Last Night on Earth

Last Night on Earth

A Story by Shadkim

 

Chicory watched the sun dip into the ocean, something she did during every sunset. She let out her breath slowly, almost like a low hiss, trying to see the steam from her breath in front of her nose. Like every night before, she failed. A lump in her throat make her turn away, glancing instead at the old, wooden rail of the fifth story balcony. She knew that the rail had not been touched in years; by this time, the wood rail should have been replaced with stone. Many old things should have been fixed by now, she thought, but the mansion still stayed the same. As same as it could be.
 
She closed her eyes against the pink lemonade sky, hugging herself as she whispered her simple mantra: “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay…” Her body swayed and the sleepy dust from the floorboards danced around the hem of her dress. Time did nothing to her dress. It could only be identified as a wedding dress by any standards. Her rouched bodice held her small breasts firmly in place and the skirt floated down to her bare feet like folds of white cotton candy. She wore no veil or tiara.
 
Chicory’s hair cascaded down her back in curls as dark as a summer’s night. Her face was unpainted and sallow, pastel green eyes and pink lips stretched with anxiety. “I’m okay,” she whispered, letting her hands drop away from her face. She looked at the sun again, biting her lip.
 
“Why so glum?” drawled a soft, sarcastic voice. It came from the doorway behind her. A man leaned against the post with his arms crossed in a leisurely posture.
 
Chicory’s face flashed from sorrow to anger at the sound of his voice. Her hands turned to fists as she hissed his name, “Arbor”, through her teeth.
 
Arbor raised an eyebrow as a cocky smirk lit his features. “Still the same girl, eh?” he murmured, “That will never change, I guess.” Arbor looked as if he had just come from a party. His black pants were full of wrinkles without the company of a belt. The pants barely clung to his hips, drooping above his butt. His shirt, striped vertically with navy blue was untucked and loose around the neck. He only wore socks and his matching blue tie draped under his collar. His hair, auburn in the sun, looked just as rumbled as his clothes. It was as if Arbor had spent hours running his fingers through it, pulling and tugging until it stood on end.
 
“How can you speak so freely?” Chicory countered, gripping her hands on the railing. “How can you be so… so happy?”
 
“Happy?” Arbor repeated, his voice cracking, “Do I look happy to you?”
 
Chicory would not look at him; she knew what would be waiting for her in his eyes. Instead she chose to huff and shrug her shoulders, saying, “You’re the only one that has the strength to smile.”
 
Arbor shook his head. “It’s not a real smile, Chicory. Only you could help me do that.”
 
“Don’t say that!” she shrieked, spinning around so fast that her dress twisted around her waist. Chicory wasted no time in emptying her thoughts as it uncurled. “It isn’t the same – this isn’t the same. This is punishment! There can be no happiness, no joking… or, or anything! I don’t want any of it!”
 
Arbor watched her unflinching, his face blank.
 
“I asked for this… I should have known,” she stammered. “I was ready for whatever came next. But you… you weren’t supposed to be here.”
 
Arbor pinched the bridge of his nose, exhaling with obvious exhaustion. “This is a part of it, eh? It’s the same everyday – you always blame yourself and me… never moving forward. I spend everyday trying to convince you otherwise. The torture for me never ends, Chicory.”
 
A parody of a smile lit her features and Chicory raised her arms wide. “Well, look around us, Arbor; we have the whole mansion to ourselves! We can run through it again, if you like. I know by now that my past can’t escape me. Better to face it.” She looked at him, “that’s why you’re here.” She sighed and collapsed on the floor, crossing her legs from under her dress. She faced the railing, looking out over the water and slowly glanced over her shoulder, “Well, come on.”
 
Arbor peeled himself off the doorway and took his time joining her. Feeling more in tune with the height they were at and the wind swirling below them, he let his feet dangle over the edge. He wiggled his toes through his socks while the breeze tried to tickle them. Chicory watched him with masked indifference. He cleared his throat and began, “We do have news, you know.”
 
“Yes,” she replied numbly.
 
 “He says that we’ve been here too long,” Arbor continued. “We aren’t getting anything done, never mind our emotional states, so he told us that this was it.” He spoke in a calm manner, as if discussing a business deal.
 
