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Lucila (Lucille)
Lucila (Lucille)

Lucila (Lucille)

Franc68Franc68
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"The agony of my soul found vent in one loud, long and final scream of despair.”—Edgar Allan Poe.

It was the year 1849 in an evening of April, when my carriage had arrived at the towering castle in the small Andalusian village of Iznájar. A cold, eerie wind from the west had begun to blow with a birr, as I was glancing at the impressive structure, with the phosphorescence of the fainting afterglow in the horizon. My name is Carlos Luque Cisneros, a Californian by birth, but Andalusian by descent. I had come from California to these parts in the south of the country of Spain to visit my uncle Count Don Joaquín Luque Gavira, the man that had raised me as a child in Andalusia. I had great esteem and reverence for him; for he was like a father to me. In fact, he was, ever since my own father had died sadly, when I was a young boy. My memories of my father were vague and somber, yet I bore his lineage with tremendous pride. My uncle had sent me a letter requesting that I pay him a visit, and I had gladly obliged with eagerness and concern. I was not certain, why he had summoned me, except to say that I suspected it had to do with his failing health that he had mentioned in his lengthy letter ere. It had been several years, since our last encounter. What I was not prepared for was the horrible secret of the castle and the looming shadow that was shrouded in a bizarre mystery, whose name was Lucila. He was a widower that had lost his beloved wife to phthisis or consumption not long ago, as it was called in America.

The castle was perched on a steep ridge that protruded over the village. It had a distinctive triangular design that appeared truncated on the northeast side, with its conspicuous side facing south in direction. It had a huge central space and was encompassed by a wide wall, with several flanking towers at the southeast and southwest corners that stood firm. There was a pentagonal tower at the bow, and another tower in the east that was visibly imposing in its sheer size. The castle was situated at the highest point of the limestone hill, where the peramene village was located and had overshadowed, the quaint settlement of the houses of the local municipality. The steep slopes of the north and northwest of the promontory sheltered its interior façade, as the extension of a natural wall that was once a part of an ancient Arab fortress. I had descried a colorful grotto and a river that were adjacent to the village. The scenery, in general, was like the canvas of an artistic painting of vastidity, although the terrain was a bit remote and quiescent than the normal sounds of Córdoba of which I was well acquainted, with its revelrous nature and commotion.

I was greeted by my dearest uncle at the front gate of the ancient castle, with a cordial salutation and fragile hand shake.

"Welcome to the castle Carlos. How have you been nephew?"

"Good uncle, but you look rather gaunt and thin than the last time I saw you."

"It has been a few years, since I paid a visit to California."

"I hope my visit will cheer you up and make you forget the tragedy."

"Indeed! I am afraid that my thoughts recently have been a bit affected by the sorrow I bear with the loss of my beloved Lucila."

"That is to be expected uncle."

He was not much of a robust man with an imposing stature, for he was a willowy man. He had always been fain and fashionable, but I could visibly see the wear and tear on the expression of his countenance. He bore a melancholy that was extremely transparent, as his clothing. He was wearing a white shirt underneath his dark green frock-coat over his hour-glass figure. His trousers were white too, with high collars and a necktie tied around them firmly. His black hair was worn long, but swept to the side. He had a curly moustache and side-burns that were noticeably popular at the time period. His once jovial verve was reduced to a sober inquietude or resignation of the tragic vicissitude that forever had altered his life. I was saddened by this harsh realization. Thus, I felt a genuine commiseration for his unbearable loss and situation. I could not dismiss so casually his wan or debile condition that was rapidly deteriorating by each passing day, from what I was informed. Not only was it difficult, but it was as well excruciating to fathom his tristful agony. Verily, I was determined to regain his prior alacrity and resilience.

We had stepped inside the castle to continue the conversation. Once inside, I could descry what from afar I was not able to previously, from an approximate distance. The interior of the castle demonstrated an inveterate mystic and inscenation that was a reflection of a somber opacity that had exceeded the normal placidity and decor. Inside the main hall, there were Arab tapestries and fine Venetian draperies around to be seen, along with Jacobian armchairs from the Renaissance epoch. The most distinctive object was the family's coat of arms that had swords and daggers beneath, from the era of the Reconquista. My uncle was a fervent collector of priceless antiquities and art. He had an array of exquisite paintings that preceded the 19th century, from Meléndez, Zapata to his favorite, Francisco De Goya. All were in pristine state and were worth a handsome fortune. My uncle had related to me that most of the valuable objects of the castle were preserved during the French incursion, although there was some family treasures that were pillaged by the French, as with parts of the castle that were struck by solid cannonballs. He was able to repair the damage, but in some areas of the castle, the marks were still tangibly seen. What I thought was remarkable was the fact that he was able to restore the castle in the specific areas affected.

