The Ghost Woman and the Hunter
Once upon a time in a great castle, a Prince's daughter grew up happy and contented, in spite of a jealous stepmother. She was very pretty, with blue eyes and long black hair. Her skin was delicate and fair, and so she was called Snow White. Everyone was quite sure she would become very beautiful. Though her stepmother was a wicked woman, she too was very beautiful, and the magic mirror told her this every day, whenever she asked it.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" The reply was always,
"You are, your Majesty," until the dreadful day when she heard it say,
"Snow White is the loveliest in the land…"
She opened her blue eyes slowly, blinking at the garish light coming from the Sun. She expected the light to cause tremendous pain to her eyes, as she was certain she must have spent a long time in the dark, but no pain came. She was confused, but foremost, she felt relief. She was not accustomed to pain, to any kind of pain, of the body or of the soul. She had been a truly blessed young woman. Carefully, she touched her head. The leaves of late autumn rustled beneath her white gown, threaded with gold and embedded with the best of pearls. She realised she was lying on the ground, beneath the golden and red and yellow crowns of the trees she knew so well. Occasionally, the green colour persisted. It always seemed to persist, that colour, until the winter's chill blew it away. But sometimes, it still persisted.
With very little effort, she ascended to her feet, as gracefully as a swan gliding on the calmness of crystal water. The fine fabric of her gown rustled again, the whiteness of her glimmering against the half rotten leaves. Her raven black hair, which had gone loose from the intricately arranged chignon, danced on her shoulders. Her red lips, as red as blood, parted and she let out a gasp of delight, marvelling at the game the Sun was playing with its rays. She lifted her hand, extending it towards the sky, towards the light. Her delicate, ivory fingers were as white as ever, but there was something wrong with them, something she did not understand. Her brow collapsed into a frown as she tried to discern the meaning of the strange occurrence. Her fingers, her whole hand, seemed to be…transparent. The light was seeping through her hand, making her glow strangely. She began to weep, for she began to remember.
Frightened, wishing she could not see, she turned around and cast her gaze towards the ground, covered with leaves. There she saw herself, her black hair dishevelled, spread around her like a dark halo. She was lying in a pool of blood, her blood, with a big hole where her heart was. Her eyes, the eyes of her dead twin, were fire-less, widely spread in agony, her mouth silent, contorted in pain, in disbelief. She knew then that she was not looking at her dead twin, for she never had a twin sister. The dead woman was her dead, lifeless body, slaughtered like a doe. And she was now a ghost. A ghost woman. Hot tears spilled from her eyes, cascading freely down her transparent ivory cheeks, vanishing into the air as soon as they left her skin. She felt nothing but pain, betrayal, death, anger, broken love. Killed by him, whom she gave her heart, her soul, everything she could ever give him.
Her misty stare wandered to her left, where he was standing, her lover. His handsome face, the face that captured her senses the first time she beheld him, was covered in sweat and her blood. A beautiful dagger, embedded with gems, was in his hands, her blood still dripping from it, hitting the leaves with a painful sound. She heard its secret language, like a curse, like a desire, saying Betrayal, heartless betrayal. Avenge, avenge. Find the power in you, claim the vendetta, bloody vendetta, blood, betrayal, blood…
She sobbed. How could he? Only yesterday, he told her how much he loved her, how much he desired her, how he wished he was above his low rank to be able to marry her. She accepted him, a mere servant, in charge of the game in their park. She said she was willing to give up her title to be with him. She was even willing to give all the properties and mansions that belonged to her after her father's death to her unworthy stepmother. All for him. He smiled, but his smile held no soul. She should have known then that he was not true, that all he had said were lies. The lies he had sold her were sour thorns in her mouth. He took her life. He turned her love to black hatred. She wanted his life now. She was a ghost, but she would find a way to torture him, to drive him insane and into his death.
She watched him as he buried the dagger, tears streaming down his face. She could not believe her eyes. The deceitfulness of him! How dared he cry over his merciless act! He truly had to die, the spawn from Hell. With disgust, she watched him crawl to her body, flinching as he kissed her dead, bloodied hands.
''Forgive me,'' he cried. ''She forced me to do it. She wanted your heart, she wanted you dead.'' He took a deep, convulsive breath. ''I wish you could hear me…''
''I can hear you, you damned wretch!'' she screamed back. Her dead voice did not reach his ears, but it held some power. It created a wind, a wind that scared the birds in the trees and swirled around his limbs like a cold menace. He shrieked and fell on his back, covering his face with his palms.
''My love, ma Blanche Neige!'' he cried. She winced at the mention of the name he gave her during one of their secret trysts. He said then, ''Your skin, blanche comme le lis, as white as lilies. I shall call you my Blanche Neige, my lily, my white girl, my snow-white lover.''