“The last night,” Chicory nodded.
 
“Yeah.”
 
The waves roared below them, crashing onto the dry, scratchy shoreline with robust. Seagulls cried out overhead, calling to one another as they danced through the sky. Chicory ran her fingers along the fabric of her dress, picked at the edges with nervous fingers. She whispered, “It’s hard to imagine.”
 
Arbor lifted a hand with the intention of brushing back her hair. Before it came close, he let it drop beside them. “But I guess it had to happen sometime. Not that I ever thought much about it.”
 
Her fingers stopped moving. She lifted her head but looked to the right of his face, saying, “You guess a lot, don’t you?”
 
There was a trace of humor in his dry laugh, “I guess.”
 
Her lips twitched. Then frowned. “But you guessed that… I wasn’t happy before, right?”
 
He shrugged, “I knew for a long time that you weren’t in love with Paul. If your family paid attention to you, they would have known. I’m probably not the only one... but it’s not like anyone cared what you thought, right? It was a marriage of convenience.”
 
“That’s right,” Chicory stated, “Papa was concerned about the money. It was always the money because he could never hold onto his own. Without my mother, he had no one to stop him from spending his earnings. When he chose Paul for me to marry, I knew Papa had hoped that marriage would earn him more play money.”
 
“Wasn’t your father in debt?”
 
“Yes,” she sighed, “but he didn’t share the same concept of money as we did. He always called it “play money”. That way, spending it felt like a game.”
 
Arbor pressed his head against the railing, and softly said, “Tell me about Paul.”
 
“A horrible man,” Chicory said, smirking a little as she went back to fidgeting with her dress. “He had money, yes, but he was looking for a woman of beauty to show off.”
 
“You were always a beauty,” Arbor murmured, reaching out again. This time he gently brushed her cheek with the tips of his fingers.
 
Chicory flinched and shifted away from him. “Stop,” she hissed.
 
“Why do you do that?” He asked, real hurt in his voice. “I never touched before. I’ve… I’ve never even had the pleasure of holding your hand. Yet you… yet you spurn me.”
 
She buried head in her hands and refused to look at him, her body shaking.
 
Arbor folded his arms tight against his chest and tried to ignore the fact that his eyes were becoming moist. His words were shaky as he said them but he stared out at the ocean as if his life depended on it. “I loved you since I first saw you – it was when I started work for your father as a young lad. He was a difficult man, so I knew… I’ve always known the pain you had gone through. I had a hard time stopping him from going out and spending what little money he possessed. I tried to solve that problem by being there for you and soon I grew to love you immensely. I told myself I wasn’t about to act on those feelings. It would be improper for us both. No… I was going to leave it alone.”
 
“You should have,” Chicory mumbled, muffled by her hands, “it would have saved you if you bottled those feelings away.”
 
Arbor shook his head and continued, “But I couldn’t, Chicory, not when I discovered who you were as a person… as yourself. You were the woman that would apologize profusely when losing at croquet. You would tell the servants jokes and gossip during dinner parties until you got caught. You had a fondness for parakeets but you couldn’t figure out how to…”
 
“… Get them to perch on my hand,” Chicory finished, smiling slightly. She was looking at him now, as steadily as she could muster. Swimming in the sea of his eyes were emotions so naked that it hurt her to face them. There was love, of course, and sorrow and hurt. There was undying devotion and the need to protect her. His eyes were always showing her things she knew she could never have. She couldn’t look him in the eye since the time she slipped on Paul’s engagement ring.
 
“Yes,” Arbor nodded, watching her carefully.
 
Chicory rubbed her eyes wearily as she fought to keep contact. “I still say you should have bottled it better. You should have figured out a way to smother those feelings.” Her hands gripped the white fabric tightly as she spoke, “Only your eyes told me your feeling and the certain way you would act, ever subtly, in my presence. You knew better than to pursue me… being in the position you were in. Young butlers were always on thin ice.”
 
Arbor nodded, “Your father only hired me because I was cheap. I earned his trust, as was my job, but one slip up and…”
 
“You might even have been killed,” Chicory said grimly. “Well, I hope you knew I never loved you. Not once really. I always considered you a friend but I… even with Paul and my impending marriage, I never dreamed of a romance with you. I hope you knew.”
 
