The cicadas were singing quite loudly in this incredible weather. It was the middle of the summer.
July the 15th.
A single woman was standing in her garden, taking care of her favorite flowers. She was wearing her dark hairs like no one else out there. They were ending in the middle of her back and seemed so soft, almost like silk with a small tint of blue shades.
Her bangs were framing her face while allowing her green eyes to stand out.
Her face lines were thin and dignified.
Truth to be told, her way to dress herself was adding quite a subtous atmosphere around her. Her slender and gentle body was warped into a pretty black Yukata, a japanese kimono crafted with refined cotton, covered with a pattern of big peonies.
Each printing of the peonies was made into a forty per forty centimeters design and was detailed incredibly with small Japanese patterns embroidered with a gold color.
She smiled at her flowers, a whole lot of peonies and took her watering can.
She watered them while whistling a very well known song, made by the famous Joe Hisaishi.
While she was whistling she wondered which song from Hisaishi it was. She couldn’t put her finger on the title of the song.
She put the watering can on the floor.
She kneeled down in front of her flowers and, with all the gentleness she could gather ,embraced one of the peonies.
Her head was connected to the peony.
Suddenly, she remembered the name of the song, it was the song Kiki’s delivery service.
The wind was blowing.
The grass was moving.
Someone was coming.
The cicadas were singing.
She kept her eyes closed to feel as much as possible the life going through her peonies.
A hand grabbed her shoulder.
It was a strong and big hand, a hand from a man who works hard everyday.
A rough hand.
She opened her eyes slowly, while gazing intensely at the peony in her hands.
“Mika Valentine?” Said ,with a suave voice, the man behind her.
She raised her left eyebrow and turned around to see the culprit’s face.
“Dear… I was waiting for you, so I decided to take care of the peonies a bit” Started Mika.
“Aren’t they lovely?” She continued.
Her husband looked at the bush of flowers, watched it for a moment, thinking that he didn’t know the beauty behind the flowers. But He known for sure that he had no interest in stating that out loud, he just came back from work and had no intention to hear his wife screaming about her peonies.
He was in a good mood but couldn’t stop his thoughts from running wild:
“After all… it’s all about her peonies since she started to grow them. Lately, It almost feels like I am just another tool to help to grow her peonies.”
He turned his head to look his wife straight in the eyes and declared solemnly:
“They are very lovely, I can see how much you love them. But you love me more, don’t you?”
She looked at him, then looked at her peonies. She did that a second time.
With a strongful glare and with the most serious facial expression she answered him :
“I love you really deeply, but for my peonies I could die”…
…She cracked a smile two second after finishing her sentence after seeing her husband turning white.
“Got you, haven’t I ?”. She said while standing up and grabbing the arm of her husband.
Her husband started to laugh with her “You got me really good here hahahahah” while scrubbing the back of his head.
But deep inside of him, he was a bit scared by her face at that moment.
It was the kind of face that he knew too well.
A kind of expression that he would rather not see again.
It was the same face that he saw that day.
When he was a new soldier.
The face of a woman ready to die to protect her children.
Mika was biting her nail between her teeth, a bit concerned. She has done everything she could about her peonies.
Protecting them from exterior aggressions, from storms and even from the kids damn football.
But it was the end.
She was kneeling in front of her peonies ,which were dying little by little, as the time was doing the job it does the best; turning everything to dust and hashes.
Her peonies were dying.
Along with her heart.
Everyday after taking care of them, while leaving them, she was wondering if they would last one more night.
To only end up finding them a bit more withered the next day.
She could feel the sadness rising a bit more with each additional day spent watching her beloved flowers turning into compost.
The scene was so sad.
She never cried once, as if she couldn’t bring herself to mourn her flowers.
It was sad.
Even her eight years old little girl was sad just by watching her mother degrading as fast as her flowers.
She could tell just by looking at her from afar that she was losing weight little by little. She wasn’t eating much anyway.
She went to her mother in the garden with a small apple cut into pieces and reached her out with the plate.
“Mom you should eat it a bit, I know you are sad for your peonies but I love you.” Said the little girl.
Mika smiled at her, put her hand on hers and pushed away gently the plate of apple.
“Thank you Mia, but I am not hungry my little sweetheart”
She stopped for a moment.
“I love you too” continued Mika while passing her fingers through the hairs of the cute small girl.
But Mia wasn’t happy with that answer.
She was not taking ‘No’ as an answer when it came to the health of her mother.
Mia took a piece of apple and brought it to her mother’s mouth to force the food to go in.
