Chapter Twenty-One; The Limestone Grave
Two Years Later; January 4, 2019
Jude Mauser stood before a large, limestone grave. A tall willow tree had grown above it, and the wind slowly kissed its branches. The shallow whistle of the wind calmed him, and the cool air danced along his fingers. Three names were written across the limestone grave, every word illuminated black and silver beneath the afternoon sun, as well as the small, single sentence written beneath the names.
But the sentence was a lie. The names were a lie.
Lorelei Ann Mauser, Jack Mark Mauser and Jay Mauser.
A loving mother, father and son who will be missed for eternity.
No one knew them. Not a single soul.
No one knew the truth behind those names.
Shannon never really knew his family, and he knew of no relatives aside from Don, a distant cousin, who didn’t give a crap about them. He had no friends... No family left to care. And he, certainly, wouldn’t live for an eternity.
No one would learn the truth that happened, and he’d make sure.
He was completely alone, and one day when he died, too, no one would remember their names.
Perhaps it was for the best. Perhaps it was okay that no one would remember the mother and father that died when their children were too young to go off on their own. Perhaps it was okay that no one remembered the boy who died to bring justice to their family - and failed trying.
Perhaps it was okay for no one to remember the boy who was—and is—insane. Who murdered for freedom. For justice. For a family long since remembered, or alive.
And maybe, perhaps, it was okay that no one would remember that dark and horrors that happened all those years ago. The demon, their uncle... A nightmare to millions, and out of all those people... One had to endure that. One had to endure that wretched pain set upon him.
A family. A family that was disgraced, forgotten.
And it was okay.
Everything was fine. At least, at this moment, it was. Even when he looked down at his family’s limestone grave where the dead laid beneath.
He continued life like how it should be. He didn’t go after demons and ghosts, for he knew they were insane beliefs. Perhaps all of this was the stimulation, a trick.
His family... Even his brother’s friends—well, they weren’t his friends. Adam, Mark, Justin... It was all over the news. Apparently they were suicidal, and all were found dead on a train track. Bile left on the side of their faces, bruised knuckles and arms.
They were all dead.
Jude Mauser had moved into a small house on an unknown street. It was far from many people, and it was nearly off the radar. He enjoyed the isolation, even when he was taken hostage for an unknown period of time. Jay was used to it, and for that, he continued to live that way. And he was still free.
No one would take that freedom away from him.
He tried to contact Shannon once. She had answered, and they had a brief conversation. She went back to Heaven for her next task, and she didn’t want to hear from Jude ever again.
He was happy for her. Someone he knew, at least, got to live a good, long life of immortality.
Jude Mauser wasn’t looking for love. The pain of knowing that everyone died in his wake was frightening, and he would never do that to anyone.
A dog named Juno with golden fur, abandoned on the side of a street with only a tag on his neck, filled that loneliness. His eyes were full of hope when he lifted him from the ground, removing the stones that cut into his paws and cleaning his wounds, and brought him home.
Juno reminded him of himself.
Lost, afraid, broken... That’s what that dog had been before he found him. And yet, there was still a little bit of hope.
Jude Mauser might have lost it once, but he regained it. He had gained his will, his hope... And it wasn’t hard—at least, not as hard as he thought it would be. And he wouldn’t give up. He’d try harder in life, continue studying to become a police officer and make the world a better place...
But there was one thing that unsettled him in the night.
The constant ghost wind that snaked down his spine. The whispering he heard down the dark, narrow hallway.
He’d still gasp awake from an awful dream about an institution, letting all of his sick on the floor. He’d be walking down a hall, and a ghost would be following him. A shadow. He’d bring him into a room where his family would be hanging, dripping from fresh blood, and their eyes would be pure white with maggots crawling outside of them.
Maybe it was just his dream trying to get under his skin. The constant haunting of those memories...
And here he stood, before the limestone grave where his family laid beneath.
And he didn’t even realize he started to cry.
“I love you all,” he whispered to them, hoping they could hear him from the Heavens. “I didn’t fail you.” Planting a kiss on his fingers, he pressed it onto the top of the limestone grave.
“I didn’t fail you,” he repeated. Wiping away a single silver tear from his cheek, he turned to walk away.
Here, he let go of all his pain.
And here, he felt nothing but forgiveness.
His justice was complete, and he did what his brother couldn’t. His brother wanted him to do this.
Looking up from the trampled brown grass, he saw a familiar face. Buttery blonde hair that reflected the sun, emerald green eyes and olive skin... Pink lips and a nicely fit, floral dress that flowed in the wind... An hourglass frame and a freckled face... He hadn’t seen that face in years, hadn’t heard her beautiful voice...
It was like he was seeing a ghost. Her ghost.
He couldn’t even open his mouth to speak her name. Shannon.
He was surprised he still remembered it.
“Jude,” she said from far away, and she, ever so slowly, walked towards him with feminine grace. She sounded happy, yet so... sad.
He opened his mouth, but shut it, shaking his head with disbelief. Why? he wanted to say.
“I’m sorry,” she said to him from only ten feet away. Enough to give each other space, even though he wanted there to be none between them. He wanted to kiss her; he wanted her to call out his name... But the memories of her leaving him and calling him insane... He wouldn’t dare try. “I am so sorry...”
“For what?” he finally found himself asking.
Shannon wouldn’t look away, even though pain was written in her gaze. “For everything.” She nervously set her hands in front of her. “For letting you down... For hurting you... Not helping you. I let you go when you needed me the most.”
Jude Mauser flinched slightly.
She continued, “You lost someone who you loved most, and I left you… It was my entire fault. Everything was my fault.”
Jude wanted to touch her so badly… To comfort her… “No, it wasn’t. It never was.”
Confusion was there, but she didn’t question it. “I believe you.”
Shock. Utter shock shot throughout his entire body, and he nearly fell over. I believe you. She was the first person to ever say that to him.
“I believe you, Jude,” she repeated louder. “I will always believe you, no matter what. I shouldn’t have done what I did... I shouldn’t have left.” It was her turn to cry. “You were a broken man, I know that. But I was so angry... Angry with myself. So I shut you out like I did to everyone. My father... But you aren’t him. You aren’t.”
“You are brave, kind, honest...” Tears fell down her cheeks, and he moved closer—close enough to touch. She didn’t move away when his hand touched her cheek, slowly wiping away the tears that fell down her face. “The best man I’ve ever known. And I love you, Jude Mauser. I love you.” It became a chant, and she collapsed, falling into him. He held her close, letting out a calming whistle.
“I love you...”
And even though he hated her, he loved her.
“I love you, too.”
Jude was trembling with her, and he sank to his knees, holding her face as he looked into her emerald green eyes.
“I love you,” she whispered again, her warm breath heating his neck.
He searched her eyes, making sure this wasn’t a trick. That this was real.
Her hands moved to his collar, and he knew she was making this was real, too. She felt his skin, his hair, his face... Everything. They searched, and he knew that she was real.
She was here.
Shannon looked into his crystal blue eyes, and they locked their gazes. They had each other once again.
Her hand brushed his stubbled cheek, and she slowly move to kiss him. Her lips pressed against his own, a promise that this was real, that they were each other’s...
“I love you,” he whispered into her mouth, savouring her. This long forgotten bond that they had for so long... He nearly forgot about all the pain he had endured.
His hands entwined with her own like vines desperately searching for something to hold on to, and he couldn’t let her go. He had missed this.
This love that he had forgotten so long ago.
And that black hole that dug deep into his heart, his soul... It slowly healed. He felt something, click... complete.
“Let’s go home,” he said to her as he pulled away, and she smiled.
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