Fiction: “Grace” by Jason M. Jones

Then turning to the spirit once again,
I said: “Francesca, what you suffer here
melts me to tears of pity and pain.

But tell me: in the time of your sweetest sighs
by what appearances found love the way
to lure you to his perilous paradise?”

The Inferno, Dante, Canto V, Circle Two

I. Francesca

Paolo threw himself from the window last night, but it might have been the night before or the night before that. It might have been a hundred years ago, and it’s quite likely he’ll do it again tomorrow. Time means so little when the same monotonous moonbeams have streamed through these broken panes for years on end and all I see is night.

He returned inexplicably, and that’s what matters. I woke (who can say how long I slept?) and there he was, sitting across from me. We never share a word, but lacking that mad look, the snarling smile and arch of his brow, this room would lose meaning, the shadows wouldn’t take form, and our story would dissolve.

When I close my eyes, I can see his face—not Paolo’s, but a replica—a round, olive orb, curtained by twisting black locks, his brazen scowl as he crept the corridors before our death, his eyes like flames in the bedroom’s hearth. He clutches a long knife below the blade’s silver glint—his lips a demonic curl—and he springs through heavy wooden doors to catch us off guard.

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