Patrick picked up the ring and held it out, examining it with scrutiny. It was a large silver ring with a circular red ruby in the centre, and it was heavy. There were symbols carved into the silver, but he had no idea what any of them meant. They were probably what made it so powerful – if they were not a part of some cruel curse on the wearer.
‘Tell me again,’ he said to the blonde woman in the red dress and heels. She smirked at him before taking a sip of her wine. Patrick noticed how she deliberately took her time to reply; she was trying to infuriate him.
‘Do you people never cease?’ she asked him eventually.
‘I just need to hear it again. So I can be sure.’
She frowned. ‘Ah, alright,’ she said, as though she thought that this all a waste of her time. They both knew what the outcome of their conversation was going to be, and it was certainly not a waste. ‘A long time ago, before your people could walk or talk, three rings were forged with power over life and death. The first granted the wearer the ability to kill whenever he wanted; it was destroyed by men who had the nerve to call themselves pious – ha! The second allowed the wearer to prolong the lives of themselves and their loved ones; it has been lost for centuries. And this one, the third ring, enables the wearer to bring the dead back to life.’
‘But it comes at a cost, of course? These things tend to.’
She shrugged evasively. ‘Some people get careless,’ she said. Patrick was not satisfied with that answer. He closed his fist around the ring and held it away from himself, shoving it back under her nose.
‘If that’s your attitude, then you can have it back.’
‘Oh yes, and that’ll bring Polly back from the grave.’
Patrick reacted instantly, reaching out with his free arm, his fingers snaking around her neck and squeezing threateningly. Her eyes were wide in fear for only a split second, before she grinned and began to laugh.
‘Don’t,’ he warned, ‘mention her name.’ He tightened his grip, cutting off her laughter, before releasing her. The continued amusement was more irritating than anything else she had done so far, but he knew he had to ignore it. He kept his voice as calm as he could, as he added, ‘Tell me: what happens to people who use it?’
She leant towards him across the bar, pursing her lips. ‘Let me ask you a question,’ she said. ‘Are you willing to sacrifice your last chance to be with the love of your life? You could start all over again, if only you took this little ring.’
Patrick bit his bottom lip in thought. He wanted to refuse the ring, but even with the foreknowledge that it was a dangerous tool, the threat seemed so unreal. Bringing Polly back, seeing her smile again, feeling the warmth of her hands … those were the things that felt real. He pulled the closed fist containing the ring back towards himself and opened it, looking down at the ruby.
Polly had been so beautiful. She should never have died. She had not deserved to go so soon.
‘I won’t get greedy,’ he told himself. The blonde’s hand fluttered down from out of nowhere and settled on his arm, her touch cold.
‘That’s the spirit,’ she said, then vanished.
Patrick spent a long time sitting alone and pondering what to do with such a powerful tool. What would Polly be like if he brought her back? How would he explain that he had brought her back from the dead? Would she bring with her news from the other side, news that Patrick did not wish to hear? He wondered whether she would even be happy, forced from her state of rest back into the world of the living.
He visited her grave reluctantly. It was not that he did not wish to see her, but he feared that if he went to see her, he would lose himself and bring her back before he had took the time to make an informed decision. There was a small cross where she was buried. Somebody had laid flowers, probably her mother or her sister.
The ring burnt a hole in his pocket as he stood the over her. He pulled it out, feeling it stinging his leg, and tossed it from one hand to the other, surprised by the sudden warmth. It was supposed to encourage him, he knew that: the chance to start a new life with Polly was becoming increasingly tempting. Patrick fled before he did something stupid.
It was a few days later that he made up his mind. He returned to the graveyard and waited until the ring became hot again. That had to be something to do with its power, he was sure of it. He stood in front of Polly’s grave and smiled, tears running down his face.
‘Goodbye, Polly,’ he said. ‘I’ll always love you.’
He turned then, heading down to the river. One ring destroyed, one lost forever … with any luck, it would now be two lost forever. To allow any person the power to control life and death, who lived and who died, was madness, and it would be terrible if he was careless with it. He held it out, the silver and ruby reflecting in the water, before dropping it into the fast-flowing river.
Polly was gone forever, as was his chance to start again with her. But he knew that she would not have wanted him to brood over her forever – there would be a chance to start with someone new, some day. He would always remember Polly, but bringing her back from the grave would not bring either of them happiness, it would only ruin what precious memories he had.