Once upon a time, there was a curse that scourged the land.
People did not know of its origins, or its cure. It spread from man to man in a matter of days. The infected grew pale and weary with black snake-like patterns crawling in their skin, until finally, with no warning, they draw their last breath.
Towns were housed only by ghosts and kingdoms would crumble from the death and famine running amok. Wanting no part in this curse and hunger, the healthy and limber turned to witch hunting, executing the infected before their plague could spread any further. Brothers were killing their sisters, mothers killing their children, and husbands killing their wives. It was a time when love had no place in the world.
One day, in the village of Bellendern, the apothecary’s lover was infected with the curse.
The apothecary’s name was Durris and his other half was a man named En. Durris was known in the village as this bright and gentle soul, while En was a grumpy little hermit. Yet even a bright and gentle soul can’t handle the scourge of the curse. The citizens were obligated to report and hand in any infected, even ones only suspected to be, for judgment. Instead, Durris kept En in his workshop, intent on creating a cure. His heart would have a piece taken every time he would see En vomit with traces of blood and hear his chest heaving.
En, too, felt the same.
Each ratio of tonics and herbs, of newt eyes and crystals, none of them worked to create a cure for the apothecary’s love. Durris spiraled into his notes and old tomes of healing, not knowing the sadness of En. It was not because of his imminent death that pained En, but the sacrifices of his Campanella.
Having had enough, En rose from his bed after being bed-ridden for weeks, his muscles were anchors and his bones were rickety beams. He stumbled in the hallway and finally reached the door to Durris’s room. Durris didn’t hear En come in, his eyes swollen from the lack of sleep. En wrapped his arms around him, startling Durris. He pecked En softly, En remebering warmth after his skin turned cold from the disease.
“I’m tired,” Durris said.
“You need to rest,” En replied, touching Durris’s cheek.
“Go back and rest, En.”
“You’re sick, En.”
At that moment, En’s temper flared.
“I’m here, you know! I’m not dead!” En bellowed, his throat felt like it was laden with knives. “I can’t just accept that you’re almost driving yourself insane for me!”
Durris suddenly stood up, the chair he was sitting on toppling down with a bang. “You think I can just stand here, watching you wither away?” he snapped at En, walking closer and En moving back. “I can’t accept that you’re dying, En!” Durris’s voice boomed, making En fall to the wooden floor. He was horrified at the outburst he showed to En. His words were choked and his tears were on tap. Durris stormed out of the room and En tried to grab the cuff of Durris’s trousers to try and stop him.
He shook of En’s wordless pleas.
The workshop’s front door opened, then shut with the lock’s snap.
En was hugging his knees, weeping.
Durris was walking in the village square, the morning sky burning to make way for night, the houses empty, and the air carrying the lamenting of the birds. He was thinking about what he said, rubbing his brows to calm himself down. It is hard to believe, he thought, that that impatient imp can love me so. En almost always teased him about the way he calmed himself when thinking. En would say that it only adds to his age, plus the wrinkles from his work.
He missed En’s jeering tone.
A smile formed at the corner of his lips.
What a fool I am, Durris thought.
A boy wearing rags ran into him, dragging him back to the waking world. The boy stared him, trembling in fear, and suddenly pushed Durris then continued to run away. Within earshot, he could hear yelling in the farthest corner of the square. He turned to the source and saw the same ragged boy being handed three copper pieces by an armed group of Bellendern villagers.
Uneasiness swept over Durris, almost drowning him, unable to move.
The villagers began their march, and Durris darted to the workshop to protect En.
The workshop doors opened in a flash, out of breath. He clambered up the steps and went in En’s room. In the pool of white sheets was a curled figure.
“En, we have to go!” Durris urgently said.
“I’m tired,” En replied weakly.
Durris, in a hurry, wrapped En in blankets and lifted him onto his back.
“Where are we going?!” screamed En.
“We need to leave!”
There were sharp knocks at the front door, and a gnarled voice crackled.
“For suspicions of treason, the village of Bellendern has unanimously decided that Mr. Durris and Mr. En be judged immediately by the council. Please do not resist, so force is not to be used.”
