I put tulips under all the pillows. Tulips had always been her favourite. She found them so vibrant, so radiant – just as she’d been before the end.
There wasn’t a week that went by that I wouldn’t come home with a bouquet of those flowers. The house was filled with them. Their sweet fragrance greeted visitors, and there were so many visitors. All of them wanted to see her, to lay hands on her. They worshipped her, prayed to her but only I was granted her blessing. I worked harder than any to give tribute.
Soon it was too much and I had to begin turning them away. That was around the time the worst of the violence started. It started the way all things do with minor grumblings of annoyance and the odd hurtful word, directed first at me and then at those who made pilgrimage. The first stones were cast a few days later and, by the end of the week, those allowed to enter her rooms were being accosted by the ones turned away. They didn’t understand.
The police and other authorities told me they were powerless to intervene, told me that now may be the time to let her go. I couldn’t do that. She wouldn’t have wanted me to do that. I spoke to her every night as I dressed her and combed her hair. I asked her what I should do. She wouldn’t say –not at first.
Her instructions came through my dreams, hazy in the beginning and then fully-formed. She told me that she was pleased, that I was most blessed. She asked me for one last act of faith. I told her I would do anything she asked of me, but she already knew that.
The following days and weeks took their toll on her as the hatred and violence rose to a horrifying crescendo beneath her windows. The glow faded from her bright eyes, her bronzed skin grew waxy and dull. She wasn’t who I knew her to be, wasn’t what the world wanted her to be.
I was expecting it when the order came. She woke me from restless sleep and told me what to do. I was to give them what they wanted. The instant the words left her lips, I was filled with a serenity I’d never thought achievable in my meditations. All would be over soon. Everything would be alright once again.
I woke late that day. They were already at the door. Hundreds of them, more than I’d ever seen. As always, I put tulips under all the pillows, fixed a humbled smile upon my lips and unlocked the doors. They rushed inside, surging forward up the stairs. The mass of bodies held me against the wall. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. They soon passed. They weren’t here for me.
I waited, as she’d instructed, until every last one was inside then I stepped outside, locked the door securely and set fire to the house