About the Story:
One day I came across this photo of a decaying building sitting on a cliff over a sea, and, struck by it, wondered: ‘What’s its story?’ Read what it told me.
Note: Two comments on the cover above reference a version with a soundtrack and sound effects accompanying the story. Regrettably, the company I produced that web-server version with switched their business model, and the enhanced version is no longer available.
The structure’s skeleton sat raw and crumbling with age and from the ravage of seasons and weather on a point of land over the sea. In a ruined bedroom overlooking the water, what was left of a once beautiful woman mourned her lost love. Decades ago, more years than she knew, she had found his body on the sharp rocks below, among those teeth of the sea that grind daily and will until everything was worn away except the memories and regrets of what she’d done. What she had caused. They weighed heavily as she stepped off the balcony each night to join him. When the moonfall sky turned to signal the coming sun, she must leave to climb the worn stone steps to cry until moonrise when she could return to him.
* * *
The couple had walked the beach for more than a mile; their last day, their last outing before flying back to the United States. Cameras in hand, the stark beauty of this part of the coast struck them. Jutting cliffs rose over the sea, and a jumble of rock and jagged stone amid patches of sand at their base.
Rounding a bend, they spotted the house. It had once been magnificent and offered a majestic view of the sea and coast. They made their way to almost directly underneath and, looking up, high above, were the remnants of what must have been a balcony. At their feet, chunks of masonry were buried in a bed of sand where the rocks that sat at the water’s edge sheltered them from the surf. Letting only swirls of water and the swash of seafoam spill over them. There were other things in the sand, too.
“Paul,” Angela swept the sea wrack away with her foot and stepped back. “Look!”
Paul stared at the two sets of tide-buried bones in the silt and sand. Their upper torso just reached the surface. The larger rode higher, spine arched, like a swimmer near drowning that had breasted, gasping for breath. The smaller skull rested on the shoulder bones of the larger set; a lighter-boned arm climbed from the sand to drape across its lower rib cage.
Angela knelt and used the bright blue scarf she took from her head to brush away some of the sand. A gust of seawind lifted the tops from the incoming waves and sprayed them as she leaned closer. What she’d cleared revealed more of the arm, something in its small skeletal fist. She nudged it with her scarf-wrapped hand. Shed of the sand, the circle of metal gleamed and came free. Angela touched the ring, and a stiffer blast came off the water with a keening sound through the rocks that made her grit her teeth. She picked it up; her hair whipped in the wind, and a tingle climbed her spine. The bad kind you get when you’ve done something you shouldn’t and got caught. She quickly rose. “I wonder who they were.” She looked above at the ruined house that watched over them. “And what happened?”
Paul shrugged. “It’s getting dark. We need to go.” He took several quick pictures and snapped his lens cap in place. “We’ll report this to the police back in town.”
They retraced their way along the beach. There was a lull in the wind. In the dead stillness, Angela turned, looked back to where the bones lay, and canted her eyes and ears up to the house. “Listen….”
“That sound.” Angela took her eyes from the house and glanced at the blue cloth, the ring wrapped inside, still in her hand, then at Paul. “I hear crying.”
* * *
The Polizia di Stato officer had flirted with her until he realized she was married and on her honeymoon. He put down the pad of paper he’d been making notes on.
“That palazzo is many centuries old. There are many reports of sounds, but no one has lived there for decades.”
“It was a woman. I know it,” Angela repeated.
The officer shrugged. “I’m sure it was just the wind.”
Paul asked, “What about the bones?”
“You gave clear directions where to find them.” The officer flashed his bright smile. “We’ve sent a forensics team to investigate. They’ll be brought in and checked to see if an identity can be determined.”
“What will happen to them and to this?” She touched the ring she’d given him, which was now in a clear plastic evidence bag beside his paperwork.
“The Carabinieri will find and notify any next of kin if we identify them.”
“And if not… or if there’s no next of kin?”
“Then the ring and a sample of the bones will be kept with the file, and the remnants cremated.”
* * *
Angela and Paul returned home to their newlywed life. It matured and became well-seasoned with years full of laughter and tears, sons and daughters, triumphs and tragedies. But at different times, as the decades flew by, her thoughts returned to that day. To that place at the foot of a seacoast cliff beneath an ancient ruined and forgotten estate thousands of miles away. Angela remembered what she’d heard and wondered if the woman still cried… and if she looked for her ring.
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