Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Curse

Victor Habbick @ freedigitalphotos.net

The earth opened like the jaws of a giant monster, swallowing me with a force I could not fight. I was falling down, down, down, into the depths of darkness. Finally, I found myself standing in an open area ablaze with greyish light.  

“Grandma... please, take your hands off my throat!" I begged. She was the one who had awakened me and strangled me all the way down, and not for the first time since she had died two years ago.

The fog in front of us disappeared and there they were again, my departed relatives, including those I haven't met while they were alive. They were sitting on a giant escalator, every generation on their own stair. The escalator was moving slowly upwards to a shimmering white light far away in the universe. I knew that light was the entrance to heaven.

My relatives looked peaceful, because Death had given them a choice: they could forgive and forget and take their seats on the escalator to await their turn to enter heaven, or they could roam the earth, invisible with no power and dignity, treasuring, or perhaps suffering, all their memories of life on earth.
I recognized only some of the faces on the first four stairs. The rest of the phantoms I had never met in real life. 
“You are wasting time!” Grandma's voice was calm, but I could sense her fear that I might not be able to fulfill my duty. Why she had chosen me on her deathbed to be the one naming the next person to die in the family would always be a mystery to me. I was not her blue-eyed girl. To the contrary, I thought she didn't like me at all. Why the task was on her shoulders while she was alive, would also be a mystery. The fact that all families on earth had a traitor assisting the Angel of Death, would keep me in a secret state of shock for as long as I live. 
I tried not to think of my beloveds. I did not want their names in my mind. While looking at the faces in front of me I was hoping to remember the names of their children or parents. Only a name, that was all the Angel of Death wanted from me. Only a name.
My dearest father was smiling, happy and contented. He, too, had sacrificed all his memories. Yet, I knew he recognized me and was proud of me. Next to him sat Uncle Charlie with a sinister smile on his face. Maybe he remembered something about me - that something he had denied while he was alive. I had forgiven him, yet I was sad because he was on his way to heaven. If I had any power I would have sent him to hell. If only I could remember the name of his son! Down here in the darkness of the world beyond the grave, why was my mind always a blank without names? As if the Angel of Death was only pretending to be kind, with a name in his pocket I would be able to see and utter in order to keep my relatives happy and peaceful. 
“You are wasting time!” Grandma said again. Patience was never one of her virtues. "Vera, you are wasting time!"  
"Yes. Grandma, that's my name. Vera. You may have it." God knew I could not go on living like this, having to choose the next one to die. The burning sensation in my body was anger. Why did Grandma choose me to follow in her footsteps? I was asking myself again what would happen if I refused to give them a name? 

“No, Vera, not you! I will decide when it's time for you to come," she said  unrelentingly. There was no life in her eyes, no love, no hate. She was just a living phantom cursed with the task of assisting the Angel of Death.

If only I could remember the name of Uncle Charlie's son. But there was my cousin, Liza. Michael was the name of her eldest son.

chainat @ freedigitalphotos.net

“Noooooo... Noooooo! Not Michael!" 

I was screaming all the way up to my bedroom. Stumbling around in my bedroom I was still screaming, wishing I could go back to give them another name. 

A knock on the door brought me to my senses. “What's wrong, Mom?" came the voice of my son through the closed door. 

"Nothing. I had a bad dream."
He opened the door and looked at me. "You look terrible! Can I bring you some water? Or what about hot chocolate?" He was a  bridegroom-to-be, ready to love his sweetheart until death parts them. 
"No thank you, Michael, I am okay."

Writers Note:

English is not my mother-language, therefore I am grateful for any constructive critique regarding grammar presented by my readers and fellow-writers.

