The full moon was the only light that could be seen in the velvet sky when an abrupt sound of broken branches cried through the cemetery like a boy had been cut by a knife.
A figure appeared, staggering from nowhere, gasping. It was a 20-year-old woman. Her wrinkled dress was messy with dirt, and floated backwards, as if she were being chased by a pack of wolves. Her forehead was covered with sweat, and on her pale face, caught by the light of the moon, an enormous bruise was rooted in her left cheek, the same color as a piece of rotten meat. Her right hand squeezed a small wallet. On the leather surface ropes weaved into a name: Adelina. Turning her head back the third time, the woman- Adelina, finally felt assured that her husband hadn’t followed her. “I am safe now,” she said to herself. Her sweet smile began to come back again.
If the first second was a stream of relief, the next was a huge collision caused by a stone crashing into water. Adelina flew into something, something that was as hard as a piece of forged iron from the blacksmith. “Ouch!” The crash was so hard that she bounced up from the ground, pain piercing beneath her stomach. Her forehead was red, with new scratches and a lump from the clash. She groaned, trying to pick herself back up, yet she could only lay back still.
“Great,” she muttered. “I am so pathetic, as if an abusive husband were not even enough for me, I am now abusing myself.”
Tears fell from Adelina’s eyelids, yet she pulled them back, clogging her emotional flood. She sat up, patting her dirty dress, and faced the object she had just run into.
She lost her breath.
In front of her was a giant, golden gate standing like a holy guardian protecting the realm of fairies. It was the color of mixed gold and green; out of the original hue of crimson, some parts of the gate, especially the bottom parts, were covered by fresh mold and lichen. Adelina could not move her eyes but kept staring at it. She touched the mold: it was a feeling of petting an ewe, a fluffy and humid sensation. “This is nice,” she thought.
Through the gate she could see erected stones standing upright from the grass, and suddenly recognized where she was…
Adelina could not believe that had she run STRAIGHT INTO a cemetery.
She jumped back several steps, then cursed her own shameful, timid mind. It was a cemetery, so what? That did not mean she was unlucky, for she had never ever spilled salt from the bottle, nor had she tripped anyone just for fun (well maybe once!). There was no worry for her to be afraid, she reassured herself. Everything that had happened was just a coincidence.
She could feel a voice, deep down in her mind, persuading her to stay, to stay right here…
She pushed the gate firmly and it opened, like someone had been simultaneously pulling the gate door from the inside.
Adelina felt relieved the very moment she walked in. The full moon spread its soft light with her rosy fingers all over the cemetery. There were several tombs in front of her, all different yet elegant and vintage, like the well-kept old books from a grand library. Most of the words on the stones were clear to see, embedding eternally in the hard surface. The ground was grassy, yet it was short, tidy and comfortable for people to see, like a garden which was kept good by its owner. Clearly, someone was here, helping to clean and maintain the beauty of this space. Yet, who was it?
“Is there anyone here?” she quietly said into the empty air.
No one responded…
Adelina took another step forward. A nearby tree’s shadow tilted with the breeze, as if a ghost had risen up from its grave. Yet she was not afraid of it. Ghost? She was not her superstitious, evil husband, who thought that all beautiful women were witches and needed to be punished. That was the reason why she ran, to find her own way out of his life, like a rabbit broken out of its cage.
Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by a voice.
“Come play with me.”
Adelina turned back, and behind her, hovering just so above the ground, was a ghost. A real ghost.
More specifically, it was a blond girl, a teenager, who had a chubby face as round as a pancake. Her eyes were two blueberries decorated on the creamy surface, full of innocence and curiosity.
She was harmless.
That was Adelina’s first thought: she did not dress like a vengeful ghost with spiky claws. The ghost wore a purple dress, while the wrinkles folded each other on the smooth surface of the cloth. A delicate umbrella was held in her hand, as if she were an adorable London lady. Her shoes were decorated by laces, like two delicious candies with colorful wrappers. With her white skin, she looked like an antique doll that should be gingerly handled by the hands of people.
She came before Adelina like a black swan sliding through the lake surface, and her watcher was still stunned in her place.
