Sharing Grief: First Stones in Glass Houses

There was once a little girl who grew up in the most beautiful manor, high on a hill overlooking her father’s dominion. It was made almost entirely of mirrored glass, so that her father, an evil sorcerer, could easily keep track of his subjects’ whereabouts and behaviors. As soon as a transgression was detected, the sorcerer would immediately cause a rainstorm to occur, like something out of a Looney Tunes short, with the rain happening only in the small space where the transgressor stood.

Except this rain was not the kind that brings life. Instead of soft and gentle drops of water, the sorcerer would cause pebbles and broken shards of glass and pottery to rain upon his subjects. Because this was all the people knew, they accepted it as fact, and they never tried to help the transgressor, lest the sorcerer would unleash his wrath on them.

But the little girl could see that something was amiss. From her birth, her nursemaid would tell her of the incredible love of the people — how they would come together in times of great strife to help one another. Eventually, the girl grew old enough and brave enough to confront her father. She told the sorcerer of their people’s plight and their love, and the sorcerer, in great anger, expelled the nursemaid from the kingdom. His heart was just open enough to listen to his daughter, however, and agreed to halt his cruel punishments.

“One just one little condition,” he said.

Yes,” the girl replied. “Anything!”

These were the words that the sorcerer had been waiting for, and his lips curled into a smile that would make the most battle-hardened soldier weep.

“You shall take on their punishments.”

“Me, father?” the girl asked. “But surely, if rocks and glass fell in our home we would not have a home for very long!”

“Being in a glass house does have its disadvantages,” he said. “But it’s so ostentatious. I love it.” His daughter, with tears in her eyes, tried to speak, and in that moment, the sorcerer’s heart almost broke.

Almost.

“Silence, daughter,” he said. “It shall not rain in this home. Instead, we shall take your punishment from the words of an ancient teacher: ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’”

His daughter looked at him, confused.

“You are my innocent child, but your insolence borders on depravity, young one,” he said. “I have a better idea.”

She stood stock still, for she knew what was about to happen. Or she thought she did. But it was far, far worse.

Time Flies

On the eve of her 24th birthday, she sat in her favorite chair, an iron thing, that, as legend had it, was heated up until the seated confessed. They always confessed.

The sorcerer had long since died, but her habits were entrenched, and on this night, she searched among her people for a single thing out of place. She found one — a man leaving a Target parking lot failed to put on his seat belt until almost the road, and

Shame. On. Him.

She took the shard of glass, enchanted by her father’s hand so long ago, held it to her face — to her right cheekbone, and she pushed and she tore, ripping her face muscles and tissue open to reveal teeth and gums and tongue. She did the same to the other side, until dripping with sweat and the blood of a thousand painful memories, her hand dropped, and she passed out from the shock.

She woke soon after, as she always did, fully healed and ready to search once more.

One day, years later, she heard a knock at her door. It had been years since she had had a visitor, and she was intrigued. Still, she was mid-slice, and the stranger would probably just go away. She gave herself a gash at her gum line for considering neglecting her duty.

But the stranger would not leave. A knock, at first, and then pounding, and then, something strange: voices. She recognized the speech — it was the language of her people — but their words were strange and tasted sweet and bitter and she repeated them and let them go through gashes in her cheek — gashes that these days, never really healed. She gave herself a quick cut on her forehead for even considering that they might one day heal.

The words did not stop from her subjects. Pleading and begging and after a six-day silence, the prayers began. At first, and with every low chant, she cut, deeper and deeper, and with every melodic tone came a chance to bleed on her arms and chest and face. She didn’t even give herself time to heal anymore. Those fucking bastards at my door! Their prayers for me to stop are nothing. They don’t know!

She began to cut deeper and deeper, until the enchanted glass went far enough to cut and scar her bones. Her arms were tangled messes of tissue and sinew. Her face, just hunks of meat held to her skull by dangling bits of flesh. One last gash along her inner thigh, and the blood poured out, and with it, her life.

The End…But Not Yet

The sorcerer’s daughter, a princess named Laura Merideth sat lifeless in her iron throne. Her subjects, having prayed to the Goddess for mercy and strength, had broken into her home, and now they surrounded her. They wept. Each man cried hot tears as they embraced her lifeless body. Each woman cried for mercy for Laura as their tears fell upon her hair and her face. And each child came forward and placed a single rose upon the woman’s lap. They, too, cried, their tears enchanting the roses they placed. One young girl, no older than three was especially touched, as she had felt Laura’s pain from her birth. With tears in her eyes, and cereal from this morning’s breakfast still on her shirt, she placed her rose, and she paused. In some strange way, it seemed to her that they were connected.

In fact, all the tears of her people were enchanted. An old magic, far beyond the sorcerer’s reach, had been invoked, without even the knowledge of her subjects. It was their tears, forged like diamonds in the corners of their eyes, that fell like petals upon Laura’s face and crown and arms and chest — this gentle rain of love and empathy — the most precious and selfless of all of the tools of True Love — they began to create. They began to heal. They began to soak into Laura’s body, but more importantly, they began to get inside her soul. On that first day, the magic began to work.

But.

