The day is gray, but not dull. The dark clouds overhead seem to boil, twisting and turning in the stiff breeze like a massive coil of snakes. Purple, gray, blue, and black color the sky, blocking out the sun, and leaving the green grass with a shadow cast over it, blades bowing to the force of the wind.
A group of strangers crowds around a wooden casket, every last one of them foreign to each other, mingling in small groups, their faces bowed and grim, bodies draped in dark black cloth like phantoms hovering over a grave, clinging to the lost soul with icy cold hands. No warmth invades the space the bodies occupy—the cold chaffing their hands and whipping the color from their faces, tearing hair from pins and leaving loose pieces of black cloth to flap about their owners like the wings of bats.
The polished surface of the casket reflects the figures in a warped representation that is more true to their nature; faces elongated; bodies twisted and malformed. Flowers decorate the lid, pale white atop the mahogany wood, the green stems already sucking the life from the delicate petals, leaving them to wilt; already dead, but still pretty, like a body dressed for viewing.
The wind blows and a few stray drops of rain fall from the sky like tears, landing on upturned faces and gleaming on the casket, some dampening the petals of the flowers like dewdrops. In the distance thunder rumbles, like a groan issuing from some long slumbering beast that is slowly awakening.
Whispers pervade the small crowd like poison, dropping from lips and seeping into the earth to kill the grass that is already trampled by the passing of heavy feet. But all of a sudden, the whispers die, left unspoken on cold lips, as a bright splash of color appears in the midst of so much dark and death; warmth in the cold; but the color is only an illusion. The wearer is just as cold as the rest.
She stands barefoot on the grass, pale toes peeking out from underneath the crimson folds of her dress, swept about her body like a red ribbon twirled around a finger. Her shoulders are slumping gently, as if all the fight has gone, pale in the cold and spotted with a few drops of water that might be rain or tears. Dark hair cascades down around the pale face like bits of shadowy silk, a stark contrast to the pale white of her face. Red lips are twisted; a horrible contortionist’s act that deforms the perfect face. But staring out of the pale face, like pools of glistening oil, are her eyes; dark and tortured beneath long, thick lashes of midnight. In those dark eyes, smolders a fire; just two burning embers in a sea of oil, failing to the light the entire pool, but refusing to give in and go out.
The silence is eerie, every face turned to stare at this stranger. Her eyes do not fall on the faces riveted to hers, but on the casket, wholly absorbed in it as a dog is its master. A single wilted flower slides off the polished surface and hits the ground with an unheard sound that reverberates in the heads of those watching, an imagined thud.
The red lips lose their horrible twist, falling back into place in perfect form, remaining still for an instant before forming their heart-wrenching cry.
Everyone freezes, eyes widening in shock, then they stumble back, cold feet numb with disuse, almost falling into the dewy grass in their haste to distance themselves from the girl and the horrible sound she makes.
Another cry follows the first, and she staggers forward over the wet grass, the hem of her dress dragging over the ground, dampening with the few scattered raindrops that clung to the blades of grass.
“No!” Her pale arms reach out of their own accord, fingers outstretched as if to grasp the departed soul and drag it back to earth. “No, no!”
The whispers start up again, hushed voices now both shocked and disgusted. The red dress stands out like a thorn amongst all the black; one thorn, dripping in brilliant, ruby red blood.
With a sudden sob that is wrenched from the very depths of her breaking heart, she throws herself on the casket, crushing the delicate flowers beneath the weight of her body, releasing their scent of mingling freshness and the sickeningly sweet odor of decay.
“NO!” The hoarse, wrenching sobs are gone, replaced by an ear piercing scream that shatters the stillness as only a woman’s voice can. “PLEASE, NO! PLEASE!”
Her pleas are in vain as she lies across the polished wood, pleading for what she cannot have. A middle-aged woman steps forward, dark dress billowing around her, and reaches out to the young woman, pulling her away from the object of her grief. As she is dragged away, the flowers are swept from the lid, falling to the earth in a cascade of crushed petals and bent stems, the red clothed bosom now stained with their scent. A single white petal clings to the raven hair, stuck like a falling leaf in a gust of wind, no longer part of the tree, but unable to reach the earth where its brethren lie.
The bearers lift the casket and begin to lower it into the grave, the sides of coffin scraping against the dirt walls, causing a waterfall of dirt to precede it into the pit.
The young woman still watches, tears filling her dark eyes, but the fires of grief still refusing to give out and be extinguished by the salty tears. The older woman’s hand is clenched around the pale, slender wrist, keeping her in place, but the free arm is outstretched, straining to reach the grave.
One by one the people clothed in black step forward and look down into the grave. No one throws a clump of dirt or flower; they just look down, as if seeing where death will lead them in the end. When all have gone, the woman releases the girl and she staggers forward, almost falling over the crimson folds of her dress. As she stumbles, her hand stoops to the earth, catching up a crumpled white flower.
If you had looked up from the grave, staring straight up at the young woman with her dark hair and red dress, you would see the tears raining from her eyes as she leans forward and tosses the flower forward into the grave where it falls right in the center of the lid. She scoops up a clump of dirt and lets it sift through her fingers like the sands of time, until her hand is empty save for the smudges on her palm. Then the fires in her eyes go out.