'A Plague a’ Both Your Houses'
~ A Novel ~
Following the untimely deaths of Romeo and Juliet, the Apothecary from Mantua travels to Verona to atone for his involvement is their tragic endings, as news travels of bloodshed and innocence lost.
Upon arriving in Verona, the Apothecary is thrown into the middle of the ancient strife between the Montague’s and the
Capulet's, as war has once again been declared.
Fueled by a desire to prevent further lives from being lost, desiring to initiate a truce between the family’s as he looks to repent for what he has done, and crossing the paths of those familiar and unfamiliar in this world and the next, the Apothecary accepts a fate that may be beyond his control, bringing him closer to his own end.
Excerpt from 'A Plague a' Both Your Houses'
I have broken my own moral code and, for that and that alone, I must cease to be. These many years of my life, I have watched Lord knows how many souls fly to His high kingdom well before their calling.
Desperation would cry out from the eyes of the unwell, of both physical health and of the soul, to be healed and returned to their natural state from the confines of their bed. And I, a man of rich wisdom, a trained and experienced apothecary, would give them juices so empowered with cure, that not two days would pass and they would be at my door to thank me for my remedies of life.
Though, like the sun that doth rise in the eastern sky and travel its long and steady path, my years have passed to see the setting of my youth, as the stars have colored my hair white with their falling dust. In these never-ending years, others have practiced in this art of combining herbs and like substances into medicinal tinctures and done well, yet well call I it, as they have healed as I have. Thus, I have lost many a family to those who would offer the same medicines, but at a fee that would be unforeseen and unimaginable to support their own life and health. My aging years could not keep in the chase of these younger men who would even travel to learn more of their art. I had fallen poor, and inevitably my own health had lost its fight, as famine and hopelessness covered my bones. What was I to do?
From Verona he came, of an age where decisions were still new and un-thought-out, and I, a man of experience in the workings of the world, especially that of the mind and body, should have directed his judgment and desire to gain more logic and settle it to a steady place. Even as only a fortnight, or so, has passed since this boy from Verona came to me, I remember his words as clear as my own.
“Let me have a dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear as will disperse itself through all the veins that the life-weary taker may fall dead…” he said. Even as I informed him of Mantua’s law, the passion within him, as deep as to the heart that I have ever seen, called to me from my own youth. It was not in violent acts against another that this lad sought to obtain this poison, but for something even more rich and pure…for love. I may myself never have known love, but I have seen it in the eyes of those that I have saved from death’s door as they embraced their families and loved ones. This boy’s love was more powerful than all those I have saved, united together, as the glare in his eyes was as steady and sure as a captain in the royal fleet steering his ship into a storm of war. I am not fully sure if it was the forty ducats that truly persuaded me to give him the poison or the realization that he would stop at nothing to achieve his final goal. Though his words did pull at the strings of my heart and poverty, that I, in my weakest state, allowed for my deepest heart’s emotion to take hold of my will and lead me to the unlawful contract.
In my purse now are the same forty ducats, unspent. How can I, in all my thoughts of righteous acts, spend one solitary ducat to save my own life when I have taken his? It was only two days ago that late word from Verona struck my soul, hearing of the death of a boy by such same poison and that of his love, who stabbed herself to take her own life at his loss. There can be no other but the boy that I had sold the poison to. Thus, it was only within hours after my assumptions were confirmed when I learned of his name. My confusion at first puzzled me, as his final words before we parted ways convinced me that the deep love he held was the cause for the poison’s desire.
“Come, Cordial and not poison, go with me to Juliet’s grave, for there must I use thee” he said. True love’s words called to him to be where his love was, and my poison would send him to be with her once again. Though, I dread upon the airy knowledge that this love of his, this Juliet, stabbed herself upon his own life’s ending. It was only through further reports, of more reliable story, that informed me of her plan of deception to leave her family to be with him. She had consumed a distilling liquor that made her appear as if death had called upon her. She was to awake from this appearance of the grave and leave her city of birth and her family, to be with her love. What transpired that the connection was not made, and he did not have knowledge of this act, I will never know. In the end of this all, the result is the same. My poison traveled through his body and ended the flow of blood that would have kept his strong heart beating for years to come. O’, that the world never conjured such poisons to place such ill fate upon the souls of men. Nonetheless, it is the very same such poison I carry in my pocket with me, to seal my fate for all that I have done. It is the same poison, from the same natural material that removed the first person of its usage, that I will let course through my own veins and join the poor boy, wheresoever his soul has ended. Upon heaven’s eyes, I have tried to drink of it before, even just days ago. I held the small bottle to my lips but could not summon the courage to punish myself for my wrongs. Was it God’s hand reaching down, halting my efforts, or that of other supernatural callings? It is of no matter now, as I have finally discovered why my arms could not lift it to be consumed and allow my spirit to spin into the sky. It was within the church that both their lives ended, and it will be within the same church that I will ask for their forgiveness and end my own. My resolve is as steady as the wind, as my questioning hand has found purpose and will allow me to take the action needed.
