All the dismembered pieces I had to find… It was Annie. I know her touch as well as I know the touch of Solitude. After all, they’re both the only real lovers I’ve ever had, much to the jealousy of a man named Ed, and much to the anger of a woman who played the role of “mother” for far too many annual sequels.
Gripping Ed tightly, I started to perform an act of self-torture.
I hooked bloodthirsty chains to different parts of my head. Each one was linked with different lines of questioning. Each one was being pulled by the overpowering strength of different conclusions. Was any of this real? Am I actually alive? The Children. The Grave Mothers. The Headstone Lady. The Caretaker. Are any of them actually real? I had
killed saved Annie by shattering her body. Now I have to put her back together. Was this my punishment? My brain was ready to explode, allowing my thoughts to truly be with Annie. Every piece of her. Always.
Holding Annie’s hand tightly, I started to calm down. Before I slipped it in my jacket’s pocket, I read the writing on it:
“I know this doesn’t seem right. (2)
She left before saying “I do.” (2)
Your chance to propose has taken flight. (3)
But at least her left hand lies before you. (6)”
The entire cemetery had turned into the Caretaker’s board game—a game of lone headstones where each gravesite represented a space on the board. The “directions” his first note spoke of were hidden in each line of the rhyming riddle on the back of Annie’s left hand. After wrapping my mind’s tangled chains around the significance of the numbers at the end of each line, I came to the conclusion that they had to determine the exact number of spaces I had to move in each riddled direction.
With carefully measured steps, I moved right two spaces, left two spaces, up (for “flight”) three spaces, and left six spaces. The directions took me to what I hoped would be the second gravesite, to what I hoped would be the second piece.
Laying Ed at my feet, I pulled the upright, unmarked headstone back and reached underneath it. I felt the comforting touch of Annie’s hand once more.
For a moment, I was finally able to completely let go of Solitude. For a moment, I was finally able to hold both of Annie’s hands in mine, interlocking my fingers with hers. For a moment, her severed hands caressed my face. Just for a moment.