The Story of Olivier Part II
I knew there had to be punishment for my transgression. It was not enough that I could never be with Michael again. I had crossed to the realms where only the most blessed were allowed to tread. The authorities came for me before my time. I was actually surprised that they were not waiting for me when we crossed from out of the Fields into the World of the Dead again. I smiled. I was allowed to do my task. All the same, the enforcers of the authorities' laws were none too gentle with me. They dragged me from my home. They need not have used such force. I would not have struggled. The Guardian followed them. Apologetic words flowed from his mouth. I found this so strange through my rough treatment. Why should he be sorry that I received my just punishment?
Claws dug deep into my scalp at the hairline of my forehead as I was pulled upright. More claws dug in and around my spine. I bit my lip to keep from weeping so soon. This was only a precursor to what was to come, and I knew it. All the same, the pain was made all the more excruciating because of the peace I had experienced recently. Yet, I was and still not a very strong person, and the tears soon burst forth.
I stood in the judgement area, where I had first arrived when I originally entered this world. I could sense the jury of spirits around me again. My captors pushed me forward in the back so hard that I stumbled forward. All of this was unnecessary. They only needed to ask me to move forward, and I would have complied without complaint. The fear froze my insides all the same, because I knew the judgement, like last time, would not be a good one.
"For your transgression into the Elysian Fields," started the Guardian haltingly, "You will suffer punishment a hundred fold more than what was before. You will have no release for the day nor will your birthday be observed in this year . . . I am so sorry . . . I did not know they would . . . I did not mean for your punishment to be worsened . . ." he apologized.
Why should he care and not wish my pain? I knew some horrible punishment would await me at the end. I was not surprised or bitter about this. Why should I be? I was one of the damned, who had been blessed with a glorious, happy experience that I did not deserve. Even stranger was his apologies. Did he really care for me? Was there some being in all of existence who really wanted me to be happy and comfortable? It made me regret my deal with Michael over the contract. I would not be able to appease this new friend with gaining my freedom he had sought for me. All the same and despite my dire situation, I smiled. It was such a different and warm experience.
There are many things that one should not talk about in details, and I have been told often that I cross that line in my tales. There was not much to say about my horrifying experience in that case. As much as I hated it and it hurt, I knew it was coming. I could not regret my trip to that blessed place no matter what they did to me. The torture was unspeakably painful that I could not escape into unconsciousness nor die from. It was only a slight taste of what awaited me in the future. So much pain invaded my being that I no longer cared for anything. When I was finally released for my birthday the year after next, I was unable to move from the antechamber. What was the use anyway? I would not be able to visit Michael. I would never truly hear his voice again or feel the tingle of the burn from his fingers upon my hands and face.
I thought of the little flower hidden in my dwelling. I only sighed. I could not induce my will to bring myself to indulge in its happiness drug. I was just too miserable with my lot in existence and self loathing that I could not bring myself to that little bit of hope left to me.
I only laid there naked and unresponsive. The Guardian sat beside me and talked for awhile. His words encouraged me to seek relief and nourishment, but I could not lift myself from despair I was in. I would not lift my head for him. I knew well that my situation was my own doing, and I should blame no one else.
The new year's punishment came soon enough. It was decided that the pain would never decrease from the level it was now at, and the free time I had experienced before my transgression would be forever denied me. I did not care to argue the judgement. The taking of the free time was a blessing as far as I was concerned. It was only time that I would have to miss my brother. I deserved this anyway. At this point in time, I no longer cared what they did to me.
Given the situation I had found myself in, it came as a complete surprise when the whips and claws stopped midway through the new year. At first, I thought I had lost my sense of time. Pain is always a long time, whether it is suffered for six months or a year and is increased exponentially, it feels like an eternity, I figured my birthday had returned again, and soon the authorities would grab me by the scruff of the neck and throw me out. I would have one more day of such relief. All the same, I was stronger this time, and I would allow myself some happy memories this day. I may even provoke myself to return to my dwelling and visit my little flower. I should give it up to the Guardian. I would soon have no need of it.
After a few moments of peace, I noticed the chain and shackles were not removed. The aching, bone cracking pain ran up my spine. It was a false relief. I wondered what new horror awaited me now. At first, I did not want to move, then I sensed a pleasant presence near me. I smiled almost to the point of laughter. As my senses fell back into place, I recognized my brother. I gasped and pushed myself up on trembling arms. I turned my face to him and euphoria fell over me. My strength gave out, and I fell flat in defeat. It would be like the authorities to orchestrate this trick upon me. Yet, I would fall into their trap and revel in the joy.
