I was born beneath a black veil of mourning, a dark bud blooming deep in its shadow. The house had burned down years past, possibly decades or even longer, but Mother couldn’t tell me, her sense of time being . . . well, hers. The garden had fallen into disarray, formerly neat hedges become impenetrable thickets, and onions bearing giant purple globes where they had been allowed to go to seed. Into this, then, was I born, a child of the dark, the sorrow of not belonging bred into my bones, which wept with the sound of water trickling down a broken redbrick wall.
When I reckoned myself an adult, I tried to leave, but the iron of the gates held me as tight as any shackle, though they lay broken across the drive. Father told me it was not so much the metal of them as the symbol, that that was how mankind had always bound us, with sign and symbol, through the magic of words that held no magic.
- But why? Why? They are gone, dead and gone, burned and lost and scattered to the winds! Why cannot we go as well?
- Somewhere, they are not gone. Somewhere, they still call this home, though they may never have seen it. So long as their blood beats in their veins, so long does it bind us here.
- It isn’t fair! They don’t even want us any more!
Fair or not, it was the way of our life and I could not leave. I had already explored the garden, every inch, every speck, every pebble, every decaying rib of leaf in the fall. I knew the land, knew its ways, the thoughts of the trees, the whispers of the breezes, the drifts of snow that melted last in spring. I realized I would become like my mother, one with the land, no memory or separation of time, if I could not escape. There was only one other thing to try.
No one had ever forbidden me to enter the ruined house. As far as I knew, Mother saw it still clothed in flames, and Father — he probably assumed I wouldn’t want to. I was bound to the land, after all. What could something set apart in such a way have to offer me?
But it wasn’t set apart any more. Brambles grew through into what had been the kitchen, birds nested atop tottering walls, and I knew at least one fox family had a den in the basement. The house had become an extension of the garden, and I had become old enough to claim it as my own.
I entered through the front, dancing along the rose petals that drifted through space once filled — with a window, a wall? Mother would know, but she wouldn’t understand why I asked — but now bereft of anything but drifting dirt, charred timbers, and plants reclaiming the land. I felt the threshold as I crossed it, a thought, a line, a “this is home” feeling of belonging that sealed in as effectively as did the iron gates — but it was too late for me to go back. I was admitted into the house, but it had claimed me.
How long, I wondered, would humans consider this their place? How long before the blood diluted and set us free? Too long, I knew. I would be one with these walls, drawing the veil of mourning deeper about myself, and lose myself more completely than even Mother had.
I sat down on a pile of leaves to watch the sunset through the broken walls. The ghost of a sparrow flitted through one wall and out the other.
– THE END –
My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.
This week’s flash was inspired by a flash fiction challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog, “Choose Your Opening Line.” In fact, I chose two lines, one for the beginning and one for the ending:
I was born beneath a black veil of mourning, a dark bud blooming deep in its shadow. —
The ghost of a sparrow flitted through one wall and out the other.
— CJ Eggett