The king is walking through an echoey hallway lined with glowing wood when his heart seizes itself. All the little sounds rush into a roar and fill up his ears. A dark swamp fills up his eyes. He goes down on his knees hard. The ghost king shakes his head, concerned. He had foreseen this but it is still disturbing.

Later that evening, the king is asleep under many furs. When he opens his eyes, the future queen is there.   Ah, you're awake then. She does not say anything about how worried she has been. He can see it in her face. She kisses him once. He says Jane these furs are too heavy, I'm hot. She takes a few off and says Rest. The ghost king sees that although there are weeks before the official ceremony, really these two are already married.

That night the ghost king comes to the sick king and says Listen, this is the last time I will appear to you. I will guide you as long as there is respect in the line. But I cannot appear to you once you are married, I should not be here now. Look. He points up. Near the ceiling of the king's bedroom there are raw gashes in the wood, three of them, one to a wall.

The ghost king says Each of those slashes stands for a catastrophe which came upon your people. The sick king thinks of the rains, the fever, the bugs.

The ghost king says It is your responsibility to keep the fourth wall intact. You may do so by making me a promise. The sick king's stomach drops, cold. He thinks, He will ask me to give up Jane. Or a baby. Or my heart. The ghost king hears him and laughs. I am here to help. Never be afraid of us. As long as there is respect in the line. There is no need for fear as long as you promise me this thing I will ask. Also you will have to move your bed.

So, the sick king gets better. He calls the servants in to move the bed. He is married. On his wedding night he and Jane sleep facing the unmarked wall.

Jane wakes up halfway through the night. A bad dream. The king feels guilty; he should have been able to protect her from it.

Her dream showed one of the most ancient redwoods toppling over and crushing half the castle, barns, shops, houses. Hundreds of innocents smashed in their sleep. The king recognizes this as a warning, and his stomach drops, cold. He tells her what he has promised the ghost king. She does not laugh. They agree and go back to sleep.

In the years to follow, the king and his Jane are very happy. It might be because they see so little of each other; both are very busy. She calls him Sugarcane. He calls her Hurricane. They keep the promise: every night before sleep, no matter how tired, no matter what war is raging in the kingdom or in the marriage, there is a kiss, a real one, focused, sincere.

Eventually they forget the promise made to the ghost king. They kiss each other every night though they have forgotten why they do it. The fourth wall remains intact. The tree does not fall. The ghost king watches, glad to have made this small preventative repair.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.