Bear with me, my excruciatingly lovely lovelies. This premise is very similar to my one-shot "Purgatory." So I am effectively plagiarising from myself.
But never fear, I won't press charges against me. I'm too hot to go to court.
This was written as an unofficial entry for the February Mediator Writing Challenge, "Once Upon a Shadowland." Please think about entering! We need more participants!
The fairytale I have selected is: "The Little Mermaid."
Don't expect any actual seafolk or talking crabs, though (unless they're of the crotch-infestation variety, hehe.) There's only a slight reference to it. The Disney one, by the way…the other is just depressing! It's AU, something you should pick up in the first section or so. By the way, YAY for me writing in 3rd Person! I haven't done that in God knows how long…
Speaking of ridiculously long, I'm so glad this is unofficial, since this entry is WAY too freakin' long to be allowed, (that's what she said.) But I just can't write short stories. I'm physically incapable. There's so much to tell, and so little space to write it all! So, naturally, I write it all. My apologies for the length. This will be a multi-chaptered story, but the chapters won't be long at all. For me, anyway.
This is dedicated to Stephanickers and Editor Em, who helped me plan it.
And here we go, folks…
-A f t e r G l o w -
Susannah stood sceptically before her doorway, a book in her hands. Her face was creased in irritation as she recited words she did not understand. Her efforts to memorise them were not going well, as her eyes continued to dart guiltily back down.
''Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What's Montague?' she rehearsed, uninhibited. 'It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man...'
A snicker escaped her at these words, but she maintained seriousness and continued. 'O, be some other name! What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…'
Sitting before her on the window seat, a captivated audience to the unwitting performer, Jesse smiled serenely. If there was one thing he loved, it was Shakespeare. Well, Shakespeare and Susannah, at least. A combination of the two made his dead heart ache more than ever.
Frustrated with her constant cheating, Susannah lowered the book entirely, sliding her thumb in the middle to remember the page. She strained to remember Juliet's words.
'So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title…' she said, a secretive grin coming to her face. Jesse noted this with affection. 'Romeo, doff thy name; and for that name, which is no part of thee…um…oh, crap.'
She was having trouble with the final line. Jesse prompted her, ignoring the futility of his voice.
'Take all myself,' he said, as if by second nature.
The girl paused, her brow furrowing slightly as if she'd heard something. And mysteriously, the final line that she could never remember tumbled seamlessly from her lips, as if someone had placed it inside her mind for her.
Jesse smiled contentedly, choosing to believe that she hadn't remembered of her own accord… that some part of her had heard his voice, planes away from her own. However, if he'd hoped for any acknowledgement; a thank you, a smile, or even a glance in his direction, he was in for his accustomed disappointment. The girl was blind, deaf and in all pertinent ways senseless to him.
That in no way stopped him from loving her.
Until she'd come along, he hadn't particularly cared for his mundane afterlife. He read; he observed. He understood his death, long after the bitterness had faded. He'd had a hundred and fifty odd years to adjust to his predicament.
But then…Susannah Simon had arrived. For months, he'd avoided the room; his death place – not due to the ghastly memories, but because he felt he owed her a certain privacy. Slowly, however, temptation got the better of him. In increasingly long spells, he would stay, and just…watch her. The slow blink of her startling emerald eyes made his lips twitch into a sad, ancient smile. She'd talk to her friend on the phone, saying the most charming things. She'd make him laugh, something he could barely remember doing even in his years of life. When she'd smile, one corner of her rosy lips would raise just that little bit higher than the other, and she took his breath away.
And before she would leave to go out, she'd stand in front of the mirror, gazing at herself with an air of vulnerability. She'd sigh, fix her hair nervously, and leave. And he'd love her even more, for she didn't understand how incredibly beautiful she really was…
She made his cold, dead heart so desperately yearned to beat, just once more…
With a yawn, Susannah lightly tossed the book onto her desk, satisfied that she'd somewhat memorised the monologue for her English assignment. She then went to her window, pulling the curtains closed as she glanced around the room timidly. Jesse, jolted from his reverie of her, hid his eyes with haste as she changed into her night clothes. His ears strained for her to pull back the covers of her bed before he dared look up again. His cheeks burned red. Despite his efforts to grant her privacy, he still felt…immoral. To even be here…spying like this.
But after all, what did it matter? She was utterly unaware of him, and always would be. She, his Juliet, and he, the Romeo of the piece. They could never be together. However, unlike the Shakespearean hero, Jesse could not just doff his name. It was not his name that separated them, but the planes existing between the realm of the living and the dead.
Romeo and Juliet had it easy, he decided, forlorn.
At least Romeo had a pulse.
-A f t e r G l o w -
Jesse tried to stand tall, keeping his face impassive yet determined. He still struggled to understand how exactly this…boy before him, could be all that the others had said he would be. There he sat, in an expensive computer chair with an irritated look on his tanned face; his hair was gelled in crisp, dark curls atop his head. His eyes were hauntingly pale, the only thing about his fairly unimposing appearance that made Jesse wary. He was practically a child – just with a man's body.
'I've heard that you make…deals,' Jesse explained hesitantly. 'With…people like me.'
The boy raised a dark eyebrow delicately. 'Well, that's just the thing. You're not exactly a person, are you? You're barely a sliver of a person.'
