The Relic

The Relic

Love and death

She had disappeared from view. He looked for her everywhere: up hill, down dale, in the library stacks, on the beach with the flotsam and jetsam. It didn’t seem possible that she wouldn’t answer him: she had always said her love for him was endless. He played with similes as a way of dulling his pain: her love had been as effulgent as the noonday sun, as energetic as the waterfall. But the metaphors didn’t work. She had been a great one for taking the initiative: and now he felt aimless and lost without her.

Perhaps she was hiding in one of their favourite places, waiting for him to find her. Perhaps life was a grand game of hide-and-seek, after all. He set off into the forest, following a path they had walked together many times, stopping to look at the deer leaping across the field and the kestrels hovering above their tiny prey. Surely she’d be looking at them too? She might stretch out her arms to them, call to them maybe.

He left the path and plunged deeper into the trees. The undergrowth was punishing, and the brambles tore at his ankles. After awhile he came to a little clearing, and he tought he heard her voice, saying “I’m here! Just look under your feet!” And to be sure, the area of grass he stood on was about five feet long. He fell to his knees and started scrabbling with his hands. Then he recalled that he had a trowel in his rucksack, so he used that. Gradually something was revealed: a ladderwork of ribs, a round skull, small hands and feet.

Wait. As it was exposed, he saw that the skeleton was decorated with the most amazing horde of jewellery. On one arm, he saw a bracelet of bright gold about the bone. Round the neck was a golden starfish pendant. He had given her that, and the earrings, and the ring on one of the fingers. It was her all right. It was her. It had been her. The flesh that he had loved - plump, moist, responsive - had gone. This was what change meant. And then it went through him with the sped of an arrow that as she lay there, she was a testament to impermanence. Gold and bone. He wept for her. Her arms had encircled him once, her breath had been sweet. But now she gave a lie to the old adage that you can never be too rich or too thin.