Trip or no, I was unchained and thrown unceremoniously into the antechamber. More confusion rode into my mind as to what they were plotting. I had no desire to move regardless of what I thought my reality might be. Any words spoken to me were mumbled nonsense. Burning fingers touched my exposed side of my face and traveled my jaw. More words and my name was spoken as that sweet diminutive of 'Livie'. I closed my eyes and let go. A bowl of slimy substance was forced to my lips. The burning hand pushed at the base of my skull to lift my head.
I drank half heartedly at first. I drank because I had to. Strength flooded down my throat and into my back and limbs. My hands curled around the bowl and the hand holding it. I sat up on my own, and the hand that held my head and moved to my back. I drank greedily of the remainder and licked the remains from the bottom.
When I pulled the bowl from my face, I sat up on my own without support. My smile widened with the return of my strength and perceived reality. Michael was indeed at my side. It was no dream or mere hope. He was really beside me. I wanted to reach out and grasp him to myself and cry in my relief, but I kept my manners. I did not have the right.
"Are you properly awake now?" he asked me sternly.
I blinked and nodded. "What are you doing here? I am not permitted to be with you anymore."
"Oh!" he replied as he tapped my nose. "You aren't allowed to bother me, but I can come anytime I want."
My fingers sought his hand and clasped his fingers as tightly as I could like a drowning animal. "Why?" I asked. The thought that I had phased out in my pain to this wonderful paradise occurred to me, but it would do me no good to deny it. I did not want to deny it. I would follow along into any trap this was set up to be. I was with Michael again, and I did not want to even let it go again.
He snorted a laugh and tapped my nose again. "We celebrated your birthday once here, Livie. Now, it is your turn to join in my birthday celebration. I want you there one more time before the condemnation."
I smiled wider and warmth tinkled through my body. I grasped his fingers tighter. One last pleasant memory to add to my collection. A laugh touched my lips. It had only been half a year. Michael's birthday was in the warm spring month of May. We were born at complete opposite times of the year. He had summer to look forward to. I, being born in November, had the chills of winter on my heels.
"Come on," he encouraged me as he pried his had away from me. I let my hand fall to my lap. A mild cold chilled me. I had lost contact with him. He picked up my clothes.
With an effort, he got me up to my unstable feet. I wavered uncertain for a time, but I was stable enough that I would not fall on my face if I only stood there. He proceeded to fuss with my clothes and dressing me. Under normal circumstances, I was very vehement about doing the task myself even with Michael. All my life, I was a complete failure and useless. Yet, I could dress myself properly without a problem.
Still, I was sore and stiff from enduring the horrible experience over the last year, and deep in my heart I was grateful for his help. Besides, it felt so good to feel his burning hands brush against my body. His hands deftly evaded my grasping fingers. I did not care about what he was trying to do. I wanted to hold him near me and not give him up so soon. I knew he was truly here. I was not imagining his soft voice. I only smiled dumbly as he worked on dressing me. After he scolded me so many times for grasping hands, I tried to keep them to myself. I had not expected to ever be in his presence again. I drank in every moment like the pleasures of fresh spring water.
Finally, he brushed my hair from my face and fussed with it a bit. He softly took my hands in his and announced he was finished. My fingers closed around his tightly, but he pulled away. I was not deterred this time. I grasped hold of his arm with all my might. I had no desire to let him go again. I moved myself to cuddle my head under his chin. I closed my eyes and peace settled over me. Having his presence here was greater than any punishment I might receive afterwards for my sins. His soft laughter filled my ears and filled my limbs with strength. He gently pushed me back, but I refused to let go of the arm I had grasped.
"Come on," he encouraged me cheerfully as he pulled a lock of my hair out of my eye. He peeled my fingers from his arm. I bit my lip and held back the tears. I really did not want to let go, but he was so much stronger than me. He took my hand in his, and my heart released. Fair enough, I smiled. My fingers curled around his in a death grip.
He led me along the passages and the memory of the Elysian Fields filled me again. Those wonderful fields were a place of joy. No pain could exist there. This was the mere Underworld, where the damned should feel their punishment, but I felt joy equal to that stolen time.
