|Watcher of the Guillotine
I stood there patiently. For how long I did not know, as time had lost most of its impact on my body and mind. Often I watched the executions, and often had I throat, I would have felt it clench as the blade fell. My name is Maev Maclaren, and I’m only a specter. A ghost who held residence in this place of limbo to guide the martyr’s bodies back to their heads after their souls had split and shuddered into the after-life.
As I waited, I studied the people and things around me. The crowd made no noise, as I had learned to mask their cries and shouts. The people surrounding the guillotine jumped up and down, fists punching at the air and mouths opened wide exposing dark pink mouths and decaying teeth.
The man at the center of the mass stood on the wooden platform that was raised above ground level for all eye’s visual hunger. His hair was dark; black or brown I couldn’t tell, as I was stationed at a distance. His complexion was fair, compared to the tanned and leather-faced farmers and merchants who chanted for his death. His clothes were dirty rags, torn and tousled after beatings and jail time. The man’s face seemed nearly hollow, with high cheekbones created after lack of food and dark circles under his eyes. Under his lips, the purple-green-black of a bruise showed clearly. It was difficult not to feel sorry for these people when I watched.
Once I had found it humorous as the spirit erupted from the body and their arms waved about, not being able to see anything but the dark. But then I had remembered. Thoughts had flown past that I too had seen the blackness. I knew how frightening it was. I traced the scars that graced my misty throat with my fingers. I had died in the same manner of these revolutionists.
I had been placed in France. It was the time of the great revolution and the time of great use for the guillotine. Choosing to unmask the people’s voices, I learned that the date was 1790, and halfway through springtime. It had been nearly five-hundred years since my death in Scotland during the wars between my homeland and England.
My dear brother, Robert the Bruce had been dead quite a long time as well, and often I longed to speak with him. He had been the outlawed king, and King Edward I who was against his return to gain the Scottish throne had captured myself and my brother’s wife. Both of us had stood beside Robert in his attempt to fight off the English invaders of our beloved country. But at one point, Robert had been in hiding on Rathlin Island off of the shores of Northern Ireland and had not been able to stop our abduction. The English King had then given the Comyn family permission to take Scotland for their own. And in 1308, Edward I sentenced and observed our deaths upon the guillotine which was the new machine for execution. Robert the Bruce defeated the Comyn faction in his sorrow and lust for revenge and not long after Edward I died, his son Edward II made peace with my brother and Scotland was free from English tyranny.
After Robert had become King, I stayed in the world of the living. I didn’t know where to go, and I could not remember much of my life. At one point, Robert traveled to France with me following behind, and there I met a man named Michel Adelaide who was able to see and speak with me. There on the streets of Paris he told me my task and then vanished. There I became stuck, and Robert moved on without me in pursuit.
I pushed my thoughts away from the past and glanced about. I saw the green vegetation growing and longed to touch their leaves. In the gardens that the rich townspeople grew, there was a massive array of colorful flowers that I often strolled alongside, but never am I able to smell their pleasant aroma.
Though death wasn’t as fearsome as some thought it to be, it did have it’s disadvantages as well. I have no taste. I can not touch anything outside of my realm, but I can smell certain things, such as the smell of death, blood, and decay. These foul scents surrounded me. I turned my thoughts away from my seemingly eternal predicament. I stood, and then glided towards the man whose head had fallen into the basket.
As the man’s body quivered one last time, his spirit shivered out into my world. I floated over to the man’s head. Reaching down, I lifted up its spiritual remains. He righted his body, and his arms reached forward; grasping at nothing. I leaned towards his arms, and handed him his head. They always knew what to do when the round object was put into their hands. He placed it onto his throat, and coughed as though he had been choked.
The man looked my way, and his shoulders slumped. The brown dirt-caked tunic he wore nearly slid off of his right arm.
“You know,” he said, simply. “I didn’t even do anything.”
“Of course not. No one ever does.” I replied, trying to sound gentle. The men often thought that it was needed to explain themselves, despite it being too late to fix their fate. Women never reasoned out why they were executed, or why they shouldn’t have been, it was as if they had already come to terms with destiny.
“And I suppose you hear that all the time.” He rubbed the back of his head at an imaginary itch, I could just barely see his graceful hand through his skull.
“Not necessarily.” I stated, not looking into the man’s eyes. I never knew the exact details of those I helped, but peculiarly enough, they all had received the same sentencing. I was connected with these people we all had died as anarchists . Continuing my words, I glided closer to the man.
“Monsieur, you must move on.” Finally, I looked into his eyes. They were a cerulean blue and very exquisite. My own eyes I had forgotten the color of. I remembered that my mother had told me they were very beautiful, while one boy, when I was younger, had told me they were extremely plain.
“I thought this was it. You…you mean, Madame, that I must travel even further?” He put his palm against his forehead. “Can I not stay here?” He smiled at me. “With you, death wouldn’t be nearly as terrible.”
