Death is a curious thing. At times, our mortality seems too far away to worry about, but when it suddenly looms over you, you realize how important your life and the people in it were. It makes you stop and think if you did enough.
And so it was for Crystal Watson on that final Friday.
A constant dripping was the only sound Crystal knew. Its rhythmic pulse often lulled her into trances, like the one she was in now. Any waking moment she could escape from her misery, she took advantage of. This was one such moment.
She had just woke from a nightmare, one filled with hurtful and frightening memories. She shook them away, instead examining the walls of her prison. They were a slimy, black granite that seemed to reek of death itself. Next her eyes looked across the filthy floor, noticing another rat skittering across its surface, noticing that even the rats avoided the foul smelling pool in the corner. The shadows obscured any other detail in the room.
She was weak and her hand shook as she brushed hair away from her face. The chains rattled as she made her way to the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sky, or a whiff of fresh air, but the chains stopped her before reaching that freedom.
Shattered, Crystal crumpled to the floor and wept. Since being brought to this place, life had been complete misery, Elvira had promised that much. It was she that had made sure everything about Crystal’s existence was wretched. And yet, she couldn’t harbor a grudge, all she felt was pity.
The cell door rattled, startling her out of her stupor. She looked up at the noise, and wiped at her eyes, smearing dirt across her pale cheeks. Are they moving me? She wondered. I suppose anything would be better than here, besides, the other reason was too unpleasant to think about.
The door opened, revealing a hand holding a sputtering torch that nearly blinded her and brought tears again to her eyes. When her vision cleared, she examined the guard before her, faint recognition dawned on her face.
The guard’s red hair looked like it was on fire in the torch light. Crystal remembered her name was Rebecca. It seemed like a lifetime ago and the dank cell seemed to fade away to a warm sunny day…..
Crystal had just settled under her favorite tree for lunch when she heard a whimper. She turned to see Rebecca and her friends picking on a black haired girl with green eyes, who was scrambling around trying to gather her books that had been knocked from her hands.
Disgusted and furious, Crystal strode over to the girls. “Is there a problem here?” she asked the dark haired girl as she helped her to stand. She turned on the other girl’s, hands on her hips. “That’s enough, go away and leave me and my friend alone.”
“I would have thought you’d have better taste Crystal,” Rebecca said with a smirk.
“I do, that’s why I don’t hang out with the likes of you and your bullying friends, Rebecca.”
With a sneer, Rebecca turned to the other girls and said. “Let’s go, we have better things to do.”
Crystal turned and held out her hand. “Hello, I’m Crystal, who are you?”
“Why did you help me?” the girl asked shyly, then taking Crystal’s hand, answered her question. “I’m Elvira.”
“I despise bullies.” Crystal pointed to where she had been sitting under the tree. “Would you like to share my lunch?”
Blushing, Elvira shook her head. “Did you mean what you said? Do you want to be my friend?”
“Absolutely,” Crystal smiled, “I know how hard it is to be the new kid. So tell me about yourself… Friend.”
Hands grabbing Crystal’s arms brought her out of her memory as they unshackled her wrists. Rebecca startled when she recognized Crystal, then looked away. The guards pulled her to her feet, and marched her out, following Rebecca’s lead. Each had a firm hold on her arms, discouraging any thoughts of escape.
Two more guards followed behind completing the escort. Like a funeral march, Crystal thought. She remembered so many others that had passed her cell to the same fate. Some sobbing, others pleading and some trying desperately to escape. They all met the same fate in the end.
She stumbled on the cobble stone only to be caught and forced to her feet again. They lead her up a narrow stairway. The walls were dryer here and better maintained. A window was set on the wall ahead. Crystal bent forward to see through it. The sight of the gallows and the gathering of people sent a chill down her spine. Barely able to stand, the guards had to drag her down the corridor towards her fate. Everything was a blur after that, the only constant thing was the light glowing brighter every moment.
Suddenly they burst into the morning light that nearly blinded her with its radiance but she forced herself to look at it. This would be her last view of the sky, with its gentle pinks and purples. The last glimpse of the world in this life. The final breaths of fresh, beautiful air.
All of it was swept away by the platform with its deadly rope. Elvira was there, dressed elaborately in her green silk with her hair styled to perfection. Crystal dropped her eyes, and into the eyes of Elvira’s father the king on the night he died.
They had glazed over a few moments before, despite Crystal’s efforts to keep him alive. “No… no stay with me…” she muttered but it was too late.
The door opened with a crash, Crystal turned to see Elvira. “How is he?”
“He’s gone… I tried to save him but… he was too far gone.”
“W-what? N-no no…. it can’t be…” Elvira rushed to her father’s side, shaking him.
But Elvira wasn’t listening, dark green smoke was angrily gathering around her. “You killed him!” She was up in crystal’s face now, her eyes glowing with a ghostly green light.
“N-no I did everything I could to save him.”
“Guards! Seize her!”
“Elvira… think about who you’re talking to. It’s me Crystal.” She backed away only to be grabbed from behind.
“I charge you with high treason and sentence you to death!”
Before anything could be said, Crystal was dragged away, the door slamming behind her.
Elvira forced Crystal’s chin up breaking her from the memory. Their eyes met, in a moment that seemed to last forever. Crystal was surprised to see tears in the corners of Elvira’s eyes. All anger had left her eyes to be replaced by alarm.
Elvira yanked the noose off of Crystal’s neck and collapsed in front of her. “Forgive me… I let anger get the better of me… you’re my friend… and I treated you as my enemy. And I… I…” She was sobbing now barely able to manage words.
“Shhh…” Crystal said crouching down besides her raising Elvira to her feet. “I forgive you. I’m just glad that I have my friend back.”
All the tension between them broke as they embraced.
“Noooo!” Crystal turned to the sound to see Rebecca drawing her dagger.
Just as Rebecca lunged Crystal flung herself in front of Elvira. The knife struck her right in the heart and she collapsed gasping for breath. The world blurred around her. She faintly heard Elvira’s voice calling guards to restrain Rebecca and the clink of chains, Elvira’s face close to hers.
“Don’t die… Please don’t leave me again…” Crystal thought she heard her say.
“Shhh…” Crystal managed. “Just promise me that you’ll never forget me.”
I promise,” Elvira managed tearfully.
“Then that is enough for me.” And with a final sigh, Crystal died with a peaceful smile on her face.
Story by: Miriam Nicholson
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