He had offered me a glass of fine Spanish wine from the uberous vineyards of Málaga, and we had indulged in our conversation a variety of subjects from history to art and politics. He was an argute man that had always displayed great enterprise and was volitient to speak about these things with a measure of approbation; yet when it came to his beloved Lucila, he was reluctant to discuss her, except to divulge small details about her. Just the thought of her souvenance stirred a profound effect in him that he could not eschew transmitting, that bittersweet yearning for her that was quickened instantaneously. His once agerasian aspect was racked, by the continuity of his lassitude and rue.

"Carlos, Lucila was the most beautiful woman I ever met, for she had sparkling onyx eyes, with long flowing silky hair. Her figure was thin but curvy and her lips were as round as a spring tulip. Her skin was olive and Mediterranean. Her smile had a pearly lustre, and her voice was as sweet as the harmonies of morning sparrows. She was from Córdoba originally, before she moved to Málaga."

"The perfect woman it seems what you are describing."

"Indeed. She could dance like a ballerina, as I played the violin. She could glide like the wind. Her voice had an angelical euphony I adored. You know, she enjoyed Italian violinists and composers, such as, Giovanni Battista Viotti, Alessandro Rolla, Bartolomeo Campagnoli, amongst others."

"She must have been beautiful in person?"

Sí. You see the paintings there above the mantel?'

"I see them."

"That is her in all of her true beauty. That is my beloved Lucila."

He was extremely proud of her lasting pulchritude and divinity and I had the impression that he genuinely loved her. His mourning was also genuine in its sentiment and uniformity. He spoke of her, with an earnest affection and dilection.

"It must be still difficult to not be with her uncle."

There was a sorrowful look in his eyes as they teared up, "It is too much to bear. I carry the pain still within me fresh, as if her tragic death was only yesterday."

"Forgive me. I do not mean to bring you more anguish unto you than what you have suffered already."

He looked into my eyes and uttered, "I shall never uplift this suffering, when she is still in my heart. I cannot go into her room yet. That is why I have closed it with a stone wall."

At first, I was going to enquire about his reason for the wall, then I thought it was wiser to not press him on the subject. Thus, I had changed the conversation to my recent endeavors, as we continued sipping wine.

"For some years now, I have been interested in investing in the exportation of wine from the Americas to Spain. I have heard many wonderful things about the vineyards in Andalusia. There is gold to be found in California, but I much prefer the vineyards at the moment."

"I too have heard these stories of America. I once travelled to what was known as New Spain, with my parents in my adolescence. Those were fine memories that I cherish till this day. Unfortunately, I have not been able to rekindle the happiness in me, ever since Lucila's untimely death."

"That is natural, not every day, does a man lose his dear bride."

"Are you single? Have you not found a woman to love?"

I had pulled out a locket and showed him her daguerreotype.

"Oh...she is beautiful. You are extremely fortunate to have her. What is her name?"

"Sofía is her name. She is from Córdoba."

"From Córdoba. The women there are certainly beautiful."

He too presented to me a vintage locket with the locks of his beloved Lucila. He sighed with a glum look that had reminded me of his present affliction and state of mind, "Do you not think she is lovely as well?"

"Sí! She is truly beautiful."

"I wish I could just move on, but without my Lucila, I am lost in her haunting shadow that torments me. I take comfort at least in knowing that she walks this castle still with her slender grace."

"Haunting shadow you said? What do you mean by that, and that she walks the castle still?"

"Nothing. You would not believe me if I told you."

"Are you alluding to a phantom?"

"Perhaps, we should leave this conversation for another time. Right now, you should rest a bit. You have had a long trip from California."

I was curious and at the same time concerned with what my uncle had been referring too, yet I was tired and wanted to change my attire and rest for a brief time in my chamber. There were few servants inside the castle. Most of them were outside tending to the matters of my uncle who was a count. He had one of the servants by the name of Paco tend to my accommodations. I no longer saw the fire in my uncle's eyes that was seen in him before. He was now rendered to a troubled man that was alone in a towering castle that had represented an eerie pacificity that was misleading, and with only the accompaniment of his obedient servants that were all locals from Iznájar. Andalusia was a vast land of ancestral history and folklore of which I had been enamored since a young child. Iznájar was mostly a village of the peasantry than gentry, but the nobility had its share of properties in the area. I was eager to take a matinal stroll the following day and enjoy the countryside, yet I was unnerved about the condition of my uncle that I thought it befitting that I tarry a bit on that whim, until I knew the entirety of his situation much better. After all, it was my main preoccupation, since my arrival.

