Symphony of Perdition

Chapter One

Sam stared at his wife's grave, clueless as to what to do with his life. For the entire evening, he had been pacing between multiple tombstones, the expression on his face too grim to describe accurately. The air was cold, thick, and almost entirely devoid of spirituality. The frosty atmosphere, combined with the cumbersome darkness, brought a great amount of agony to his body. His left hand, once considered to be capable and sturdy, vibrated with a great amount of intensity. Slowly, gently, and calmly, Sam's muscles forced his hand to edge towards the grave. The more Sam's hand drifted towards the stone, the more his line of focus seemed to linger behind it, ever so gently journeying towards the frigid structure, an all too familiar place of despair, in which only painful recollections resided.

The physical texture of the grave brought back many memories, quite a few of them unpleasant. Sam's grief overwhelmed all other thoughts within his mind. He attempted to release his hand from the grave, but to his astonishment, it remained trapped within the frozen landscape. Like everything else that surrounded it, his hand was motionless, dead, and lost to time. Sam had, at least temporarily, become another relic within the graveyard. No longer fully alive, Sam entered another realm of reality, where he slowly drifted between fantasy and nihilism, the latter of which cut deeply, sharply, and directly into his soul.

Out of the darkness, an indecipherable image, one filled with a great amount of mystery, started to emerge from the tombstone. At first, the image appeared to be a formless shadow, but after several seconds of silence, the shadow started to change its appearance, eventually transforming into a face. Sam gasped, completely shaken by the unnatural apparition that presented itself to him. The eyes, not to mention the nose, ears, and mouth, appeared to be very familiar to him. The face stared at him, not bothering to say a word. Very discreetly, and without any effort at all, the face developed a delicate smile. Far from being hostile, the smile evoked a sense of warmth, one of several feelings that had abandoned the landscape. Sam stood perfectly still, breathless and calm, with only a handful of emotions to guide his actions. For the first time in many years, Sam felt a sense of tranquility, an emotion that had been missing from his agonizing existence.

Without proper warning, the face started to glide forward, stopping just several inches from Sam's lips. The face opened its mouth, almost as if to speak, but it was soon silenced by the powerful sounds of the wind. From left to right, the wind ravaged the landscape, mostly to the detriment of the tombstones, some of which succumbed to the forces that oppressed them. Sam grabbed his throat, shivering while doing so. Previously obscure and unfocused, the features of the face, and in particular the eyes, started to evoke a sense of radiance. The high, robust cheekbones, as well as the blood-red lips, which had previously been undetectable, triggered a sense of lust within Sam, someone who had rarely, if ever, been privy to such an intoxicating display of allure.

The face moved towards the center of Sam's lips, stopping only briefly, before finally embracing him. Sam closed his eyes, pleasantly surprised by the kiss that had been bestowed upon him. The concept of reality, of facing the truth, did not matter to him. In his world of fantasy, everything appeared to be possible, not excluding the restoration of the dead. Slowly but surely, the cold air, along with the strong wind, started to disappear, only to be gradually replaced by heat. At first, the heat soothed Sam's skin, but with the passing of every second, including seconds that had been completely lost to time, the air became progressively adhesive. Over the course of several moments, and without almost any effort to speak of, the heat took on a life of its own. The sweat erupted from Sam's skin, tearing, clawing, and ripping its way through his soft, freckly flesh. A violent moan vibrated its way out of his throat, the agony steadily increasing.

The sweat drizzled down his neck, at first rather tranquilly, before violently increasing in speed. After several more moments of despair, Sam's eyes lifted themselves open, sweat erupting from their swift and uneven movements. The perpetual darkness, previously considered to be an eternal force, had perished from the environment, seemingly for all time. In its place, entered a soft and swaying light, comparable to that of sunlight. The sunlight, though seemingly hostile, provided a great amount of serenity. The sounds of birds, of pristine wildlife, engulfed the landscape. Proceeding several moments of disorientation, Sam's vision started to become progressively clear, at first slowly, then more swiftly, until finally reaching a state of complete, utter, and total clarity.