It had been too long since Jesse had had any interaction of this kind; still, these obvious but hurtful remarks were unwelcome. His jaw tightened in dislike of the boy, as he awaited a decision.
He was still not convinced. 'So, ghost. You've told me what you want. Tell me what I want…and then I'll think about it.'
Jesse swallowed. He knew well that these deals did not come without a price, yet he also knew – as did the boy – that he had nothing to offer. However, he did not have to ponder his predicament too long – a moment had passed before the boy suddenly grinned.
'You know what? I like you, ghost. I think I can recognise an okay guy when I see one.' He stood up, surprising Jesse when he came to stand at almost his eye-level. The boy stuck out a hand in greeting. 'Paul.'
Jesse narrowed his eyes suspiciously, but accepted the hand all the same, dully echoing the name to himself. He then replied, 'I am Jesse de Silva. So…Paul,' he used the name with caution, 'You will help me?'
'Give you back your life?' Paul smiled sunnily. 'Not a chance, pal.'
Jesse's face turned into the beginnings of thunder, before Paul laughed and quickly added, 'Would you relax? Obviously, I can't just go giving life wherever I please, or I'd be swarmed with your kind all the time. However…' his eyes glinted. 'You mentioned a girl…'
More apprehensive than ever, Jesse took a step back, but answered with a guilty, '…Yes.'
'You love her?'
'And…she can't see you, I'm guessing.'
Paul chuckled. 'Obviously. Then again, it's not like she'd fall in love with you even if she could, like I do. You're not exactly the life of the party.'
Jesse hated mentioning anything of Susannah to this stranger, one whose eyes he did not trust.
'What's her name?' Paul went on casually, leaning on his study desk.
Jesse stared at the wall, reluctant to answer.
'Come on, Jess. If I'm going to help you, I'll be wanting to know a few details about this,' Paul warned.
Heavily, the ghost murmured softly, '…Her name is Susannah.'
Paul mused over this for a moment longer, staring curiously at Jesse. Finally, he grinned, flashing a brilliant set of white teeth.
'All right. Your plight has moved me. Here's what I'll do, Jess. I will bring you back…for three days, and three days only. In that time, you have to get your precious "Susannah" to fall completely in love with you. And she has to say it, and mean it. If she hasn't uttered the words before the sun sets on the third day…then I win.'
Jesse drew a sharp breath.
'You win what…?' he demanded, a little defensively.
Paul kept his face very even. 'Well, you've already made it clear you don't exactly have a sizeable inheritance to leave me – or really, much of anything…so we'll decide that later, shall we?'
'What happens…after?' Jesse asked, too sceptical a man to consider this covenant a godsend just yet.
Paul stared at Jesse as if he were simple. 'You die, moron.'
That wasn't what he'd meant. But he let the question wither all the same.
With a new exuberance, Paul jumped back on his feet. 'So, Jess. We got a deal then? Ready to tackle your girl headlong and sweep her off her feet?'
'Yes.' Jesse was definite now.
Paul smirked. 'Think you can get her to love you in just three days?'
Jesse didn't know what made him say it. Only that he severely disliked Paul, and wanted to sound more confident than he actually was.
'I only need three days,' he said.
Paul shrugged, an arrogant air wafting over him. 'I only need fifteen minutes.'
Jesse was still trying to process the connotations of this comment when Paul suddenly grabbed Jesse's hand into a tight fist, before ripping a small but deadly looking dagger out of the top draw in his desk – certainly not an accessory of any normal seventeen-year-old. Jesse tried to recoil, but Paul's grasp was like iron. He chuckled at the ghost's alarm.
'Oh, this? This is just binding our pact. Written contracts are so last millennium. Blood is a far more powerful seal…'
And as he sharply slid the blade across their entwined knuckles, Jesse's stomach lurched. Dimly, he felt the pain in his hand, but it was being overwhelmed by the sudden presence of a fierce pounding at his temple. He staggered back from Paul, breaking their blood connection, gripping his head. Paul's dark eyes flashed in fascination as he sat back down, watching him struggle.
Jesse fell to his knees, trying to block out that pain. It would not relent – it was omnipresent, pumping hotly and rapidly in his head like constant gunshots to his skull. Slurring whispers ridiculed him.
'What…have you done…' he gasped in horror, jerking with an abrupt cry of pain that blinded him, making him see only darkness for a second.
Paul snorted. 'You think resurrection is painless? Think again.' He affixed with interest, 'Although, I've never seen it this bad before. You must really be old.'
Jesse roared in agony, collapsing to the ground. His skin felt tight, like everything inside him was swelling, rapid and boiling. He twisted harshly at the sudden surge of that horrifying pounding sensation inside his chest – each strike pierced him anew, as did their merciless echoes…
And then, in a moment of stunning realisation, he recognised the familiar pulsating.
He'd almost forgotten what a heartbeat felt like.
The eternal moment at last ended, leaving him breathless and weak. He just lay there, exhausted from plummeting so fast from such intensity. His world was black.
When his eyes finally cracked open, Paul was standing over him, smug.
'Another happy customer,' he declared, his smirk crooked. 'Be seeing you, Jesse…'
And then, the darkness returned, swallowing him whole.
-A f t e r G l o w -
Next instalment will be up very shortly, I promise (since it's already written…) so please review!