Path of the Departed
Silence descended upon the leaf-strewn courtyard like a funeral shroud. The Man with the Whip had glanced around, puzzled, for a while. Then with a sigh, he vacated the ledge and disappeared into the manor. The observer stood very still for several moments longer then he too, moved, taking a seat on the ledge himself. His own gaze peered into the fast-flowing water…who was it that looked back?
He had known, last night, when he'd actually tasted her. Her lips and his. As one. It had sent a jolt through his entire being, with a rush of memories flooding back. But the moment was all too brief, faster than the flash of an eyelash and then it was gone and with it, him. He was back to square one.
As he sat pondering this and the insanity of his existence he heard a noise. At first, he'd thought the Man with the Whip had returned. For some reason that inspired blinding fear in him, so he set to scurrying away when someone marched past, but not the one he thought. No, he did not quite believe his eyes. Yet they told him no lie. Right across his path, carrying a very familiar looking sword and with his ebony cloak disrupting the leaves, was a man who looked just…him.
With powerful hands, the Man Who Looked like Him tore down the door to the manison, rending it from its iron hinges and vanished within. Curiosity, of the Man with the Whip, the Man Who Looked like Him and…Her, guided his soft-footed steps to the entrance where he followed. It distressed him that the other doors within the manor had been left in a similar mangled state. He looked aghast when he bent to feel the pulse of an elderly maid. There was none.
As he sneaked silently after the "doppelganger" he found his path drawn short as his eyes were riveted on a few paintings. There was a lovely family portrait of pretty blonde woman with two adorable kids, a son and daughter each, and her husband, a hunter by the looks of his garments, one who bore a stunning resemblance to the Man with the Whip.
Then his mind careened even further when he spotted a painting of the radiant blonde woman, the one he'd been so near to and yet still so far away. That sweet voice. The shine in her green eyes. That kiss. The connection between himself and her could not be denied, so fierce it was that it nearly brought him back to himself.
He knew he knew them, just naught how he knew them.
His fingers lovingly traced the arc of her hair, the oval of her eyes, anywhere, though his hand nearly passed right through. His trek with the Man Who Looked Like Him was momentarily forgotten. He was a shell of a man; literal as it was figurative. That moment of serenity was again lost, this time perhaps for forever.
Then the ring of steel brought him back to his senses.
What dark designs did the "doppelganger" have in store for this family and for Her?
Again with footsteps too soft for sound, he sped up the staircase and down the hall. Though he didn't know what caused the connection or what portended still he sought to protect it. After all, what else had he left? And hunting down the Man Who Looked Like Him might provide his tormented soul with some answers, bring some sanity to this half-life.
Inside an immaculately neat room dozed the Man with the Whip, that very whip clutched beneath his gloves. He hadn't even undressed; slept still in the clothes he wore while he fought the Man in the Painting. Again, he felt a pang of remembrance, memory danced in his mind's eye. But this time something horrible lurked beneath the pleasant familiarity, something that chilled him straight to the core.
And then his gaze shifted to the Man Who Looked Like Him…
A sword held suspended in the air, poised to strike. Another flash of memory burned him, of swords and blood and death. A man, standing over him. A sword, high in the air. That blade swinging downwards, delivering the blow, to him.
Was that his voice?
Like a surge of power he rushed forward, clamping a hand on the hilt and halting its deadly progress. The Man Who Looked Like Him gapped briefly then glared and tugged on the sword. Those identical facial features twisted with hatred, as the observer did not let go, instead fighting harder to keep the blade from reaching its target. They struggled for control neither wresting it from the other. It was a perfect stalemate but it did not last.
A whip lashed out and both men dropped the sword. It clanged to the hardwood floor loud enough to wake the dead. And waking the dead was a perilous thing to do around these parts.
"What the hell?!" the hunter shouted, a look of askewed amazement and horror on his face. His shoulder-length brown hair was in disarray and his clothes were badly wrinkled but he still gave the presence of a hunter, particularly because his hands clutched that deadly whip in a way that left no doubt that he knew how to use it.
The doppelganger growled, grabbed his sword and fled out the door, his footsteps loud as he was down the hall.
Silence reigned between the two men, the observer and the observed. The observer was stunned and stared down at his hands as he realized he had managed to touch reality something that had been lost to him after that moment with her. Apparently only moments of great need or desire could transcend the barriers between the flesh and ghosts. And what of his doppleganger? What gave him the power to overcome the boundaries that he, the observer was bound to? What made him the two of them so alike in appearance and not in any way in action?
"It cannot be..." whispered the Man with the Whip. His brown eyes glistened. He extended a hand.
Past and present merged. Him, on the floor, sword poised for his heart. Him, here, with the whip in the other hand. It came all rushing back, the very moment he'd shrugged off the mortal coil...at the hands of this man, this...son of his. This, his murderer.
Letting out a scream to shatter glass, the observer followed the path of his doppleganger out into the night.