I knew we headed back to his home, and I tried to clasp his hand tighter. He would lead me nowhere else. Our parents did not want me, and my home was cold and loathsome. Happiness tingled from my head to my toes.
Again it did not take long to arrive. We entered his home. The warmth surrounded me and danced around me, but it refused to touch me or sink into this forbidden spirit. It was alright. Michael was here. Again, like always, the wonderful aromas of the kitchen washed over me and held me like a lost child. My mouth watered in anticipation. My hunger gnawed at my stomach with an extra ferocity because of the denial of meals I recently had. With an effort, I held it at bay. This was Michael's home, not mine. I must act the proper guest.
He led me to the table I had sat at for my birthday party that seemed an age in the past. I was pulled back into that memory as I felt the back of the chair on my back. I laughed as my spirit was further lifted. My other hand joined the first on his hand. It would be so terrific to just sit in his presence the extent of the day.
He laughed and brushed another stray hair from my face with his free hand. "You will have to release me for a little while so I can bring Lizzie here. It would not be much of a celebration for me if she's not here."
I reluctantly let go of his hand. I wrapped my arms around my body and waited. I knew my brother would return, but it felt so empty without him near me. Like the torture I endured, time dragged with anticipation. Self doubt entered me as to whether he had been here with me at all. The smells and the peace around told me I was truly in his home. Did I just barge in here uninvited, and the dream was of him leading me here? When he returned with his wife, would he be angry with me for barging in on them and breaking my promise? My shoulders ached suddenly, and I pulled my legs up into the chair with me. I did not have the initiative to run. I wanted to be here despite the consequences. Soon enough I would have no freedom or peace. The thought of trying to hide entered my mind. If they did not know I was here, they could not be angry with me. I knew it was wrong to partake in the joys of a broken promise, but I was damned already. What difference did another sin make?
Michael returned to the room with his wife in tow before I could move on my new inclination. I bit my lip and drew my legs into myself tighter. It was too late to run. I could tell by the stomp of her foot and the violent swish of her skirts that she did not approve of this intrusion. I clutched my hands together tighter around my legs. I was right. Michael's invitation had been a hopeful dream. The stretch of the year did not seem so long because I had lost a sense of time because of no break in the pain. I braced myself for the harsh words and the blows. Yet, I seriously doubted they could do anything to me that would have any true effect upon my soul after the recent experience.
Michael and his wife exchanged some words, but my brother came to me with his arms wide. I flinched in anticipation, but he only clasped my shoulders in a firm, friendly grip. With a gentle squeeze, he made his announcement for his wife and me to hear.
"It is my birthday. It is a day of celebration as they teach us here in the World of the Dead, for it is the day my soul came into existence. I wish to share the happiness of this celebration with my brother," he told her with such joy that I could not dare believe that he spoke of me. "It is my wish that he be here today."
She grunted a disheartened response.
"It is also my wish that you sign his contract," he added.
I sat up straight and my feet fell from the chair to the floor. A shock flowed through my insides like oil poured down my throat. My eyes opened wide and my fingers splayed out. My mouth moved without sound. I shook my head. This could not be possible. Why would Michael want to do this for me?
Mrs. Cuxhaven growled and called him a name I dare not repeat. She spat on me. She would have done more violent things to me, but my brother held her back. She turned to leave in a huff. Michael only laughed gently. His hands left me as he went to her.
"Lizzie, love, think about it," he told her enthusiastically. He paused and the tinkle of his laughter like the rain on glass floated on the air. "Altenglisch Hans has always been the better parts of us. He was always stronger than the both of us combined, and his intelligence put us both to shame."
She made a mumbled comment I could not understand in response. "It is no reason to set this bloody criminal free upon our boy again. I don't know about you, but I dearly love our son! I would not put him back in the cage with a ravenous wolf again!"
Michael laughed a full laugh. My brow furrowed at his reaction. I was sure his wife was just as vexed. "I love Alteng more than anything in any of the worlds. But, think on it, my dear wife. We have had our vengeance upon my wayward brother. Who are we to deny our son the same vengeance? He is the one that has suffered the most at his hand. I am certain that Alteng can impose a thousand worse tortures upon him. He was always a creative being."
