During the Civil War, federal troops came upon a vacated rebel encampment in Virginia. They had left little behind except for a rather persuasive calling card--a severed head jammed onto the point of a fence post. Three letters--SPY--were scribbled on a scrap of paper and tacked beneath the obscenity.
It had reminded one man in the regiment of something he had read in a history book--heads stuck on pikes along London Bridge during rebellious times. To come across such an extreme display of barbarism during this war was rare, but it had made its point to the Union soldiers.
The conflagration had progressed far beyond a nation of innocence, or honor among gentlemen. Gallantry no longer had a place amidst the carnage. In a downpour of anger, it had long since crossed societal rules and boundaries even for war. Dead men were on fields of battle with limbs splayed like broken puppets, left to rot. Following the tempest, the better angels of the nation's psyche would never completely regain control.
In the midst of the thousands of discarded dead, the grisly event concerning the supposed spy would have been forgotten if not for the incident that followed, for it was at that place where Anna Rose came for the head of her husband.
A young lad toting salted pork and biscuits to soldiers from his mother's kitchen was the first to see the form of a young woman. She wore a long cloak. Her feet floated inches above the trampled road beneath the soft light of a cirrus moon. The lad could not have guessed what she sought. That became clear only after she silently glided into the army encampment.
Battle-hardened men became speechless at the sight of the maiden wordlessly gliding past the campfires, her face and hands washed to the shade of ivory. Some of the men followed the specter to the spot beyond the camp where her mission became apparent.
The head still rested on the fencepost as no soldier wanted to touch the foul thing. As if her hands were as real as anyone's, the woman produced a tapestry bag from the dark expanse of the cloak. While the uniformed onlookers watched in disbelief, the woman pulled the head from the post and plopped it into the bag as if she had purchased a large piece of fruit.
She did not go back the way she had come, but rather, disappeared into a stand of nearby trees not to be seen again that night or any other.
Neither the woman nor the man became known for several weeks, not until a neighbor in a small Pennsylvania town walked into Anna Rose's bedroom and found her body. Legend had it that Anna Rose had been seen staring out one of her windows for days at a time, pining away for her Jonathan. It was said she would occasionally whirl about the room as if dancing with him.
Anna Rose's mortal saga ended sadly when she ate the new leaves of a rhubarb plant whereupon the poison killed her, or so the story went. Somehow knowing her beloved Jonathan and she were not to be reunited in a loving embrace, she had apparently committed suicide. But Jonathan had returned to his Pennsylvania home from a battlefield in faraway Virginia in one manner. His decomposing head rested upon the bed next to Anna Rose's corpse.