrollably down his cheek.

"What good are final words that none will remember?"

"I will remember, Calael. Always."

His voice rasping and his throat tightening, Calael still managed to smile back at him wearily, and he whispered, "Memento mori, my love. Perhaps I'll be a better spirit than I was a man.."

With that, he let his eyes fall shut, and a deep sleep claim him. Calael's spirit went calmly into that good night, wrapped in his lover's arms; to be claimed by Semper Place. 

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