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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17. Epilogue

It was not long after the doctor and nurse from Rose Hill Psychiatric Hospital arrived to Semper Place that the body of Calael Black was found. With Seamus and Lucia Black lingering behind them biting their fingernails to stubs, they'd knocked once, and then again. Seamus knew he kept his spare key under the planter and that breaking and entering was not necessary, and so they entered; to find the silence of death.

His body was still warm, lying neatly on one side of his bed, illuminated by candles that still burned. The empty mosaic bowl rested inches away from his stiff fingertips, and his parted lips were still stained a tell-tale purple.

There was no heartbeat. They checked again and again and tried desperately to resucitate him, but the man's soul had already passed to the other side, and there was no cure or treatment for death.

Seamus was beside himself.

He had been so close to helping him. So very, painfully close, and yet too far. Too wrong. It tore him apart inside. Shaking his head rapidly, he backed away from the corpse, and then wept with heaven-splitting misery. He refused to be touched by the nurse and slipped down to his knees, forcing himself not to look at the sight of his wife sprawled over her sweet boy, sobbing her heart out and clutching his lifeless body to her chest like somehow her breaking heart could ignite his again. Like she could turn back time and be closer, less removed. However, he couldn't keep his eyes away. He had to keep looking to check that this wasn't all a terrible, fevered dream, and that he still had time left to save his son from himself.

"Oh, my boy! My sweet boy! Oh, Lael, my little Lael-" Lucia wailed, overcome by a distinct misery. The sort that is only truly found in such a painfully unexpected loss. Seamus approached slowly and attempted to put on a brave face to console her but it was an effort in vain; he simply sobbed uncontrollably into her hair as she held the dead boy desperately close, as though to anchor him to earth.

Calael was watching.

Detached from his physical form, he dropped to his knees beside the bed with Artemus' arms around him, staring out in muted horror. His wasted body, cradled between two heartbroken parents who had lost their baby.

"Oh god," he whispered, "Oh.. Mum, dad, oh god-"

He attempted to leap forward to fling his arms around them, but Artemus grabbed his waist quickly and held him back. "Let me go, Artemus!" he begged, "Please, let me go!"

"They can't see, feel or hear you, Calael, it's no use.."

"You!! You told me they didn't love me!"

"I am sure I never said those words, my love.. You filled that in for yourself," he breathed, running a hand soothingly through his hair. "Come away from here.. Come away."

"No.. No, I can't leave them!"

"You already did! Come now.. Come.."

Calael relented, and his lover led him gently by the hand from the bedroom, though the brunette looked truly traumatised. His eyes were wide, and his body trembling. "This is horrible.. Horrible.. How did you cope with this?" he whispered, and Artemus gave him a sad sort of smile.

"I don't think you ever truly do."

Calael stared out at the hallway with new eyes. It was not the beautiful picture Artemus had described to him. It all looked sort of grey toned, like a rainy Manchester day, but devoid of the splashes of colour in the artful graffiti of the backstreets. It was cold. Almost achingly so.

He blinked hard and turned his head and energy surged around him, carving fine colourless lines into the furniture and rushes of light through the still air. It was as though he was watching the very fabric of reality; the constant transition of one pocket of energy to the next, in quick succession. A continuing, unending motion, tying the bonds and limits of Semper Place into its place in the universe, and the two spirits into their place within it's walls. "I can see.. I can see everything."

"The shimmer that you see is the energy of life. It's almost mocking, isn't it..? It's only after death that we ever truly see it," Artemus breathed, leading him by the hand down the staircase. Calael didn't hear a single creak as he descended; infact, he had to focus a great deal to even hold onto the bannister, as though only half of his soul was truly here, although he knew that was not true. Artemus was exactly the same; only the older spirit was used to it.

"This reality is cold," Calael whispered, his voice uncharacteristically small and broken. "It doesn't feel like my home, it feels like someplace else.."

"Don't think of this place as what anchors you, it isn't. I am what anchors you," Artemus breathed, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and pressing a tender kiss to his cheek.

As they walked towards the open front door, the blonde murmured soft and soothing words, then they stepped through onto the porch and everything changed. The lines of energy moved rapidly, and Calael felt reality cleanly shift, until they were standing instead in the far corner of the back garden beside the flower bed of peonies. His breath hitched, and he gripped Artemus' arm in shock, before staggering back from the impossible sight as panic rose in his chest.

"Oh god.. What happened? Wha-"

"Now you see the limits of this place. I can go no further than the front porch, and so neither can you," Artemus explained. He stepped closer, and reached up to touch his cheek with a saccharine smile. "You will not age further now. You're with me, here, forever - isn't that wonderful?"

Even from here, Calael could hear his mother's tortured wails from the bedroom, and his heart ached. He shook his head rapidly and let his hands slip from Artemus' grip, backing away from the man. "No.. No, this isn't real. I must be dreaming it, I dream of death often, this is all in my imagination.."

Artemus opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. He reached for him with a saddened expression. "Calael.. You ate those berries. You promised yourself to me, you chose to die.."

"No, no, I should never have thought I was alone, I should have thought everything through; I can't truly be dead! You decieved me! There is no beauty here!"

"Memento mori, Calael Black. You said that yourself; everybody dies," Artemus whispered, and Calael fell to his knees in the soft grass. He could not bring himself to focus on anything but the sobs of his grieving parents. The weight of eternity was on his shoulders, and his choice was a damning one.

"You do love me still, don't you?" Artemus asked, softer now. He knelt down to his lovers level and touched his back, but the man only flinched away. His tender touch felt too firm now, too real, too true.. It was the touch of a killer holding his victims body. A wolf in sheep's clothing.

Calael said nothing, but merely curled in on himself and tried to wake up. He couldn't.

There was no reversing the finality of his actions. Calael Black had walked willingly into death's cold, dark embrace, lured by the temptations of love; and he had trapped himself forever.

"Calael," Artemus whispered again. His fingers trailed along his spine, and his lips lingered over his ear seductively. "Sweetheart.. Say you love me.."

It did not feel the same. And the words would not come. Calael clutched his hands over his face, bent down to the grass, and wailed, until the doctors removed his body from Semper Place entirely. Even still, watching them haul the lifeless corpse away on a clean white stretcher, his spirit remained. Bound to him.

 Was it ultimately fate that trapped him within those walls? Was it the selfish heart of a corrupted soul, weaponising the seduction of a lonesome man? Was it the dangers of an unstable mind pushing help away? Was it the mistrust of a desperate father? Perhaps no explanation could ever truly suffice, because life is not simple. Life can be hard and cold and rife with complexities. But for the rest of eternity, regardless of why, regret would haunt the aching spirit, and the universe would not care an ounce. The dead do not have a voice, nor a second chance. 

And so here, Calael Black's story ends. Not with a picture of romance edged in flowers, like those that would hang in the art gallery in memory of their painter. But with this. A helpless, hateful love, that is not quite love. A tragic villain. And an artist seeing the world only now as more than he had thought, and cursing the grave. 
 

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