The Broken Man and His Rose

Many in the town of Cambrian knew well of the ghosts of The Broken Man and The Blinded Woman; in fact, those spirits’ stories were some of the bloodiest, gruesome tales that the ghost town had to offer.

Yet what most don’t know is that their stories started together on a clear May morning, just past noon in the year 1915.

The market was bustling, bursting with life much the same as it usually did around this time of day. It was the one place in Cambrian where men, women, and children alike could congregate and enjoy each other’s company without too much strife or scandal. The scent of fresh produce, baked goods and ciders that were being sold wafted through the air, as a constant buzz of voices and young laughter filled the ears and the mass warmth of bodies left no soul lonely. The sun was high and blinding, a welcome reprieve from the usual fog, casting a sparkle upon every piece of earthly matter that it touched. It was an assault on the senses, but it was one of the happier moments in the townspeople’s lives.

The peace of the moment – if that’s what you could call it – was shattered for several people when some of the children found a new game to play: Mock the Cripple.

You see there was a new man in town, and what a sight he was. It was clear that he was once quite the looker, with a lithe form that accentuated his height, and raven black hair that fell straight and somewhat long around his thin, strong face. But his deep, chocolate brown eyes were now dull and depressed, his head often hung nervously. He dressed in brown tweed that never seemed to fit quite right. And his leg, the poor man’s leg, was mangled, weak, and all but useless as he supported most of his weight on a brown cane.

So here is a man who is new, and who is different. Not only that, but he is unable to defend himself effectively. This makes him the most obvious target for the troublemakers of the town.

Five male adolescents had formed a circle around the man during his unsuspecting walk in to the market, and each were taking turns at shouting at him unintelligibly, pushing him, and imitating his gait. The man himself didn’t seem keen at all on fighting them off, instead merely choosing to look forward and attempt to go on with his day.

It was lucky for him that still a few decent people resided in the town, a few who would come to defend this man that is, and it just so happened that one of them chose to meander through the market at the same time as he.

“What do you think you’re doing?” A sharp feminine voice rang out, causing the boys to cease their harassment immediately.

A woman strode forward into the fray, and what a petite little thing she was. She was sporting a simple navy blue dress and jacket, with black shoes and a matching blue and black hat on her head that was decorated with a black rose. Her face was thin and open, with bright blue-green eyes sparkling dangerously towards the rapscallions that she was dealing with, her cherry red lips pressed together in a tight line. Her hair was blonde, curling delicately around her face and tied back in a low ponytail. She was beautiful, and she was angry.

“Jimmy, William, Joseph, Thomas, Matthew. Do any of you care to explain what you were doing?”

The tallest of the group spoke out, stuttering. “N-Nothing Ms. Moore, we were just…just…”

“Just harassing the new war veteran who has arrived to this town?” she suggested shrewdly.

The man’s eyes shot to her in surprise; he hadn’t known it was common knowledge already how he got his injury.

The children, who continued to shuffle around nervously, didn’t meet her glance.

She sighed, closing her eyes tiredly for a moment before looking back at them. “Apologize to this man and go back to your parents. I won’t mention this to them so long as you agree not to do it again.”

It was with varying degrees of “Yes Ma’am”’s and “Sorry Sir”’s that the boys scattered off to find a new game to play.

Then the woman’s gaze was on the man, the danger in her eyes replaced with concern and curiosity.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes…yes,” the man quickly straightened himself as best he could, running a hand through his hair. “That was incredibly kind, Miss. Thank you.”

“Of course, it was only right,” she gave a weak smile. “I teach those boys I’m afraid. I always knew they were trouble, but to go so far…”

“They saw a target and took it, which is more than understandable,” the smile was returned, though stronger. “I must say I’m surprised to have been recognized. For a reason beyond simply the lame leg, that is.”

“The women in my building talk,” she began to play with the handle of a small navy purse she was carrying, an item that the man hadn’t noticed before. “Though they were unsure of your name.”

“It’s Vincent Purcell, Miss. Just took on a job as a journalist.”

“Rose Moore. I’m fairly new here myself; I just started teaching last month.”

“A month, and the boys are already so respectful of you?”

“I don’t approve of the school system, and nor do I pretend to around the children. I respect them, they respect me, and we all try to avoid use of the cane if possible.”

The pair chuckled, and without any sort of discussion they began to walk in a seemingly random direction.

“So you must be hearing a lot about the war,” Rose stated, glancing at Vincent curiously.

He shrugged, his face dropping a little. “Well, I’ve been in a war, haven’t I? The Bluff War. Though this one’s a slight bit bigger… still. It ain’t fun living through one, let alone two.”

“Surely you wouldn’t be joining the war anyway, even if America did joined?”

When he spoke next his voice was tense. “No, the damn leg makes sure of that, doesn’t it?”

Rose fell silent for a moment, an air of uncertainty falling over the pair like a thick blanket. “I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Vincent sighed through his nose, shaking his head and looking around bashfully. “I know you didn’t. It’s just a little insulting, knowing that I’m…damaged goods.”

