Author's Note: Please forgive any grammatical errors! Oh, and read and review. Thanks!
"There's been a grave misunderstanding."
Summary: She only meant to resurrect herself for a week. Just one, measly week—to watch them marry without any recognition. But now…a planned murder? And a world between the Dead and the Living…?
Prologue: No Stanza
In a flurry of sapphire wings, a hoard of butterflies zoomed into the old room, circling the aged interior with easy grace. They whizzed passed the heavy shelves in blue blurs, flashed by rusty knick-knacks and peeling walls. They fluttered past a brittle desk that towered on long, spindly legs. Their tiny wings made no noise within the thick silence, their presence unvoiced and unknown.
There was something eerie—unnatural—about the little, jewel-like creatures, which wavered so benevolently, elegantly, within the dusty old room. Their breathtaking beauty, their glowing hue, their utter essence—something about it whispered of an untold truth, a dark secret, hidden behind their graceful masquerade. For, though a dozen or more of the cerulean bodies now hovered through the stilled air, each one seemed impossible to exist without the other.
As though, in spirit, every butterfly was truly only one being.
Suddenly, an impossible wind picked up, (as the room, indeed, was located many, many miles underground) rustling the yellowed pages of an ancient novel. Glass objects began to rattle, the fragile desk began to shake; a door creaked sadly in its archway.
The butterflies had begun to whorl about each other, with each flap gaining more speed, adding more fever, until they appeared like nothing other than a violently swirling vortex.
And then, quite abruptly, they stopped.
Where the creatures had hovered just a moment beforehand stood a woman. Her skin was pale and cool, like marble, only it was tinged faint blue instead of milky white. Her hair fell around her face in a thick net of dark curls; her eyes were liquid pools of mingled emotion…glassy and beautiful, dim yet bright.
She clutched her thin arms around herself—one of which was really only the skeletal remains of an arm—and shivered. But she was not cold. She could never be cold, not if she stood jacketless in an icy downpour, not if she was slapped by a frigid wind; even if she were to rub snow against her pretty face, her skin would not flush rosy with cold.
You see, the dead can't feel.
And she was just that.
The deceased woman began pacing the aged study, her flimsy veil fluttering like a phantom, and the tattered material of her white gown fanning out behind her. Within her, two major emotions were crashing against each other, battling to take possession of her no-longer-beating heart.
The corpse's first reaction had been to smile. To smile, and laugh, and dance. She had done the right thing, after all, setting him free. She had proven her most undying feelings for the young man, made an ultimate sacrifice. She let him go.
He had truly loved that girl, that pretty little…live girl, who had been clutching the doorway so tightly. The emotion had brimmed in his eyes, hung thick and heavy in the church's quiet air. And—oh!—how heartbroken the girl had looked, so shivery, so small. She seemed to be drowning in her own wedding dress, gaping hopelessly at them.
The young man had set her free—why not unchain him?
But as fleeting as it came, her happiness soured into a wallowing bitterness. The impact of her decision seemed to drop onto her shoulders like a bulky weight, dragging her heart down into a black abyss.
He was gone now…truly, eternally, gone. Never again would she be able to gaze upon his beautiful eyes, or witness that shy smile flit across his lips. He would never again grasp her hand or speak to her in that gentle voice only he could posses.
He belonged to someone else now.
But she had waited for eternity! Nothing more than the sad remains of a murdered bride, garbed in her once-glorious gown, awaiting her true love ever-patiently, ever-calmly…and when he finally came, he loved someone else?
For most, the story had been a fairytale. A beautiful fairytale supplied with a syrupy ending that brimmed with love and happiness. The evil villain smote with a poison he alone brought to his lips; the dainty girl freed from the man she was forced to wed; the two lovers, eternally together, gazing at the moonlit sky.
But where was her sparkly finish? Yes, the young man had liberated her, but now she was shackled by a whole new set of chains—a whole new misery.
He belonged to someone else now.
Murdered on her wedding day, only to have her heart broken in death…perhaps she was never meant to be loved?
Chapter One: First Stanza
"Butterfly, butterfly… whisper your sweet lullaby
For when the world falls dark and gray, I'd love to hear you say—
Emily awoke to darkness. It fell around her in thick, velvety shades, swallowing everything in its path. The young woman pushed herself slowly upright, tilting her head nervously from side to side.
Truly, it was nothing less than silly for a corpse to be subject to fear. Terrifying thoughts of murder and torture no longer applied—so what is the point of fretting? Even so, Emily could not suppress the creeping unease that had begun to crawl up her spine. Misshapen objects loomed at her through the shadows and the resounding silence seemed absolute.
Emily placed a bluish hand over her face, coaxing her reluctant memory out of hiding. With a sudden sigh, it returned, bombarding Emily with bittersweet remembrance once more.
She felt guilty for yesterday's sulky thoughts. Victor and Victoria belonged together, with their beating hearts and breathing lungs. Who was she to get in the way? Yes, her own dreams had been stolen—murdered, rather—but that gave her no right to snatch someone else's! She was simply being childish, brooding over her own selfish desires…
Besides, she told herself with feigned mirth, my own ending wasn't all that horrifying! I met my true love and he set me free! I can rest in peace now…
…even if he doesn't love me back.
Emily jarred the last thought somewhere into the back of her mind, letting it linger with all her other forbidden thoughts—ponderings she dare not dwell on, for good of her own frail happiness.
Sighing, the corpse jumped up with a slight jounce in her step, determined for the least bit of cheer. Glancing at her surroundings, her eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness, and she realized where she was: Elder's Study.
The dingy room was lined with tall shelves crammed with books of every type, all tattered and yellow with age. Emily's skeleton fingers snatched up a match and lit a candle, filling the study with a soft, orange glow.
She was certain that Elder Gutknecht, being the kindly old skeleton that he was, would not be bothered by her visit, but Emily's quiet aloneness still seemed to perturb her. Holding the candle up to the dusty bookshelf, she squinted through the gloom at the books' labels. It was just what she needed, after all, some sort of spellbinding novel; take her mind off her afterlife…Her eyes swiveled to a sudden halt before a particular label.
Hidden Enchantments: Spells for the Dead
A small gasp escaped her deadened lips, flitting throughout the silent chamber. Her finger stroked the book's red spine with an almost precarious curiosity; a haunting interest. Go on! The eager part of her brain called out. Go on, read it. An excerpt or two won't do any harm!
But another voice cut it off, an icily firm voice, dripping with heavy disapproval. You don't know what's written in there and you know what Elder says about cryptic spellbooks! What if it's cursed? What if it's black magic?
Nonsense, the first voice tittered. Why would Elder have a black spellbook? Open it, Emily, open it!
The response was almost immediate. Her fingers seemed to spark with their own will, grabbing the book feverishly before her mind could intervene. Like so many times beforehand, her emotions had overruled her reason.
Throughout the thickly quiet chamber, none was heard besides the whisperings of turning pages. The words scrawled across them were written in a faded, spidery hand, elegant yet eerie on the flimsy paper. Emily's blue fingers flicked by them with ease, amused at the somehow lighthearted content. ("Want to look like a newly dead corpse? 'The Flesh-Reviving' enchantment is capable of keeping deceased skin firmly on your bones! Just add one quart of dragon blood to a powdered unicorn horn, etc...)
And then, as fate might have it, Emily's hand flipped—so unknowingly—to a certain page. It was a page that had remained unturned for centuries, words that had not been gazed at for years upon years. The black ink was graying, the lettering faint, but the passage was still readable. Yes, still very much readable.
"The 'Breath-Giving Poison,'—more commonly referred to as a resurrection brew—is the only known remedy capable of restoring the dead to life. The drink has been consumed by only one known victim, its own brewer, Eric Mi'Knight. Mi'Knight described the liquid as 'a distasteful substance equivalent to having your insides scorched—if you remember what that feels like.' For, according to Mi'Knight's notes, 'Breath-Giving Poison' had the literal ability to make even a corpse feel pain. Whether these astonishing remarks, however, are accurate still remains a mystery…"
The words trailed away into a yawning nothingness, their existence frivolous and insignificant to the infamous "Corpse Bride." She was drowning in a numbed shock that robbed her of her senses; left her floating in a hazy void of emptiness. Nothing existed. Only her and the book clasped by loose, cold hands.
The dead to life…restoring the dead to life…capable of restoring the dead to life…Her mind breathed the words in a whispery chorus, so soft it barely existed. Emily listened as the faint words thrummed through her; felt an uncontrollable ecstasy teeter excitingly on the edge of numbed bewilderment.
She could be alive again.
This book knew how to make her alive again!
It knew how to give her rosy cheeks and a beating heart; it knew how to supply her with breathing lungs and a stomach that required food. It knew how to make her like…like…
A single tear welled in Emily's eye and rolled down her cold cheek. What did it matter if such a potion existed? Victor had fallen for Victoria—not she— and the reasoning had not been simply because Emily was dead. Even if she were to stroll back into Victor's life fully living, it would not change a thing.
But then—he had been willing to die for her, hadn't he? How easily he had tossed away his something so precious! And for nothing more than her mere happiness…Certainly, that must mean something?
