DISCLAIMER: Deadman’s Tome is a dark and gritty horror zine that publishes content not suitable for children. The horror zine proudly supports the freedom of dark creative works and stands against censorship. Hardly any subject matter is too taboo for this horror zine. As a result, Deadman’s Tome may feature content your mother would not approve of. But she doesn’t control your life, right?
It’s too bad she’s dead.
But the breathtaking landscape below strips away any guilt. A rushing kaleidoscope of color and life, the vivid greens of the trees, the blue swirls of the lakes, and the turbulent whites of the river rapids balance and contrast to paint the perfect picture. The crisp mountain air madly whistling past welcomes me in its breezy embrace. The scents and sounds rising from the unspoiled forest seduces and tempts. I wish that I had come sooner. She was right: this could be the most beautiful place on Earth.
Again, it’s hard to feel regret surrounded by such splendor, but still…
It’s too bad she’s dead.
She had begged me to take her here to see her ancestral lands off the mountaintop one last time, but she was too sick. The doctors warned of the complications such an arduous trip could have on her treatment. I convinced her to wait until she felt better or at least for a break in the chemo cycle.
Despite the efforts of the hospital, the best doctors, and the doting nurse with the sparkling blue eyes, she never got better—straight downhill all the way. The sicker she became the more she insisted on the trip, rationalizing that the aesthetics of the stunning vistas would be therapy for her wasting. As tenacious as she was beautiful, she persuasively argued that it would be a holistic treatment, a nourishing of the five senses to enliven the well-being of the whole.
However, her rationalizations were for naught, the risks outweighing the potential benefit. The doctors stood firm— it simply wasn’t prudent, no proven science backing her assertions. The last time she asked she was in such grave state that even the most ethically neglectful hospital wouldn’t have allowed it. She anticipated this privately divulging an elaborate escape plan to me. She knew this to be her final opportunity. However, her health was too important to indulge in this destructive whim. I denied her pleas with the repeated pledge that as soon as she got a little better we would go.
My words rang hollow as if the acoustics in the room had quit so offended by the deceit. I knew that she knew that I knew: she wouldn’t get any better—that day would never come.
She became angry, violently so, a flame burning its brightest before the end. She demanded the blue-eyed nurse reassigned from her care and sloppily ripped out her IVs. However, she was too weak to stand without help. I calmed her as only I could by forcing her to look deep into my eyes. The fires in her own faded as they always did. She couldn’t help but to stoke my jawline in admiration of its squared symmetry. She mumbled incoherently, but I knew her well enough to translate.
My God you are a beautiful man.
She made me promise that if she didn’t make it, I would go to her mountaintop and savor the view for the both of us. And that was all. She never mentioned it again, resigned to a world of four white walls and a chemical haze.
The funeral was two years ago to today. I delayed coming long enough, always with an excuse: commitments and maintenance from the job, family, various girlfriends, and various breakups… Never was there a convenient time for the long flight and subsequent drive into the remote forest.
But, true to my word, I am finally here.
Driving up the mountain as far as the rutted dirt road allows, I leave the rented jeep at the village sliced into the severe grade of the land. The huts here are simple, no modern amenities, every door opened wide. An uninviting blackness lurks behind each of these thrown doorways like a curse. It is as if the surrounding nature was so insulted by the walls built to shelter it out that it punished them with this ugly darkness.
The native women busying themselves around the close-cropped homes remind me of her with their striking good looks. There are no men around, and no sign they even exist. Perhaps in this old world place they are simply away on a hunt. However, this mystery is of little concern, the unrivaled beauty of every one of the exceptional women dominating my attention. And the best part, I get a few appreciative looks in return.
Something to look forward to on the way back down.
From the splendor that abounds in this unsullied corner of the globe, I wonder if some essence of beauty had been infused into these indigenous people. Could a beauty gene have evolved over the many generations who had lived in this verdant place? I remember her lusty eyes and sensuous hands tracing the muscle definition in the tone of my body. It’s not difficult to image her having had a genetic predilection, some hard-wired infatuation of beauty.
As she wanted, I pretend she is with me during the climb up the mountain. She pushes me every step up the rocky switchback trail impatient to see the resplendent sights from on top of the ivory cliffs. All those hours in the gym have me in good enough shape that there is no need to stop and rest. It’s a fortunate thing too, she having had to wait for so long.
The air is thin at the peak, but there is no time to catch my breath. She pushes me to the ledge and its wondrous view, eager to digest this beauty one last time. The scenery doesn’t disappoint, the landscape stretching below the overhang in all directions demanding to be savored.
And so we do.
And she pushes me.
I hear the forest over the rush of air. The wonderful percussion of the creaking trees, the melodic birdcalls, and the drone of the waterfall grows louder and louder. The lush canopy of the towering dark wood is an artistic marvel in both its whole and its detail, the veiny patterns of the mahogany big leaves coming into focus. Striking the top, I am rewarded with the distinctive leather-like scent released from the clean breaks of the blood-red branches. The larger limbs don’t snap caressing my body in bruise colored kisses instead.
The graceful animals below scatter across the forest floor. They race through the complex pathways visible from my perspective, worn trails cut into the flora from centuries of hunting in this unspoiled preserve. Many of the tracks lead to the conspicuous cropping of red stained rocks directly below. The boulders draw the eye, the rust colored splatter art sprayed across the alabaster stones telling a story. Like any master picture, it opens a window beyond me ripping Vanity’s mirrored hands from my eyes. And for the first time I see a glimmer of meaning and purpose.
In her forest, under branch and above root, amongst the birds of fine plumage and the mammals of keen pelt: an altar of stone where the beautiful feed.