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Time Upon a Once
Time Upon a Once
He loves the incandescent twinkling of the early rays of morning,
He loves the crisp scent of the first frost,
He loves the instantaneous melody of birds singing,
“Morning.” My wandering train of thought crashes into oblivion as a shaggy old shoemaker greets me, his crippled body incrusted with the mark of time. I returned his greeting in a melancholy manor. It seemed insulting to greet someone joyously, because there was nothing remotely joyous in Equussolum now. Not with people being dragged off by the Black Queen to fight in a doomed army for a greedy cause.
They took someone in my village last night. His screams echoed inside my body long after he had been hauled away. It wasn’t my own safety that kept me awake for countless nights, for I had been pardoned from the draft on a lame leg. No, Roman was, as he has been for a while, my only concern. My time was running out, time I shouldn’t have obtained at all.
One turns to none, none turns to space
Dripping into my brain,
Conquering my heart
I still remember the first time my misty eyes captured the pure image that is Roman. Optimistic young apprentices, we both had entered the field of hat making. When I first met him, a strange sensation washed over me, drowning me in a strong surge of the unknown.
“Roman, meet Rumpitur. Rumpitur, meet Roman. I suggest you two learn how to get along, you’ll be spending many hours in each others company.” The hatter had advised. And just like that, “Roman” was engraved like an internal star, guiding me to happiness.
Three years later, I’ve long since grown to recognize those feelings that had erupted at our first meeting. I suppose, “recognize” is a meager word to justify the intense fiery love that inscribes my being deeper ever day. Then again, no words can really capture the true worth of Roman. But I’ve tried. I try everyday, writing poems and reciting them to the attentive trees on my solemn journey to work. Poems that Roman will
I’ve come close to letting it slip, to unravel my only purpose in life to him. Unfortunately, the man who loves Roman is cowardly, lost, and unworthy. But today…today is different. I hold my heart in my arms in a tall, flat-crowned, broad-brimmed hat covered in lace with a purple silky ribbon. It conceals my secret. For tucked thoughtfully under the silky ribbon is a piece of parchment with the inscriptions of my passion. It must be today.
Black creatures that claw and leer, he is the one that brought them here.
Taunting unmoved motions, waiting to kill.
The feeble bells twinkle as the ineffective door creeks open, letting in a ray of light and my worn leather shoe followed by the rest of my anticipating body. My eyes found Roman, perched quietly at his station, an aura of joy glowed around him, filling the room with swirls of hope.
“Good morning Roman.” I spoke feebly, breaking his concentrated silence.
Roman looked up from his work and his singing eyes met mine as smile as sweet as honey spread across his perfect lips. “Good morning Rumpitur. Glad you got here safely.”
I crossed the musty and cluttered room to my station, which was parallel to his, and delicately placed the parcel containing my confession on the bench. “Of course, were you expecting trouble?” I questioned, now sensing unease in Roman’s face.
His face contracted in a sorrowed expression, “You know they are taking people Rumpitur. The villages are starting to converge in confusion. Anyone could be taken next. Rumpitur, don’t tell me you aren’t scared.”
My whole body chilled, seeing my bright love turn into a guarded ball of fear. I walked over to his station and answered, “I am terrified. My neighbor was taken last night. A young farmer, practically our age. I heard his screams and they racked my body and tortured my mind all night.” I paused and allowed myself a small release; “I’m scared for you. I can’t be taken, but you can. Roman, they can take you away.” Even the idea of being without Roman was an anchor, dragging me down to my watery doom.
Down, down, down in a spiraling slump,
Winter’s breath freezes this fragile heart
Roman spoke softly as he came around his station and stood beside me, I could feel the fear pulsing from him. “You never can tell with the Black Queen, her heart is as black as her name. Rumpitur, I-I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“Listen to me Roman, we are important. What we do is renowned, our business is known throughout all of Equussolum! The Queen herself has bought our hats for her and the whole court! Maybe she’s had us pardoned.” I’m grasping at wisps of words, trying to form some sort of comfort for Roman as well as myself. Before I could stop myself, my hand reached out delicately and touched Roman’s shoulder, a gesture of comfort and self-assurance.
Jingling lights spread through my flesh,
Right now is heaven, but what comes with the rest?
Before all my fluttered thoughts could collect themselves, a startling sensation shot through me. Roman had covered my hands with his, we were connected, and every one of my senses was working overtime to produce one surging emotion: pure joy. In that moment I felt safe, I felt serene, I felt loved. My lips parted with newfound confidence, “Roman, I-“
SMASH! Our pitiful door flew open and in marched my undoing. Three brutish soldiers halted in front of us and barked “Roman Petasus, we have a warrant to take you to the Black Queen’s army. You will come with us immediately.”