“I knew,” Arbor sighed, closing his eyes tight, “I knew all along.”
 
“But that still didn’t stop you from doing what you did,” she stated dully.
 
“Didn’t stop you from lashing out on your own,” he countered.
 
“I wasn’t accepting help from anyone,” Chicory stated, matter-of-factly. She sat up straight and brought her hand to her collar briefly. Her fingers slipped down in between her breast and she pulled out a small vile. No bigger than her pinky finger, it was a clear glass that looked like a miniature perfume bottle. It was filled with only a sip’s worth of dark red liquid. Chicory twirled the vile between her fingers and watched Arbor stiffen. “I took this with me on the day of the wedding,” she spoke, her green eyes hazy, “the maids thought it was only perfume that a nervous bride might want to carry. It sat right there, tucked cozy in my dress as the vows were made. I didn’t wait until evening to take it. I couldn’t wait.”
 
“I know,” Arbor muttered, gritting his teeth at the memory. “The reception has just starting when someone ran into the dining hall screaming.”
 
“Poor woman,” Chicory said dryly, “she was probably sent to fetch me.”
 
“You were found sprawled out on the bed, looking like you were in a deep sleep. The maids could have sworn you were only taking a nap.” He spoke as if from the lines of a well- rehearsed play, “Some refused to believe the perfume was poison. They couldn’t imagine you’d ever take your own life.”
 
She shrugged, staring at her hands, “and that was supposed to be the end of the story.”
 
“It wasn’t long afterwards when I cracked,” Arbor admitted solemnly. “Everything I was holding back for those years wouldn’t stay away. When I saw you there, pale and still, I knew I simply couldn’t stay. I waited until everyone left the room and took you with them, and what a long wait it was! I couldn’t stay still! I make myself into a mess, tearing and ruining my clothing as my mind was racked with grief.” He paused to look down at his clothes, noting with satisfaction the rumbled jeans and disheveled shirt.
 
“You cried,” Chicory murmured, adding a line to their tale. It was supposed to be delivered in her dull tone of voice, like she had done many times before, but her voice seemed the flutter as she spoke them, “you cried.”
 
Arbor seemed not to notice, holding his attention toward the ocean as his last lines spilled from his lips. “As soon as they were gone, I stumbled into the room like a blind man, searching for anything to take away the pain. The room you chose to die in was barren, with nothing in it to help me, so I stepped out onto the balcony. I couldn’t see the ground or the railing. I kept walking forward, staring at the ocean like a thirsty man. I closed my eyes and listened to the whistle of the wind, the crash of the water, and I kept walking.” He paused. “The railing needed to be fixed… I told your father many times. It needed to redone in stone; wood would never hold for long” he smiled grimly, “Lucky for me you father never listened.” 
 
There was silence after Arbor finished. The unhappy pair both gazed at the ocean, thinking about what had been said. It was the same every day, talking about the way they ended their lives. It was about the only thing they could do now that they were dead. They spent their time in the mansion that had become run-down and untouched by contractors over the years. And since they were never a couple, and only Arbor harbored unrequited love, they made their time as ghosts as miserable as either could manage. Chicory and Arbor sat, perhaps thinking about what was said or perhaps hoping that… perhaps… they had another day left to try again.
 
“So…” Chicory started, turning to Arbor, “that was the last time.”
 
“I guess so,” Arbor replied, “After all, God said it was time to move on. Funny he should tell us this when nothing has changed.” He laughed, loud and dry, his body shaking with the effort, “I’ll always be in love with you, and you’ll always push me away. Forever. A man can’t hope for change when he’s dead.”
 
Chicory bit her lip and pulled at her dress nervously. “Arbor,” she whispered.
 
His laughter cut short as he turned to look at her, not used to her speaking after their tale. “What is it?” he inquired.
 
“I think… I think being a ghost makes me slow,” she admitted, “or maybe it’s some after-effect of the poison.”
    
“Why do you say that?”
 
“It’s just… I’ve always been honest with you. I never loved you. That’s the truth. But in death, well, I think I’ve started to realize that your feelings for me are too precious to throw away. I haven’t though this way for very long, mind you, but being dead tends to give me a lot of time to think.”
 
