The secret marriage vow is never spoken......

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I drove past one of the public gardens in a local suburb, particularly well known as THE spot to have wedding pictures taken. I have driven past so often and seen so many brides, invariably hidden by hundreds of layers of every shade of white, that I don't even bother looking anymore. Yet on this day I happened to glance, and was greeted by the saddest of faces....such sadness that were I to look for a second longer I would feel it welling up in my lungs, forcing the breath from my body.... Michael Ende, a name in our collective memories only for his penning of The Never-ending Story, less famously wrote a collection of stories based on etchings his father had done. Vivid, imaginative and surreal, I found a copy of the book in my local library more than ten years ago, and many of the stories still linger in my mind, a slightly disquieting residue. One of the fables, if my memory is to be trusted (which is not often), proceeds as follows. * * * * * * * A young groom, eagerly attired, stands before a doorway, which in turn looks out onto a landscape of sun-scarred desert, aureate sands stretching to a blinding, azure sky. His faceless guide turns to him. "It is time, we must press forward with great haste." "She will be radiant, won't she?" The groom's eyes are aflame with expectancy. "How long will the journey take?" "Not long, provided we...." But the groom has already stepped through the doorway and so the faceless man must follow. As the groom sets foot onto the searing sand, he is accosted by a screeching figure. Matted, medusa-like hair frames a withered face and vacant eyes. Her voice is a grating of stones, her tongue unable to remember the nuances of speech. But the direction of her arm is unwavering, her spindly fingers extending a brittle, dead flower toward the groom. The groom barely even registers her interruption; he is purpose driven, his desire inexorable. It is only when the groom is almost over the next sand dune, that the guide looks away from the old woman and follows. Perhaps it is fortunate that the man has no face, I am not sure we were meant to understand such emotion. To the groom, it felt as if they had been wandering for days. Each time he asked the guide how much further it was to their destination, his quiet response would indicate perhaps over the next dune. Surrounded by shimmering hallucinations, the heat a murdering companion, the groom slowly began to doubt he would ever arrive....... In a similar room, a luminous young bride gazes through a doorway. "Will he be here soon? I have dreamed of him every night...." "Soon, yes. But you must be patient." The faceless man turns to speak again, but the young bride snatches a flower from his hand and races through the doorway, her bare feet kicking up tiny golden specks of sands. She is almost tripped up by a broken figure slumped just outside the door, his suit in tatters. He tries to call out to her, but his throat is as dry as the desert around him. "I must go to him! We will meet just over the next dune, I can sense it!" The faceless man steps through in the wake of her excited cries. He stops for a moment to glance at the old man, but the vapid eyes that greet his show no hint of recognition. * * * * * * * A thousand apologies to Michael Ende for butchering his tale, but the gist of it is there. I cannot recall for sure whether the guide has no face, but I'm pretty sure. The original ending is far more powerful, but I didn't want to attempt it without the story in front of me. Here is a link to another of the stories from the book.

5 Responses to “The secret marriage vow is never spoken......”

  1. Blogger Apotropaism 

    Thanks for that link; I didn't know Michael Ende wrote any short fiction, and that's an interesting story.

  2. Blogger Beelzebabe 

    Awesome story.

    So who's face did you see that bore the burden of such sadness? The bride or the groom? heh.

  3. Blogger forgottenmachine 

    You'd have liked it to be the groom, wouldn't you!

    It was the bride, and I know it's highly unlikely that I could know this from a three second glance, but I'm pretty sure it was an arranged marriage. I've seen a good few before and I recognized many similarities.

    I had an interesting discussion with one of my Muslim colleagues on Monday. She was talking about how so many arranged marriages actually work out and that if wives could just learn to be more subservient, there would be less divorce.....I'm sure by now you can guess what my response was.

  4. Blogger banzai cat 

    Wow, thanks for the heads up on Ende's writings. I've read Ende's famous book but didn't know about his short stories. Likewise, the story below, despite being predictable, is still powerful. Thanks for the telling.

    And a Sting fan, yes? Excelleeeent...


  5. Blogger Prone Ranger 

    As a result of this post I have had the most vivid dreams of Arderne Gardens, which is rather a sad place if you look beyond the initial green. In my dream I single-handedly revitalise the Oasis. As a matter of interest, at the age of seven, I fell and cut my hand deeply on a discarded razor blade in these Gardens. I still bare the scar. Some things were always a little sad. It is our memories that give them a cheap gloss sheen.

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