She was beautiful with an angelic face. Her face was a glowing white in the pale yellow haze from the full moon. Her features were artistic with big, slightly slanting grey eyes that were always shining with intelligence and curiosity. Her eyelashes were thick and black. The arches of her brow were fine. Her lips were a radiant pink of a rose petal, always ready to unveil the perfect pair of white teeth. Her hair long and wavy black were loosened from the effort she just made to transfer the huddled form from the Old House to this grass patch.
She sat down beside the crumpled form with a sigh. The grass beneath her was moist and damp. The moon above her head was a pale yellow. The grassy patch was pitch dark as far as the eyes can follow. One can spot the Old House a couple miles from the grassy patch with its white picket fence and the lonely glowing lamp at the front post. It was dark and humid. The air felt stale and it seemed difficult to breath. The pale deathly luminosity from the moon was the singular source that gave guidance to sight. The form, which seemed a bundled stack of hay, was lying against the old oak tree trunk. It stirred sensing the presence of another human being. Anastasia could only watch her old granny with dread and hopeless calmness at the same time, as a hissed sound escaped from the old woman’s parched lips.
Anastasia put her warm, small palm against the icy, sticky forehead and tried to transmit some form of courage to her dying grandmother. “Everything will be alright, Grandma”, she tried to sooth away the fear from the dying soul. “You see, there will be no pain in the heavens and you will also become one of the stars on the sky. Don’t worry; I will be here to take care of your remaining tasks. I will take care of everything and everyone!”
She couldn’t do anything else for the poor soul. Granny was too old now and she knew it with certainty in her heart that the time was near. She also knew that she was the one who had to help her granny in setting free her soul from the entangled cage of her old, miserable body. The task ahead was not easy but it had to be done anyway, as it was imminent if she wanted her granny’s old soul to depart to heavens of eternal bliss!
Slowly, she scooped out a small glass container from her worn out leather bag. With a steady hand, she began opening the cap. Mrs. White was watching her calm, steady movements with a shocked horror and fright. She was terrified at the prospect that Anastasia could be murdering her! Anastasia was her only grandchild from her deceased daughter. She was only 17 and yet she was outrageously fearless of the heinous crime she was about to commit.
“Annie, where have you bought me, my dear child? Take me home please”, Mrs. White could hear the panic in her voice. The pain in her body was killing her but it was nothing compared to the heartache she was going through when the realization of the weird situation hit her. It was like hot, molten lava poured right at her skull. “I want water, please Annie”, she gasped for fresh air and tried to moist her lips with her tongue. Anastasia, who was busy in trying to open the much tightened grip of the cap, stopped suddenly and looked at her grandmother with uncertainty. “Grandma, it will only take a few moments, then the butterflies will take you to heavens, trust me!” she assured her. “Just drink this nectar and all your pain will be gone. Don’t you remember, you were always cursing your old bones and arthritis for all the sufferings and pain? How you wish to get rid of the unbearable torture of dragged days and sleepless nights, this bone disease brings your way. No potion, no medicine works to bring you peace but I have this gift which will take away all the pains from you and your soul shall be free. Grandma, I know you are worried about me but I will be alright. I know how to take care of myself and others”, she smiled with courage and reassurance. Her every word and every move was cold and calculated.
Mrs. White could feel the chill running down her spine. She doesn’t want to believe that her own grandchild was happily presenting her the gift of death. That too, because, this insane little girl thought that death was a better prospect instead of living with pain and sufferings! She just doesn’t want to believe, recalling with mounting certainty that for the past few weeks, the lethargy and constant, seemingly unending pain she was living through were also the charity from Anastasia, in the form of slow poison! But, she had to lip her notion. “Annie, my dear, I am fine and I am going to live. This is no way to end life just because of old age and pains. I will be alright, you will see. Come my child, take me home.” She tried to put courage and comfort in her quivering voice. She was praying that the thoughts racing in her mind at the prospect of slow poisoning were wrong.
Suddenly, Anastasia looked at her grandmother with shocked eyes. Her reaction changed from shock to dread and then to mute coldness in a fraction of a few seconds. She replied with a wooden expression, “but Grandma, you are not going to live. Can’t you see? I am helping you to get rid of this ugly world and all its sadness, desolation, hardships and agony. I can’t see you like this. Don’t you remember Mrs. Garfield a few months back? She was not happy at our old house. She had cancer and she was afraid of dying with the slow torturous death that the horrific disease brings. She was tired of her chemo sessions and wanted an eternal escape. You remember?” She was shouting like a maniac now and her voice echoed with gruesome insistency. She stood up and started moving as if touched by a spell. She continued her story, “Then, just a week before the Mother’s Day, she said her eternal good byes to all of us. She was so peaceful in her sleep. They laid her in the coffin and yet, there was this beautiful smile on her face. Remember?!?!?!!”
Mrs. White was terrified at the way Anastasia started running around in the field, with her hair loose and wild, flowing like a dark veil behind her back. She could hear the tears and laughter all at once. As if she was gleeful at the thought of the corpse’s smile in the coffin while teary at the knowledge, that it was her, who had helped the poor soul escape from the anguish of this chaotic world.
Oh my goodness, so Mrs. Garfield was the prey to Anastasia’s cruel schemes. Mrs. White couldn’t believe her ears but the truth was evident from the hysterical bantering of the paranoid female circling in front of her. How could this slight of a girl be so heartless to kill a living soul? It was beyond her comprehension. Her mind was closing and the breaths starting coming in gasps. The pain was becoming unbearable with every passing moment. She felt as if her body was tightly entangled with an iron barbed wire, tearing her flesh and squishing her bones in powdered fragments.
