The Red Rose Bleeds Gold
“I rather fancy the weather here.” His refined voice was a sweet welcome of remorse as she ran her fingers along the edge of the gold tipped roses that filled the garden. Their green and white leaves and stems created the strangest flower she had ever seen. She looked at her nails that were painted pink but chipped along the edges. It had been a week since she last painted them, or so she thought.
“Yes, it’s beautiful.” She replied.
The earth was covered in a blanket of fresh white snow. Absurdly, it felt pleasantly warm out as if spring was in full swing rather than it being the middle of winter. The sun radiated proudly above and she could almost hear the burning of its rays, the corona stinging the atmosphere as the aurora licked the air in waves of luminous colors. It was as if the sun were a part of the Earth’s own atmosphere rather than millions of miles away. Vibrancy filled the sky above with a moving sea of blue, green and orange waves. A faint aroma of fresh roses carried by the wind passed suddenly with a strange sweetness that she could almost taste. But the wind was also warm, not cold at all and she stared up at the unfamiliar sky in awe.
Time and space were irrelevant as if they could live forever in the realm that currently held them together in its grasp. Each moment passed with a slow frenzy and while the grandfather clock ticked rapidly as if an invisible hand was winding it past normality, her heartbeat steadily in its cage. What on earth was a clock doing in the middle of a garden? She looked towards her host who also seemed in awe of his own surroundings yet not as amazed as she. Although she sensed that this home was his, the garden of his own tending, and even the red roses with the golden tips were of his doing. The master of his own creation was both pleased and miraculously inspired to create a garden unlike any other on Earth. They couldn’t possibly be in Alaska. The garden wouldn’t be blooming in the middle of winter. So where the hell were they?
“Won’t you join me for afternoon tea?”
In that very second that he finished the last of his words the huge grandfather clock that ticked in the center of the garden started to chime on que as if it were confirming the time to be appropriate for tea.
“Wonderful!” he said with a smile towards her.
He clapped his hands and instantly two women came out of the wall of the house dressed in Danish clothing of cozy long red dresses with long white sleeves and gold trim. They curtsied as if it was perfectly normal to emerge out of a wall instead of a door. Their eyes were as purple as the finest amethyst and their hair glistened white and gold in neat waves along their head and rested in a bun just below their white bonnets. Their skin was tan as if they spent their days lying among the rays of the brilliant sun, baking it to perfection.
He lifted his black velvet clad arm to her and his reluctant guest took it, looking up at him in confused amazement. Dressed as a gentleman in all his finery, hair combed and curled, powdered white and of the latest fashion of the late eighteenth century. His coat collar was turned upward and he wore a white muslim necktie around his neck. One would never have thought he was anything but a well-bred man of stature; a gentleman of the court or a handsome businessman with all the privileges of great wealth at his disposal. He led her past the rows of roses, gliding with each step he took as if he took no step at all or the ground did not exist.
The Danish women dressed a small round table with fresh white linen that seemed to appear out of thin air. In fact, where did the outdoor dining table and chairs come from? Teacups made of beautiful china and adorned with rims of gold and handcrafted floral stem handles appeared in their hands like magic. A freshly brewed pot of tea took center stage on the table and the steam from the spout rose as delicately as the most magnificent vines. The steam twirled in the air and she thought she saw hues of lavender and yellow in it.
Soon a tower of fancy sandwiches and cookies sat next to the tea pot and the gentleman beckoned his guest to sit down. She allowed herself to be led to the white wrought iron chair. Her long lavender gown suddenly seemed peculiar in this weather. Was she already wearing such a dress when she arrived? Wasn’t it the dead of winter out and here she sat ready to enjoy afternoon tea in a garden full of fresh snow? How was she not cold? She looked back but saw no footprints in the snow from where they had just walked. Yet she felt the crunching of snow beneath her feet, hadn’t she?
Her host eagerly poured the tea for both. He rambled on about the milk delivery being late these days and he apologized politely for the lack thereof. The steam rose from the cups but when she peered inside, she noticed the strangest thing: there was no tea inside, yet the steam rose up and filled her nostrils with the sweet smell of orange peel. Her host seemed to pay no mind the fact that there was an emptiness to both their cups. He took a careful sip and declared it the best tea yet. Taking the silver spoon in hand, he scooped an empty spoonful of sugar into his cup.
“My dear, tell me of your travels? You’ve come a long way and I wonder how you finally got here.” He said taking a sandwich from the tower and placing it on his plate.
She stared a while longer at her cup in disbelief. “Is the tea not to your liking? I thought white tea with orange peel would be lovely but if you don’t like it, I can have the servants make a new pot of something else. Perhaps black tea? Or maybe green with a touch of jasmine?” He recalled that his tea stash was running a bit low and asked one of the maids to make an order later that afternoon but this time to add some tea from India as well.
“Oh no, it is just fine. I am letting mine cool down a bit.” She replied hastily as to not degrade the quality of the elusive tea or her host’s invitation.
