The talk of the town was Jolene Normans arranged marriage that would happen sometime after Halloween. The day was supposed to be as perfect as her family, set in a crisp November afternoon as falls scent blew away the shedding leaves. Being part of the Vayne family, we would never be seen near theirs with a ten feet pole. The Vaynes and Normans have been enemies since the town was founded.
It was a fateful autumn night when I decided to leave my mother's Halloween dinner party and spend time alone. I didn’t want to get caught up in the conversation of how their single, 22-year-old son is a disappointment. I just needed fresh air from my relatives.
The northern Californian wind was frigid, dead leaves blew back and forth on the crooked road as frightening trees loomed over my shadow. I looked up to find a moon as full as my lonesome. Suddenly, I came across the graveyard. Without anywhere else to go, I found myself past the gate and entering the dull cemetery. Walking past the graves, I unexpectedly saw a long orange dress and auburn hair across the yard. I advanced to find Jolene Norman.
“What are you doing here?” I asked as she turned around, glaring at me with her hazel eyes.
“I could ask you the same thing. Mason Vayne,” she said with disgust.
“Don’t you have a wedding to prepare for?”
“I needed fresh air.”
That sounded familiar, maybe her and I were more alike than I thought. We stood in silence for a faint moment. “Actually, there’s something that's been on my mind.” She hesitated before asking, “have you ever heard of the tale of Monolo?” I told her I haven’t before she began strolling across the graveyard. “Well to tell the truth, the stress of my marriage to some unknown man got to me. I’ve just been looking for more adventure, that’s why I’m here and seeking Monolo, legend says he’s been roaming the cemetery for a century.”
Once she finished speaking, an eerie mist suddenly formed and covered our feet. I winced at a high pitched note that began playing on a violin behind us. Jolene and I turned around swiftly at the noise to find a large man- no, a shadow. We found a tall man whose body was emerged in an obscure shadowy mist, appearing like a pitch-black ghost. He wore a dark suit, with an enormous black hat and cape. The shadow man held a violin made of bones in his skeleton fingers. The chords he played created a beautiful symphony that contrasted with his terrifying aroma.
My teeth jittered at the strange creature, I turned to Jolene, she stepped away and kept her stare on the ghost. I decided to build up bravery and began marching toward the shadow man.
“Hey!” The monster winced at my shout and stopped playing his chord. Just then, his head began to turn up from looking at his violin and to me. I could finally see his eyes as he stared into my soul. A face of pure darkness with two singular holes of light for pupils faced my direction. I got shivers just by looking at the ghost. With each step I took, I could feel the energy of death radiating off of this tall creature.
Then, the man’s body faded to the ground and disappeared in the mist. I stopped and looked around all over the cemetery to find him until I heard Jolene scream. When my head spun around to her, I saw the ghost's chest right in front of my face. I slowly looked up to see him smiling down at me with daggers for teeth.
“Hello!” the shadow spoke with a deep and monstrous voice. I jumped back and asked who he was. "The question is, who are you?” The ghost started circling me, taking long steps with his slender legs. I glanced in front to see Jolene gripping onto her gloves in fear.
“My name is Mason Vayne, and thats Jolene,” I stated.
“Monolo!” Jolene shouted from the mausoleum she was standing against. Startled, the creature's head winced back at her as his skeleton fingers clutched. “Are you Monolo?”
“Who’s asking? Are you here to listen to my story?”
“If you seek my presence, you must listen to my tale.”
“And if we don’t want to listen to your tale?”
“You die.” Monolo stared down at me with a sickening smirk that ran shivers down my pale skin.
“Look, me and Jolene have our own separate lives to get back to, we don’t need-“
“Mason!" Jolene yelled as she started advancing towards me in rage. "Are you trying to get us killed?”
“Separate lives?” Monolo glanced down at me again. “If you two act like you’re too different to be together, you’ll never find peace.”
“And what would a monster like you know about peace?” I asked with a chuckle.
Monolo stood in front of me in silence for a moment before quietly giggling. “Peace? Not much. But love? Many things.”
Jolene and I looked at each other in confusion, wondering what this ghost was talking about. Before he could finish his laughter Jolene said, “tell us your tale, Monolo.”
With that sentence, the creature grabbed his cape and spun to the top of the mausoleum. He stood with his arms up, looking at the full moon.