“Everyone is damaged goods,” she stepped in without missing a beat. “Most, however, choose to use pretty packaging to falsely advertise. Least you’re honest.”

“Am I?” he gave her a bitter smirk as the pair turned down a far less crowded street. “Here I am, writing about a war and the like, from viewpoints that I disagree with.”

Rose fell silent again for a moment before answering. “A job is a job. It puts bread on the table.”

“But it doesn’t make me honest.”

Blue-green eyes looked at the broken man sympathetically.

“So be honest, Mr. Purcell. What do you think of the war?”

“I don’t like the effect it has on the people who choose not to fight in it,” the man answered nonchalantly, leaving Rose unimpressed. It was clear he thought more of it.

“That can’t be all.”

“It’s likely all I can safely say.”

“Come on now, it’s just me. And I’m curious.”

“Curiosity can be dangerous.”

“As can apathy.”

A bemused smirk crossed Vincent’s face. “Miss Moore, after we part, could I have the honour of seeing you again?”

Her cheeks darkened as a shy smile crossed her face. “Well, only if you promise to call me Rose and continue this riveting conversation on the state of our beloved country.”

“You, my dear, have yourself a deal.”

 

To the few that knew them, the October wedding of Vincent Purcell and Rose Moore did not come as a shock. Not many knew of the wedding as both did not have many close in the family. Rose’s two sisters and their husbands chose to be there to witness the event, and one of Vincent’s cousins who hadn’t been put off when he returned to the family a cripple walked Rose down the aisle, seeing as her father had passed. Apart from them, the main attendees to this occasion were several of the women who lived in Rose’s old apartment building – it was quite clear that the sounds of her singing as she cooked would be missed – as well as two of the editors that Vincent worked with.

No, the wedding was not a shock at all. From their first conversation it was undeniable that there was a pull between the two. The proposal that occurred the following August was a breath of good news for everyone suffering during wartime. And apart from one woman Vincent was acquaintances with accusing him of using witchcraft on Rose – judging from how quickly they fell in love presumably – everything went swimmingly.

They got a small house near the edge of town, one whose windows opened to face the woods that secluded the town from the rest of the world. Rose continued to teach, and Vincent’s space was all but overrun with his journalism work. The only thing the pair ever fought of, people would say, was the fact that Vincent could never leave his profession at work. But over time, even that stopped bothering Rose as her curious nature led her to taking immense interest in her husband’s writings. The pair was made for each other, people would say, almost as though they were connected in ways others would never understand. Things were perfect, despite the despair the world was falling into around them.

But in the end, nothing gold can stay. And their fates had been determined long before either of them had ever set foot on this Earth.

 

They had only been married for two months, a light snowfall framing for a beautiful December day had it not been as foggy as ever.

“I can’t keep writing about this war,” Vincent spoke tiredly. The pair were seated on a small brown loveseat in their miniature, muted tone coloured living room. A small fire was on across from them, and papers of research and scrapped drafts were scattered over the small table and floor. Vincent had his legs, both working and destroyed, in his wife’s lap, as they both sat in their night clothes staring at the fire.

“So don’t,” Rose said simply and softly. “I don’t think your publishers would mind…”

“They would,” he ran his hand through his hair and relaxed a bit more. “Stories on the war sell. I don’t know what else would.”

“Scandal sells. Has anything happened in town in the last few years?”

The man was silent, pondering.

“I could ask the women in my old building?”

“The old house,” came a soft breath.

Rose tilted her head. “Excuse me?”

“The old house. The O’Rodagh property. Recently abandoned…the family dealt with some deaths on the property, and no one would buy it because of it. So now it just sits there, still under the family name.”

“Think it’s haunted?” she sat up straighter, looking at her husband eagerly.

He gave her a half smile. “No one knows. But some seem to think it is.”

“Vincent Purcell, the journalist who uncovered the secrets behind the haunted mansion of Cambrian,” she sighed dreamily. “Amazing.”

A hint of hope had entered his voice now. “You think it would sell?”

“Do I think it would sell? Are you kidding me?” Rose seemed to bounce in her seat at this point. “A haunted house sounds amazing! Think of the stuff you’ll find in there! Plus, it’s high time we had a break from talk on soldiers and propaganda.”

The feeling in Vincent’s chest rose, the hope and happiness consuming him to the point of being unable to notice the glaze that formed over his wife’s eyes.

“So we’re going? To the mansion?”

He shot her a surprised look. “We?”

She shrugged, eyes still gleaming. “I want to check it out.”

“Fair enough,” the broken man leaned forward and placed a kiss on his Rose’s head. “We’ll go tomorrow morning.”

She curled into his side, a sense of fulfillment washing over her. “It’s a date.”

 

It was crisp and chilly that morning. A heavy fog covered the town, one that was heavier than normal. The faintest layer of snow dusted the sidewalks and created a faint crunch underneath the feet of any who disturbed it. Yes, it was a colder morning. But with the varying layers of white painted over the surface of Cambrian, many would say that the couple’s last day was a tranquil one.