Thank you, Shauna Bowling aka bravewarrior for your most appreciated suggestions :) 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Committed in a Dream

"The heart-wrenching groans of a man suffering pain forced Carin on her feet. Her heart was pounding in her chest, like a wild animal captured in a cage too small for its size. As if in a daze she walked down the hallway. In the doorway of the living room she shrunk with shock. It was her father who lay stretched out on the couch, his face twisted with pain. A presbyter, Mr. Williams who lived across the street, dressed in an old-fashioned swallow-tailed coat, was pouring boiling water on her father's chest, rubbing it in with his bare hands.
“What are you doing to my father?” Carin screamed, but the presbyter ignored her. She knew he was Death in person, trying to kill her father. Instinctively she looked for a weapon she could use to scare him away. Her eyes fell on the black marble paperweight on the coffee table. It was a piece of art, the emblem of her father's family. It was heavy. She had no doubts; she could and would kill Mr. Williams with one blow in order to save her father's life. 
“Don’t come closer, Carin!” her father groaned when he saw her move.
“But Dad, he is hurting you! Look at your chess – all red and writhe,” she cried.  
“Stay away!” her father gasped, “On my way to heaven I have to travel through hell. This is a ritual that will keep the flames from burning me.”  
“No-o!” Carin screamed before she brought the paperweight down on Mr. Williams' head. 

Carin was sitting upright on her bed with her hand on her racing heart. She had one of those weird dreams. She was eleven when she had the first one, or at least the first one she was able to recognize as a prevision. The night her grandfather died. She saw him dying from a heart attack while he was actually miles away from her. 

Now, at the age of thirty-three, she had the umpteenth dream of this nature. He black marble paperweight, engraved with the family's emblem, was not on her coffee table, but twenty miles away on the coffee table in her parent’s living room.

She subdued the urge to call her mother.  

Finding comfort in hot, black coffee, she looked through the window of her living room at Mr. and Mrs. Williams' house across the road. It was only a dark shade in the darkness of the night, as the lights in the street were for some reason out and the moon was nowhere in sight. She could not remember when she had last seen the elderly couple; she had been too busy to pay any attention to her neighbours' comings and goings. The last time she looked, Mr. Williams had been sitting most of the day on the veranda, like a corpse waiting to be buried. 

At six o'clock  while the sun rose on the horizon, Carin was in her studio upstairs, sketching the scene she had seen in her dream, when the sirens of an ambulance forced her to the window. She was not surprised to see the vehicle coming to a standstill in front of Mr. and Mrs. Williams' house. She waited until the ambulance left before she crossed the street to support Mrs. Williams. 

“Mrs. Williams, I am so sorry. Can I make you a cup of tea, or coffee?" The poor woman stood abandoned on the veranda with her favourite poodle in her arms.

“Yes, I am dying for a cup of tea,” she said, wiping tears off her cheeks with the back of her hand.
Sitting at the kitchen table, compulsively stroking the poodle on her lap, Mrs. Williams gave an account of her husband’s last activities. “He woke up at about three, complaining about headache and a feeling of not being in his own body. He said he needed fresh air. When I woke up again... God, I can't believe I have fallen asleep while knowing he was not well! I found him in the lounge... on the floor...." She was crying like a child. 
"And now for the bad news about my father," Carin thought while she returned to her house, cold with anxiety and a feeling of guilt. Was she perhaps the one who had ended Mr. Williams' life? 

As Carin entered her house, her telephone started to ring. 
Her mother’s voice on the other side of the line was soft and calm, as always. “Carin, I have good and bad news. Dad is in hospital. Apparently a blood clot went through his heart during the night, but he survived.... our man of steel."

"Mom, you have no idea how relieved I am. I'll be there in half an hour."

"Don't you want to hear the bad news?" 

"What?" Carin asked perplexed. What could be bad news? Her father to be an invalid for the rest of his life? 

“Remember that black marble emblem of a paperweight you gave Dad for his birthday?"


"Well, it's broken now, and don't ask me how you father has managed to break it." 

© Martie Coetser 2011

Credit to my mentor in English grammar, Maria Jordan

How to present your life experiences in the style of a Short Story