She thought for a moment that maybe he was mad or perhaps it was she whose mental health was in question. One thing was for certain and that was there was no actual tea in the cups.
He grinned at her this time with delight. “Do you want to know how I know you’re not from here?” His eyes took on a seriousness as he no longer wore the welcoming smile of a gentleman calling on a beautiful lady. He took another sip of tea. “Do you want to know how I know where you came from?” His words questioned her origin with a sneer in his voice that wasn’t there before.
She said nothing, only stared back into his piercing green eyes that grew darker in the shadow of the radiant sun. The aurora danced above him, casting colors that bounced off the glimmer of the china with a vibrancy she has never witnessed. She started to shiver in her delicate dress of lavender lace. Suddenly she could feel the cold of the winter air bite at her bare arms and freeze her small nose. Who was he? Hadn’t she seen him before? This man was out of place somehow, not a gentleman of a Victorian age long past. Or maybe it was she who was out of place as he suggests? How did she get there?
There was a familiarity in his gaze and a recognizable sound to his voice yet she couldn’t remember from what memories locked up the answer to the mystery before her. The steam from her cup abruptly seized, locked in the air it once swirled in. Frozen, as if the cold air suddenly turned it to ice in the air. Even the grandfather clock seemed to stop ticking and the sun hid behind a dark cloud as if it were struck with sudden trepidation and it trembled behind the puffy cloud in fear. The wind brought a chill that seemed to go right through her. The red roses started to drip puddles of gold like blood. The thick liquid glided down the stems and dropped in globs from the petals to the soft snow on the ground, soon forming puddles of what looked like real blood. She could even hear the drops hit the snow below as it stained it with crimson splashes.
“Why have you come here? Did you come here for me or did you get lost along the way?” His voice was serious and lacked the rich formality in which he greeted her with just moments ago.
“Answer me!” He shouted and slammed his fist on the table. The china clattered under the force with a quiver.
She startled and rose from her chair awkwardly as her body froze from the cold air and her joints threatened to become stiff as they started to numb from the chill. “My apologies, good sir. I must have lost my way as you suggested. I will take my leave now, but I thank you for your hospitality on this lovely day.”
“Get out!” Her own voice rang inside her head.
Something wasn’t right. She didn’t know what it was but somehow, he knew something about her that she didn’t even know herself. She turned to leave but noticed that the path through the garden was gone. It wasn’t a very big garden to begin with so how could she lose her way through it? It was just a small garden, a side house garden, a garden you can see everything from the street type of garden. But did she even notice before that it had an end? Did she see a street beyond? She felt lost, trapped, tiny, and bewildered as if the garden itself was swallowing her and became a labyrinth of bleeding roses and red snow.
She walked quickly until she was nearly running past rows of rose bushes, their red petals glistened at her as if each sparkle had something it wanted to say. The gold edges blinded her with their mystic flicker and she could almost hear them speaking, whispering to her as she ran by. Yet the more she ran, the more rows of roses she passed until it seemed like she had passed the same bush repeatedly. Then it seemed the snow became thick and fresh and her feet started to sink with each step she took, slowing her escape.
The sky grew darker yet it was not nightfall and the sun refused to emerge from the cloud. The aurora grew brighter until it cast an ornamental cover of color all around - thick like a wall it even filled the air with particles of light that danced all around like fireflies. The roses sang, a soft muted tune but she still couldn’t make out the words and she didn’t recognize the melody. But it was the same set of bars over and over again like a funeral procession song of years gone by.
“Don’t be afraid of me.”
She could hear his voice but could not see him anywhere. It was as if he were standing next to her and far from her at the same time. She turned around but saw no one behind her, no one in front of either. Was she going mad? She racked her brain to stay focused and calm.
“You don’t have to tell me who you are, I already know you.”
Suddenly he stood in front of her. A black cloak draped around his shoulders and he now wore a top hat and white gloves as if he were ready to go out to a ball and his hair was different, more modern and no longer powdered and curled. Her breath caught in her throat as he grinned down at her. His menacing green eyes told her it was true. He knew who she was.
“Oh, well if you know who I am, then tell me who I am. These games you are playing are not very polite.” Her reply was almost a whisper.
In that instant she realized that she didn’t know who she was and she didn’t know who he was either. Panic started to seep in but she couldn’t be afraid. She couldn’t allow fear to take over. She covered her hands over her arms, trying to keep warm as she shivered. Her breath was heavy and she could see the steam mix in the air with every exhale but when he spoke, it was as if his breath was as cold as the air and she couldn’t see it.
He leaned closer, almost towering over her. Frozen in the spot she stood she couldn’t move a muscle. Not even her legs would move to carry her away. She could feel the warmth of his breath tickle her neck as he whispered in her ear in a dulcet tone, “I’ve been waiting a long time for you. But since you seem to not remember a thing, let me give you a hint. You are the one with many names, many faces, and many identities. In a way I am grateful that you’ve finally come. You are the one that took my life and perhaps one day I will take yours.”