They proceeded to the mansion together, Vincent quickly limping along as his wife cheerfully strode beside him, their hands linked. Neither of them had stopped to question why the other had been so drawn to the idea of the house throughout the night; Vincent had assumed it was Rose’s curiosity, and Rose had assumed it was Vincent’s opportunity at a better story to write. In the end, questioning would get them nothing but a bit more time. They were fulfilling destiny that day, whether they felt it or not.

The house itself stood tall and proudly through the fog, an architectural masterpiece compared to the rest of the town. Its bricks were dark and faded, shutters closing the interior of the house off from the world. The door may have sat closed and unwelcomingly to visitors, but it didn’t stop the pair from eagerly walking the rock path that lead up to the entrance of the dark, rumour engulfed mansion. Both were feeling a plethora of emotions, from dread to excitement to fulfillment to despair. It was as if their souls were bound to the house, no matter how desperately they may have wanted to escape.

The two stood before the O’Rodagh house unmoving, taking in the property. Rose’s eyes were fixated on the building, wishing for nothing more than to enter and explore the deepest, darkest parts of the house and its secrets. Vincent’s eyes wandered, scanning the grounds that the property sat upon. He was slightly more wary than his partner despite his desire for the new story. It was because of this caution, perhaps, that his eyes were keen enough to pick up some sort of figure through the heavy mist.

“Rose,” he grabbed her arm urgently, turning towards her.

It was then he noticed that her eyes were glazed over, unblinking as they rested on the suddenly ominous building.

“Rose,” he repeated more firmly, tugging her arm.

She pulled her gaze away to focus on her husband, and what shocked him was the unbridled annoyance blazing towards him.

“What, Vincent?” her voice was colder than the morning.

“I saw something near the side of the house. A person, or…”

“Vincent you’re the one who said this house was abandoned,” Rose seemed to calm down slightly, though she was still unpleased with him. “Maybe it’s a ghost.”

A slight shiver passed down his spine. The house was rumoured to be haunted, was it not? If there were in fact spirits around, benevolent or otherwise, should they really be spending time examining the house? But even still, the uncertainty in Vincent’s mind did not cease the desire to enter the house. For the story, he told himself.

“Think of your story, Vince,” Rose said, more softly this time. “I’ll go in, if you want. And bring something out for you to use. You get a look at the land, I get a look inside, and we cut the time here in half.”

“I don’t want you to be in there yourself…”

A sly smile crossed her face. “Why, because of the ghosts?”

He sighed, a softer smile lingering on his lips as he looked at this woman. He loved her to death, recklessness included.

“I’ll see you later. I love you.” Rose stepped forward, pecking her husband’s lips for the final time. Without another word she whirled around and stalked into the mansion.

He stared at her retreating form until she disappeared from view, hidden by the door of the building. With the smile still lasting, he leaned on his cane and slowly turned to meander through the grounds of the O’Rodagh property. His eyes were pealed, ready to confront anything that crossed his path in hopes of being able to submit one of his greatest articles yet.

Unfortunately, this here is where Vincent Purcell’s story ends. The Broken Man was without his Rose, and with this vulnerability a mass of energy approached him from behind. The details are fuzzy, but when the corpse of this man was found, it was mangled. His leg was already destroyed, and his head had snapped in a near 180.  His right arm was broken, and his cane was found feet away from him. When tales were recounted of a ghost wandering the grounds of the property, many describe it as being a broken male, stumbling around on a cane and seemingly looking for someone named Rose. The Rose that he would never find as his soul is tethered to the grounds in which he passed.

Meanwhile, his Rose is wandering through the old mansion, eyes shining and blind to the shadows and wisps that do more than dance around her. As her husband suffered outside of the building, she was making her way to the basement. Exploring through the servants quarters she had found a stairwell that resided tucked away in the corner.

Yet as she opened the door to descend, energy behind her caused her fate as well. As cold washed over her, a sharp pain and blindness greeted her before she could register what was occurring. She could no longer see her surroundings, and so she began to cry and scream for her husband, attempting to drag herself along to floor to where she thought her husband may have been waiting. When the corpse of Rose Moore was found, she was at the bottom of the basement stairs, gaping holes remaining where her blue-green eyes once sat, blood running down her front and trailing behind her on the floor. When tales were recounted of screams coming from the O’Rodagh property, many claim to hear a woman calling for her husband. Some even recall the voice asking for a man named Vincent. If the house were to be visited, many would say that there is a ghostly woman, once beautiful, wandering the servant’s quarters and the basement, eternally damned to blindly search for her missing love and fated to never be reunited.

 

It’s at this point that the well known stories begin to surface. The stories of The Broken Man, the ghost with horrifically mangled limbs who roams near the front of the O’Rodagh property. The Blinded Woman, the ghost of a fair maiden with bloody eye sockets who constantly cries out for her love. It is these stories, shrouding the ever standing mansion, that earn a small Virginian town the title of The Ghost Town. It is these stories, adding mystery and bloodshed to irrelevant history books, that leave spirits such as The Broken Man and his Rose stuck in an eternal hell.   It is these stories that cause the lives of those such as Vincent Purcell and Rose Moore to be forever forgotten.

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