On the coast of North Carolina lived a man and a woman.
His name was Andrew Mitchell and his wife, Ana, was a Cardinal before they got married. For about four years they lived in in a lavender colored beach house, whose windows seemed to resemble eyes that looked out across the Atlantic horizon.
Everything seemed ideal, that is, until Ana had been diagnosed with cancer. After hearing the terrible news, she fell into a deep, dark depression that Ana described as drowning without being underwater. In her diary she wrote that her soul had been trapped in a room without oxygen, and the meaning of it all fell flat.
What’s the point of living? Ana wrote. My body, this beautiful, youthful and fragile lily will wilt due to chemotherapy. I simply cannot and will not allow the cruel injustice of misfortune be a savage cosmic joke. It isn’t death I fear, but the prolonging of it. Both the physical and emotional toll it will not only have on me, but Andrew as well. Beneath the teardrops on the page, Ana concluded by jotting down, I’m sorry for what is to come.
So, one mid-September night, Andrew’s wife ran a hot bath, lit vanilla scented candles, and locked the bathroom door. She removed her clothes and looked aimlessly in the mirror for a good fifteen minutes. Internally, she said to her reflection, This is it, be with your father and end this suffering.
Ana then proceeded to swallow thirty sleeping tablets before submerging her pale body into the warm water. Eventually, she fell into a deep, deep sleep and her spirit left her body. However, Ana’s soul did not cross over to the other side to meet with her father. Instead, she found herself trapped in the house, unable to leave the property and was forced to spend countless days and nights in the beach house.
When her husband found Ana’s body, Andrew panicked and cried hysterically. But to his surprise, when he went to dial 911, Andrew discovered his wife sitting on the loveseat in their living room.
Ana’s husband thought he had gone mad until he became a believer in ghosts. And his wife, well, she too had no other choice but to accept her fate.
Instead of calling the police, Andrew took Ana’s body to the garage and worked up the nerve to cut her up. “Don’t worry,” said the spirit of his wife. “I’ll help you.”
As they severed her arms and legs and head from the torso, Ana said, “This is so weird, you know? Cutting up your own body.”
“Don’t speak to me,” Andrew told her, with his bloody hands shaking. “You might not have left me, but you’re a goddamn idiot for doing this.”
Ana was silent.
“I mean, we could have worked through this together,” Andrew continued. “What if your spirit hadn’t stayed in this world? What if you had crossed over? Do you have any idea how much that would have hurt me?”
“Can’t you just be thankful I’m here?” Ana sharply added.
“Right, this is totally better,” her husband shot back. “I’m speaking to the ghost of my dead wife and I’m about to stuff her blonde melon into a trash bag.” A tear came from his already puffy eyes and added, “Did you not take into consideration that I loved your body? I loved your blue eyes – your LIVING blue eyes – and everything else that was warm and soft. I don’t care if you were sick. Now it’s just cold and tasteless.”
It was then Ana slammed her severed arm on the tabletop and exclaimed, “Oh, fuck you, Andrew! You say you miss my body? The one you couldn’t bring yourself to screw weeks after the diagnosis? Do you have ANY idea what that was like for me?”
“And do YOU have any idea what THIS is like?!” her husband shouted. “Not only has my wife died, but now I have to dispose of your body because nobody is going to understand how you’re here and you’re – ” he stopped for a moment, looked at Ana’s dismembered body, and added, “There! In six fucking pieces! And do you have ANY understanding how hard it is to have to completely absorb this whole concept of death?”
Ana didn’t know how to respond.
“Perhaps I should go ahead and kill myself as well,” Andrew concluded.
His wife then slapped him across the face and hissed, “Don’tchu ever say that again.” A cold silence befell in the garage, and Ana added, “What I have done is nothing but a sheer act of ignorance. We could’ve lived through this, fought that fucking disease, and possibly become a survivor to help others. I admit, I should have thought more clearly about how this would affect you, but don’t ever consider the possibility of suicide.” She stopped for a moment and noticed the mix of longing and hurt in Andrew’s face.
In his brown eyes she saw a fragile psyche on the edge of breaking and said, “This is single-handedly the worst thing I could have possibly done, and the moment my spirit separated from my body I wish I hadn’t done it. Christ, I feel like a mannequin: the imitation of a human but stuck in a frozen vortex. And the worst part about all of this is that I realize I could have lived a happy life and gotten better — but it’s too late. Believe me when I say you don’t want to be dead, at least not until you have lived a full life.” She stopped, wiped her eyes and added, “When you die, it isn’t your life that flashes before your eyes, but the future that could’ve been.”
