THIRTY-ONE – THE TELLTALE HEART
“No, Tony,” Glory said. “It’s not your choice. It’s never been your choice since the day we met—since you first gave me the strength and warmth I needed to go on.
“But I won’t let you destroy yourself for me,” she said. “I won’t.”
“You’re coming home with me,” Tony said firmly. “You’re everything I’ve dreamed of.”
“No,” she said, undoing the strap of her gown and holding something in her pale fingers. “Before we met, you had dreams, too.” She held the object that she had taken from his home out to him.
She looked into his eyes and he felt her fire burning in his soul. She spoke one word, “Remember.”
Tony saw the object in her hand was a ring. The diamond ring he’d meant for Jenni. The fire of the burning boat and the lightning in the sky made the gem shimmer and dance in the darkness.
“This was your dream,” Glory said softly. “Even when you were under my spell, you spoke her name while you slept.
“I am but a vile, selfish thing who nearly destroyed you.
“I release you now. Go. Go back to your lover, your Jenni, whomever she may be. Go back to the living. Go back to your life, Anthony Frost and leave me with the dead.”
The guilt hit Tony like a thunderbolt, and he fell to his knees, even though he felt as though a great weight had been lifted from him. Tears started to pour uncontrollably down his face. He sobbed and said, “Good God, what have I done?”
Glory came to him and pressed the ring into his right hand. In his left, he still held the silver dagger.
She whispered into his ear. “You’ve done nothing,” she said, “that I did not force you to do.”
Tony shook his head. “No. You merely brought out parts of me that I usually have the will to resist—parts I don’t like. The selfish, uncaring artist interested only in his work and his own pleasure.”
“I know,” she said, “I made you into everything I feared. But in the end, you brought out the part of me that was once human. The part that loved rather than destroyed. The part that fought to resist evil rather than succumbing to it.”
He gazed into her eyes and for the first time saw warm light rather than blackness. Her eyes were brown—and lovely, even amid the storm and chaos.
“You have given me back my soul,” she said. “Now end it.”
He looked at her, for a moment uncertain he’d understood her intention.
“End it now,” she said, her eyes pleading with him. “I’ll never rest; I’ll never escape him so long as I live—even in this horrible unlife. Send my body to join my soul.
“If you ever loved me, destroy me.”
She wrapped her fingers around his left hand, the one that still held the dagger.
“There must be another way,” he said. “Surely some cure…”
She shook her head. “No. If you don’t end it now, either he will find me, or I will revert to what I was before I met you.”
She let go of his hand.
“I couldn’t bear either,” she said. “Please…!”
Tony clenched his eyes shut and thrust the knife deep into Glory’s breast.
She gasped and slumped against him; he opened his eyes again.
A look of almost beatific satisfaction washed over Glory’s face. She lifted her dark orbs toward the chaotic heavens. The rain fell on her fair face and rolled down her cheeks like tears.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
And then she died for the last time.
He cradled her in his arms as the ship pitched in the storm. As the last breath seeped from her body, moths swarmed down from the heavens. Tony laid her on the deck, and her small, pale subjects covered her like a shroud.
Moments later the insects departed, and with them the last trace of Gloriana Williams.