Her mother had a furious reaction and slapped her hand while screaming:
“I don’t need no food, I don’t need anything but my peonies”
The face of Mia, a bit shocked at first about her mother’s reaction, changed quickly into a sour one.
“You are possessed mom’…
… If you are still my mom…”
Few months passed by and it was already the middle of December.
The peonies were dead for a long time now.
“I’m coming in” said the husband and he entered the room.
“I am back from work, what are you doing?”
He asked this question as a way to create a conversation with his wife, but he knew too well what she was doing all day long since the end of the peonies.
There was a lot of paper on the floors. Dozens of them. Stacking up a bit more everyday.
Since her wife was not answering, he crouched to the floor and started to tidy up the room a bit.
“One, two three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen.”
“ Wow, Dear, you make a lot of them again today…
… You are starting to be incredibly good at drawing peonies…”
He put all the drawings on the desk next to her.
She stopped to draw and looked at her drawings, turned around and stared angrily at him.
“They are disgusting failed drawings, they don’t depict my babies well enough!”
She took the drawings and threw them in the trash bin.
He looked at her with his eyes half-closed and a lot of sadness in his heart.
“Is it because of this event? I wonder…
…I hope not…” He thought.
He left the room, put his back on the wall next to the door while watching in the direction of the sky.
“I ought to do something to cheer up my Mika”
One week later.
“MIKAAAAAAA I’M BACK”
“COME HERE I HAVE A SURPRISE FOR YOU MY DEAR”
All the house instantly knew that the head of the house was back.
Mia went down quickly from the stairs and threw herself in the arms of her father.
“Father finally you are here” she said while hugging him tightly.
“Yes, can you bring your mother downstair please, I have a surprise for her”
“But… father… you know how she is now… “ answered the little girl with a sad face.
“Ok… I’ll try…”
Two minutes later the daughter and her mother were coming down.
The husband examined her wife descending the stairs. Her beloved wife who had lost so much weight and who was definitely not happy of being interrupted during her drawings.
“So, dear, what is that surprise worth even more than my peonies. I hope for both of you that it’s not some stupid stuff.” Said Mika while sustaining a long eye contact with her husband.
Mia was glaring at her selfish mother.
“You won’t be disappointed, I promise”
He took away the package around his surprise. It was around one meter tall and something like sixty-five centimeters large.
*A sound of paper packaging on the floor*
“I had a really hard time finding them, I had to import them from a foreign country. I hope you will like them.”
Mika didn’t say a word, she was shocked by the scene, her mouth half open.
When Mia saw what was inside, she snapped.
“Dad, How dare you bring this curse at home! How dare you bring peonies!” screamed Mia at her father and rushed to hit his stomach.
He let her punch him, and stared gently at her wife.
He put a knee on the floor and took his daughter in his arms.
While he was hugging her he whispered in her ears :
“I know it’s a stupid idea… but it’s the last one that I have to help the woman that I love so much, to help your mother”
Mia couldn’t answer anything and let tears come out.
Meanwhile, Mika kneeled down and started to hug the peonies.
“Thank you dear … thank you…” she told him while crying and smiling for the first time in months.
But it was the middle of the winter.
The joy was of short duration.
Ten days later, the peonies died too.
The husband found his wife hugging the dead peonies while crying in her sleep. He took a blanket and put it on her.
She was moaning something in her sleep, thus he decided to listen to what she was saying.
“No my little peony…
Please, don’t die…
Don’t leave me again…
The tears came out from the eyes of the husband and his jaws started to tremble, to shake like his hands.
He sat down next to her wife, his head in his knees.
“So that was really related to this incident… to our daughter…”
After the incident of the Peony’s flower pot, Mika went crazier and crazier.
To the point that even the husband couldn’t take it anymore, as she refused to leave the house, he tried to throw her away.
A fight arose, but he couldn’t bring himself to hit her or be violent against the woman he loved. Even more in front of his daughter.
The sound of bottles, plates and glass breaking against the wall lasted two hours. They were screaming, punching the wall, breaking things and ultimately crying.
He took his daughter and left the house without ever turning back to see his house.
The storm was over.
It was peaceful.
Sound of a heavy breath.
A hand on a black wood table.
Whisky filling the glass.
A hand grabbing the glass.
A forehead on the table.
Eyes staring at the floor.
A broken silence
“Finally I am alone.
Finally I can focus on my peonies”
As time was passing by the floor was covered with even more bottles. There were peonies drawn all over the place. On the walls, on the papers and even on the clothes.
That was one crazy mess.