I gulped down the lump in my throat. He was right about that. Alteng was quite a smart child, and he would have suffered greatly from what I had done to him. I am certain he would have contemplated things he could have done to me to equal his experiences. I knew I would have had the tables been turned. Michael still had memories of our childhood and had some reasons to not want me to suffer so. The same could not be held true for my nephew. His experience with me was not good for him at all.
I braced my back and sat up straight. Regardless of my fears of my victim, if he convinced her, I would have hope. I could be free of the pain and torture. No more biting whips and claws. No more harsh words and accusations. No more unspeakable things done to my soul. I could be free to return to my flower under the floor and dream of the Elysian Fields again and my brother. It was true that the greatest obstacle stood before me, but I had hope. A sudden brick fell to my stomach with a terrible thought of something that I had overlooked.
"Michael, you have not signed my contract yet," I objected softly. I did not want him to argue with the one he loved needlessly. "Why aggravate your wife with it?"
"Michael!" she cried out as she snatched the paper from him. "You didn't!"
"I did," he returned with a defeated sigh. He paused and took a seat next to me. My cheeks burned with embarrassment. I lowered my head and wrung my hands in my lap. I did not know. He claimed that he would never sign it because of what I did to his son. I bit my lip and held back the tears. His hand took my nearest hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. He sighed and let me go. "I signed the contract so that my father would concede." He paused again. "I disliked his punishment as well. He needed to let Olivier go for his sins against him. Father never treated my brother right. Yet, he was still stubborn. So, I signed it to get him to sign it," he confessed.
"And now you want me to sign?" She snarled. "My signature would set him free to hurt our son again! No!"
I lowered my head again and rubbed my arms. So much had come upon me in the last few minutes. Michael had signed my contract. What did that truly mean? Did he do it to redeem Father? Or, was there something deeper and kinder to the gesture? He was the only one of the family who had ever really cared for me and was not afraid to show it. I pulled my legs up in the chair with me and hugged them tight. What was his reason for doing this now?
I did not blame Mrs. Cuxhaven for her reaction. She could not know that I meant no more harm to her son. Knowing what I know now of him, I would have done things so much differently. How could I have known that another member of the Cuxhaven family would mean kindness to me? He meant me no harm. He wanted me to be happy. He would have been the true voice spoken and the solid being to touch. How could I raise a hand against him again. Besides, I truly doubted the Dead would allow me to harm him again. Although I have heard many tales of ghosts causing destruction to the living. I could not conceive the idea of a spirit, who had been damned, escaping this world and going back to the destructive ways that condemned him in the first place. Perhaps these stories, like many I had heard from the humans, were just stories with no truth to them.
"I don't think the authorities here would allow him to hurt our boy further. Besides, Alteng must be quite a strong one. He has survived five years after the marks that Olivier put upon him, now hasn't he. He's not here yet, now is he. They are willing to send Olivier back to beg for his case to him. He must be going to live on for a couple more years at least," my brother argued.
"And this is a reason to set him free . . . to forgive him?" She returned. "You are as crazy as he is!"
"Think, Lizzie!" He insisted as I heard the crinkle of her sleeves as he grabbed hold of her. Her feet shuffled briefly with a mild struggle. She blew out an exasperated breath. "Is it our place to condemn him?" he shouted. "I think that honor belongs to our son. Think how far he will fall if he gets this far . . . this close to freedom . . . only to be turned away by Alteng, his last obstacle."
"You have no idea how much pain I went through bringing him into the world. You have no idea how much pain I went through to assure that he would survive and be the best of us. He was the only one, who had a chance out of our union. He is the only one left to say that we were once alive! Now you want to put this killer on his track again! No, Michael! You think about what you are asking! Think about what you did by signing this contract!" She pulled away from him. She would have left the room.
"Don't you think Alteng meant everything to me? I didn't know I could even produce a child after learning the circumstances of my birth," he argued.
"What he did should hurt you just as much as it does me! You don't act it, do you? You want me to set him free on him after you helped him with the Tönnins and your parents! I don't understand you, Michael!" she cried out.
"How would you have felt if this was Gustave asking forgiveness for our son?"
"My brother would not have tried to kill my son!" she returned.
"Are you sure of that? Gustave was very vehement in his hatred towards me and our union," my brother pointed out.
"He didn't kill and eat my father!" she returned.
My cheeks burned hot again at these words. I fiddled with the edge of my shirt. I do not know why I should feel embarrassment for this. I had killed Father. I had the right to the flesh of the kill. Of course, I should not have killed him in the first place.