She was certain that she won’t be able to see the morning sun, when her murder was so immaculately designed by her own blood. She thought about the few old ladies sleeping peacefully back at the Old House. Many of them were suffering with chronic diseases. Would Anastasia bring the same fate to all? The thought was enough to freeze her blood in her veins. How can she stop this murderous little creature from inflicting more harm to the poor souls? Who knows, she has already started playing her disastrous schemes on those old beings.
She remembered with much grief, how Mrs. Garfield was waiting for the Mother’s Day, so that her only son will visit him with his twin daughters. Alas! Anastasia took her last happy moments away from her and she thinks she is doing them all a favor! The audacity of the split personality of her grand-daughter was crystal clear in the pale yellow haze from the full moon in the sky. Like a mosaic with different shades of black and white. Where white metaphorically defines the beauty of her outlook and the black deciphers the evils residing in her heart and cruelty of her soul. She started weeping with the helplessness of a new born child.
Anastasia came running back to her and was startled to find her hugging the trunk of the old tree, as if trying to shield herself away from her evil. Anastasia put her warm hand over the nape of Mrs. White’s neck and tried to feel her heartbeat. She immediately sensed that the old woman was weeping and she turned the old lady’s face towards the moon. “Grandma, I know you are in excruciating pain but please don’t cry.” She started crying herself. “Please, don’t be sad. I cannot see you unhappy. I cannot bear to see you in pain. This nectar will take away all your pains. It’s just a little bitter but you never noticed its presence in your night porridge, see? I am feeding you this since last three weeks and tonight will be its last dose, one last drop. You shall be free and happy then. You will shine bright in the sky and I will be so content that you are at a safe place. I love you. Trust me, everything will be fine.” Trying to comfort the dying old lady, she wiped her tears and once again tried to open the cap of the container.
“Anastasia! Don’t you see what have you done?” Mrs. White’s voice was nothing but a whimper in pain. “What about the other ladies at the Old House? You will also kill them one by one? Is this the way to bring people relief? To kill them and devoid them of any remaining happiness that life has to offer! What kind of thinking is this, my child? Why are you doing this-issss?” Mrs. White collapsed against the tree as another wave of pain and nausea gripped her. She clenched her teeth so as to bear the intensity of stinging spasm of agony which was gnawing her insides as if the organs were being shred to pieces with sharp blades and she doubled.
Anastasia has finally taken off the cap from the container and was observing the contents with much curiosity. Her grandmothers’ questions jolted her out of some deep thoughts. “Oh Grandma, they all will soon be free to enjoy the eternal bliss. I have laid out carefully planned measures for each and every one of them and one day, we all shall meet in the heaven; then only, you all are going to thank me. And, don’t worry, nobody will ever find out about it. This is the new nectar. Much advance than the old one. It is so potent that it destroys the worldly bodies in minutes and disappears from blood within six hours. I have just got it today, from the new vendor. Therefore, no one will ever find out that the freedom from the world was caused by this poison.” She explained her triumph without any remorse.
There was a sudden sharp, loud, crackling sound of thunder and it started raining, drenching them both within minutes. The moon hid behind the dense clouds, making the visibility an effort. The damp mud became soggy and started clinging to the body. Mrs. White suddenly made a decision. “Anastasia, my child, what better way to end this pain with your warm hands pouring down this potion to my throat and for the last time, I want to feed you something, just like old times.”
Anastasia seemed to ponder the idea for a minute then replied, “Grandma, we do not have anything to eat here so you cannot feed me anything.” Mrs. White carefully hissed through her teeth, unable to argue with the ever growing pain, “Annie, my child, let me pour some rain water in your mouth. You can then pour this potion through my lips and we shall say a happy good bye to each other”.
Saying this, she crooked her cold palm and started gathering the rain water within it. With all her might she crouched herself up against the tree trunk and stable her to perform her last ever deed. With as better judgment as she could, she pushed her hand against Anastasia’s hand, accidently spilling all the major portion of the potion onto her palm carrying the rain water and immediately put her palm against her granddaughter’s lips. Before Anastasia had a chance to understand what happened in the split of a second, she was drinking the water from her granny’s palm. Mrs. White then smiled with tears in her eyes and kissed the forehead of her beloved child. Anastasia, who was still getting used to the bitter taste of the water in her mouth, pleasingly put the container with the leftover contents to Mrs. White’s lips. The old woman contentedly sipped the last drops of nectar and said her goodbyes to life silently.
Anastasia lifted herself up with her head moving in circles. She laid her granny to rest against the old oak tree trunk. She straightened herself, gathered her belongings in a semi conscious state and started to walk feebly towards the Old House. Mrs. White had not lost all her consciousness yet but could feel her lower body going numb. She started praying and watching with blurred eyes as Anastasia tumbled with difficulty to find her way back in the darkness and constantly falling rain. With a few footsteps came a loud thud of someone falling on the ground with full weight.
At the same moment, the moon glimpsed its pale haze gloom and Mrs. White saw the huddled, lifeless form of her grandchild on the muddy soil with the downpour drenching everything. Her beautiful grey eyes bulging out in a shock, her luminous white face stretched on to her delicate bones, her pink lips slightly apart showing her perfect set of white teeth. Her glorious black hair surrounding her face as the dark clouds encircled the moon above. Mrs. White took her final breath contentedly as she had had managed to erased the black shades off the mosaic of Anastasia’s personality and what remained behind was the sparkling white beauty of her lifeless body.