The autumn breeze blew by, and the bright moon hung high upon the sky. Not a soul could be seen except an old figure who was slowly walking up the desolate, small trail.
Few knew about the trail’s existence, so there was nobody to look after it.
Its two sides were planted with trees that had small leaves, while the surface of the road was blanketed with fallen leaves; red, orange, yellow… all of which were bustling with life. Still, no matter how colourful they were, the trail was lonely. The sudden sounds of a series of footsteps were like a clear stream, revitalising the dried-up trail.
Step by step, the figure weighed further down. Her hunchback had become a burden.
In fact, the heaviest things were her memories.
They were like servants who still worked for her, greeting her return and kissing with respect every inch of the road surface their master had walked on while they were on their knees. She couldn’t forget this glory of hers, as it had already been seared onto her mind.
Forever. Every step of hers brought life to the shriveled trees, reviving every fallen leaf on the ground. Having recovered to their healthy green colour, they returned to their parent plant. The figure gradually lifted her head up, basking in all her glory. A thundering applause roared and pierced through the air. Meanwhile, a vast array of her guests welcomed her arrival. There were praises and singing everywhere. With the harmony created by the strings of different instruments, peace and prosperity bloomed all over the place.
That was it! How could her current self be selfish with her beauty?
She gave her hat a toss, petrifying the crowd in shock before they disappeared.
It turned out that this was all a dream.
A dream she had destroyed with her own hands.
She was still an old lady to the letter, doddering and staggering her way.
Her days of youthfulness and beauty had become history, and they would never meet again.
It took ages to open the door after all the trouble. The interior was pitch-black, not a single speck of light to be seen. The old lady’s hands were trembling, and the tiny key became so heavy that it fell from her hands. Upon the tinkle produced on impact, the entire mansion lit up.
They were all antique oil lamps, carved with the most detailed geometrical shapes. The white marble ground was decorated with bohemian specks, the patchy pattern showing a peculiar sight under the lights. Accompanied by quaint, sanguine stone walls and a few pillars propping up the sky, the villa seemed to be more human.
The old lady didn’t feel senile anymore, and she transformed into a charming, wealthy aristocrat. She took off her leopard-print drapes and handed it over to her butler, before occupying her other hand with a smoking pipe and began smoking. The priceless pipe was made of sandalwood, and it was one of few left in the world. She let herself savour and indulge in the puffs of smoke, her heart swelt only with bliss. In her half-translucent gown, she lay on the soft and silky bed with her eyes half-shut, seduction oozing from her form. Her bosoms were half-hidden beneath her gown, heaving up and down with the rhythm of her every breath, leaving the hearts of people behind the door tingling.
Those were familiar eyes.
Was it him? No! It couldn’t be! His eyes were closed forever.
Then, whose eyes were they?
She opened her eyes.
There was nobody.
Another rainy, dreamless night. She went to the living room, hoping to find that missing figure of his. She couldn’t. The whole living room was empty, and the sound of every step she made echoed endlessly throughout the room.
Click. Click. Click. The high heels’ master danced a duet alone.
Only those who were lonely could perform such a magnificent duet. The fluttering of snow-white wings left a shadow in the dark. Every bead of sweat was a replacement for her exhausted tears.
She was like a light breaking the silence of the dark.
The whole room lit up. The chandelier on the ceiling reflected each beam of light, turning the crimson carpet into roses in the middle of burgeoning, alluring attention from her guests. All eyes were on her.
The lights went out. Her pale white skin became the only light source in the room. The white wedding veil, embellished with tear-like broken diamonds, ladened her every step. Yet, her beauty weighed the guests’ self-esteem further down as inferiority grew in their hearts. She was the most beautiful woman in the world, and nobody could compete with her.
She began to dance the moment the harmony was created by ethereal music. Her steps were lighter than bubbles, yet each one could shake the skies and earth. That was evidence to her beauty’s presence. She was beauty itself. Her presence proved that ‘beauty’ was neither a virtual concept nor a legend, but an authentic existence.
Incessant praises kept coming through her ears, but deep down she knew the glory only originated from her beauty, but not out of love. Her beauty was heavenly, yet she lacked love. Without love, her duet became even lonelier, and that only served to make her even more gorgeous.
Another night without him. She minded it a lot, but she skilfully slipped out of her gown anyway and lay on the bed naked. She really hoped he would come back and hug her, carry her, and kiss her once again.
‘Why do you have to go?’
Confusion swirled around her striking tears. His departure left her true inner beauty unappreciated. He was already gone, why did she still have to be beautiful?
The bed of red roses in the garden exuded tears of blood, wailing for her swaying heart. The eyes behind the door heard everything. They mustered up their courage and entered the house. Lying on the bed, she still maintained her beauty, albeit with the addition of a tint of misery. Those eyes scanned her fair, nude body, daring not to disturb her slumber.
The whole night; those eyes stared at her for the whole night.
The next day, the lady woke up from her dream. Her head was covered with grey hair, and her face was furrowed in wrinkles. Those eyes were of the distant past, though her beauty was still intact.
Using a great deal of effort, the old lady finally sat up straight and left the broken bed. She wandered through the dilapidated chateau, revisiting her dreams and reliving her memories. To this day, she still couldn’t fathom out the reason why he had to leave.
Her beauty was perfect! Nobody could ever compete with her beauty, inside or out!
‘My beauty is perfect!’
Her bawls resounded throughout the mansion as they swam across her sea of mourns. He remained expressionless, all while putting his arm around another lady, then turned on his heels. Her life had gone off the tracks, and she could feel her pure heart turn dark instantly. Her mouth spat out the most vile of words, after which he and the other woman met a violent death immediately. A smile grew on her face.
Her laughter shattered them into smithereens in front of her. She walked up to the pieces and blew on them gently. Blood-red embers wafted every corner of the imposing villa, which then disappeared from sight, and all that was left was the raw, acrid scent of blood hanging in the air.
Familiar yet strange, those eyes had always followed her. They watched her grow old and fall from grace. Forever.