Suddenly in a state of complete detachment, Sam's lips rejected the compassion that the face had bestowed upon his delicate complexion. Several moments prior, Sam had been in a state of pure, everlasting bliss, brought on mostly by the irresistible moisture that permeated from the mysterious lips. Very softly, and under a great amount of duress, Sam's lips finally parted from the everlasting tenderness. His legs, both of which remained somewhat stiff, started to gradually back away, almost as if they were somehow trying to warn him of the impending danger. Sam extended his fingers, expecting to feel the reliable vibrancy of the air, only to instead encounter a rather smooth surface, comparable to that of a hand.

Unlike other surfaces that he had encountered, the hand was warm, firm, and perhaps most of all, delicately somber. Almost instantly, Sam knew that he was no longer living in the present. Somehow, someway, the past had returned to torment him, and there was very little, if anything, that he could do about it. Essentially, he appeared to be trapped within two different worlds, one of them existing in reality, where only dead dreams resided, and the other existing only in memory, where everything seemed possible.

His gaze trailed along the arm, taking in almost every detail, so as to not misplace any unwarranted expectation. The arm was warm, pristine, and inviting. It was everything that he desired, and everything that he feared. It was everything that he loved, and everything that he despised. All of his hopes, both big and small, resided within it. So very delicately, Sam's fingers hovered over the arm, breezing against the baroque skin. Against his better judgement, Sam succumbed to his ornate passions.

His gaze ventured beyond the arm, eventually traveling up the neck, stopping only briefly, before finally reaching her face, where her entire physical frame came into view. From almost every angle, the afternoon sun dominated her soft physique. She stood perfectly still, a shadow from the distant past, but yet very much alive. Though Sam's mind remained in the present, his body, for reasons unknown to him, remained in the past. His mind responded to his internal commands, at least to a certain degree, but his limbs remained unresponsive, despite his many efforts to move them. Without his consent, they had taken on a life of their own, and there was very little that he could do about it.

Sam surveyed his surroundings, one step closer to retrieving the recollections that he had lost. The wind, paired with the sensual clouds, triggered all of his senses. The nearby trees, most of which were filled with a great amount of color, whispered to his inner thoughts, as if they somehow sensed his uneasiness. The dusty ground, in contrast, remained firm and unresponsive. The ground looked up at him, only semi-aware of his presence.

"Susan, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, provided that you don't shout," she huffed, clearly quite distraught.

"Oh come now, Susan, since when have I ever shouted at you?"

"You do it all the time, very often without noticing," she replied.

"Maybe I do, maybe I don't, but that's no excuse for making a fool out of yourself. I mean, after all, getting married was your idea. Right from the start, you knew about my simple life, and you didn't care. Even back then, when life seemed so much more innocent, I knew that you came from a very different world. It was a very strange world, populated by people that I could barely understand, let alone comprehend. They valued money, prestige, and fame, values that I still fail to understand. You, on the other hand, were quite different. There was something about your eyes, an almost otherworldly allure, that drew me into the marriage contract," Sam said, intoxicated by blind, overwhelming passion.

Sam took a step forward, ready to embrace her again, but at the last moment, an unnerving feeling prevented him from doing so. Deep within his heart, located behind all of the lost memories, there was a realization that refused to be silenced. Sam knew how her life would end, in spite of his actions to the contrary. He wanted to warn her, to tell her the absolute truth, but the past could not be changed. Everything around him, from the trees, to the clouds, to the very air itself, was set in complete stone. Nothing could be altered, modified, or transposed, including the very words that he spoke.

"Believe me, Sam, my family has hurt a lot of people, most of all me. They just don't seem to understand, regardless of how many times I tell them, that not everyone is like them. They dress nicely, they speak well, and they rarely, if ever, raise their voices. It's almost inhuman, the way that they deceive people," Susan said, tightening her left fist.

"You speak as if they're otherworldly," Sam chuckled.

"That's just it: they are," Susan cautioned, fear in her eyes.

Susan's facial muscles, every one of which remained tender and radiant, started to convulse. Her gaze slowly shifted away from Sam, gradually moving towards a dead tree, the exact name of which remained unknown. She stared at it for several seconds, paralyzed by its hypnotic power. The tree was abnormally tall, unusually thin, and remarkably stiff. It stood perfectly in place, neither tilting nor swaying, except perhaps for the occasional change in rotation.

"What's wrong, Susan? What are you looking at?"

"I see my own madness. It's staring at me, gleefully laughing at my misery. Save me from it, Sam, before it's too late," she cried, grinding her fingers into his skin.