“Finally. Someone wants to listen instead of run away from me. The year was 1862, fresh spring air sparked the feeling of joy blossoming in my cold heart when I laid eyes on her. Golden blond hair, silver blue orbs, she was like the ocean- like the sky! Anything a man would ever dream for.”
I decided to get comfortable, I was going to be there for a while...
“My childhood was nothing but sorrow. The war we were fighting separated me from my older brother whom I loved dearly. When I thought things couldn't get worse, my family was murdered by troupes of an enemy country, my brother never made it home either. At the age of seven, I had to live on my own and beg for food- until a man adopted me. His name was Forkchester, he was a man that worked for a company of assassins. I was put into special training to help assassinate if this war escalated, which it did.
Ten years later, I was sent out to a masquerade party where I would pose as a violinist and then kill an enemy. The violin has always been like an escape from the terrible world I lived in. With Forkchester, once you enter that life of killing, there’s wasn't any going back. I was forced into that endless circle of duty, but that night, everything changed.
I continued to play my violin casually. It was going smoothly until my eyes locked onto a certain young woman. She kept looking at me through her red and gold mask, admiring my music. I had this odd feeling that I had known her my entire life.
Once the clock struck twelve, it was time to murder my target. I took one step on the ballroom dance floor, ready to grab my knife. But suddenly, my attention was brought to the same woman I was watching. She approached me and asked for a dance. I couldn’t resist her beauty, my hand grabbed onto hers and we started waltzing.
It felt as if time had stopped. As if it was magic that connected us. Her red dress flying across the checkered floor as our masks created a barrier from knowing our identities. At the end of the song, she told me her name was Rosaline Jane. I decided to take her for a stroll, not caring about my mission.
Later, I learned she was my age and lived with the royals. We agreed to see each other again the next week. Once she left the party, I assassinated my target. I was so free talking to her, but once I killed him, I felt an incredibly empty void in my heart. Maybe the life of killing wasn’t for me, and I would be better off with her...
As months went on, we kept talking and seeing each other. Our relationship was healthy and it felt like there wasn't any trouble to worry about, until one summer night. She asked if she could tell me a secret. My heart dropped once I heard the news.
Rosaline suffered from a curse. The reason she lived with the royals was because she possessed a magic power of healing that was given to her at a young age. The only catch to this ability; Rosaline would disappear from existence once she reached the age of eighteen. Her birthday was in almost three months, on October 31st. She would simply fade into nothing and the memory of Rosaline Jane would be wiped from the minds of everyone that knew her.
‘I’ll be gone soon, Monolo! And you won’t remember me! No one will!’ She cried.
She’ll be gone soon. Gone like my brother and parents. I wouldn’t be able to take it, I wouldn’t be able to believe it. That’s when I strutted up to Forkchester and begged for freedom from my work so I could spend the rest of Rosaline’s remaining life with her. He didn’t take this lightly. He knew about Rosaline’s power and told me that she would be sent to war in a few weeks to heal the injured soldiers. Either Rosaline leaves by the end of the month, or she dies at the end of fall.
When I asked her why she didn’t tell me she was leaving, she said, ‘because I won't return before my birthday. I’ll disappear in battle and I won't be able to come back to you.’
That night, I cried more tears than any of the men I’ve killed.
At the beginning of October, I prepared a small date for us. Rosaline showed up in the same dress she wore when we met and I brought my violin so I could play for her. Under the moonlit night, we danced for hours. Rosaline finally explained how she got her power. There was a magic pond in the forest she lived behind, one day she fell into it and came out with that curse.
‘I want to grow old and die with you. But I can’t,’ she said, her voice cracking.
‘Rosaline. Even if we’re ghosts, I’ll wait for you. I promise.’
After that day, she was sent out on a train to the war, leaving me behind with a broken heart. Forkchester kept leaving jobs for me. I killed, and killed, and killed, the entire time wondering if Rosaline was still alive.
October 29th came around when Forckchester assigned a special mission far north into California. I agreed, knowing that I won’t be able to see Rosaline anyways. Did I ever tell her I loved her? Did I ever tell her how much she meant to me? These thoughts crossed my mind the entire ride there.
