As I picked my way along a lane one gleaming, bright day, I heard a rustle of leaves to my right and when I looked, alas, I noticed a bird hobble into my path. This was not just any bird, but a regal bird whose plumage was of the finest ebony, its beady eyes of depthless night. The bird spread its wings and blanketed the lane in shadow. It stretched its neck and ruffled its feathers. It opened its beak and sang a rhapsody of such sadness, such soulless wonder, that I could do nothing but weep.
A cloud drifted across the gleaming orb of celestial gold, and the sky turned grey like bones. The bird, as suddenly as it had appeared, had vanished; yet I remained frightened and alone, as if the bird’s very wretched presence was all that could fulfill me.
By happenchance I looked to the ground, and directly where the bird had stood lay a handkerchief, its delicate lace of cruel obsidian drawing me towards it with its infinite gravity. I defied my conscience as I picked it up and smothered my face in its fragile fabric. It was a horrid object, seething with rage and hate, boiling with contempt yet tempered by the gentle whisper of agony. Somehow, somehow, I felt safe with this mercurial tucked discreetly into my sleeve. For this, lace concoction of the horrors of Pandora’s Box, borne to me within the adamantine beak of a soulless black bird, was meant for me. The instance that bird had hobbled across my path, my fate had been cast. This terrible handkerchief was mine – a secret to be kept.
It gave me power. It gave me peace. It invigorated me like a drug, my opium of lace. As these strange feelings surged and pulsated through my veins, my eyes glimmered with its thrill. I knew – had I always known? But I knew then: life is better with a secret!
Justification is the easiest part. I thought of Dorian Grey. What life did he experience when he trapped his soul inside its sarcophagus of oil and canvas? What sins did he commit when they bore no witness on the impenetrable façade of his eternally youthful face? This handkerchief was like Dorian’s canvas communion. I could do anything – anything! – as long as the handkerchief was on my person.
But one day it was gone, and there was the bird perched in its place. Not crow, not raven, but a bird I had never seen, a phoenix born of dust and shade, nurtured in the oubliette of night. Like before, on that fateful day so many years ago, it opened its taunting beak and trilled a tremolo of such proportion that no amount of tears could express my grief. I was like a ravine, dried, barren, a wasteland.
And then, like shadows chased away by the daunting press of day, everything had gone – the bird, the handkerchief, my youth and all my happiness with it. Now I realize more than ever before… life was better with a secret.
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