I had stepped outside of the chamber for a moment, when I had sensed the Orphic presence of a stranger observing me. An echoic susurration of a female voice I heard. At first, the voice had surprised me with its suspiration, but I was interested in listening to it more at depth. I could not distinguish the words uttered and no matter how much I had attempted to, it was impossible. Thus, I followed the noise charily, until I had reached the area of the wall that covered the former chamber of my uncle's dead bride Lucila. The wall was made of solid brick masonry and it was imposing in sheer size, however, it was the unusual voice that had led me to her chamber. Ever since I had entered the castle, I felt a veritable veil of secrecy that had a palpable sensation I could not dismiss so lightly. After a while, the whispers abated and a servant had seen me standing before the wall with a pensive stare displayed.

"Are you lost señor?"

"Oh you have startled me. I did not hear you approaching. I was merely walking, and I saw this massive brick wall. From what my uncle had told me, it was constructed to close the chamber of his deceased bride."

"That is correct señor."

"I am just amazed at the sight of the wall, for it is colossal."

"Indeed. It has been like this, ever since the poor Lady Lucila passed away, so regrettably."

"It is certainly regrettable, but I can't imagine myself being sequestered in a drear and damp castle and having a wall closing off a chamber. I must be candid when I say that I am solicitous about my uncle's fading health."

"There is a draft that enters the castle and as for your uncle the count, despite his apparent pallor, he is never alone. We are here and so is she."

"She...what do you mean she?" I asked with intrigue.

"I mean the Lady Lucila. She accompanies him."

I was even more obfuscated, "Forgive me, but frankly I don't understand. How can this be, if she is dead?"

"Her spirit is not!"

'"Are you referring to a ghost or a spook?"

She paused then continued, "Her spirit señor lives on through her music."

"I am afraid, I don't comprehend."

"You see señor, every night the count plays the violin in memory of her."

"I see. It must be a small comfort for him, knowing that she will never return."

"She had not left. She is not gone."

"Excuse me, she is dead."

The servant had smiled, "But not her spirit!"

Her response left me flabbergasted. She excused herself, and I had returned to my chamber, still pondering the words of the servant pronounced. In the morning, I had spoken to my uncle, and he mentioned that he wanted to sell some of his prized paintings, but he was keen on not selling any paintings of his beloved Lucila, who I did not know was a painter herself. He had several of her paintings on display throughout the inner castle. I could feel the profound devotion he still had for her; for it was evident in his expressive manner and solicitous look. Oddly enough, he did discuss me with me the incident with the wall last night. Apparently, it was not relevant nor something out of the ordinary I had perceived; nevertheless, I was conscientious about his physicality and mentality. I did not think it was prudent that he was isolated in a castle that stood on a towering steep hillside, without family. After breakfast, he led me to the chamber that was part of a garrison that was destroyed by the French. Only a few cannons remained intact, as a token reminder of that terrible invasion. While we there, I had noticed that there was a dark and damp passage that led to a dungeon. When I enquired about the passage, my uncle had indeed confirmed that the passage led to an old, abandoned dungeon. We had entered the passage and headed toward the dungeon, but we did not go inside, since one of the walls was tangibly, partially crumbled.

I was listening to him, when I had heard the familiar voice of a woman whispering. It was coming from inside the dungeon. I saw then, a queer image of the lineaments or features of a sable shadow that I had construed, as a spectral shade of a distinctive woman. The image only appeared for a brief minute or so, but it had captured my attention enough to be suspicable to pause and look. My uncle had noticed that I was distracted by something.

"Are you okay? You seem occupied in your thoughts?"

"I thought I heard a whispering voice of a woman and saw a mysterious shadowy figure inside the dungeon. It probably was the howling wind from outside and the shadow, nothing more than a drear reflection of the darkness of the dungeon I imagine."

"It is no wind nor eerie shadow of darkness you saw young man, for it was the presence of my beloved Lucila. She roams the castle at will day and night. Her spirit shall never rest until.." He then paused.

"Until, you were saying uncle?"