Yet, before I send my soul to the darkest of places, where the devil himself will shake my hand for what I have done, I will look to God to forgive this boy, the dear and sweet Romeo, as he knew not of what he did. Never are the thoughts of youth as clear as the night’s sky full of stars, when love shows her face and leads hearts like the warm summer wind. Thus, I travel now, and see that I am only within a short distance away, if not closer, from this same church, in the city of Verona. I will speak out to God, and to the friar of this unfortunate church where the bodies were discovered, to ask forgiveness for the blood that covers my hands. I have done an ill deed to the world; I have done wrong to a youthful boy and his family’s hopes and dreams. Let my prayers plead to God to save both of their souls; let these forty ducats from the boy be used by the church however these rounds of poison, as the boy called them when given to me, seem fit to use. O’ Romeo, O’ Juliet, what have I done? These tears fall, pouring from my soul, to plead for your forgiveness.
“May these actions I will soon perform allow for their souls to be free, as ever is the blame in this matter pointed solely at me.” Looking to the heavens as I speak these words in the open air, I hope for a reply, but the clouds pass unknowingly ignorant of my existence, and no streams of light gleam down upon my being, in recognition of my entreaty. I know God is there, and I place my life in his hands to do as he sees fit. I can only hope and pray he has set His forgiving touch upon these children.
Children; what do I know of them? That I was never a father, I did not hold the wisdom to stop such acts and capture the light of the path that was lit for you, dear boy. O’ bloody deed! It is as if I handed the poison to you not a day ago, unfortunate, unknowing boy. What shall I do but to follow my course?
At the church in Verona, I will plead to God, ask for forgiveness, leave the friar these forty ducats, and then in a peaceful and hidden corner within the walls of the holy place, I will drink of this poison and call my life’s story to an end. I see no other purpose in my aged existence. Two and fifty years have long been enough for these cracked bones and drooping curtains of flesh. God had given me a purpose long ago and I did all that I could within it. Now, those years have passed on this life and I have failed Him in that purpose. As he has not presented me any other reason to be, it appears the time has come that I should no longer be.
Stepping one foot in front of the other, as my mind’s purpose has clouded the time spent on this long road, I see that I have reached Verona and that my end is nearer than it was from when I awoke this morning. The time is mine. So shall I find one last reprieve, one last ounce of liquid spirits that may assist my sure and steady hand to lift the poison to my mouth, lest the pleading of some fear were to show its face and attempt to hold back my driven purpose. Thus, to my word and my decision, as no force on this will stop me.
If it is furthermore possible to learn of any additional news of the tragedy that I have caused, I will include these such findings into my prayer. May Verona forgive me for handing their youth a tragic ending. O’ most foul soul, most repenting nature, carry me to my action. That I may find peace, which I do not deserve, will be a miracle upon itself. I am not worthy of such peace. Nor am I worthy to enter such a place as this, the beautiful city of Verona, where my hand played such a role. Up strength of will, carry me into your just hands, that the blackness of my thoughts will hold firm and not be removed once I have found my resting place.
Entering the city, there is an initial sense of calm both from the buildings as well as those that walk from one place to another. It would seem that the veil of woe still hangs on the faces of its citizens, mourning the loss of these two lost souls. Even as several weeks, if it be not more than three, have passed and the death of these two children, if not others, still rests heavily on their souls. It may be well advised that I not inform any that I speak with that it was I, the Mantuan apothecary, that brought death to this place and the frowns that have painted the expressions of these once happy faces.
Though, as I enter further and look around closer, deeper and sharper, I see that of those that I cross the path of, fear is more present on their shoulders than that of misery. In my profession there is no emotion that I have come across more than that of fear. In the eyes of a dying father, or that of the same father watching his dying child, fear is similar to waves of the ocean drowning the shore as the tides swell and swallow the land. It is here, on every face that I see. What is it that brings this blanket of sadness to such a fair city as this? Stopping the present movement of my legs, my own fear comes to the shore of my eyes, as I wonder if Verona has been struck by the plague.
“Good Madam,” I ask, as a woman rushingly passes me, holding herself tightly together it seems, as if to protect her spirit from a demon. “Good Madam, if I may be allowed to pause your eager pace and ask if the plague has rested here on sweet Verona?”
“The plague?” she asks, as if I have given her more to protect herself from as her hands further constrict their grip. “There is a plague that stays within this city, but it is not that dreadful disease that makes the lives of men fall.”
With these few words, she moves her feet once again and is out of my sight and into a building with the firm closing of the door. My thoughts of this mission’s safety are within the edge of my mind entering the fair Verona, knowing that even as some plague roams these streets, it is not one that willingly looks to harm my life. Though, even as the plague is not traveling rampant to the bodies within this loving place, I still must be wary of whatever it is that she was meaning. My soul has its calling. My life is coming to its end, but it must be as I have planned it or my purpose and the desire that traces to my roots will be lost.
“My life may have its end in sight, but the plague is not a thing I would care to suffer through” I say to the sky, committing my mind and actions to my deed with this verbal contract. Gathering my thoughts, I see that only a few doors from where I stand there is a tavern that offers shelter and spirits. This place shall be my last air of peace, the final moments of whatever joy I may gather on this land. One drink, maybe two, and then I will most assuredly make my way to the church to end all that I have known.
'O God, Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity a while,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
To tell my story.'
~ Hamlet, Act V, Scene II
'Like' me on FACEBOOK, and I will wear you in my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart.