Digging up the Past
by Gary L Morton

The sunlight is golden and it falls over the horizon like a slow meteor, sinking into some distant ocean. I never see the day. My sleep comes with the light. This book is always in my hands in the evenings when I wake. Bound in ancient leather, its pages are strengthened by the mould and yellowing of time, like its leaves are becoming leathery parchment instead of dust.

The letters spill into my eyes. A spidery scrawl, they are the memory of all things. I remember nothing alone, and each night I begin again, recollecting pieces of my past. Fragments without cohesion that tumble into the abyss -- so that I am never whole. Sometimes things are taken from me with such force that I see the fire of my mind as it crackles back into the book.

Stirrings of things undone, failure that I have forgotten; the shame of being human towers over my life and I have lost the will needed to wash it away.

My finger touches the page, becomes a beckoning claw in the twilight. I see the torch and reddened eyes burning under the hood of the demon.

It is back to the beginning this time -- I burst through a huge door, splintering the rotten wood, and I am standing there at the top of some basement stairs, my eyes adjusting to the gloom. Keen odors of decay fill my nostrils. Blue light gleams on the cylinder of the handgun I hold. Wisps of pale smoke drift from the barrel and I know I have killed someone.

But who?

I see that I am an ordinary man; unshaven, my lean features tending to the rugged and handsome side. There is hunger in my gray eyes, and I know that I am a man driven mad. I have killed my child, and I see her face. An angel's face that I know hides unspeakable evil. She is gone, crushed by bullets from my gun. Gone in the shrieking of the tempest, her shattered skull crumbling in the caverns of the dead from which it came. Silence, oblivion, the grave has closed over her and now she belongs to the withered claw and the hooded one who lurks in the darkness below.

 Wicked phantasms gather, sirens of evil sing songs of darkness doubly terrible under the bleak sky. Cries growing funereal - death wails of an evil that waited for a thousand years, only to have been turned to dust and death by my gun.

The light flashes, crackles from the book to my hand, blackening it to a corpse's claw. I see my arm wither as the life is taken from it. Then I see her stirring, drinking my life into her moldered corpse.

. . . stumbling down those steep basement stairs . . . I fling myself about desperately in the gloom, looking for some kind of lamp. My eyes adjust, sweat and dust pours on my face. I have found the shovel, but the earth is packed hard - too hard to dig. And that is not good because I want to bury her body deep. There is a large trunk in the corner below a waxen and cobwebby window. Perhaps the earth is softer beneath it. Rushing over I pull it aside.

Now the book crackles, and the ceiling cracks . . . looking up I see moonlight, and suddenly I am in a grave, with earth being shoveled on top of me. Cold suffocation and I am clothed in a torn dress.

A silent scream rises in my throat, and then I see myself digging in the soft earth that had been under the trunk. Digging down deep, until my hands are blistered and bleeding, and the shovel scrapes on stone.

The hammer comes down on the stake and it sinks through my heart, its sickening crunch the sound of my death and a flint struck to ignite a flame that will become eternal burning. I do not know where this image comes from or why it invades my space now, then my vision goes back to her and I see myself dragging her limp body down the stairs to the grave I have dug.

Her face sinks forever beneath the earth, and when I am done, my tears are from both sorrow and exhaustion. Sorrow because she was my daughter, and my curse.

I am nearly blind with tears as I drag the trunk back over the grave, and when I finish I collapse on it and sleep on it. Endless dark dreams and emptiness, I awake burning with pain, hunger, thirst, and sorrow. Without understanding why, I throw back the lock, and open trunk. And there is the book, and I know I will open it, and that it is her book. Then my eyes close.

--------------------------------

The twilight is deep purple and it falls on the horizon like a final curtain. I will never see the day. My sleep will be eternal this time. The ancient book is in my hands and her angel face is a silhouette on the worn leather.

Mould and the yellowing of time have taken me and my body is leather, parchment, rot and dust. In the basement she is rising, her hand pink with life stolen from me. Tiny fingers break the soil.

I have read the book, holding it with my hands of splintered bone, and it is her book. It tells a lonely story and the ending leaves me forever forgotten. Yet she is remembered. And now I must sleep, knowing that it is the fang that lives on while the bones are buried.

 

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