He had kept silent for a moment. Afterwards, he said in utterance, "It is too late."

"Too late for what? I am afraid that I don't comprehend, what you are trying to tell me. You speak in riddles at time that are fathomless. Could you be more succinct?"

"In due time. In due time, you will understand the whole story. For now, I must speak to one of the servants. I hope you enjoy your day today. I shall have Diego escort you in a carriage into the village below if you desire. If you will excuse me".

He began to cough and I could see visibly, the valetudinary deterioration he was experiencing, due to his unwanted affliction. I had feared that he was possibly displaying signs of the dreadful consumption; although the doctor visited him yesterday before my arrival and did not diagnosed him with the parlous contagion. It was indeed, a daunting reminder of our reality, nevertheless, I was very cautious about his daily progress. I had never once doubted his sanity beforehand, but his devotion for his deceased bride Lucila was utterly undeniable. Soon, I would be confronted with the sudden realization that his disturbing behavior would result in a disturbing reality that went beyond, his inchoate eccentricity that would signify a transparent pattern of madness. As for the wandering specter I had thought seen vaguely, it was too inconclusive to determine what I had indeed descried inside the dungeon. The mere thought that Lucila had quickened or never died was incomprehensible and daunting to accept, as a realistic possibility. I had heard of stories or accounts of obsessed men or women that claimed to be haunted by their former lovers that have passed away, yet they were only tales of others, not of anyone that I knew of happening to in their provenance and protension.

That day I had spent my time mostly in the propinquity of the milieu of the castle. I was able to venture into the village below and see its wonderful setting and ambience in its plenitude. First, I took in the spectacular view of the beautiful lake and the rolling hills dotted with rows of olive groves. From afar I had seen the traditional white houses that were typical of the architecture of Andalusian homes, along the striking gleam beneath the sunshine, nestling in the deep valley below. Once at the quaint village, I was capable of seeing the old, medieval church with its incredible bell tower before passing, under the artistic arch and its plaza behind the parochial church, with mosaic tiles by the celestial flowerpots, as I was walking a bit upon the cobblestones of the narrow, winding streets. I was impressed by the colorful patios that were near the erect Torre de San Rafael. There was only one local inn in the entire village, for foreigners or outsiders that would come to visit, mostly during Semana Santa or Holy Week. Wine and flamenquin were the delicious tastes that I had become fond of during my stay in the province. Thus, I had indulged myself in such exquisite delights, during my visit to the village.

When I had returned to the castle, my uncle was waiting for me in the main hall. He had inquired about my trip into the village, "How was your time at the village nephew?" I hope it was to your satisfaction, and you had enjoyed yourself."

"Indeed I must say that I did uncle. It was good to see the village and meet the villagers in person. I only wish that you were strong enough to have joined me. You need to distract yourself from the dull and gloomy castle."

"Don't worry about me, for I am not alone. I have the wonderful castle, the servants, magnificent paintings and musical instruments that play such sweet harmonies with a tender cadence; but above all, I have her Lucila."

Once again, he had invoked the name of his deceased bride. I began to seriously believe that his devotion was turning into a disturbing obsession that was sadly increasing in his speech and thoughts, "With all due respect uncle...Lucila is dead, stone dead. She's not coming back from the chasm of death."

His smile had changed into a piercing stare of fixation, and he raised his voice to me in a vexing manner "Nonsense...Lucila is not dead, for she is alive I tell you!"

I had thought it wise to not exasperate my uncle nor be an antagonist. Thus, I let him have the last word professed by him for the time being, realizing that his mental faculties were evidently fixated on his deceased bride to a degree of instability; however, I had sensed my consciousness was elevating by the minute and telling me to be more observant of his ailing condition and deportment. He wanted to invite me to hear his special rendition to his former wife played on a violin by him. Naturally, I had no objection and listened to the fain sound of the strings of his instrument. His fingers were like caresses and his eyes teared up with the melancholic passion of his absolute devotion to his beloved Lucila. It is said that no man could know the heart of another, without bearing the burden of his pain. If there was a meaning, I could attach to his love it was certainly something of an inexplicable nature. Few men could ever know, how much the heart bleeds, without knowing its regret. I suppose his condemnation was to endure her absence. When he had stopped playing, he expressed in his sullen manner, his reverential love.

"If men knew only, how lonely the day and night were without their dearest wives, and many men have suffered enough to take their own lives. So many fools have gone that route, but I am fortunate to still have Lucila at my side in spirit, and for that, I am grateful. I admit in the beginning I suffered profound intervals of madness. Now, I understand everything nephew."

