It was in a silent, empty graveyard when Anthy finally found Utena, faceless under a headstone and six feet of dirt and clay. An entire year had led up to this; of rifling through hospital records, of endless traveling, of despairing, to end abruptly on a sunny, beautiful spring day in a tiny country town, several hours outside the gates of Ohtori. Holidays had passed that she had not observed, and time had only been acknowledged as a force driving her and Utena further and further apart. But, now that Anthy's searching had ended, a weight seemed to have fallen over her entire body, and her heart ached with the heaviness of it.
The graveyard was small and mostly dotted with old, crumbling marble statues and plaques. Only a few of the headstones were at least somewhat new, and sparkled in the mid-afternoon sunlight. The lawn was overgrown and dotted with tiny daisies, almost seeming impudent growing over the moldering bones beneath the earth. In a far corner of the graveyard stood a cheery, whitewashed church with high steeples and stained glass windows. Though it looked well-kept, something about the little building spoke of abandonment, as though a sermon hadn't been uttered inside it's doors for decades.
The whole place, in fact, felt abandoned. Like every body beneath the ground belonged to no one. Anthy noticed that the second she stepped onto the lawn from the road outside, time itself seemed to halt. No tree stirred. Occasional passing cars became grayed and blurry to look directly at. Birdsong was mysteriously absent. She felt a familiar feeling stir within her mind, telling her something was very, very off about this little plot of earth.
Anthy stood solemnly in front of a small, vertical-standing headstone of dark grey marble. It had no real identifying markers about it, no name or date. Instead it said, carved in simple, unadorned script, "THE PRINCE IS DEAD" with a small rose signet carved beneath it. To anyone else, this would mean nothing, perhaps a cryptic message meant to confuse the living, or the grave of an unknown soldier. Anthy, however, knew and understood this as a message, though she knew not what for. If she was to be honest with herself, this grave was not where she expected her journey to end. All along she had expected to eventually see Utena and hear her voice again, to embrace her and never leave her side. And, after coming so far, to the town Utena was most likely to be found in, this marble headstone represented every fear Anthy had held beneath optimism and wishful thinking. This reality came as a heavy, heavy blow, rushing through her like a hurricane, and yet, somehow, she could not mourn. None of this felt true. Thinking of Utena, lifeless beneath six feet of earth seemed simply impossible, as though at any moment she might be standing just behind Anthy, ready to walk away with her to live happily ever after.
Next to Utena were her parent's graves, watched over by a granite angel with dead eyes and still-blooming morning glories growing up its wings, vines which grew over the whole yard and covered Utena's headstone, connecting the two grave markers. The flowers covered her parent's names, but Anthy dared not uncover them. It wasn't her business, and the quietness of the graveyard made it seem sinful somehow. She tipped her head graciously at the angel as if it could see her, sending a silent prayer to the sky for their souls.
Anthy, from her place in front of Utena's grave, knelt to look more closely. Still she felt nothing, and this puzzled her. After so many days and nights spent searching so desperately, so hopelessly, she comes to find this. A lonely headstone among many others, one belonging to her only friend during her whole time at Ohtori, who she had slept and ate and talked with for so many months, and, yet, in the face of this cold reality, felt nothing. Anthy pictured her face, her hair, her voice. How she looked when she was angry and happy and in love. Nothing stirred within her.
Anthy, carefully, began clearing away a few vines and stray flowers. Surprised, she found them to be much stronger than she had pictured, like steel wires closing off an entrance. She pulled at them fruitlessly for a few minutes, and sat back, puzzled, looking long and hard at the headstone for several moments. Something here was wrong. She felt the indentation of the lettering and the rose insignia, looking and feeling for a clue in the rock. She turned up nothing useful and stood up, brushing bits of grass off her knees, and walked around the back of the headstone. It stood upright, longer than it was wide, on a short base. The rock was murky-gray shining marble, excluding the sides, which were rough and uncut. She ran her hands all over it, poking through vines to try shifting them, and still turned up nothing.
Anthy went back round to the front again and kneeled close, brow furrowed in thought. She ran her fingers again over the lettering, and, as she felt and looked closely at the rose carving again, saw very, very tiny lettering circling it. Whether it had been there the whole time or had just appeared, she had no idea, but suspected the latter. The script was shallowly carved and very difficult to read, but, eventually, was found to say, "THE GIRL IS AFRAID"
Anthy's brow creased in confusion. The words seemed, at least to her mind, to be referring to a person who was alive.
She stayed kneeling in front of the headstone still, thinking, when her thoughts seemed to make a connection on their own. She stopped breathing and slowly let the underlying atmosphere of the graveyard close around her. A familiar feeling stirred in her chest; a feeling of stagnation, timelessness, and of lost hope. Tears filled her eyes as things she had tried not to think about flashed unbidden across her mind. Her old school, the duels, the fabric of her red bridal gown, the pain of a hundred piercing swords, of betrayal and, lastly, her own brother's face, changed to being nearly unrecognizable by failure and cruelty. She realized then that this place was just like Ohtori Academy. A garden where children never grew up, an Eden of endless repetition. A sob hitched in her lungs as she fell to her knees and hunched over with sorrow she hadn't felt for what seemed like ages.
Eventually, wiping her face, she sniffed and looked at the sky, at the sun which seemed to not have moved at all despite all the time she had been there, when a thought struck her.
Kneeling a few feet away from Utena's gravestone, Anthy braced her toes against the earth, and pressed her hand to the ground. It gave, as though it were loose dirt, and she plunged up to her elbow, past it, and to her shoulder. Her clothed were covered in dirt, but she didn't mind. She rooted around in the earth, grasping at shifting soil, seeking something she didn't know or understand. Suddenly, her hand brushed something, and her heart leapt into her throat. Anthy felt along the object's length. It was long and metallic, one end curving slightly towards the ground, the other attached to another piece of metal going deeper into the ground, out of her reach. An odd sort of door handle, a familiar, hated one. One that had led to her own coffin.
She grabbed the handle and pulled, gently at first, and then harder. The day brightened around her, until it was blinding white, and she had to close her eyes against it. The lawn shook beneath her knees, but she was unafraid, even when the whole world seemed to rumble and shift to another place.
The surrounding light began to dim, and eventually was low enough for Anthy to finally open her eyes. In front of her stood a door, wooden and lovingly carved over with roses and thorns, a very old, white-painted doorknob emblazoned with more roses sat at the very center, like a pearl. The light continued to dim, revealing that both Anthy and the door stood on a seemingly-endless plain of black that ran on and on, to places further away from reality than she cared to think about.
Slowly, hesitatingly, Anthy reached out for the white doorknob and turned it, pushing against the door which was surprisingly heavy, opening it just enough to see a bit of whatever lay beyond. She peered into the space between door and doorframe, letting her eyes adjust, and saw rows of neat, dusty little pews and very soft, dim light shining in many colors across them. Steadying herself, Anthy pushed the door wider, and stepped into the sanctuary of a tiny catholic church.
Author's Note: Thanks very much for reading!
This story was inspired sort of off-handedly by Only If For A Night by Florence + The Machine, which hopefully explains the graveyard motif. My plan is to not go more than 3 chapters and to try to keep everything within something that could very well plausibly happen in the show. Whether or not I successfully do that is up for interpretation.
This is my first fic in ages and I'm not much of a writer at the moment, so if you have any critiques, I would be more than willing to hear them!