A seed of guilt blossomed in Emily's gut. Once again, she had caught herself sinking rapidly into her own selfish thoughts. She had to stop glaring down on her choice with such bitterness and acknowledge that she had done the right thing. She had to be happy for them!
She—she was happy for them. Truly, wholly, she was. Nothing but that particular couple could fill her to the brim with such sweet, everlasting joy, supply her with mirth so strong that she could simply soar eternally—well, perhaps that was a bit too happy. But even so, she still smiled down upon them. In fact, if not for the given circumstances, she would even attend the wedding that (oh, so easily) could have been her own.
Wait! Emily's dark eyes flashed frantically from the book's flimsy pages and the rotted old chest before her. A fluttering of swift nerves engulfed her, followed by a state of complete recklessness.
The chaotic uprising of the dead visiting the World of the Living had been great. Breathers darting everywhere, screaming, praying…yes, the living had not been too flexible at Emily's attempt to marry Victor—er—"upstairs." And although most did manage to ease up once coming into contact with their own dearly departed, a few were still a bit morose and shaken.
Like that priest. Emily never discovered his name, but he had reminded her distinctly of the tall, crooked willow trees her mother use to tend to so long ago. His tiny eyes had riveted to them with sharp tension. She remembered his booming voice, how stony yet frightened the utterance had sounded.
"Be gone ye demons from hell! Turn back to the grave from whence you came!"(1)
Emily smirked despite herself. That wiry priest had definitely not collected enough of his sanity in time to wed Victor and Victoria. In fact, he was probably still quivering behind a tree somewhere, wild-eyed and crazed as he muttered about demons and curses.
The town had been small; minuscule even. Emily had not dwelled there long, but the dark houses were all cramped together, like a huddle of looming shadows, and every miserable resident seemed to know the other. She would not have been surprised if they possessed only one priest. Which meant that Victor and Victoria had been rendered utterly priest-less…and currently unwed.
A needle-sharp shock darted throughout Emily's entire body, rooting her to her spot. She had already dragged Victor—a naturally neurotic young man—into so much fretful turmoil. She could not simply barge back into his life, tattered dress and all, and arouse all that trouble again.
Unless—but no—she couldn't—couldn't possibly—
Resurrect herself? It would be much too risky to try and creep into the church with a mere cloak or mask. No matter how well she planned her subtle entrance there was always the slight chance that someone would catch a glimpse of her blue-tinged face. But if she were to return to life she could simply slip in, an unknown stranger stopping by out of mild interest…
The spellbook shook wildly in Emily quivering hands and fell with a deafening clap. She was too preoccupied to care. A stream of incoherent thoughts and images were now darting across her mind, a jumble of blurred reactions she couldn't quite decipher.
It was reckless, Emily knew that. The own brewer of the potion had proclaimed that it was a wretched liquid, prone only to cause pain. And what if it were not to work?
Would she be caught hovering in some sort of abstract limbo—between life and death?
Emily pressed her bluish fingers against her face. A sinking feeling had already chiseled its way through her heart, poisoning her excited happiness.
It was simply too reckless.
But then Victor's face flashed through her mind. The image was fast and fleeting—so that she could barely grasp it—his features fogged and shrouded. His face, his eyes, his smile…they were all just a faded memory now, slipping through her cold, dead fingers.
A lone tear splashed against the spellbook's yellow page. Emily's eyes fluttered towards it, catching glimpse of another line:
"One drop is capable of having a corpse's heart beating for a full week. After this, he or she will revert back to the dead—"
And that's when Emily decided. No matter how reckless, no matter how foolish, she was going to give it a try. She would not allow Victor to become a distant memory, just a faded picture left to float in the back of her mind.
At first, Emily had figured that she would be brewing the potion from Elder's spare ingredients. But upon rummaging through a withered chest, she discovered a tiny bottle, corked and dusty. Three words were etched across its peeling label—"Breath-Giving Poison."
Emily did not waste time pondering over why Elder had a resurrection brew stowed away in his study. She did not stop to recheck the label or even glance back at the book. She simply kept Victor's slightly hazed face fixated in her mind, uncorked the bottle, and sipped.
It was pouring down her throat, scorching her insides with a fiery pain impossible for her to feel. It burned into the marrows of her bones, pieced her stilled heart with a torturous heat. A pained cry tore from her lips as the invisible fire engulfed her entire being. She was drowning in flame, smothered by fire…and then—
She dropped, unconscious, to the floor, inhaling tiny breaths of air.
(1) I don't know the exact verse! I do believe that Pastor Galswells said something along these lines. I'll be sure to fix it once the movie comes out and I've watched it about a million times in one day. (lol) If any of you know it, please tell me!