"Uncle...you must learn to let go. Perhaps not today nor tomorrow, soon. I can understand the grieving process is fresh in your memory, but you need to regain your vigor. I fear that you are waning in your physicality."

"Oh, I am no longer grieving, for I know deep within my heart Lucila has not left me!"

It was impossible to continue to enlighten him, when he was resolute in his conviction and belief; even if I had persisted to dissuade him otherwise. Therefore, I had desisted and allowed him to rest privately. He was coughing and required repose. When I had inquired about the doctor visiting him, he categorically rejected that idea, since in his own thinking, he was not grievously infirmed. I, on the other hand, totally disagreed. His reticence and obstinacy to elucidate his opposition were noticeably deceptive in his immediate reaction. The question that kept on repeating in my head was the fact that he didn't recognize truly, his reluctance to accept his inevitable reality. I was willing to do what was necessary to alleviate his insurmountable distress, and I had concluded that he needed to leave the solitary castle that was becoming a prison and exile for him I had surmised. His unyielding proclivity to cling onto everything that was associated to Lucila was beclouding his rationality. I know there are some that will interpret my admission as a harsh assertion, but I who had been in the castle with him would acknowledge this startling realization before those that would differ in their discrepancy. The rest of the day I had spent conversing with my uncle, about his wine collection and my interest in entering in the business of the purchase and transportation of an array of the best wine from California to Andalusia. I had originally sought my expansion of my business, before the planning of the trip to Southern Spain. I was not second guessing my decision, yet there was a small measure of apprehension that was hovering over my perspective on the matter.

That night, I would experience another haunting encounter unimaginable, with the unannounced presence of my uncle's spectral bride. It would be an unforgettable encounter that would heightened my suspicion, about the dreadful death and apparition of Lucila. The mysterious circumstances of her passing were not clearly revealed to me, nor were they completely explained by my uncle in definition. In time, my fascination would uncover the crux of the truth about what really happened to Lucila, in her last days spent at the lethean castle.

The rest of the day I had spent conversing with my uncle, about his wine collection and my particular interest in entering in the business of the purchase and transportation of the best wine from California to Andalucía. I had originally sought my expansion of my business, before the planning of the trip to Southern Spain. I was not second guessing my decision at all, yet there was a small measure of apprehension that was hovering over my perspective on the matter. What I was not prepared for was his propitious offer to me to buy a land that had belonged to him outside of Seville. I was honored by his proposal, and I had told him I would contemplate it, after I was able to see the property in person naturally. The plot of the mystery would only thicken, with the suspense and unfolding occurrences transpiring so suddenly. It was extremely difficult for me to see my uncle incapable of reflecting his once brilliant traits, as a business man and how he was evolving into a recumbent shadow of the man that he was, before my own eyes. The aura exuded in his eyes so defined to me as a child, were now merely a transient glimpse of a glorious man that had achieved much, and that I had proudly revered with my admiration. He had waned into a rapid attenuation that was unprecedented to me, as kindred of his kinship; however, I was compelled willingly to assist in his endeavors in whatever manner that I could effectuate his desires or intentions.

I was alone in my chamber attempting to relax myself, when I had heard the familiar sound of echoic whispers and singing that I had become accustomed to listening before so keenly. That distinguishable voice very perceptible was feminine in its origin, and it was coming directly from the area, where the wall had been imposed upon by my uncle wittingly. The impenetrable wall that led to the closed chamber of Lucila. I was drawn to the immediate urgency of my fascination, toward the charming voice that had been the inherent spell of her seduction, whose spirit seemed to roam the castle like an eternal ghost forsaken to the realm of immortality. As I had approached the vicinity of the enclosure, I felt the presence of Lucila, even closer, as if she was observing me. I began to hear a peculiar, lugubrious noise of weeping that had arrested my attention. It was then that again I saw the hoary pallor of my uncle's spectral bride, with piercing raven eyes that had discomposed me suddenly. She had appeared from the shade of darkness like a haunting shadow wearing her white virginal bridal dress, yearning to be heard. A fathomless utterance was ejaculated from her mouth, but her ominous words were mostly incomprehensible. The little that I could decipher of her words were what sounded to me as, "Help me!" The desperate expression in her eyes was without a doubt chilling. Within a few minutes that she had materialized, she then disappeared into the drear darkness that she had emerged from initially.