Arbor watched her as the world around them darkened. The sun disappeared under the water and stars began to light the sky. He leaned in close, to see her better, so close that they were almost bumping knees. “What have you thought?” he asked.
 
Chicory watched him, her eyes wide and green even in the dark. She held out her hand, palm down, and whispered, “I’m scared, Arbor. I don’t know what will happen to us after this night. Where do ghosts go when they are done? Have we paid for our sins during our time here or will we be sent hell? See… even ghosts don’t know. I’m scared of not knowing. That’s why I want you there with me, Arbor.” She smiled, tears welling in her eyes, “I never loved you but you always meant something to me. You always took care of me and protected me but I was too blind to really think on it. Now I know that I can love you, even though my brain feels like a sloth and I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I feel like I can move on… and maybe feel for you what you have always felt for me. There’s a chance. What I know right now though, Arbor, is that I want to brave tomorrow with you. Will you…” she lifted her hand higher, “have me?”
 
Arbor smiled, a genuine smile that Chicory used to remember him flashing her on many occasions. It was like watching a star light up before her – Arbor was shining from the inside like a guiding light, burning with an almost unearthly fire. She felt that bold fire burn inside her too, starting small and slowing traveling down her arms and legs to her fingers and toes. It was an odd feeling that neither of them seemed to care much about; they were too focused on the hope that had been created with Chicory’s realization. His eyes seemed to scream “yes” as they glowed like blue fire; he closed them briefly as he planted a warm kiss on her hand. Never taking their eyes off each other, they let their hands intertwine for the first time, holding tight as if to never let go.
 
The burning glow seemed to fill the two completely until they were shining with a light that no living human could see. With their hands entangled and their eyes locked, they never noticed that the mansion faded away around them.
 
The mansion, an old a decrepit monument to their struggles, stayed exactly where it had always been for years. It heaved and groaned in alarm as the two spirits diminished, leaving their prison and moving toward a different existence entirely.           

© 2008 Shadkim


Author's Note

Shadkim
Back again!

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Reviews

That was great! What an unconventional love story, and what a good read, too. There's nothing to say that's not cliche; a young writer's fate to have such a limited vocabulary. But I hope you know just what you're capable of in a story. I liked this one, too.

Posted 10 Years Ago


Truly a fabalous and creative story!
You brilliantly wrote this piece with incredible detail and dialoge!
Great story, great write!
Keep writing from your soul, for the good of all souls!
TIM

Posted 11 Years Ago


An absolutely brilliant story. The imagery was vivid, the dialogue was engaging, and you did an excellent job building up the reader's curiosity to keep him/her reading.

Posted 11 Years Ago


Wow, this story is fantastic. I really like it and you did a great job. Nice work!!!

Heather

Posted 11 Years Ago


Reading this story, I found one thing that really made me enjoy it. It was being able to guess what was coming without officially knowing. When I started this story, I instantly figured that Chicory was a ghost. It was your descriptions that gave it away, not 100%, but enough to feel a rather superficial tone to everything. Then, as Arbor comes about in his catastrophe of an outfit, it opened plenty of more guessing games, which made the story go on even smoother. Are they both ghosts? Or is she a prisoner and this man a cruel being? Or maybe it's a love story turned darkly inward? Nevertheless, it fueled the desire to read, and listen.
I really liked the story, and I like the balance of narration/dialouge. There are a few typos in there, very minute ones, and I wish I had pasted them down here while reading, but I didn't. But that's all I saw "wrong" with it. The ending, for me, was so/so, only because, well, it was a very, very "revolutionary" ending, that wished to be a happy ending. It's good, but just not my taste.

Great job as always :]

Posted 11 Years Ago


i loved it. Your descriptions were great!!! beautiful story.


Love ALL, Dejasha Love =}

Posted 11 Years Ago


This is a wonderful story! I couldn't stop reading it. I only saw one error, I'll show with a note. I love your descriptions and the dialoge. Great job! =)

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on June 14, 2008

Author

Shadkim
Shadkim

Tampa, FL



About
I'm 21, and I am a senior English Major at FSC. I don't usually write poetry - my passion is prose, specifcially things like fantasy, adventure, romance and mystery. However, I like to try out all dif.. more..

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