Danse Macabre

Lilla Kassai

Ivory Mars had been a widow for a long time. Her husband, Michael, had died three years ago at the age of ninety-seven, in his sleep. Well, many people would say, three years isn’t so long, but for Ivory, every day without him was torture. She felt an emptiness growing in her day by day. She became numb because she couldn’t feel her beloved next to her.

Still, she was smiling every time she walked in the garden of their mansion. It was built in 1947, after the war, from the remained ruins of the house, which had been destroyed by German bombs. They built their new house together; it had cost plenty of time and energy, but they made it through.

The mansion was located at the furthest corner of the little town, halfway in the pinewoods. It was painted black on the outside and had a round window on the second floor, facing the street. Whoever walked past their home would start to walk faster immediately. At first glance it seemed like a home of demons and monsters, but Mr. and Mrs. Mars were neither evil nor unfriendly. They had their own style, which kept the weak people away.

Mrs. Mars walked out to the garden. It was her favourite place: the grass was dark green, and every morning it was glistening with water drops. Behind the house was an enormous rose arbor filled with black roses. She smiled every time she peeked at the big, fragrant flowers. She breathed in the air filled with the smell of the roses and sat herself down on the bank under the arbor. The bank was guarded by two gargoyles, which had been sculpted by her husband. Ivory stroked their heads, knowing that her beloved had worked on them from morning to night, to surprise her on her birthday. She wanted to be with him, feel his strong arms around her, while cuddling, listening to his heartbeat, and kissing him passionately.

These were her everyday thoughts, even on the thirty-first of October. The black roses and the deep purple petunias were no longer  blooming. It was autumn; nature was preparing for winter, The leaves of the trees turned brown, red and yellow, and started to fall from the branches. In the window of multiple houses, Jack-O-Lanterns appeared. It was Halloween, Mr. and Mrs. Mars’ favourite holiday. They loved to carve pumpkins together, and always awaited the kids with plenty of sweets and candies, but they never went trick-or-treating.

That day, Ivory Mars was decorating the house with stone skulls, in which she put candles. She put them into the windows. She put up the little lights through the rose arbor, and lit candles in the gargoyles’ mouths. Her garden looked like the meadow of Asphodel. It had a special, underworldly, dark beauty.

“So many people are living in the light, under the sunshine, and now they have forgotten how beautiful the darkness can be… It’s not the same beauty that you see in everyday life.  Oh, my beautiful man… How many times did we dance in the moonlight or in the rain under this arbor… How I wish you were here….” she teared up, and smiled. “Don’t worry, my One And Only… You don’t have to wait long now… We’ll reunite soon….” she mumbled, and then lit a candle next to a painting she had made after Michael Mars came back from the war. They were young, happy and crazy in love.

“Happy birthday, My Dearest!” she bellowed and then sat in the window, scrolling the pages of the photo album, where they had put the pictures of their life.

Around midnight, she heard a soft knock on her door. She slowly rose and went to open it. In the door, a strange man stood in a black coat. Ivory couldn’t see his face. The cold October wind was howling, the branches were creaking, and there was no sign of anyone else in the street. Then there was dead silence.

“Sorry Mister, can I help you?“ asked the old lady, shivering in her clothes.

“Yes please,” said the stranger, but his voice made Ivory tear up again. She would recognise this voice anytime. She gasped and was able to speak only a minute later.

“Mi…Michael?” she started to cry.

“Yes, my Love,” answered Mr. Mars in a low, soft voice. “May I come in?”

Ivory could only nod, and moved away from the door. After her husband entered, she closed it and followed him into the living room. When Michael saw the painting of them, he smiled with tears in his eyes.

“I knew you’d never forget…” he mumbled. “May I ask you to honour me with a dance?”

Ivory was sobbing. She nodded and held her beloved’s hand. It was real, and then they stepped out to the garden. When Ivory saw what the garden looked like, she couldn’t do more than blink. The roses were blooming like never before, the spiderwebs were sparkling in the dark, and the fireflies, bats and owls were flying in every direction of the garden, or just resting on the roof, gazing at the couple.  But that wasn’t the most surprising thing: Ivory started to feel different, and as she threw a peek at her beloved, and herself, she almost fainted. She became twenty-three years old again. She got back her short, raven black hair and her slender but curvy figure. She wore the same long, black dress that she had worn long ago, as they celebrated the end of the war together.

Michael became young too. His short, dark brown hair and muscular figure made him look twenty-five again. He wore the same black suit and his army coat that he had worn that time. He held Ivory’s hand, and they started to waltz.

“I missed you so much, my Beloved,” said Mr. Mars, hugging his wife tight to his chest.

“Me too,” cried Ivory. “Promise me you won’t leave me alone again!”

“I promise you, Darling,” whispered Michael into her ear, and started to sing.

“Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless. Dearest the shadows I live with are numberless.”

Ivory was sobbing with happiness. This was the song they had danced to the first time. And  when Michael sang this to her back in the day, her heart was fulfilled with joy, anytime.

“Angels have no thoughts of ever returning you, would they be angry, if I thought of joining you.”

Ivory was overwhelmed with felicity, although she knew it was her “Danse Macabre.” By the time, the clock hit midnight, they stopped the dance. They looked in each others eyes and kissed each other softly but passionately.

“You’ll never be lonely again, I promise you,” said Michael, holding Ivory’s hand. “Please come with me! But you know, that means that you.…”

“It’s okay,” interrupted Ivory. “My only desire is to be with you again. No matter what.” She smiled and walked off with her Love of her Life. By the next morning, their footsteps had been washed away by the cold November rain. At the same time, Ivory woke up in the middle of a forest, lying in the arms of her One and Only.