A dreadful hum roused the air, its melancholy gorgeousness staining the world a sullen shade of grey. Against the bleakness, a single, sanguinary rose budded and bloomed. Ever dreary, but lovely just the same.
Snaking forward and labyrinthine, a path of worn stones and rotted stems paved the way through the soulless darkness that enveloped all but a single patch of heaven’s somber glow. Vibrant emerald shades illuminated beautifully, shattering even the dullest, dankest ideals of their surroundings. A trickling stream darted between the tallest stalks of fern and the reddest berry bushes, gracing every inch with its crystal waters, where just beyond the light it ran a truly bitter blue.
From within the sorrowful hum of loss and regret rose a tune of awful, rugged beauty. Wild as the roses, yet tame as the beasts, it blighted any and all that was tainted within. A lyrical ballad traced to the lips of a single nymph, and it was he, who spoke of life and love, holding the light in his own two hands. Though worn and cut, it seemed only fit that such giving hands could decide not only the fate of himself, but the fate of eternity. Only life or death would remain, though he knew that neither could be without the other. Such a beautiful lie, born of flowers and their thorns.
And the song ceased.
“Yes?” A gentle, blissful voice of speech, yet incomparable still to the lyrics which he sang.
“The oleander and nightshade grew back…” With the apologetic features of a canine, the young female bowed her head, an expectation of punishment hanging dark and low around her quaking frame.
“That’s all right. It may be irrepressible.” Bowing his head in return, the unclothed nymph gazed calmly into her tear-lined eyes. “They’re quite pretty, the flowers...I only worry for you. Hungry as you may grow, the last thing I would want would be for you to poison yourself with nightshade berries. They look like blueberries, yes?”
“So, promise me; until we’ve contained them, only eat the apples and the raspberries.” Extending a relaxed hand, he brought forth a lamb’s ear leaf to wipe away her sorrows.
“Yes.” Though the tears no longer flowed, her tone still dripped with worry.
“You’ll be fine, darling Evelyn. Just let Sephtis know.”
“I will.” After a vigorous nod, she darted on her slender, graceful legs into the ferns and between the trees, her form becoming nothing more than a blotch of pink and green against the dimming sunlight and undergrowth.
Though the sun began to set, Salem only held the light closer, his mouth ajar in a desperate song…a last attempt. The wilted rose bed at his grass-stained feet perked, simply to fall again. Raspberries reddened, but the crimson didn’t remain. Apples still grew from the limbs of the trees, but patches had rotted to brown. The world around him was devastatingly harrowed, even though the light shone brightly, even though his songs were sung tirelessly. Death still loomed, unstoppable and unforgiving.
“You’re crying…” a whispered voice murmured from the deepening shadows. An agonized grimace crossed Salem’s face, and his tears streamed freely as the green around him faded and wilted to an ugly, dead state of lost life.
“I’m sorry, Sephtis. I don’t mean for you to see me like this.” Gazing ashamedly back at the male nymph, he kept his fists tightly clenched. “I’m afraid I’m unable to save this grove…”
“The fault isn’t yours.” Cloaked frighteningly by the shadows which enveloped and trailed after him, Sephtis leered scornfully in return. “Death is inevitable, especially when they were so distanced from the water. There are other roses, other apple trees, other raspberry bushes. Don’t concern yourself with those that are doomed from the start.”
“We’re very different in that way, Sephtis. I am idealistic, and I understand my fault…but my heart longs endlessly to let everything live without struggle or pain. Even I cannot live up to my own wishes, but I’ll certainly do my best to lay out a peaceful life for those who cannot set the stones themselves.” His head hanging in humiliation and disappointment, Salem glowered somberly at the lifeless plants around him.
“Not idealistic. You’re foolish. A plant has no sentience. They don’t feel pain.”
“Then…I suppose that I feel the pain they cannot bear.” With a solemn tone, the nymph draped is vine-wrapped black hair over one shoulder, his bleak, dead green eyes showing nothing but the misery he bore…towards himself, his garden…he knew he wasn’t worthy of the light.
“You waste your breath when I don’t listen.” Bluntly, Sephtis shook his head, before turning and trudging back through the trees and the bushes…the flowers and the ferns…and Salem knew they all neared death. So, he sang louder, clearer, and lovelier than ever before. The feathered few in the branches chirped along, and the melody of loss, love, and life echoed endlessly through the light and the dark.
But it was all for naught. As morning’s true light seeped through the densest branches of the trees and thickest gatherings of the vines, Salem’s voice faded from the air. The stream’s cool waters ran thick and red. Ferns and roses drooped, their stems a sickly brown and petals turning quickly. Nightshade berries stained the grass purple, and blood stained it red. Evelyn sprinted, frightened, frantic, disbelieving. Her eyes were glazed, lips dry…and her ears searched…desperately waiting and wishing for song to greet them. Dampened, the riverbed stained her feet red…and there he lay, pierced by thorns, a trail of purple leading from his scarlet lips. Milky, green eyes greeted her own…with less life than they had ever had before.
“Salem…” Barely a whisper, her voice was choked by anguish. Somberly, Sephtis loomed over her, brushing a cold hand down her trembling shoulders.
“I’m afraid, we are born of glass and gold, made beautiful, but fragile. We shine clear and brilliant, only to be tainted by the nightshade’s staining lust.”