“Ah, yes. Sir, your attempt at charm will not work on me.” I returned his smile slightly. It was strained. I touched his shoulder, here I could touch things. Here I could feel things, it was wonderful every chance I received. “It will be…Alright.”
“Do you know for certain? Why are you not there then? Instead of picking heads out of baskets? Merde!” The man looked anxious and angry. I hoped to calm him quickly, and I rubbed my hand along his back in a comforting manner. I could feel his spine and ribs jutting out beneath his shirt. This man had gone without a well nourishing meal for some time.
Spirits typically knew they were dead. But once told that there was to be a second passing, they became frustrated under any aggravation.
“I believe monsieur, that this is the stage for the dead to umm…Complete themselves.” It was difficult to explain. I didn’t know anymore then what I was supposed to do, and how to accomplish that task. The rest I had to find out for myself.
Please let him grasp this concept. Please, I thought to myself; my eyes were closed in my pleading.
The voices become so piercing when the dead don’t wish to move on. This place, this level of the spiritual world was not meant to be resided in for long. Only I could stay permanently.
Almost immediately after my wish to whoever governed the afterlife, the screaming had started. In not but a moment, the man’s eyes had darkened into black holes, no definition of what his beautiful eyes had been could be seen. He was shaking, and his fair skin had grown gray. The only color on his entire being was the red blood that slowly slid down his throat from where it and his head had been separated not long before.
The sounds emitted from his mouth were shrill, and I wished that I could shut off the sounds of this world like I could with the living. My eardrums panged again and again as the noises increased in volume.
It was difficult to calm an erupted spirit. It took an extreme amount of energy. I kept still, though I secretly wished to curl up and quiver to escape from the man’s unearthly tones.
Around me, the crowd had been gone for a long time. The guillotine’s blade had been wiped off, though flecks of dried blood still remained. I spread my arms, and palms facing down I closed my eyes. I had to draw energy from my world into myself to have enough strength to stop the man. If I didn’t, his spirit would become restless and he would travel back to plague the world of the living. Finally, after what seemed to be an extended period of time, I had enough.
Opening my eyes I called out his name, remembering it from the chants before his execution.
“Armel Laroque.” His face turned towards my own. I had his attention.
I turned my palms so they faced Laroque, and then brought them closer together so my arms stuck out straight ahead. The screams could not distract me, as I was concentrating on the throbbing energy that surrounded my body. I moved my feet so that I came closer to him, and I then placed one of my hands over his mouth, and the other over his eyes. I could feel him trying to evade me, but nevertheless I had much more strength. Armel’s jaw moved from side to side and I could feel his eyes darting about from beneath his eyelids under my palm.
I closed my eyes once more, and spiritually shoved all of the energy I had collected into his being. Letting go as his body convulsed, I backed away and he fell to the ground silent and motionless.
Taking an unnecessary deep breath, I gathered my long skirts around my legs and sat down near Armel’s figure. In a few moment’s time, he would wake and be calm. I looked around, and my world had turned black and white. Somehow, whenever I had to take in energy, the colors vanish. They would return, but slowly, the light colors coming first, and then the more vibrant colors coming last.
His eyes fluttered open, and he looked at me.
“Madame. I…I apologize.” He still quivered, but his eyes had returned to their vibrant blue, and he was no longer gray in color.
“Don’t apologize, Armel. It’s happened before…” I smiled and placed my head on my knees as I looked at him. After a few minutes of quiet and rest I then asked,
“Now, are you ready?”
“I suppose so. Yes, I am. I haven’t got much of a choice now do I?” He stood and looked off to the left, where the first colors had started to appear.
“You need to walk through that.” I said, standing up and pointing to the colors. An orange light was starting to show.
“Your name though? I wish to know…Who umm, saved me.” Armel glanced at his feet and then returned his focus to my face.
“Maev.” I said, and grinned at his confusion.
“You are not French? But you speak it so well!” He seemed awestruck and his eyes widened.
“Of course I’m not.” I teased. “I’m not even speaking French. You just perceive me to be because that is the way of these worlds it seems.” I had never learned French, and hearing myself speak, I knew I was not speaking it either.
There was silence for a few moments, and then I started again almost sternly, “Now, Armel. Walk. Walk and enjoy what lies ahead.”
He nodded his head in my direction, then turned to stride towards the orange color.
“Au revoir!” Armel called to me. He began to sprint and then disappeared quite suddenly.
The orange along with the rest of the colors that I had taken slowly leaked down and returned to the places they belonged, on flowers and fruits and baskets and clothing; back into the world that I shared with the living. I turned my head towards the guillotine and watched the shadows dance and play on it’s blade and wood planks as the sun began to set. Tomorrow there would be another execution, and tomorrow I would be watching once more. But for now, I could simply rest and think.