"What are you talking about?"

"I've never told you this before, not even when we were children, but I knew you'd eventually find out, sooner or later," she choked.

"Find out about what?"

"About my deepest fear."

"And what is your deepest fear?"

"All of my life, even when I was a child, I always thought I didn't belong in my family. It sounds insane, I know, but that remains my deepest concern. My father, especially, has always seemed very distant. As a little girl, I roamed through our garden, very happy to be alive. My father would watch me from afar, never coming near me, always studying me, as if he saw me as some type of experiment. My mother, of course, died when I was quite young. I try to remember her face, and sometimes I can, but other times, no matter how hard I try, I just can't. She's there, somewhere in the back of my mind, trying to get out, trying to get back to me, and the harder she tries, the more desperate she becomes," Susan cried, clearly on the verge of becoming hysterical.

Not knowing precisely how to respond, Sam, suddenly in a state of total panic, tugged on Susan's arm. Susan screamed multiple times, almost completely out of breath. Sam looked at her, his lovely wife, and saw someone unrecognizable. She went from panicked, to terrified, to outright unhinged, and all within the duration of a few seconds. She was, quite literally, entering into an alternate state of consciousness.

"Susan, for my sake, if not also for yours, you must compose yourself. The doctor, as you recall, told you to not strain your heart. I know it's been three months since your last attack, but we can't be too careful, can we?"

"At this point, I'm sorry to say, I just don't care anymore, Sam. In fact, death would be a blessing, not a curse," she remarked.

"Don't talk like that," Sam shouted, almost losing his temper.

"I know it's been tough for you, these last few years, being married to me and all that, but things will get better, once I'm gone," she declared.

"You're talking frivolous nonsense, Susan," Sam said, awkwardly laughing.

"Frivolous, perhaps. Nonsense, perhaps not," Susan exclaimed, her eyes wandering.

Susan rested her head on Sam's shoulder, in clear denial of her true feelings. She closed her eyes, somewhere between perpetual sanity, a world that she was all too familiar with, and dangerous insanity, a world that she had just started to understand. She ground her teeth, slowly gnashing them together, in an almost deliberate attempt to terminate the thoughts that tormented her fragile mind. Unfortunately for Susan, there remained one problem: the more she tried to rid herself of her anxious feelings, the more prominent they became. Madness, it seemed, was knocking on her door, and nothing could be done to stop it.

"Susan, will you calm down, for God's sake? These fantasies of yours, they're about to drive me insane," he panted.

"Time and time again, often while I'm standing in front of our bedroom window, peering into the large meadow, I've asked God to take away these feelings. It's very funny, isn't it? Sometimes, God seems very near, almost like you could reach out, your arms fully extended, and touch him, but other times, he seems very distant. It's during times like that, those moments of agonizing despair, that I start to question the very fabric of reality. I know this is hard for you to understand, especially given your logical mind, but it's all true, like it or not," she stated.

Susan knelt down, her knees grazing against an unformulated piece of dirt. She remained motionless for several seconds, seemingly all out of breath. Several times, she attempted to formulate words, but the syllables, for reasons unknown to her, refused to be released. She was trapped within her own mind. Everything around her, not excluding the very sky itself, started to decolorize. The sun, what little there was of it, started to disappear behind the trees. She listened, calmly and carefully, to the delicate whistles of the birds. With every passing moment, the whistles became more urgent, more erratic, until finally stopping altogether.

The sky darkened, the wind ceased operating, and the light left the desolate landscape. A storm, or even something worse, appeared to be approaching. Sam looked down upon Susan, gently patting her on the shoulder. Sam had, to his utter and total shame, entered the grieving process. Susan continued to sigh, already a clear shadow of her former, younger, and more vibrant self. Earlier in her life, prior to all of the pain and heartbreak, Susan's hair, as opposed to being dark, worn, and tired, had been quite light, verging on blonde, but due to the ravages of time, from which there appeared to be no clear escape, her appearance had fallen into a bleak abyss.