Mika was sleeping less than 2 hours per day. Circles around her eyes appeared a long time ago and never left since then. Her refined face lines started to be puffed up by the alcohol she was drinking.
After all, one bottle of whisky per day was a bit violent on her body.
Her husband never came back with her daughter.
Once, she found a letter from Mia, but she was so drunk that she just drew on it, forgetting what was written on it the next morning, losing the letter among the mountain of trash in the house.
As she wasn’t allowed to work in this country she had no choice to sell all of her belongings in order to buy her booze and her food.
An empty house.
Empty whisky bottles on the floor.
Mika hadn’t seen anyone for two months now. She was in a bad state. Taking a shower once every two weeks.
At this point, she could barely be called a human.
The curtains of the home were almost closed. She was living in a half dark house all the time. No sun was coming in.
Peace for a distrubed mind.
And a scream.
“WHY CAN’T I DRAW SOMETHING SO SIMPLE AS A DAMN PEONY? WHY CAN’T THEY BE PERFECT?!”
A bottle of Whisky against the wall.
A torn sheet of paper.
A broken pencil.
She was not drawing anymore. She was staying still on the floor, only moving on the side when she wanted to drink a sip.
Her food stockpile was almost finished.
“Is that how I will end up?
Dying from hunger?
Because of my beloved Peony?”
She took another sip of whisky to rinse this thought.
“My sweet Peony…”
Mika was smelling bad. Bad to the extent that even animals were not coming close to the house anymore. She would probably dissolve the handle of the door with her dirt if she was to grab it for too long.
She had no food anymore.
She didn’t have any booze anymore.
Her feelings numbed by the alcohol started to come back little by little into her heart.
She was holding her left breast while curling up.
“Peony…my little Peony…”
She stopped to breath for a moment, and start to scream while rolling on the floor :
“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH THAAAAAT TOOOOOOOOOO PAINFFFULLLLLLLLLLLLLLL, LEAAAAVE MEEEEE ALREADYYYYYYYYYY.
I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOUR FAAAAACEEEE ANYMOREEEEEEE ARGH!!!!!
I DON’T WANT TO SEE THIS SCENE ANYMOREEEEE
GOD, JUST KILL ME!”
She was screaming and crying on the floor tormented by her actions, the lack of alcohol and her demency.
It was such a beautiful day.
A really beautiful day of spring.
There were some big clouds with a cotton texture, a blue blue sky and a warm sun from the end of the winter.
“This is the perfect day to die” She thought.
She took the only chair left in the house, a rope and put it around her neck.
We could hear the sound of wind.
Shadow of a big cloud passing above the house.
Tension in the muscles.
A blue blue sky and a warm sun.
The perfect day to die.
The stress built up by her mind until now couldn’t resist having a last cynical crack.
“Even hollywood couldn’t do such a perfect job.”
she furrowed her eyebrows and declared, on the top of her chair, a rope around the neck :
“If I have to die, I’d rather choose suicide than die from starvation!”
She kicked with rage in the chair she was standing on, which was projected near the wall in a huge sound of tinkling bottles.
The rope hugged her neck in a pretty decent violence.
Her feet were projected in front of her.
Then behind her.
And in front of her again.
Then behind her another time.
Hanging up in a profound silence.
That was truly great weather.
She started to close her eyes gently as life was taken out of her. She was smiling while she was having her last thought.
“Finally, I will be at peace and join my beloved Peony.”
She was hanging up.
But the back and forth movements were slower and slower, the body started loosening its tension.
It was the end.
Fate had decided otherwise.
A huge light came from outside the window.
When the rope was hit by the light, the rope broke.
Mika fell on the floor in the process.
She was coughing, longing for as much air as she could gather.
“IS THAT A JOKE?! “ She screamed while looking at the sky.
“YOU WON’T EVEN LET ME DIE AND JOIN MY DAUGHTER?!”
The bell rang.
The bell rang.
And the silence once again.
Mika got up, with a bit of difficulty after the trauma her body just went through. She crawled to the door but when she caught the door handle she could hear the sound of a car motor starting.
She opened the door slowly and approached her face close to the small gap between the door and the wall. It was a tiny line of light going through the darkness of the house.
She could see the car going back from where it was coming from, far away.
On the floor there was a basket, a picnic basket to be more precise. On the top of the picnic basket were lying a small pink blanket, some flowers and a letter.
She opened the door with a lot of caution, just in case it was someone lying in a trap to capture her. Once she had checked the surroundings, she grabbed the letter and looked at it.
On the front of the letter something was written.
‘For the mother I miss and love so much.