Although True Love is the most powerful magic of all, and although the tears of her people washed over her in sheets of sorrow and love, they could not wake her.

In the weeks and months that followed, her body healed, the tears and love of her subjects creating a new skin and new and stronger muscles, and the enchanted roses lifting her heart so that she might look at its beauty.

For she was not dead. Merely…elsewhere.

For a hundred years and a day, she sat in her throne, becoming the source of legend. Princes and knights came from far off kingdoms to try and wake her, and in the first years of her sleep, they kissed her.

Nothing happened.

Soon, however, the kisses wouldn’t even reach her. They would bend over, attempt to bring their lips to hers, and something would stop them. Before long, the princes who would touch her lips were never even allowed in her glass manor, some force keeping them away.

On the 36,526th day of her sleep (100 years plus one day plus 25 leap days), and old woman — ancient, really — made her way to the manor. The princes and kings and knights had long since stayed away, so she was not bothered. Her intent was not to kiss, but to offer to her sleeping Queen one last tear in one last rose — the very last in the kingdom, in fact, so the manor, by now as ancient as the stars, allowed her in.

She held the rose in her hand, and her cane in the other, the CLACK of her stick and the shuffle of her old and tired feet the only sounds in that house.

And there she sat: Queen Laura Merideth of the kingdom of Steelandia on the continent of North Neener (the ancient Gods of Names were jolly, but of course, that is a story for another time), asleep on her throne, a once-iron and cold place of no rest, and now, a bed of the most beautiful purples and greens, a throne of living leaves and stems, very much alive, in fact, that nestled her in her sleep.

The old woman stared for many moments — magical moments — and the woman’s final tear fell into the rose. She placed it on Laura’s lap, just as she had so many years ago, when she was just a child. She stood a bit straighter (as much as she could), and content that she was able to send her last goodbye, she rested the Queen’s head upon a gentle and giant leaf, and she turned to leave.

But something was happening. A magic, far more powerful than any before was stirring. The woman could feel it in her tired bones, which…weren’t so tired anymore. With each second, with each moment, she became stronger. She touched her face, as her wrinkles began to flatten, and her back began to straighten, and before long, she was able to walk without the cane. Soon after, she began to run. Then she danced. Then she leapt, and then she soared, around the room, remembering the beauty of her youth. One final time, she leapt into the air, intent to come down in front of her Queen’s throne of leaves, but she saw, at the last moment, that the throne was empty.

She crumbled to the floor, weak and weeping and filled with an aching grief that her Queen had been called to the Place of the Goddess. She buried her face in her hands, and she wailed, Great and Powerful, and her heart nearly broke into a thousand pieces.

After many, many hours, she calmed, and she thought about making the preparations to send her Queen’s throne after her Queen, through magic, to the Place of the Goddess, when she heard a voice: it was soft and powerful, and the light from that voice encouraged her and she stood to find the source:

“You need not do that. I have come to collect my throne,” said the Queen, now a Goddess herself, radiating light and love and brilliant magic across the entire kingdom. She spoke again:

“Stand, Fair Goddess,” she said, “and I beg you — allow me the pleasure of seeing you whole.”

The woman stood, and when she did, she saw that she glowed as well. It wasn’t just the Queen who shone through the home, her own light and her own love glowed with such beauty and color — brilliant blues and purples, and fiery reds and yellows — for a moment, it reminded her of a breakfast she ate many years before. But of course not. Fruity Pebbles? she thought.

“Why not those colors?” the Queen asked.

“It’s just…”

“You showed me a particular kindness when you were little,” said the Queen.

“I don’t quite understand.”

“Don’t worry,” the Queen said. “There is magic here that even you and I don’t understand.”

“Okay. But how are you alive?”

“We are both more alive than you could possibly imagine.”

“You mean we are dea…”

“Alive!” said the Queen. Her voice echoed so far away that in the midst of a wizarding tournament in a land across the universes, an ancient wizard yelled at a boy for putting his name in a goblet of fire. Well, yelled calmly, or some such meme.

“We are alive…” the woman began.

“Do you have a name?” the Queen asked.

“I do…or I did…once. I can’t recall it now.”

The Queen walked to her subject and opened her arms. “I know you,” she said.

“I was here. Many years ago.”

“Thank you, Dear Friend,” the Queen said. “You shall be called Goddess too.”

The woman lay her head on the Queen’s shoulder, and together, they wept.

I shall give them a moment of privacy.

MOMENT OF PRIVACY

“Thanks, author,” said the Goddess-Queen.

“No problem,” I said, and continued with last part of the story.

The Goddess-Queen looked at her subject. “When you left me that rose, I thought you gave me the final ingredient in a love potion so powerful, it made me wake. But it was just the catalyst.” She paused for a moment.

“You allowed me to finally weep. It was not just the love of my subjects that woke me. It was the love of myself.”

“So we are dead?” The woman asked.

“Oh, sweet Goddess, we are more alive that we could ever dream.” The women both began to smile.

“Then let’s be Alive Together.”

And they did just that.

They turned towards the door of the manor. They found each other’s hands, and they began to walk into the distance, more Alive than they could have ever dreamed.

And of course, they lived happily ever after.