This is my entry into the WEP April event. I’m a bit puzzled about where it came from, but it came and that’s how it is. I”m looking forward to reading the others as they publish!
Those pearl earrings were mine, and I was going to have them back no matter what.
The Voice, the one I’d heard for far too long, said, “You are in another place now, Juliana. Let the material possessions stay where you left them.”
I could almost see the long finger of caution wagging at me, but I ignored it as well as the boring reminder of my altered state. I didn’t need that. I knew my situation all too well. But, I didn’t quite know how I’d manage the heist and restore those earrings to my possession. That was going to take some unearthing of proper procedures.
“Hmm. Unearthing.” I had the answer. All I needed was a willing digger. I just needed to find one. Next, I’d need an animator. There used to be one per village until the Inquisition, so there had to be some lurking here.
The back alleys of this place were overflowing with unfulfilled entrepreneurs, and so I set out to explore an area I’d avoided since my arrival. A visit to this dark side held a few risks, but those pearls were worth it. I needed something to make me feel good about myself. It had been a long time since I’d had anything to make me feel like the Contessa Juliana Costa da Verdi.
Of course, along my route The Voice nagged at me every step I took.
“This is a terrible mistake.
“There’s great danger in returning to fetch what you left. I’ve told you that.”
I stomped my foot and hissed back. “Stop. I know what I’m doing.”
I knew that The Voice could only go as far as the entrance to the dark territory. While there was no line drawn, I felt a barrier as I approached, and so for a moment I stopped.
“You will regret going in there,” The Voice said, and this time it sounded depleted.
For a moment, I hesitated, but my desire for what was rightfully mine swept over me again, and before I could change my mind, I stepped into the blackness of the other side. I hadn’t expected the icy air or the odd smell of creosote. I’d always thought this place would be filled with fire and steam and smell of the unwashed. Well, it wasn’t.sI crept ahead feeling my way through what felt like a narrow canyon until I spotted a flickering light ahead. Moving closer, I discovered a small flame with a hooded figure huddled around it. It didn’t look up when I stepped into the light.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I’m the Contessa Juliana Costa da Verdi.” My name used to turn heads and make people bow. The one seated at the fire didn’t seemed to hear me. I tried for attention again, louder this time. “I’ve come seeking a digger and an animator.”
The figure rose and towered over me. I was forced to look up at what I supposed was a face, but in this light and with the hood pulled down, I couldn’t be certain.
“I am that.” It was a deep, animal sound that came at me.
“A digger or an animator?”
“Oh, well, then you’re exactly what I need.” This was far too simple. I’d have to tell that nattering Voice just how silly those warnings really were.
“Yes. I imagine you do. What?”
“A soul is my going rate. You have only to give me a name.”
I thought of one immediately. This would teach my dearly beloved to re-marry so quickly and to give my jewelry box along with my precious pearl earrings to his bride. “Done.”
I laid out my plan, named the soul, and asked, “So when can I expect your service to be complete?”
“Come.” Like a shadow, the digger-animator moved back down the canyon, and I followed. It was a relief to come out of that dark place until The Voice started again.
“How did you bring this into our side?”
“I hired it for a job.”
“Oh, Juliana. You have made such a terrible mistake.”
The way he said that, did give me an anxious moment, but I had a mission. I would not be stopped now. “You’re nothing but a naysayer and worry wort. Go away.”
“You have set loose unimaginable tragedy.”
I think those words were followed by a sigh. Silence came after that, and I was left alone with the giant hooded figure.
Without a word he led the way until we came to a familiar spot. Not my favorite one, but at least I recognized it, and I knew this digger-animator was going to complete the task.
It didn’t take long to bring up the coffin. I really hated opening it, but it had to be done. And what a mess I was. I’d hoped some of the preservation techniques would have kept my lovely body in tact, but no.
Before I recovered from the shock of seeing the rather vile remains of the Contessa Juliana Costa da Verdi, the figure placed a massive hand on her chest. And up she came. Juliana still had some kick in her. I smiled as I reconnected with the old, although greatly damaged, me.
“Now, I’m off to fetch those earrings. Thank you,” I told my animator.
I started away, stumbling over the uneven ground because no one had thought to put shoes on my feet for my burial. When I looked back, the figure was following me.
“You may go.”
Still it came along behind.
“Why aren’t you returning where you belong?”
“I now belong here. You gave me a soul, and I’m taking it.”
I could make out a smile, but it had no humor in it.
“Then all that is the soul’s becomes mine.”
“Not my earrings!”
“I’m afraid so. Everything in that jewel box. Everything in the estate.” Sweeping back the hood, the new Conte Costa da Verdi looked down at me. “You’re quite a mess, you know.”
He strode away, and in the far distance I heard The Voice, “Poor Juliana. Forever to roam between death and life.”