Michael was quiet a moment. "Your father did not hate you or your brother as our father hated Olivier. I think if Gustave or you were in Olivier's place, you would have killed Father as well." He drew in a deep breath and sighed. "All I can do is ask you to do this for me as a special favor. Your signature will not set him free. It will allow him to visit our son. I do trust that the authorities will not allow him to harm our son further."
"The presence of a ghost cannot help his social status," she argued.
"It will prove the nature of the company he keeps. Besides, I would think Alteng will know ways of exorcizing the ghost. I would believe that could prove quite painful to one of the damned," he remarked. I swallowed hard with the thought. "If he gains the forgiveness of our son, he has earned his salvation. I think the decision should be with Alteng and not us."
She blew out an exasperated breath and stomped her foot. "Only for you, Michael. I must truly love you to do this!"
I bit my lower lip hard as I heard her scratch the pen across the paper. The paper crumpled in her grasp. She moved around the table to stand before me. The ice ran down my back, and I pulled back in the chair. She growled and shoved the wadded paper at me. Biting harder, I put my hands around her burning hands. I pulled at her and cuddled under her chin in thanks.. She tore her hands away. Her hands shot out to my throat and dug into my neck.
"If you hurt my son again, I will make the pain you experienced in the torture chambers seem pleasant in comparison!"
My face burned. I did not fear what she could possibly do to me. All the same, I did not mean Alteng more harm. I took up the crumpled paper and held it to my heart and wiggled my way out of her grip. A smile spread across my lips. I had hope again. Things no longer seemed so cold or empty. I could hold back no more.
I grabbed her shoulders and cuddled her again. I pulled back and ran my hands down her face and body. Father had ranted so much about how ugly mine Kobolds were. I could not believe this of her. I knew Michael had choose a beautiful mate, and she was a wondrous female. I had to know if she was as beautiful as Alteng was. Her hair was coarse like his, yet her features were so rounded like I remembered my nephew's cheeks being. Yet, her body was like Mother's in shape, except she had more meat in her chest and belly. I touched my own belly. It was always swollen and kind of rounded. Did her stomach hurt as well? I shook my head. It would not be so for one of the blessed. Somehow, I remembered Mother before Michael was born and furrowed my brow. Why would I think of such a thing?
She growled and clawed my face. She called me an obscene name. My cheeks burned again. "Get Out!" she spat forth.
Trembles shook my body, but I grasped control once again. I bowed to her. "Thank you, Mrs. Cuxhaven," I spoke.
I made my way to the door. I had no right to this celebration, and I had received more than I deserved. I clutched the paper to my heart and could not help but smile again. I would succeed in my task. I owed it to Michael now. I could have peace or just oblivion. There was a chance now.
Michael took up one of my arms. "You will get yours when you get back!" Mrs. Cuxhaven yelled at my brother.
"I know," he replied cheerfully, as he took up a sweet smelling treat from the table with his free hand.
Things raced through my mind as Michael led me through the corridors. After several minutes, he stopped and took my shoulders in his hands.
"Olivier, your contract is a farce. None of us truly forgive you for your crimes," he told me. I opened my mouth to protest, but he touched my lips. "No. Don't speak. Listen. I convinced everyone on the contract to sign because . . . because . . . it bothers me to know you are tortured. It doesn't mean I forgive you. I can never truly forgive you for what you did to my son. Even if you convince Alteng to sign, the fact cannot change in my heart. I never want to see you again. I will be glad if you are released and know that I actually did something to improve your existence. Goodbye, Olivier," he said with a sense of finality.
My hand shot out and took his. "Goodbye, brother," I replied.
He gently pulled away. I did not want to let go of the last ribbon of his presence, but I had no choice. Would the dreaming death be granted me, and would I live with him there if I succeeded in this task? I stood alone and desolated for only a few moments before I felt the Guardian's presence before me. I cocked my head and a soft smile crossed my lips.
"You have succeeded here, my little friend," he told me without touching the contract. I nodded silently. "Are you ready for the next step?"
The muscles between my shoulders tightened, and my knees wobbled, but I nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Then, so be it, my little friend, and good luck to you." His hand softly touched the top of my head as if lightly patting it. He said a few incoherent words, then I felt void. I was no longer there, as if I had died once again.