In the silence of the night, I hear nothing but my own feet as they crunch crisp autumn leaves. I wince at each sharp crack but there’s no helping it. Onwards I make my way through the silent woods, my breath condensing the air in front of me, the sound of each intake and exhale my only companion.
The moon watches me and I glance up occasionally, smiling at him. We’re friends, the moon and I. I think he knows what I hope to accomplish today and I cross my eyebrows at him and shake my head warning him not to tell on me.
I walk until my feet go numb, keep on walking until my mind is blank and I’m meaninglessly trudging through the darkness. At one point I think I hear something in the night but it doesn’t bother me. Perhaps it knows I seek deadlier game. Or rather perhaps it knows I go to meet someone scarier than itself and that my meeting is my security; it wouldn’t do to anger beasts greater than yourself. Sometimes there is logic in running with your tail between your legs.
I giggle as I contemplate this.
Suddenly I step into a clearing, almost perfectly circular as if someone meticulously defined its edges. The trees seem to have grown twisting slightly away from the centre, as if trying to distance themselves. Fog spills over the ground, creeping along ominously. There’s a sudden chill in the air but I don’t hesitate as I step inside the circle of moonlight and stride to the centre.
The silence seems to be thicker here, as if it’s separate from the world, as if I’ve walked off onto another plane in the universe. The prospect is fine with me. I didn’t plan on staying on that one for long anyways.
And then the silence becomes him. I smile because I can always feel his presence.
I invoke him. I know I do.
Ever since I was a child we’ve been playing this game of hide and seek, he and I. I know he taunts me on purpose, teasing me, drawing me out and I can’t take it any longer.
I stand there with my eyes closed, my face turned up to the moonlight cascading gently on my face. I’m smiling.
I bet I’m the picture of serenity.
What a sentimental kook, I think to myself as I fight the laughter this thought brings. And then I’m no longer laughing because I feel him as he steps into the clearing.
Death treads on light feet, years of experience aiding him. He is chaos, master of pain and rage and he carries it all cradled next to his chest like the souls he steals. He waits till the last breath is his and he leaves, no longer needing to be as silent in his departure as his arrival for it seems the household has awakened. And sometimes he draws it out, watching how it plays against his fingers, and sometimes he yanks. It’s all a meaningless game to him anyways.
I wonder how he’ll steal my soul. Will he draw it out? Will he be quick? Will our years of trysts mean anything to his millennia of existence?
My whole body thrums with the anticipation as he stops a few steps away. I wait. For that swish of the scythe, wait for the pain to blossom against my back, wait for that last drop of agony.
But the blow doesn’t come and I can’t wait any longer.
I fidget restlessly.
I’m contemplating opening my eyes and turning around to demand the meaning of this when I feel him step closer and I gasp as I feel his essence around me.
Im so so cold. I feel the breath leave my lungs and I’m floating. I’m eons away suspended between dark matter and I’m sure that if I stretch out my hands I can touch the stars etched on the back of my eyelids, I’m that close. I struggle to pull in air and there’s a furious pressure in my head and a jarring noise in my brain and I think my nose might just be bleeding but then he withdraws and my mind is void of everything for a second.
I stagger but catch myself before I fall. I feel his wrath and glory as he leans down close behind my ear, his breath warming the side of my face as he whispers in a voice born from insanity, ‘memento mori.’
And all is silent once more as he leaves in a gentle rustle of robes. All is silent once more, as I expected, but the silence is empty because he leaves and I’m still standing there, dazed and dumbfounded.
This wasn’t supposed to end up this way.
I can’t stop shaking my head.
He was supposed to take me along. This was not supposed to end up this way.
I am fire as I burn in the heat of the promises I felt I was owed, the destiny I felt was mine, snatched from me. I am the night as I tremble and gather destruction to me, praying to the demons of the afterlife. I am the wolf as I vow my vengeance sitting there howling into the night.
I scream and scream until my throat tastes raw and yet I do not stop until I taste blood.
I touch the corner of my mouth, my fingers coming away dark and I see this and laugh. Silent and shaking, I laugh and laugh, the sound gurgling in my throat.
I raise my head and look at the moon with my soul in my eyes. Did you know, I want to ask him. I want to yell at his serenity, hate him for always watching and never doing anything. I want to hit something. I want. I’ve always wanted so much. But I can never have it. And I sit there for so long I lose my sense of time, just staring into the vast night sky, lost inside.
When I’m done I get up and dust myself off.
I start walking with cold eyes, my footsteps heavy with the weight of the retribution I feel I’m owed, I-
‘Katie.’ I hear hesitation in that voice.
I turn around and everything is bright. Im momentarily blinded. I blink as I see that wretched table and that wretched lady behind it, half sitting in her chair, hand still outstretched as if she made to move towards me.
I examine my surroundings.
It’s these goddamn lights giving me a headache. I’ve told them countless times to get rid of them. I rub the sides of my head.
‘Katie are you okay?’
I drop my hands and stare at her. I don’t seem to want to speak to her.
She regards me nervously. I can tell by the way she’s fidgeting she wants me to sit down but I don’t seem to want to. So I don’t.
She gathers herself and clears her throat, ‘They found you crying in the woods, trying to…trying to cut your own throat. Do you remember that?’
‘A nearby farmer heard you crying about how you weren’t strong enough.’
I smooth my face into blankness and shut my eyes and ears. I don’t want to hear this. She doesn’t know, none of them do.
He left me there. I squeeze my eyes shut harder.
He just left me there. But not for long.
I can’t help the smile that comes from this and I can feel hands on me, trying to stop me from not listening and I laugh because they don’t know.
They can’t make me understand if I don’t want to.
I’ll chase him.
Memento mori: remember death