Mika started to feel her tears going from her heart to her throat. She did her best to contain them.
She opened the letter and started to read what was written.
I hope everything is alright for you.
Dad and I are living at grandma’s house for the moment.
She is such a great person, really kind to me.
The other day when we went to the town to buy some food and we heard that you had sold all the furniture in the house.
Dad was so angry.
But in the end, I think he cried, he misses you so much too.
The idea to bring you some food was mine.
Dad wasn’t really enchanted by this idea but he gave up in the end.
He is as kind as grandma’…
Also, you will find in the envelope some seeds.
Dad explained to me why you were like this.
He told me about the event with Peony.
I’m sorry mom…
I didn’t know…
I still think it’s a really bad idea, but I don’t know what to do anymore to save the mother that I love so much…
These are Peonies seeds.
Take some more time to mourn Peony’s death.
But please, promise me to come back.
I need my mom too..
I miss you…
I Love You mom.
While she was reading the letter, the tears wouldn’t stop to flow away from Mika’s eyes.
It was a ridiculous situation.
An eight year old trying to save her mother.
She felt shameful.
She took the seeds into her hands.
“I promise you my sweetheart, it will be the last time”
Will she overcome her mourning? Be able to finally accept the death of her first daughter and keep on living for her second daughter?
Only time will tell.
In the picnic basket, which was quite big, there was enough food for more or less a month, if she were to eat one meal per day.
It wasn’t much but from Mika’s point of view, it was still better than nothing.
Since this event, a month passed
The letter from Mia probably hit in the right place, things had dramatically improved.
Mika was washing herself everyday and was eating once a day.
She didn’t regain her weight, but at least the curtains were open and the light was coming in.
She had tidy up the house and nothing was lying on the floor.
She also had planted the seeds that her daughter gave her.
Today was probably the day for those flowers to bloom.
She went to the garden in a good mood, it was the moment for her to say ‘Stop’ to this infernal circle of depression.
She approached the flowers on the tip of her feet, as if she was scared to wake them up.
Her eyes opened slowly while her mouth was smiling more and more. Her face was enlightened by the scene.
Her first red peony of the year was lying there.
Just in front of her.
With a vivid red color. Color of passion. Color of love.
The gentle petals lying against each other in a fashion that was reminiscent of frills.
When she saw the flower, something snapped in Mika’s brain.
Like a good addict, she couldn’t resist her desire.
Her bad habits kicked in.
She started to forget to eat, to wash herself or the house.
She became, once again, an empty shell obsessed by these flowers.
A car engine could be heard in the background and stopped.
The door opened and someone got out of the car.
It was Mia.
She was bringing some more food to her mother, she rang the bell and looked through the windows.
She was quite happy to see that her mother had tidy up the house and opened the curtains.
No more bottles, no more papers on the floor or on the wall and no more trash.
Thinking that the rehab of her mother was complete, she opened the door and barged in.
Went through the living room but stopped in the veranda.
She saw her mother close to her new peonies, with a lifeless look in her eyes and a creepy smile.
She understood immediately what was happening.
She looked at the floor, and knew that it was her fault.
If she hadn’t made the mistake of giving her new seeds, she wouldn’t have leapt back in her depression.
She should have listened to her dad.
She ran out of the house and never came back.
This time, it was the final stage for Mika.
She wasn’t even moving from her spot, staring at the peonies all day long and even sleeping next to them.
This time, it was the end for Mika.
She reached her limits.
This day was especially hot.
She was too thirsty to do anything, too famished to do anything.
She collapsed the head in the peonies.
Her bush of peonies was so big and impressive that she started to suffocate from the density of her flowers.
With no strength spared, the outcome was obvious.
Finally, it was the end for Mika.
Mika opened her eyes, and jumped up when she saw her body lying in front of her.
She stood staring at it for a second.
“So I’m really dead?” She thought.
“Mika Valentine?” Asked a voice behind her.
She turned herself with a bit of panic to look at the person in behind her.
It was a dark haired boy, he had really long hairs, ending at his waist.
They were really thin.
His eyes were weird, crimson red, like the peonies.
He seemed to be around his twenties end and was wearing a traditional Japanese outfit that was fitting his natural grace very well.
Around him he had some weird floating red balls , connecting each other by a material that Mika had never seen before. It seemed like electricity but more gentle than the latter.
She understood instinctively that this material was the essence of life itself.
“Is it God that is standing in front of me?” She asked herself while analyzing him.
“Yes, I am God, and you are dead” He answered.
Surprised Mika continued her thinking process
“He can read my mind?!”