An entire week had passed and the recurring encounters with Lucila's revenant were resulting almost daily. I had not counted on dealing with an apparition in a castle, instead what was more appalling was the stark fettle that my uncle was quickly dissipating into. I had never confronted a dire situation as in the case of his predicament. It was simply disturbing and evident to witness so shockingly. I was not certain, if he had the contagion of consumption or not, but I was certain of one thing, his sanity I had started to question. Although he had rejected the visit of a doctor, I was able to have his doctor come to the castle and examine him thoroughly. He was not expecting his impromptu visit and had been stubbornly against the idea originally, but he acquiesced after I had finally convinced him for his sake and that of the loyal servitude that served him. I had waited in the main hall, until the doctor had finished his examination, with a certain anxiety to know the results. After pacing in the corridor, he had ended his examination and addressed me, concerning his important diagnosis.

"I believe that your uncle is suffering from the rapid effects of phthisis to which I conclude, his health is waning by the day."

"Good God. What about his mental faculties? I fear that he is gradually losing his mind doctor."

"Why would you say that young man?"

"Doctor, I tell you, he talks to his deceased wife. Worse, he tells me, she roams the castle, at will."

"Are you implying, like a ghost?"

"Yes...like a ghost!! I am concerned about that, because he seems to be under the immediate effects of some kind of delusions."

"Delusions? Perhaps. In my humble opinion and expertise, if that was the case, then we must be prepared for the worse to occur."

"Do you mean, the worse is yet to come?"

He had looked me straight into the eyes and with a candid admission replied, "Yes!"

"What should we do then? Should we not move him out of the castle to some other healthy place or environment?"

"I am afraid if we don't, he will surely die in this castle."

"But my uncle is obstinate and will not leave behind his beloved Lucila. How on earth, do we convince him to leave and make him see that he must let go of her memory?"

"That I cannot answer! The only thing I am certain of, if he continues in this fashion, he will without a doubt, die!" The doctor had professed to me so vividly.

After the doctor had left the castle, I then spoke to my uncle, who was sitting all alone, in an ormolu chair with a pensive look and deteriorating aspect that was plainly observable. My thoughts were, was he fully aware of what the doctor had diagnosed or was he merely at the point of being oblivious to his harsh circumstance? Perhaps, it was an inopportune time to discuss these things with him in person, nonetheless, there was no other choice afforded to me. I had to address the issue with him at once. Naturally, in the confines of our privacy, whereupon I felt more comfortable within that familiar surrounding. I was not confident that I could dissuade him from remaining in the castle, sensing it could easily trigger his sanguine temper; however, I also was conscious about the necessity to assay to make him comply, to the reality of his piteous state of mind and health. My approach taken was more of the logical one in foresight, although my uncle had a propensity for lengthy discussions that I deemed unnecessary for the occasion.

"Uncle, I was speaking with the doctor and he tells me that you are not in fine fettle, and that it is not good that you stay here in the castle."

He had interrupted me, "No need to say any more, for I know what he said and what is good for me. What he and you seem to not fully understand is that I cannot leave the castle, never! I can't leave Lucila alone in her sorrow. She needs me."

"If you remain any longer, you will meet the same miserable fate that she met—death'.

"If that is the case, then I am perfectly suited for it, and shall face my maker upon its arrival. You see, in this world I have learned one harsh truth; just as we are destined to birth, thus, we are destined to death. There are men who were destined for greatness as I once was, and others that are destined to abject isolation, as I am now, a prisoner of my own fate."

"Then, you concede that the castle is your prison?" I asked.

"You may see it that way, but I on the contrary, think otherwise. To me, it is the sacred abode of my happiness. Lucila is my happiness."

"How can that be? We both know that she is dead. Any sane man would acknowledge that. Surely, you can't believe that she is still physically alive."

"I do! Are you calling me insane?"

"It is insanity what you are describing. You may think so, in the spiritual realm, but not in our physical reality."

He had paused then responded with a direct reply, "Oh...but she is nephew. She is still in the physical world."

"But how? She is stone dead and buried for good, six feet under the ground. Listen to what you are saying."

"Very soon, I shall introduce you to Lucile. Soon. Be patient."