She jumped at him, the pain of betrayal splitting her in half, but she flew trough him. He must have felt her, for he jumped to his feet , breathing heavily, looking around him like a frightened stag.
''You are here, are you not?'' he called. ''If you are, I beg you, hold me in your grasp forever. Hate me, be a nightmare in my sleep, a dagger in my soul! But never leave me…''
He was crying like a child. She was puzzled beyond the boundaries of confusion. He killed her, yet he seemed to love her. No, it did not matter what he felt. He killed her. She screamed again, creating another whirl of wind. The effort felt like shards of glass in her veins. She was not accustomed to being a ghost. She did not deserve her destiny. She followed him, like mist, as he mounted his horse, a casket under his arm, her heart bleeding in it. Why did he kill her? Why did he take her heart? It was perverse. It mattered not. He had to die for what he did and she would find a way to persuade Death to take him. She was cold. She would leave soon, but not before he died. She clung to him, blowing into him, creating shivers on his skin, already making him tremble with guilt, with the first traces of insanity.
They arrived at the castle. He jumped from the horse, leaving the animal untethered in the courtyard. He ran into the castle and she glided after him. She was surprised when he entered her stepmother's bedchamber without a knock. The stepmother was surrounded by her servants, but as soon as he entered the room, with the bloody burden under his arm, she dismissed her servants.
''Witch!'' he snarled. ''How did you ever persuade me to do it?''
The ghost woman gasped in disbelief. No, not she…
Her stepmother smoothed her beautiful gown, made of red and green brocade silk. Her black hair, shimmering like purple under the halo of the morning light, were still loose. She created a lascivious sight.
''Now, now, young man,'' she purred. ''You killed my stepdaughter because I so willed it, and because you wished to kill her.''
The ghost woman could not believe her ears. She felt like a stone falling from a great height, never reaching the ground, eternally falling. Such a betrayal…
''I never wished to take her life! I loved her, I still do! You threatened me. You poisoned me.''
An evil smile ensued. ''I can still expose you as the murderer you once were. I can tell the magistrate that you have been a part of our household under a false name for a long time, murderer. A murderer remains a murderer. No amount of absolution and exoneration helps him. Accept your fate and stop pestering me with your whining.''
He threw the casket with the heart into her evil hands. ''Here,'' he spoke with disgust. ''Her holy heart. Now, you can be the most beautiful woman in the kingdom.''
He let out a sob.
The ghost woman watched as her stepmother laughed heartily at the sight of her nemesis's heart rotting in the casket. She was murdered because she was more beautiful than her stepmother. And she was murdered by her lover, because he kept secrets. She never meant much to anyone. Suddenly, she was devoid of every emotion. She turned to ice.
Betrayal, beauty, blood, revenge…
She stepped before him, looking straight into his eyes, sending her energy to him, making him feel her. She was delighted when his eyes widened in fear and his legs trembled in terror. Her hands flew to the empty spot where her heart once lay. She parted her gown, parted her flesh, opening her wound. Blood began to seep from it, blood that he could see, as well as her face. He gave a scream that shook the items on her stepmother's vanity table.
''Kill her for me,'' she whispered, a true ghost, ''avenge me, my forlorn hunter.''
He was breathing heavily, staring at her ghostly face in disbelief, shock consuming him. She kissed his brow, the touch of soft feathers on his skin, and nodded. For me, she mouthed, for me.
''What is amiss, hunter?'' the stepmother challenged him angrily.
He snarled, ''Your existence is a mistake, witch. ''
Before she could blink, he throttled her, broke her neck with one swift move. The witch was dead. He killed her. He should have done so when she first asked him to bring her his love's heart. He was a damned fool. A damned fool. A murdered. He remained a murderer.
''You belong to the other side,'' he heard her say, his ghost woman. He turned around to face her, her ivory beauty, her transparent glow.
''I know,'' he breathed, tears wetting his cheeks. ''Will you wait for me there, when I fall?''
She disappeared from his sight. He thought he understood. He believed she would be there. He opened the window, breathed in the fresh air, spread his arms like wings and fell. She was there, waiting on the other side, a transparent wall between them. She was smiling, slowly vanishing from his sight, like mist in the morning, taken by the Sun. Now he understood. He belonged to the other side. To the black shadows. To eternal fire. He had to pray his price.
Author's Note: Credit must be given where credit is due. I was heavily inspired by the song The Ghost Woman and the Hunter performed by Lacuna Coil (hence the title of the story). As another inspiration, I would like to point out Neil Gaiman's short story "Snow, Glass, Apples" from his collection of short stories called Smoke and Mirrors. After reading Gaiman's story, I was finally persuaded to do my own twisted version of Snow White, just as I imagined it why listening to Lacuna Coil's song.