Cold in the Earth - A Love Story


Shattered Roses She walked slowly through the cemetery, heading for his grave. The snow
was thick on the ground, even this late in the year. The whole world was silent and empty as suicide, the snow swallowing even the gentle hiss of the wind in the bare branches of the trees. The tombstones stuck through the frothy whiteness of the snow like broken teeth. The whole world was as empty and white as a silk-lined coffin, and walking through it, her fur-edged, ivory velvet coat brushing the thick snow as she went, she was happy for it. From the other side of the Shroud, he watched her as she crossed the cemetery and sat down in the snow before his headstone. Here, the sky was as greyswept iron, the sun nothing but a faint, pale halo against the cloud. Here, the gravestones were slick with ice, dusted with decay and crumbling with age, but her beauty shone through, a single bright pinpoint against the endless grey of the world. She stepped light as a phantom through the banks of fresh, pale snow, wrapped in white and fur, the blood dripping slowly from her arms and leaving a trail of bright red dots against the white. As she sat down by his grave, the blood beginning to seep through the pale velvet, red and rusted brown, he sat down beside her. "You don't have to do this, Celeste," he whispered softly to ears that couldn't hear him. His eyes were hurting, stung by the wealth of pain that refused to run down his cheeks in hot, wet streams. His tears stilled forever by a death he could never undo. "I love you so much," he went on in the same, hash whisper as sharp as the razor-blades gripped close in her lovely fingers: "Don't you understand? I don't want you to die. I never wanted you to die... Please don't go, Celeste, you're all I have left to hold on to. You're all I have left to love." He sobbed hard and reached out to grip her by the shoulders, shivering with tears that would never come, but all he felt was the faint, numb pressure

against his corpus. Not the soft rasp of the velvet, not the desperate slick silk of her skin. In the lands of the living, she pulled back the hood of her coat, the fur whispering over her skin to reveal her pale face to the harsh wintering air, her cheeks slick with tears that shone and glistened like ice in the sunlight. The same light that caught in the carefully pinned curls of her golden, damask hair, making them shine like liquid gold. He caught his breath at her beauty, the cold air rasping through the memory of his lungs. "Cold in the earth..." she whispered: "I miss you so much... I guess I never realised what I had until you went away..." She traced her bloody fingers against the headstone, her nails rasping against it as sharp as knives on crystal. Her mind was spinning now, and the whole world was beginning to darken around her, darken to the same grey that would hold the soul of her lover until nothingness claimed him once and for all. Her blood was falling thick onto the snow, staining it the red of bloodsoaked rubies, congealing and freezing thick in the cold. "I miss you so much," she said again, her hands slipping against the bloodslick granite, her body crumpling like a porcelain doll against the snow. She curled up against his grave, and waited. She hummed softly to herself as the life slipped away from her, staining her beautiful whiteness with streaks of heathen red. Her voice was soft, and swallowed quickly by the snow, a gentle, harmonic sound that only made his pain worse. Made the throbbing in his eyes and the tight, stifling feeling in his throat engulf him utterly. And so, it's come to this, sighed the voice that was not a voice somewhere in the silence and darkness of his mind: All your love, all your hate, all your fire. And here she is, beautiful as a winter's dawn and dying. Dying because she loved you. Because you couldn't help but reach out to touch her one more time. Is this what you wanted? Is it what you wanted when you held her against the cold, against the storm, when you gave you life so she could live? "No." His voice was desolate and barren, the force of the pain seeping through his corpus unable to stir his eyes to tears, or his voice to passion. He sobbed emptily.

"No, this isn't what I wanted. This isn't what I wanted at all." He shivered and gripped the top of his own headstone tightly, closing his eyes to the porcelain woman lying stricken on the snow: "Don't do this Celeste... I love you." "I love you too," She murmured, her wild blue eyes drifting open against the blood-stained snow. He drew away, looking down at her as her body dropped away, fading to greyed marble through the Shroud. A stone sculpture, wrapped in a cloak and curled around the grave, sinking slowly into the snow. He stared at her for a long, long moment, watching as the cloudy, slick-wrapped figure faded into being over the cold stone of her lifeless body. Leaning forward, but with the tears still burning a hole in him like liquid dark, and more sorrow sweeping across his features than joy, he wrapped his cold-tipped fingers about the thick, pale membrane of her Caul, and drew it away. Steam rose slowly on the cold air, pale wisps of heat soon dying in the cold and the grey of the Shadowlands. Within, she was slick with plasm, curled up in her favourite dress, birthed into the world of the dead from the womb of the world, utterly undarkened by the Shroud. Radiant. Slowly, she sat up, and he bore her weight adoringly, helping her up against the cold of the headstone although the swelling darkness inside him refused to die away. "I love you," she said again: "But I have to leave." "Why?" he stammered bleakly, gripping her shoulders, feeling the touch of her warmth against the crystal cold of the air. "This isn't anything to do with you," she whispered, her words heavy on the grey: "That's just the point." She paused for a moment and shook her head, getting slowly to her feet and looking around the bleak desolation of the Shadowlands. "I feel cold," she said: "Cold and empty. I love you, but only because I know I love you, because I died for you. I don't feel it. Not now. All I feel now is dead." He was beginning to shake uncontrollably, staring up at her wide-eyed and

unbelieving. "But... But I love you so much... Please don't leave me . . ." She bent down, running her beautiful fingers across his cheek, caked with dried blood that shone rust-red under her nails. "I know you do," She whispered: "And I'm sorry... Goodbye, Jack." She turned, and slowly walked back across the snow towards the gate, following the trail of fallen blood and the pale footfalls she'd left against the cold only minutes before, her feet brushing across the top of the snow but leaving no echo of her presence in their wake. He watched her wane into the darkling light, the world fading through pale, watered pinks and violets towards night. He couldn't stop himself from shaking. Somewhere deep inside him, his Shadow was weeping, and Jack hated him for it. He could never cry, not even now when his whole world was breaking apart into darkness. Once he could no longer see her pale form against the lilac-grey, he laid down beside his grave, drawing close to the Shroud-darkened shell, as grey and as empty as stone, which had housed the soul of his lover. "I miss you," he sobbed dryly as the darkness inside him swelled to fill his entire world. Wisps of tempered nothingness more bitter than the winter rose up to claim him, and he just laid back against the bubbling cold of the Nihil and let the darkness of Oblivion draw him down. Without her, he had nothing left to fight for. Soon, his Shadow would get its wish.

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