“Could you please stay with me for a while?” The ghost gave an awkward smile, like it were her first time talking to a human. Her crystal eyes searched the emotion on Adelina’s face, and then froze on the bruises she saw on her cheeks. Adelina was not sure, but she thought she saw lightning of anger, mixed with sorrow and coldness, flash through the ghost’s pupils, though it was gone as fast as it had appeared.
Adelina opened her mouth, yet no words slipped out of it. All parts of her body seemed to be telling her to fly from this place, but somehow she knew that she were not in danger.
“Hi. Who are you?” After recognizing how stupid this question was, Adelina almost cursed.
The ghost’s eyes shined, though, when she heard the words, like a poor child receiving a lavish Christmas meal. Before she could answer this strange woman, though, loud screaming and shouting came from the other side of the cemetery.
The woman turned her head toward the ghost. Her eyes were full of terror. “He followed me,” she murmured. Her hands shook like the wind blowing the wheat.
The ghost was confused. It had been hundreds of years since anyone had been to this place. She could not bear this feeling of liveliness: there were sounds, people, and the scent from the living, all triggered her emotions. But watching the woman’s sudden shift in attitude, it was clear that this guest was not wanted.
The man could not believe his eyes. As he approached the cemetery from beyond the gates, he saw his wife standing under a tree, looking s if she were in a conversation with someone.
He was a superstitious man, who had taught his wife-Adelina, that spilling salt was ominous. Sometimes, he tried to find these kinds of excuses to abuse her: he punched her face, stole her shoes, and claimed that he would never drink, yet continued to hit her with the smell of alcohol.
So now she dared to run away? He had found her.
The man ran into the cemetery and up to Adelina, grabbing and lifting her by her hair as if he had just caught a chicken: “How dare you run away? How dare you come to this place? Don’t you believe that I will crush your face into the dirt? You…”
But instead of Adelina’s face falling forward, the man’s face did. Before he knew it, he was embedded into the earth. The pain struck him hard like a swarm of bees, as if their spikes pierced through his skin simultaneously. He no longer held Adoeina’s hair in his hand. In fact, she had already moved away from him.
He sat up in shock because he saw a girl in a delicate dress standing in front of Adelina: her eyes burning like flames. She seemed like a translucent marble statue under the moonlight, gorgeous with the halo reflect on the ground.
She moved her lips.
“Leave.. her… alone…”
The man’s eyes widened. His face was pale and pink under the bruise that was already forming, and he had cuts that were already releasing blood. Trembling, he stood up, the sweat leaking out and covering his hands. He turned to Adelina and his voice began to rise: “A ghost, a ghost! You ARE a WITCH! I knew that from the beginning! You tried to murder the entire village! You, You…”
His roar suddenly stopped.
The ghost clenched her right hand and slowly lifted it up. The man’s body flew back, as if he had been pushed by an invisible force. He screamed, struggled to move and could not get out. Now, his face was full of tears, and he began to beg.
“Please! Adelina! Help me! I am your husband! Please! I beg you! I will…I will never hurt you again. Please, pardon me!”
Adelina’s heart softened. But before she could plead to the ghost to stop it, her husband’s body was crushed to the ground. The bruises grew darker and the blood more prevalent.
But he was still alive.
“That was your final warning. Go, man. There is no place for trash here.” The ghost’s voice was still as calm as a pool, and her emotional indifference froze the man’s reemerging anger.
He must leave, right now, or he would die.
And so he did, running away, trembling like a child, with a face full of dust, bruises and blood. When he was gone, Adelina looked at her ghost. She had watched the entire thing with relief and pride. In the blink of an eye, the ghost had traversed through her own body and crushed the man who had been the root of so much pain, abuse and torture.
Now that he was gone, the ghost smiled back at Adelina and pointed towards the gate. Her face was full of encouragement.
“Go, but don’t forget to come back to me someday.” The ghost’s voice rang in Adelina’s head without her mouth moving. She lifted her hand, which was as pale as ivory, and touched Adelina’s hair like a mother reassuring her child that the monsters under her bed were gone.
Adelina tried to touch her hand back, but she only felt cold air.
This time, Adelina did not hesitate. She walked to the gate, pushed it open, and stepped into the light of a new dawn.