She sat there on the park bench waiting. She peered out at the decaying, unruly forest. Shadows breached every space even the recesses of her mind. It had been a few hours now that he was meant to arrive. Adeline tipped back her large velveteen hat to peer at her watch again. She breathed deeply trying to calm her nerves and irritation. Adeline tasted the damp, cool air before she smelt the rot of the still winter air, that only a forest as immense as this could harbour.
She gazed up the cobble stone path and saw only darkness. A sudden gust of cool night air whipped her long, dark hair against her face obscuring her vision. Almost as suddenly as the wind came a figure appeared. A man in a regal black pin-striped suit sauntered up the pathway, face covered by darkness as it always was.
“Miss Adeline,” he purred, bowing and gesturing with his bowler hat in a mock show of submission.
“What took you so long?” Adeline demanded, her gaze piercing him from the bench where she sat, the edge in her voice betraying her pretense of discipline.
“Hmpf… no good afternoon kiss. Not your usual playful self are we?” He said as he leaned into her, taking in her every movement with rapture. Adeline breathed in the scent of cigar smoke and tried to control her urge to draw away in repulsion.
“You have come here for business not to relay memories of a past life. You will do well to know your place.” She hissed as she rose from her seat, just slightly shorter than he was. “I asked you here for one reason and one reason only and that is my husband.”
The man smirked at her, “What would you like me to do my lady?”
“Execute him. He knows too much of our world.” Adeline stared intently at him judging his reaction.
“How would you like it to be done?” He grinned a wicked smile, revealing teeth razor sharp like a shark’s.
“Swiftly, we don’t want anyone asking questions.”
“Ahh… ‘If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly’.” He said smirking again at her.
“I did not know you had read Macbeth,” a skeptical look crossed her face.
“There is a lot of things you don’t know about me Adeline,” and with a final bow he turned and whisked away into the shadows, a cruel laugh the only trace that he was ever there, leaving Adeline with her own thoughts once again. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Adeline watched as the inebriated gentlemen stumbled out of a bar on the side of the road, shirts stained with spilt beer and saliva shining on their chins.
“Hello love, fancy a drink?” They called after her, their words barely audible. Adeline abruptly stopped, as the men stumbled out from beneath the cover of the porch, the moonlight illuminating their faces. Their eyes were like hollow black chasms, dripped in venom. They watched her with inhuman curiosity, no doubt ready to attack at the slightest movement. To humans these men appeared normal, but Adeline knew better.
“Well if you think you could show me a good night out,” Adeline laughed frivolously, gazing at them with allure. Adeline took in her surroundings, the abandoned street showing no signs of life before trailing her gaze back to the three men. “Or what’s left of the night anyway.” She sauntered up to the man closest to her and leaned into him seductively, caressing his cheek. “It’s too bad though…” She leaned forward to whisper in his ear, “…that we both know what you really are.” Her fingernails pierced the flesh of his cheek. Adeline could feel the black droplets of blood bead down his skin, staining her fingertips. In an instant Adeline had reached for her blade, concealed beneath the bow at her back.
She plunged the hilt deep into his stomach. She heard the air rush out of him as she withdrew the dagger and pushed his already decaying body away from her. Adeline took one last fleeting glance at the body, black veins now crawling up his neck to his face, penetrating his cloudy eyes. Only a dagger infused with dark magic could cause that.
“You bloody witch! I’ll…” His words were drowned out by a gurgling noise. Her blade shone in the moonlight, embedded in his throat. Adeline strode forward and retrieved her dagger, cleaning it on the man’s shirt. Spinning the dagger in her hands, she advanced on the last of the men.
He fearfully stared at her as she approached, desperately looking for an escape. Adeline felt disgusted by his aversion but could see that he had come to a resolve. The man collapsed to his knees and, much to her surprise and dismay, began pleading. “Please, don’t kill me.” A wide smirk crossed her face as she peered down at him. This could get interesting. “Oh, and what do you have that is of so much value to me?” Adeline began pacing in front of him, relishing the moment.
“I will tell you who sent me.” His voice rising with every word, believing that this miniscule piece of information was like gold in his hands. Adeline continued pacing, unperturbed. Growing wary, the man said in barely more than a whisper, “It was Harkin.” Adeline stopped immediately, her suspicions peaking. She turned to him anxiously, “What did you say?”
“Harkin. I said it was Harkin.” He said rushing to get his words out, “Am I allowed to go now?” He said peering up at her cautiously.
“Fine, go.” She said looking away from him, her thoughts running through her mind. Memories came rushing back to her. It can’t be true. Adeline was too busy to even notice the man bolting away into the night. Before he even reached the end of the street, he stumbled forward, lying in a pool of his own blood. The moon shined off the dagger that lay gleaming in his back.
Adeline arrived at the front gates of her house. The lights were out and she knew the house was desolate. No one would be awaiting her arrival inside, not anymore. She walked the last few steps towards the front door looking for signs of forced entry but the place was how she had left it. The front door creaked open revealing the deserted hallway as she had expected. The only indication that someone had been there before her, lay on the hallway table.
Adeline picked up the note. The deed is done. Until we meet again my dear Adeline. Furiously she scrunched up the note. It was time for her to leave this place, these memories of this life. Her eyes strayed to the picture sitting on the table of her and her husband down by the water. Her life was so carefree then, before he knew her secret. It feels like decades since then. A tear slid silently down her cheek. Another innocent life gone because you let your feelings get in the way.
Her anguish threatened to overwhelm her, control her. No! You brought this upon yourself and now you must deal with the consequences. With a final glance at the picture she abruptly turned it over so that she couldn’t see what she was leaving behind. It was time to move on, Adeline thought as she packed her bags for yet another journey to a whole other world.
Adeline stood by the pier holding onto her luggage, waiting for her ship to arrive. It had been several hours since she had abandoned her former home and all her possessions that she had accumulated over the years that she had lived there.
Others gathered around her, closing in on her. They were mostly young men saying their last goodbyes to their families, waiting for the ship that would take them on a long awaited journey. To them this was just an adventure. To Adeline, this was being born again.
“Moving on again are we?” His voice made Adeline cringe. How had he known I would be here? Adeline turned towards his voice, glaring at him in annoyance.
“Following me again are we?” Adeline didn’t try to hide the irritation that crept into her voice.
He smiled knowingly at her just revealing the sharpened tips of his teeth, “We both know that it’s my favourite pastime.” His smile vanished, a look of seriousness replacing it. “I came to see you off. It’s not every day that we must say farewell, although sometimes it feels like it.”
Adeline waved his comment off without a second thought, “I’m sure we’ll meet again. It’s only a matter of time before you hunt me down and disrupt my life again.” Adeline said trying to hide her doubts.
“Yes,” a hurt look crossed his face. Before Adeline could contemplate the reasoning behind it, he was gone.
“Goodbye Harkin.” She whispered into the night. “Until we meet again.” Adeline turned towards the incoming ship.
A new life awaited her now.
The Australian Literature Review