His admission that was forthright, had me more worrisome than before, and it sent a small chill down my spine, nonetheless, I could not permit him to be trapped forever in his obsessive devotion for Lucila. His intractability was becoming a clear sign of his eroding mindset and lucidity. I did not wish to rebut his senseless argument; instead, I walked away and decided it was better to speak to the servants of the castle about what had to be done, concerning my uncle's welfare that was extremely vital to me, as a close member of his immediate family. It was not my attention to alarm the servants with my disquietude, yet it was my duty to inform them of the pending risk of having my uncle remain in the castle. I did not expect their disloyalty nor disobedience toward my uncle. That, I was certain of its impossibility. However, I had believed that they were obviously cognizant about the horrible condition of his physicality. This much, I had suspected, since my announced arrival. I had gathered them in a narrow corridor, while my uncle had retreated to the confines of his chamber that was on the other side of the castle to rest. They were puzzled by the reason that they were summoned in the first place.

"I know you are wondering, why you are gathered here before me. I shall not take much of your time, for I know your diligence to your duties. You are here, because I cannot merely stand aside and see my uncle languish in this gloomy castle. I need your help urgently!"

One of the few servants that my uncle had that was the footman responded, "Pardon señor, what can we do? We are all servants. We cannot interfere in his daily life."

"Yes I know that, but surely you can do something to assist me."

"Like what? We owe our livelihood to Don Joaquín. We cannot betray his trust."

"I understand your gratitude. If we let him, continue in this bad condition, then he will die. He is gradually dissipating in his ailment, as we speak. I am afraid his health is in a grievous and precarious state."

They had consulted among each other, before they finally were acquiescent. I instructed them in what was my intention. I was meticulous, in my details and explication.

"Once I have returned from my trip to Córdoba, we shall proceed with the plan. Do not I repeat, reveal this conversation to my uncle. Once again, remember, it is for his good. Sadly, there is no other recourse for him. He is gradually succumbing to his illness. We must take cautionary measures from now on with him."

I did not want to depart, knowing the ongoing situation of my uncle, nevertheless, I took the trip to Córdoba to speak with the lawyer of the family, about my uncle's poor health. It was pivotal that I addressed, the matter of his business affairs and endeavors, since he was not physically well to travel much outside of the area. I left his care in the good hands of the servitude, until I had returned. When I did afterwards during the evening, I was eager to see my uncle and know about his well-being. What had occurred then throughout that night, I was truly not prepared for its horrific eventuality. The servants were not present to greet me upon my arrival, nor was my uncle. I could hear from outside the castle as I got out the carriage, the sound of music playing in the background with a mellifluous cadence. When I had entered, I heard the audible voice of my uncle who was speaking to someone. The question was who was he addressing? There was a ponderance of thoughts in my head that were forming quickly. I found him in the main hall with the servants there, but what was disturbing was the sight of his ghastly guests. You see, he had the servants tending to these guests of whom were not even human. Yes—they were all bones of skeletons that were placed in rows of tables with chairs, like for a momentous soirée. He was conducting a phantom orchestral with his violin, when he saw me approaching. He turned around and said to me words that were nothing, but incoherence and nonsense to fathom.

"Carlos...welcome to this evening's ball. How kind of you to accept my fine conviviality. I am glad you were able to come, just in time."

"What is the meaning of this macabre spectacle? For the sake of God, why are all these skeletons dressed up? Why? Have you gone mad uncle?"

"Not at all. They are invited guests for tonight's grand occasion."

"What are you talking about? Whose celebration?"

"Naturally, we are celebrating Lucila's birthday. Today, is her birthday."

He had grabbed a glass and poured wine in it, then he uttered, "A toast, to my beautiful bride."

I was literally flabbergasted by his irrational conduct and thinking, "Uncle...please stop this at once!"

There was a cold stare in his hysterical eyes, as he had gazed at me. I could sense he was slipping away into his unrestrained madness, "Carlos, you do not believe me, but wait, I shall bring her to you!"

"Bring who?"

"Lucila!"

It was at that precise moment, he had a servant bring the decedent corpse of Lucila, who was wrapped in a heavy shroud. She was dighted in the same dress she was married. I stood gorgonized in absolute disgust and discomposure, as I had observed her decomposed body. My uncle had her corpse in her chamber, hidden behind the solid wall of masonry all this time. Apparently, he had destroyed the wall and had planned this day, Lucila's birthday to resurrect her from the world of the dead onto the living. What was more shocking was, the terrible secret of the castle. Lucila had not been buried at all, as I had assumed. His preponderation over the servants was evident and imperious.

Immediately, I had ordered the servants to comply to my authority. I did not mammer in my posture nor instruction, "Remove all these skeletons now. Do as I say. You should all be shameful of this unseemly behavior. Leave my uncle and I alone to speak!"