“That’s right, I can read your mind. After all, you are my creation, so it only makes sense.” He said to her with a smile.
She frown her eyebrows and asked him :
“What do you want from me then, I mean, I am dead, can’t you just let me go to paradise.”
He turned his head a bit on the right.
“Well, sadly you are not welcome to paradise. Someone who abandoned her living daughter and her husband, because she couldn’t mourn her departed first daughter, is not welcome to paradise.”
The angriness started to take over Mika’s head, turning her vision to red.
“Is that a joke, God?”
“No, it’s not.”
“I am not welcome? After what you did to my daughter?” She started to say between her teeth.
“I haven’t done anything wrong, You can impute what my creations are doing against each other.
I take great pride in not meddling into your stories.” Answered calmly God.
“Is that so? You can see everything and yet you do nothing? Isn’t it worse than doing the crime ? You have the power to do everything and you turn a blind eye?…
…How rotten can you be?”
Mika was looking becoming more angry and more bitter as the conversation was going on.
“Rotten? I don’t take any pleasure in seeing humans suffer, but everything is happening because of a reason, everything was destined way before you even arrived here.”
“It was destined? Wow… that’s… a huge shock… how could you let a 10 year old girl be raped by 3 men?…
How could you let them open her with their knives afterward ?!
AS IF THE RAPE WAS NOT ENOUGH THEY EVEN HAD FUN TO TORTURE HER?!
AND ON TOP OF THAT HAVING HER MOTHER DISCOVERING HER IN THE GARDEN?
HAVING HER OWN MOTHER SEE THE BODY OF HER BELOVED DAUGHTER COMPLETELY NAKED,SOILED AND EMPTIED BY SOME PSYCHOPATHS?!
HOW CAN YOU LET SUCH A DESTINY HAPPENS ?!”
Her tears were like a waterfall on the face of Mika while she was shouting at God.
God looked at her, without flinching for the slightest, his cold look in the eyes.
He answered slowly:
“I do have to admit that I failed when I created you, humans. You are imperfect. So imperfect that it is incredible to be rotten at this extent…
I gave you Eden and you burned it. Turned it into ashes.”
He took his right hand to his right side of his face.
“But I have to say that I have fun looking at you, to see how far humanity will go, how deep you will dive in order to destroy yourself.” He finished with a smile on his face.
Mika completely snapped and run in the direction of god while screaming :
“HOOOOOOOOOOW COUUULDD YOUUUUUUUUUUU…?!”
She grabbed his neck with her hands.
Or at least, she tried.
But she went through his body, as if he was a phantom.
God turned into her direction.
“Don’t worry you can’t kill me”
Mika fell on her knees, devastated by the fate of her daughter and hers.
“So, let’s resume where we were.
You are not welcome to paradise.
But the thing is, your sins are not severe enough to send you to Hell, especially given the price you paid with your daughter Peony.
And I don’t want to have any souls wandering on earth and cursing the humans.
So I am here to give two options about your death.
Or should I say your rebirth.”
One of the Red balls around him started to shine making the wind blowing around them.
Mika, with no strength or life left in her soul, says a few words with a low voice.
“ If it comes to rebirth, I don’t want it, just send me to Hell and resurrect my daughter Peony.”
“No no, that’s impossible” Said God with his hand in front of him, his index standing, doing a no-no sign to Mika.
“Any soul revived after one year of death or more is getting completely crushed by the time difference between earth and heaven.
And bringing a soul into a different body from the original, is driving the soul crazy.
With a small sadistic smile he continued :
“ Your first option is to be reborn as a human, but in exchange for neglecting the living ones, you won’t be able to pronounce the name Peony.
Obviously you won’t be able to touch any peonies, draw them or even talk about them.
Every time you will bypass this interdiction, you will be tortured.”
She had no word to describe his attitude, was he really God or was he the Devil? Maybe it was already Hell after all…
“Your second option is to reincarnate the soul of your beloved daughter into your peonies. In exchange they won’t ever wither, but if someone cut them, your daughter will die.
If you choose this option you will have to guard them forever, you won’t be able to go further than ten meters away from the peonies bush.
Of course, you won’t be able to cut them yourself.”
After hearing his explanations she said calmly:
“So you really are the devil…”
He smiled and answered :
“I’m not the devil but I like to try new developments for my little creations, it’s always fun to see what their despair can make them do.”
This is how Peony’s Skull was born.
She chose the second option, since the first one would mean abandon her daughter a second time and even worse, denying her existence completely.
End of Peony’s Skull.