“I can walk,” En said, already grasping the situation.
“We don’t need to walk, we need to run.”
Durris, with En on his back, sprinted to the workshop’s backdoor and ran into the woods near the village. Their assailants were in pursuit. Durris turned left, right, and hid behind the oversized roots of the trees. They ran and ran, and hope continued to grow as the shouts grew ever quieter. They reached a clearing in the woods, realizing that night has fallen and the stars were blinking.
A whistling noise pierced through the woodlands’ serenity.
It was a bullet.
Durris dropped in the grass, staining the green blanket red. En fell beside him, and his face contorted into horror. Durris was panting in agony, every breath and slight movement was a punishing spear.
En’s eyes were stung with by his tears. En tried to apply pressure, but Durris howls of pain rippled through the silent forest.
He tried to get up, but the disease crippled him. So, he crawled. Not only did his legs fail him, but also his eyes. It was too dark to recognize any medicinal herbs. En was pulling wildly on random stems, the stars unforgiving with their sight in a moonless evening.
“What herbs should I get?!” desperation rising in his throat.
Durris lay silent.
En hurriedly crawled to Durris’s body, his face muddied by the mixing of the sweat and earth, his nails caked with dirt. Durris was still alive, his eyes heavenward. As soon as En got close enough, Durris held En’s hand with his own bloody one and caressed En’s cheek with the other.
“Just stay here with me,” Durris said softly.
En, with effort, sat up and rested Durris’s head on his lap, brushing his fingers along his hair. En started humming a song, which was immediately recognized by Durris.
“It was when I first took you out to dance, right?” Durris chuckled a bit.
“I’m glad you can remember,” smiled En.
“Of course I remember!” Talking too loudly, Durris yelped because of the sharp pain. “Goddamn does it hurt to talk,” an injured snicker escaped him.
“You idiot! Then stop talking!” scolded En, a sorrowful smile painted on his blood-deprived and chafed lips.
“I really love your smile, En. I wish I could dance with you again.”
“I’m sorry,” En said, sobbing.
“No, no, don’t be,” Durris comforting En, brushing his cheek.
Durris rose up with all his strength, and their lips locked.
“I love you, En.”
Silence pervaded, as a body lied down on his lap.
“You left me, without even hearing what I have to say. You’re really unfair, you know,” En laughed to himself. “I rarely say these words to you and I’m regretting them now,” he paused. “I love you, Durris.”
Just as the curse entails, with no warning, En drew his last breath.
Years have passed, ten, twenty, no one remembers how many years have passed since the curse. It was eradicated, its traces only in the history books.
The villagers of Bellendern, on a day like any other, discovered a patch of flowers in a clearing in the woods. It was strange. It was a small flower with five white petals and a purplish-gray center. That wasn’t the peculiar part; the peculiar part was the way it sounded. Whenever you shook it, or was blown by the wind, it would ring like a bell. From then on, the locals called it the “campanella”, meaning little bell.
It became famous throughout the towns and cities, exceptional gifts to families and lovers. The flowers only grew at that one clearing, plucked by everyone who desires it.
During a particularly turbulent night, the campanellas tinkled as the strong winds waved through them until all of their petals flew up. They flew up past the outstretched hands of the trees, past the birds’ flight, and past the whitest of clouds.
They danced and danced, until the Moon and the other stars greeted them.
The flowers and their fame disappeared just as swiftly as they had gone. Not a memory remained of these musical flowers.
The next evening, many scholars of that time were baffled when they looked up at the sky.
They questioned whether it was there before or not.
What did they see?
It was a new constellation.
And if you listened closely enough, you can hear the subtle bickering of the bells.
The End. *Author’s Note I have no knowledge on what the constellation is now called, but I have dubbed it as the “Campanella” to honor the enduring love of Durris and En. The left side of the constellation, looking slumped over and reluctant, represents En, and on the right, the one looking as though it were dancing, represents Durris. The point where their hands seemingly meet is the brightest star in their constellation only named “The Heart”. I believe that Durris had his wish granted of dancing with En once more. Forever, they are close to each other, never parting, their one heart glowing brightly within the darkness.