The old man pushed open the mausoleum door. He did not seem to notice the door’s resistance to being opened after nearly twenty-five years.
Hesitating for a moment, he straightened his bent back as he prepared to do what he knew had to be done. “I’m here, Elizabeth. If you remember, I promised you I would visit you on the night before our anniversary.”
He entered slowly, as though reluctant to proceed and followed the moonlight across the floor to the dais on which his beloved wife’s body lay in her coffin. Slowly he sank to the floor and quietly pondered his life with Lizzie. “We had a good life while it lasted, didn’t we? Remember the day we were married? The sun shone and a warm breeze carried the scent of roses.”
Once again the old man became quiet as his mind drifted back to happier days. They were married for nearly three years before they learned they were to be parents. How happy this made them.
Thomas made a cradle, a beautiful cradle, as his hands worked magic with wood. Carvings of birds, animals, flowers and trees adorned each side and both ends of the cradle. He rubbed the wood with oil until it was smooth and shiny.
Together they decorated the nursery and filled it with everything a baby could need or want. Nothing was too good for their child, a child who had been anticipated since the day they married.
The sound of a hoot owl stirred the man from his reverie but he quickly returned to his yesterdays.
“Lizzie, it wasn’t your fault that the baby got sick. It happened because of the curse the old witch put on him.”
Thomas remembered how the baby was born healthy but began to wither a short time later. It happened the same day that the old witch came to Thomas demanding the baby. When Thomas refused, the crone pointed her gnarled finger at him and croaked: “You have refused the Mother Witch and for that you will pay dearly. If I can’t have the baby, then neither will you for this day you will see him grow sickly and die.” Thomas was so stunned that he couldn’t speak as the witch disappeared in a cloud of smoke. He rushed to the nursery where Lizzie was rocking the baby and crooning. “He is so beautiful, Thomas”.
“Come dear, it is late. Time for bed.”
Both parents were awakened by the baby’s cries, loud and piercing the night. By the time they reached the nursery, he was still. Their precious baby boy was dead.
It was hard to tell which parent suffered more over the loss of their newborn son but the day he was buried, Lizzie threw herself out the fifth floor window. Thomas now faced a second funeral.
The evening of Lizzie’s funeral, the good witch Grace came to see Thomas. “I cannot bring her back to life but I can place Mother Earth’s blessing on her. Here is what you must do. Wait until the eve of your twenty-fifth anniversary, not a day sooner. Go to the mausoleum and take a knife with a silver blade and silver handle. At one minute after midnight, open her coffin and cut the bonds on her hands. She will be restored to you.”
Thomas remembered these events as if they happened only hours earlier. Pulling himself back to the present, he checked his watch. “Almost time, Lizzie. Soon we will be together again.”
He gently lifted the coffin lid, not sure what he expected to see. Lizzie lay on her satin comforter with her hands crossed over her chest. They were tied with a white ribbon. She looked exactly as she did on her wedding night for indeed she wore her wedding dress.
“Now, Lizzie, now you will be my wife again.” Quickly he cut the ribbon and watched as she stirred and then sat up.
“Hello my darling Thomas. You waited for me.”
Helping her out of the coffin, he felt her strength leave her and before his eyes, she withered, skin drew back and flesh fell away from her bones. Within minutes, she was a skeleton.
Behind him a cackle caused him to swing around. Standing before him was the Mother Witch. “I warned you Thomas. I said you would rue the day you thwarted me. When I visited you as Grace, you unwittingly helped place the curse on your own wife. Not only have you lost your son, but you lost your wife again.”
Her laughter faded with her, leaving Thomas staring inconsolably at a pile of bones. Slowly he lifted the knife to his throat in an ultimate gesture of defeat