Oceans retreat, sun dies, the spin of time resets
Tick-tock lays my soul to rest
Everything stilled as the syllables worked their way through our minds. They were taking Roman away, away to his inevitable death. Today, the day I was suppose to tell him how Roman he was the melody of my song. My chest contracted and burned with the fires of hell.
“No! Your Queen has enough without taking a young, poor, innocent, Hatter! Take, take, take. That’s all your Queen does. You have plenty soldiers, leave us alone!” I screech with anguish. My mind is no longer mine own, my from my mouth runs the words I’ve never said fueled by the emotions that I have suppressed for years.
A brute hand struck my jaw with such precision I was assured that my attacker found great joy in doing so. My head rushed to the unforgiving floor. Colors exploded and taunted my spinning eyes. I heard an yowl, then some struggled rustling. Roman seemed to be yelling my name, but it was growing fainter. Where was he going?
Cascading blurs fog my head; the rhythmic beating of my heart has gone dark
A question ringing true, “Where are you?”
As one hand wipes warm blood off my swollen lip, the other hand assists my frazzled body lift itself from the floor. My eyes find Roman, my beautiful Roman, being dragged harshly into a wooden cart that has now started moving. Leaving any fears I had at the door, I race after Roman. My heart beating wildly against my rebelling body pushing me faster and faster.
I reach the wooden prison and attack it with all of my being, trying to free Roman from his tomb.
My frightened hand finds Roman’s when the black-hearted guards rip me fiercely away. Down, down, down rain their fists. In my semi-conscious state I hear a strangled cry, “Rumpitur, no! Leave him alone! Rumpitur!”
Roman is screaming my name as he beats his way out of his imprisonment.
Suddenly, I am no longer the soldier’s priority and one moves towards Roman. My heart is beating a millions miles a minute but is completely still at the same time. Roman, my love, rushes towards me, trying to save me. “Run,” why, oh why does he have to possess such an unconditionally loving heart? “Run, why don’t you run! Roman get out of here!” I bellow as the guard closes in on Roman.
An impending flash of silver catches my eye, and despite my battered body I am on my feet, only to be restrained by the other brute.
“Now watch and learn your lesson you piece of s***.” The man growls with at me.
I kick the guard and howl, “Run Roman! Please! Run!” The monstrous guard approaches Roman, sword in hand, purpose in his eye. I see Roman and my eyes well with the first of many tears.
Roman tries to avoid the impending strike. Alas, a hatter is no match for a trained soldier. In one grotesquely simple movement, I watch with utmost horror as the sword disappears and then reappears through the other side of Roman. Innocent, crimson blood pools from my sweet Roman as the metallic killer is drawn out from him.
The sorrow of a million suffering people is nothing compared to the pain that is tearing my body apart and burning my heart into ashes of regret. I witness my Roman start to sway, his knees buckling from the effort to stay alive. My captor releases me with a sneer, chortling as I dash to catch Roman as he collapses. I hear the guards leave me to my misery.
My feeble hands clutch my reason to live as it dies. “Roman, I-I” I choke out.
Roman’s hypnotizing eyes begin to close as his paling face forms a sweet yet fragile smile. Still with the shadow of a smile, his vivid eyes close for the last time. In my unworthy arms, my heart dies along with my chance of redemption.
Hollow, I am hollow as I lift his beautiful corpse from the stained grass. I am hollow with each step I feel myself drain of sanity, and fill with an enraged remorse. With Roman’s warm but limp body in my arms, I cross through our shop and gently lay down his precious body on the hard workbench. I grab a wad of the fabric Roman had been using and delicately place it under his lifeless head.
Solemnly, I lift the hat I was suppose to give to Roman out of its concealing box. Shaking as grief wracks my body, I remove the poem from the hat and clutch it in my hand. I place the hat on my head as a permanent reminder of the cost of my cowardliness and the one who held the melody to my song. I do not unravel the parchment, for that honor was for Roman’s hands alone. The last once of love contained in my broken body sinks into these words,
These hidden words can say what I cannot, speaking of all the love of which you’ve brought. You are my song, so sweet and true, until the end of time will I love you.
I place my lips on the paper, then place it tenderly in Roman’s breast pocket, right over his still heart.
He loves the infatuating glow of sunrise,
He loves the delectable crinkle of freshly baked bread,
He loves the melancholy chime of the midnight owl,