"Susan, a few moments ago, before you interrupted me, I was trying to ask you a question, and I should have asked you then, but I was too ignorant, a mistake that I'll try not to make again, if I can help it. We've been very on edge lately, the both of us, and I was thinking about taking a little trip. It wouldn't be a long one, of course, but it would give us a chance to get away from the farm. After all, this farm was never the right place for you. It's just been us, all alone out here, with nothing much to do. Sure, we'll watch television, from time to time, and sometimes listen to the radio, for what it's worth, but there's no one to interact with. It's just you, me, and a couple of cows. Cows can be fine company, mind you, but I still have yet to hear one hold a conversation," Sam chuckled, trying desperately to lighten the mood.

"Oh, I would give anything to go, but unfortunately, we can't," Susan said, rising to her feet.

"Why not, may I ask?"

"My father, he'll be here tomorrow," Susan answered, anxiety in her voice.

"I haven't seen Edward in four, almost five years. In fact, the last time he was here, we nearly got into a fist fight, and over politics, no less. I supported Richard Nixon, whereas he, in his ignorance, supported Jack Kennedy. Well, we saw what happened to him, didn't we? Anyway, why would he want to see you now, tomorrow of all days, when he has never cared before? If you ask me, it sounds pretty fishy," Sam uttered.

"I'm not asking you, and I never will. Late last night, while you were already fast asleep, he called me, sounding as if he were in trouble, like he either needed money, assistance, or at least help of some kind. The truth is, I don't know what he wants, or even what he might do, but I do know that I have to be there for him, whether I like it or not. He's the only family that I still have contact with. My mother is dead, my brother is living in Sweden, and my sister still refuses to speak to me. Why that might be, other than maybe jealousy, I could not possibly tell you," Susan said, obvious frustration in her voice.

Sam's eyes, entering a state of pure frustration, shifted towards the ground. The dirt stared back at him, antagonistic towards the smugness that dominated every aspect of his facial structure. Over the course of several seconds, a great majority of them spent in complete silence, vast numbers of spiders started to emerge from the dirt. They were small, almost diminutive in size, and they were not dissuaded by Sam's black shoes. They surrounded his feet, not yet ready to attack. They simply stood there, their exact motivation unknown. Sam sighed, somewhat fearful, as most people would be, but only to a very limited degree. The spiders, he already realized, were not trying to harm him. In fact, contrary to their frightening appearance, they were actually trying to warn him.

Susan clenched Sam's arm, terrified to an almost unnatural degree. She held her breath, only one step away from total, complete, and absolute insanity. The spiders, far from being just physical material, represented something very primal. When Susan gazed upon them, her eyes darting back and forth, she only saw one thing: death. She could not move, blink, or think, save for perhaps a few minor sparks of thoughtfulness. Like quiet assassins, the spiders moved in a circle, dancing to the blistering sounds of the wind. Under a great amount of stress, and with practically no resilience left, Susan leapt from Sam's arms, landing just inches from where the spiders resided. She yelped, screamed, and squealed, all but losing control of her emotions. Astonishingly, the spiders, instead of attacking her, remained perfectly still, almost as though they were casually biding their time.

"Susan, get up from there," Sam shouted, panic in his deep voice.

"I can't take it anymore. I just want to die. In fact, it will be better that way: for you, for me, for all of us," she whispered, looking up at Sam.

"And what would your father, a psychologist of all people, think of your behavior?"

"He's known about my feelings for a long time, but he has never, not even once, shown any affection towards me. Now, around you, he'll put on a disguise, acting as if he cares, but deep down, his patients, some of them criminals, get more consideration than I do," she complained.

"Have you ever told him any of this?"

"I tried once, not too long ago, when I visited him at his summer house, but it was no use. It's very difficult, and sometimes even downright impossible, to get him to listen to anything that goes against his worldview. He's a very intelligent man, there's no denying, but more often than not, he can be, pardon the expression, very cold," she said.

"Well, when he comes here tomorrow, the weather notwithstanding, we can confront him together," Sam uttered, extending his rough hand.

"Do you really mean that?"

"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't," Sam replied, gently wrapping his fingers around Susan's hand.

Sam pulled Susan from the ground, straining his muscles in the process. The spiders, following several seconds of intense deliberation, scattered into the dirt. There was a touch, just a touch, of admiration within Susan's blue eyes. The wind, air, and sun, all at the same time, pierced her eyes, causing them to not only widen, a miracle in itself, but to also become increasingly moist. They were so moist, in fact, that they started to produce tears. Whether they were tears of joy or sadness, Sam didn't exactly know. He did know one thing, however: Susan was destined to die.