The following night, I set up my tools and entered the Halloween-themed party where the target would be. Unexpectedly, my head started pounding and I began feeling extremely anxious. I needed fresh air, I decided to head out on the balcony. It was a full moon, a quiet one. With the ocean tide high, my heart sank into a deep abyss of despair. Suddenly, a man tapped my shoulder. I looked at him to find the man whom I had to kill. It was perfect- alone on a balcony, I would kill him right then and there and get the job done. Until suddenly, the wrinkled man spoke.
‘Someone as old as me knows when a young man feels lonely. What’s on your mind?’
I was going to kill him- I really was, but I just couldn’t. That’s when I asked the question that saved me. ‘have you ever felt like something wasn’t right in your life? Like you didn’t know where it all went wrong? And its been tearing you up inside ever since?’
The man nodded and explained, ‘I’ve seen many in love, but I’ve never seen someone so destroyed by it like you.’
With rage, I threw my knife into the ocean below and let out a wild yell. ‘How do I know if my feelings are more important than my duty?’ I asked.
He looked at me and said, ‘you know.’
Suddenly, I left my job behind and started racing through the ballroom, trying to leave that party and see Rosaline. She’ll be gone by dawn, I had to see her before and tell her everything that's been on my mind. I jumped on a train and traveled for the whole night. Finally, I arrived at our town. No one told me where to go, but I had this feeling that I knew where she would be. Even if she wasn’t there and still at war across the country, I had to try.
I dashed across the dark forest, ruining my suit and dress shoes. Where was I going? Where it all started. The pond where she gained her curse. I got to the cliff that overlooked the water, to my surprise, I found her. She stood at the cliff, looking down, her hair flying like her dress the first time we danced.
‘Rosaline!’ I called out to her. She turned to me with broken blue eyes starting to light up with the rising sun. Tears fell down her cheeks like a violent rain.
‘I don’t want to go,’ she said, the sun rays peeking over the forest.
‘Then don’t! You don’t have to be alone in the next life!’
‘What do you mean? Once I’m gone, you won’t remember me! How will we be together if you don’t know who I am?!’
Suddenly, she took a step closer to the edge. My heart started racing and tears fell quicker than the descending moon.
‘I’m going to end this, where it all started,’ she said.
And then, she fell.
I cried her name and rushed over the cliff, jumping down to her. I reached out to Rosaline as we both fell to our deaths. Her skin began to evaporate off her body like ashes of light as the sun crawled higher. I finally got close enough to grab onto her fading body.
‘Rosaline! If I won’t be able to remember you. Then I’ll die with you!’ I yelled as I stared into her watery blue eyes. ‘Because I love you!’
I hugged her so tight, not wanting her life to slip out of my grasp. Not yet, not this soon. I may have been a terrible person, I may have killed many, and I may have deserved that fate, but she didn't.
‘I love you!’ she cried through my suit. As the world caved in on us, I finally felt at peace, knowing Rosaline cared for me as I cared for her.
My arms began lacking her warmth as she slowly disappeared like the night’s darkness. Until I was left with nothing but cold air and emptiness, falling to my death. The sun shined down on the electric blue pond as her ashes vanished into the sky. I smiled, remembering her love up to my end.”
Jolene and I stood speechless. She began balling as I started tearing up.
“Now you know my tale. However that wasn’t the end, the magical pond resurrected me to become this monster you see now.” He said, pushing his floppy hat into his obscure face.
“Why would you tell us this? This sad, sad, story-“
“Don’t let your duty separate you from the ones you love,” Monolo interrupted with a low voice. “What my advice is, don’t let this unspoken family feud separate you two. You never know what your relationship could become. If I persuaded my target that coincidental night and denied the dance she asked for, I would’ve never known Rosaline.”
Jolene and I looked at each other. Has she always been this beautiful? I asked myself, sinking into her hazel eyes.
“But thank you,” Monolo spoke, “with my tale told. I can now break the curse.”
The ghost started playing the same tune on his violin. The sun began to rise on the dusky cemetery when suddenly, a heavenly, living corpse appeared from the heavens. She wore a white dress and her hair was blond like sunshine, she reached out to Monolo. It was Rosaline. Her beauty was indescribable, she looked like a dead graceful angle.
Monolo grabbed onto her frail hand, his body suddenly lighting up to reveal an angelic man. As mornings light shined on the lovers, we watched them dance their final waltz to the sky.