"You have gone too far this time. I'm going to take you away from here. This horrible castle is driving you mad!"

"I shall not leave this castle, nor Lucila!". He replied with brash defiance.

Just as we were arguing, a mournful glow suffused of a ghostly image had appeared suddenly magnified, from the aphotic corridor. Lo and behold it was the uncontrastable image of Lucila dressed in her memorable bridal gown weeping, as she walked barefoot. Her ashen white face was covered with her lachrymose moisture dripping, and her limpid eyes reflected in the allegorical tincture of an ineffable death of pallor mortis. It was the unbelievable thing that I had ever witnessed with my eyes, standing before me, as the embodiment of an eviternal reverent. She had uttered the words that were easily understood as an ostentiferous manifestation, beyond the viscerality of a redounding effect in transumption.

"Let me rest in peace. Bury me Joaquín!"

We both looked on, as she had scurried off onto the walls of the castle outside. My uncle followed her, while I had followed the pursuit. When I had reached him, he was on top of one of the towers talking to his Lucila. I had attempted to dissuade him, but to no avail, he would accidentally trip and fall to his untimely death below. In the end, he had joined his beloved and dead bride, in the subliminal realm of immortality. Some will say that he had succumbed to his irrefrangible devotion to Lucila that it altered forever, the state of his unhinged mind. His insanity was incurable, not his latitant soul. He would be laid to rest the following morning, in the local cemetery, next to his beloved Lucila. They had both received a proper Christian interment with a requiescat, and the doleful peal of the bell had accompanied their funerals. The last image of his face was an angelic semblance of a serene pellucidity. I was thankful, his throbbing madness had concluded, and he would not suffer any longer. The last image of the castle I had before departing for good from Iznájar was the sight of both my uncle and Lucila at the massive tower, as the sparrows sung their aubade. Perhaps, there are some that will not believe the account I have related with my averment, but I can attest that what I experienced there at the castle was real as I, in relevance. It would be sold to a wealthy nobleman from Seville. I had the paintings of Lucila given to members of her family. There was one painting of her and my uncle that I kept, as a fond reminder of their beautiful love story. As for me, I never returned to the castle nor village. Eventually, I stayed in Córdoba and had taken residence in Andalusia with my fiancée, where I had continued the successful lineage of Spanish winemakers.

There was a monody in reverence to Lucila that my uncle wrote that I had discovered, among his trove.

Lucille

Once upon a time in the
Distant kingdom of dreams,
Resid'd a fair lady, whom
The angels nam'd 'Lucille'.
So sprightly was Lucille—
She bore such virginal gleams,
Her decorum was of a high-born
Lady stately and so genteel.

Radiant was the guise of my
Buxom and charming maiden,
Who wanders desolate nights
Of her sempiternal beauty,
I must endure this burden of
Her heavy sorrow too laden,
With the exalt'd orchestra
Silencing the curse of cruelty.

Immur'd in the fate of her
Stricken spirit for e'ermore,
Haunting her soul e'ery day
Dancing in an eternal ball,
With convivial guests revering
A pale countenance I adore,
Her footsteps blest by the grace
Of the saintly seraphim I call.

Her opaque shadow follows me
As I seek then her slenderness,
When I worship her true divinity
In the ruffles of her silk dress,
And wondrous is a glimmer
Shining her gentle tenderness,
In the morrow of my sadness
I shall find left a mere tress.

Her ghostly eyes reflect an
Eerie image of her endearment,
With the sable hue imbued
Accompanying nights of despair,
In the hollow chamber of my
Phantasmagoria of bereavement—
Too glum I abide the morning
That is so staid and unfair.

Do not peer into the darkness
Of a damp corridor of terror—
For her monody you shall find
Spoken by angels of death,
Whose voices deafen you before
The marble mausoleum of horror,
Abating the murmurs of my
Lucille's final gasping breath.

Curst is she in the ripples
Of time bearing her demise,
And I whisper before the brink
Of the dawn as I dare to utter,
The precious name of Lucille—
My spectral bride I wait to rise,
Her silhouette soars with the
Pinions of ravens that flutter.

I mourn her soul and spirit
Damn'd in this abode of guilt,
When her nightly dancing
Shall not be sway'd nor cease,
Till the malediction I have
Evict'd and heard is her lilt,
A paean from the dirge of
Dust of her mortal decease.

End of story.

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Franc68
Franc68
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12 Aug, 2022
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