Andrew then wrapped his arms around his wife and began to sob uncontrollably.
“I’m scared,” he told her, and released all his raw emotion onto his ghostly lover’s shoulder. “I feel like I’m going to go crazy.”
“Shhh,” she said. “As long as we are in this house I will be your comfort. We will somehow make this work and, honey, I love you. Please know this.”
After calming her husband down, Ana instructed him to take the trash bags full of her body parts out to the ocean and cast them into dark currents. When Andrew was done disposing of his wife, he came back, took a shower, and got into bed.
Ana’s spirit held him and she said, “Don’t worry, we will make sense of all this.”
A year later, the husband and wife remained in the house. He had gotten used to her presence and she grew increasingly bored of everything. Day in and day out she stayed indoors and did chores, cooked, cleaned, mastered crossword puzzles, and read. The house around her became an insufferable prison and Ana missed going to the grocery store and visiting her mother and sister in Virginia.
And Andrew, well, he worked, came home, and spent time with his dead wife. However, he, too, longed for the days in which they could go to restaurants or take a trip to the mountains and see the outside world together.
One night, as they watched the same news as they always did, it came to their surprise that the weather channel announced a hurricane was forming off the coast of Africa. The meteorologist said that its name was Sylvia. After a moment of worried silence, Andrew looked over to his wife and asked, “You don’t think-”
“No,” Ana quickly interrupted. “It’s just a weak storm out in the Atlantic. If anything it will probably break apart and just be a tropical depression.”
However, despite his wife’s optimism, there was a deep worry that perhaps hurricane Sylvia would become stronger and make landfall. And due to the fact Ana couldn’t leave the property, her imagination ran wild with impending doom.
Over a short period of time, the storm began to make its way across the Atlantic and went from a measly category one to a concerning three with wind speeds of ninety-three miles per hour. At first, the predicted path was to move toward the north-Atlantic, but it had shifted to direct landfall on the Carolina coast.
“They say it’s going to get worse,” Andrew informed Ana, as he paced nervously back and forth. He smoked a menthol cigarette to calm his anxiety and added, “What are we going to do?”
“There is no we,” Ana said, sternly. “You are going to evacuate this town and leave me behind. Do you understand?”
Andrew remained quiet as fear grew inside him. He worried that the storm would intensify into a category five and carry the house away. And Ana wondered where she would go if or when Sylvia devoured everything on the coast. In the entire year of being a spirit, she never once thought about this possibility. Mrs. Mitchell imagined watching her husband grow old as she stayed the same — not tangled up in coral and seaweed.
“I don’t want to leave you, “Andrew told her. “I won’t – I can’t.”
“Yes, you can,” she replied. “You will because life should be lived. Andrew, honey, do not anchor yourself down because of my mistake. Please leave.”
But her husband stayed and refused to abandon his wife at the mercy of Sylvia’s wrath, which eventually grew into a category five. This storm, this huge and wicked storm, spun out of control right off the coast and would soon make landfall.
On the night before Sylvia’s arrival, the entire coast had evacuated. The only thing left was the emptiness of hotels, plaza strips, houses and restaurants. Everything had been boarded up with hope that the citizen’s homes and businesses would stay; however, everyone knew what was to come. Nothing would be left, not even the lavender beach house that the Mitchells lived in.
Ana had had enough of her husband stubbornness and screamed, “Andrew Mitchell, you better leave this house or else!”
“Or else WHAT?” he shot back at her, sitting at the dining room table and smoking a cigarette.
“Or I will call the police and tell them that you are deliberately disobeying the mandatory evacuation,” she said, sternly.
Andrew let out a chuckle and replied, “Yeah, and what about you? They will wonder why YOU haven’t left yet.”
This is true, she thought, as annoyed rage consumed her. Ana then yelled, “Go! Just fucking GO! Leave this house and leave me. What do I have to do to make you understand that your decision is completely idiotic?!”
“You really don’t get it, do you?” Andrew asked his wife.
