Ho…..leeeee……shit. Has it been two months? I…I don’t know what to say. Other than I’m not too good at this writing thing yet.
And so, here I am, trying to make amends. Forgive me, dear readers, I have forsaken you. But not for naught. I have done some growing over the past few months, have matured a little. And I have a story for you.
I can’t, in all fairness, say that it’s any good. It will probably elicit some powerful emotions, at least from some of you, but it isn’t very polished. It isn’t complete. But still, what’s the point of having a blog dedicated to becoming better at being a writer if I don’t share my writing?
Don’t bother trying to answer, I have the answer her for you: NONE!
So, here it is, my unpolished, unfinished, unashamed story. I was going for atmosphere with this piece. A few good images, a few good lines, combined by a strong tone and a common style of prose. Characters and plot to follow (backwards? maybe). PLEASE tell me what I did wrong. And, if you feel like it, what I did well. It’s kind of a ghost story, kind of not. Maybe a tale of madness? You be the judge.
As always, thank you.
By, E.W. Morrow
(Word Count: 1174)
There are many ways to be woken in the middle of the night, few of them pleasant. A wailing fire alarm. The tinkle of broken glass from the window downstairs. Gunshots you thought you’d left behind in the old neighborhood echoing down the sleepy streets of the new one. Even the crying of your first and only child, the light of your world, your reason for being, is unwelcome in the small hours of the morning. Oh, there are ways to dull the impact of these nocturnal disturbances. The warmth of a lover nestled beside, you giving you strength, is the traditional method. Cold steel is another. And one should always be prepared.
But there is nothing that can prepare you for the shock of waking up in the middle of the night to a deafening, suffocating silence. There is a special kind of sadness in silence, especially where there should be none. It’s funny, isn’t it, to think of silence as a thing, to notice it’s presence. Technically it is more of an absence of sound, like cold is an absence of heat, darkness an absence of light, than it’s own entity. They teach you that in school. But when you wake up, terrified and alone, birthed from a comfortable womb of sleep into a cold, dark silence, you realize it has substance.
Catherine suffered far more acutely from the loss than I did. My own reaction was one of dull, numb detachment. Events and information passed me by and I hardly took notice. Habit and instinct ruled my actions, not thought, rational or otherwise. I had failed to protect the things around me, the people I cared about, and so I shut myself off from my surroundings when there was so much I should have done.
But Catherine—Catherine had lost a part of herself. She, too, drew inward, shut herself off, but in defense, as if shielding a terrible wound from further harm. After it happened we closed the door, locked it, and I threw away the key in the kitchen trash can while Catherine stayed at the door, sobbing against the relatively new coat of lavender paint and clutching the door knob fiercely in one shaking hand. I should have realized the signs then and there. Stupid. I should have chucked the key out the window, or down the drain, or else swallowed it like I swallowed all my shame. At the very least I should have checked in the garbage bag when I took the trash out later that week. Maybe it would have helped.
Catherine, my one true love, was not born on these shores. Her mother was Irish, her father Welsh, and she was birthed on the emerald shores of her mother’s homeland. When she was still a babe her parents emigrated to America. I do not wish to bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that her upbringing had a slightly more—ancient slant than my own protestant one did. She was raised on the tales of her mother, and her mother before her, back to a time long before St. Patrick exiled the snakes of the Emerald Isle. The sidhe and the leprechaun, the banshee and the dullahan, those were her bedtime stories, not the Saints and the Commandments, as were mine.
Did you know that in Celtic mythology ghosts haunt a person because the person is sad, not the other way around?
Not always, obviously, but often enough. Grandmothers would tell their descendents not to mourn too loudly for any of their lost, lest the lost find themselves unable to rest. Maybe it was my good fortune, or bad, that I lamented silently, kept my pain inside. Catherine could not.
For days I avoided the lavender door as best I could. On the first night, I slept on the couch afraid to climb the stairs and face the truth. Catherine still had not left her place at the door. I slept. I know I slept. It was a sudden, confusing sleep, at the end of which I felt unrested. I merely blinked, and pitch darkness was replaced by the cold, silent gray of dawn. I’m not sure, but I think it was then, while I slept my useless sleep, that Catherine descended the stairs and retrieved the key. I could be wrong. As I said, I never bothered to check the trash.
That was how it went for a while. I slept in fits and starts, only rarely in my bed, and Catherine kept her vigil. If only her vigil had remained silent. On the second day I awoke to sobbing that never ended. On the fourth day, Catherine began to shout at random intervals, asking if I could hear the crying. Could I hear our little girl? I could hear nothing. For a week, I hear nothing. I awoke in silence, cut off from the outside world, and only the slow drip of time allowed Catherine’s sobs and cries to penetrate my mind.
A week after it happened, she started singing. She always had such a beautiful voice. Even then. Especially then. Gone was the careful, controlled pitch and tone she seemed to capture so effortlessly. In it’s place was something raw. Something pure. Emotion unhindered by modesty or training, anxiety or pride. She sang to our daughter, and even though I did not recognize the words, I recognized the song. It was the song of her mother, and her mother before her, back and back, to time before time. It was in ancient Gaelic, and I wish I’d had the presence of mind to ask her what it meant. One more thing I’d never done.
That’s all I have now. All the things I never did staring me back in the face. That, and the memory of my wife, keening her lament in a lovesick lullaby.
Two weeks after it happened, I climbed the stairs of our once happy home, and I saw the door to our daughter’s room open wide. Inside, I found Catherine, cold, silent, and smiling a bloody smile beside our daughter’s crib.
I haven’t called the police. Haven’t called the mortician. Haven’t called her mother, or my mother, or anyone else. Maybe I should have. Wouldn’t that be funny? One last god damned thing I should have done. I wanted to. God knows I did. And, maybe I would have, but, the day after Catherine left me, I heard the crying. I heard the cries of our daughter. She had been called, called by the ancient song of my dear Catherine, and then Catherine had left, unaware of what she was doing.
All I can do now is wait. Wait, and hold the pain inside me, until my baby girl finds rest. It shouldn’t take long now. I can barely hear the crying any longer, and soon, I will be free to take action.
One, final act. A crowning moment to a life of inaction.
My family will be whole again, and silence will reign.