Ana became silent, trying to figure out what he meant. With her eyes fixed on her husband, she coolly asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”
Mr. Mitchell took one final drag of his cigarette and put it out in the ashtray. “If there is anything I’ve learned about living with a ghost,” he said to her. “Is that they only see what they want to see, and it’s completely evident that you, my love, have not a single idea that my being here is less about a choice and more about the fact that I simply can’t leave.”
A feeling colder than herself dropped into the pit of her stomach, and in her neck was a tight feeling like she had dry-swallowed a ginormous pill. Ana began to realize what he meant, but still asked, “What are you saying?”
For a good five seconds Andrew remained silent until he finally confessed, “I’m dead.”
Ana’s lower jaw trembled and her eyes grew immensely round after hearing these words. Even when someone is dead and everything is numb, the realization that Mrs. Mitchell’s lover was now in the same boat caused gravity to become heavy. She collapsed in the sofa behind her and replied, “I… I don’t understand.”
“Two weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore,” Andrew informed her. “I went out to the shed and hung myself.” He paused and added, “I’m so sorry, I just wanted to be like you. I didn’t ever want to have to leave, so I made it to where I couldn’t.”
A dark silence set in, and the only noise between them was the meteorologist on the television advising everyone to seek shelter.
Ana shot up from the sofa, stormed out of the beach house, and ran to the shed. Before opening the shed door, she noticed a very pungent odor coming from the other side. Don’t do it, she told herself. Just turn around and go back in the house. However, she needed to know. Ana needed to validate whether or not what husband had confessed was true.
She bit her bottom lip, turned the handle on the door, and opened it quickly. What she saw at first glance caused her to let out a horrendous scream. For Andrew wasn’t lying, as his rotted corpse hung from slipknot and body swung slowly back and forth like a morbid pendulum. Maggots squirmed around inside her husband’s mouth and the decomposed corpse made her want to vomit. The only problem with that being she could no longer eat.
After realizing the damage she had done, Ana made her way back into the house. When she stepped inside, Andrew asked his wife, “Are you angry at me?”
Tears began to form in her eyes. She wanted to scream at him and curse him and throw the nearest object at his head. But instead, she knew that it was too late and smiled through a disgusted face. “Of course not, honey,” Ana told him. She came to his side, put her hands on his shoulders and kissed the top of his head. “I am not angry at you. As a matter of fact, I am thankful for your love. Andrew Mitchell, you are without a doubt my true soulmate.”
The next day, just hours before Sylvia’s arrival, the couple stood on the back porch of their beach house. They stared aimlessly into the sea’s horizon at the monster’s black clouds. Its roaring winds, sharp electricity and deep thunder signified that a god with malice like the devil would soon devour everything.
“What do you think it'll be like?” Andrew asked. “You know, when we’re washed away with the house?”
Ana thought for a moment and replied, “It will be scary at first, but then there will be a resonating light as we become one with the sea and, who knows, maybe we’ll become beautiful mermaids.”
He let out a melancholic chuckle and said, “I always imagined if we had a daughter she would grow up and want to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid.”
She let out a slow laugh and tried to hold herself together. For what Ana never told her husband is that she was pregnant when she committed suicide. On a page in her diary that she ripped out and shredded up, Ana had written, And I would rather die than have my child suffer through this with me.
But that was a secret Mrs. Mitchell would never, ever confess to her husband.
The ocean’s waves violently churned and pounded the banks. To Sylvia, the homes on the Carolina coast were fragile like paper houses held together by glue and toothpicks.
Andrew and Ana went back inside and decided to have one last party. They made margaritas for which they couldn’t drink, put on Fastball’s The Way, and danced to the music. The couple flipped through wedding albums and reminisced on their life before death. All those moments soon to be lost and washed away, forever and ever.
After making love one last time, they curled up in bed and Andrew said to his wife, “I love you so much.”
In his strong arms, she closed her eyes and replied, “I love you, too.”
After the storm passed and the entire coast was destroyed, a crew came in to clean up what little was left. The lavender beach house was gone and its remnants were either scattered on the beach, or floating out in the Atlantic with Ana’s body parts.
Nothing of the Mitchell’s life could be found; however, before the storm had made landfall Andrew’s wife put their photos in an empty bottle. These photographs included their trip to New York, their first Christmas, and a snapshot a friend had taken in a hotel room of them kissing. But the most important picture she placed in the bottle was an ultrasound print of their daughter that was never born.