I died in 1093, in England, but I still walk the earth. I am of the Undead, one of the condemned. We are the dead who attain no peace with the closing of our mortality; we are the souls who walk the shadows.
Purgatory is not what you have accepted.
Tonight I watch the moon, and the slivers of light that are dancing upon my night. I bathe in the moonlight, surrounded by the wood and the wind. It is silent and beautiful.
I am waiting for Robert Sinclair, my sad, despairing soul. We have much in common, despite the fact he is yet alive. We are forlorn souls.
For I am damned to walk among the living, to be invisible to those full of spirit. Only those such as Robert, the desperate ones, can see the Undead.
So, sometimes, we reach out. To touch what we were, what has vanished. It is even whispered in the shadows, that to save a despondent soul is to find our redemption.
I wonder, now and then, if that could be true.
So I stood in the moonlight, pondering stray thoughts, waiting to talk to a man with little hope. We had crossed paths two days past, when I found him here in these woods. He had been in quite a state, covered in blood, pondering suicide.
My ghostly form sent him into hysterics; he was convinced I was an apparition, come to take him to hell. It took me some time to convince him I meant him no harm.
And eventually he confessed the why of his circumstance, why his guilt had driven him to the brink of poisoning himself. The poor boy had killed his father to avenge his mother’s death; she had fallen to her death, during one of the frequent beatings inflicted by his father.
I had listened to his story, understanding his sorrow. As he had poured out his story, I had felt a tug on my lost heart, and sympathy overwhelmed my thoughts. This is why I had agreed to meet him, to tell him of my life, and my death.
So I was waiting.
I turned my head at the sound of his dark voice and smiled at him. He smiled back at me, in greeting.
“I wasn’t certain if you would return.”
“I felt I must; you are my fate somehow. I must know the truth of you. You understand my misfortunes.”
I knew his meaning; our two souls were of the same substance.
Robert settled himself down upon an old fallen log, and looked at me. He lost no time with his questions.
“Why is your soul still upon this earth? What sin condemned you?”
I looked down at his sad face.
“My life condemned me, all of my choices.”
I said those words with remorse; I regretted most of my choices.
“I’m a lost soul, a sinner. My offense was born not from evil or selfish desire, but from desperation and anger. In death, I was condemned to purgatory, forever to walk the earth in the shadows, unseen and unloved.”
“But, why is it that I can see you? I still find that confusing. Why am I so privileged? ”
“You are living in your sin, and your misery. You are one of us, here among the living.”
Robert smiled at my words, with his lovely, gentle smile.
“You are correct, I am lost and languid among the living, and my sin does occupy my thoughts. But you have given me a strange kind of hope.”
He gave me a playfully, stern look. “Now keep your promise, tell me of your life.”
I looked up at the moon. I needed a moment, before I faced him.
“I was not very unusual, just a girl born among the poor in Somerset. My family were farmers in service. I spent my childhood working at chores in the fields, playing with the other village children.”
I smiled at the memories. The years after had made them all the sweeter.
“I was married in my thirteenth year, to the cooper’s son. He was twenty-one, and apprenticed to his father. It was considered a good match, and on my wedding day I believed I was quite lucky.”
“But you weren’t lucky, it was a bad match?”
I gaze back up at the moon, remembering. Staring at the moon was a habit I began after I married. It had made life easier.
“He was a cruel man, drunk or sober. It gave him pleasure to strike out at people, and I was the one most often within his reach. I spent most of my married life with bruises.”
“Just like my mother. She always ended up on the wrong end of my father’s fist.”
“Things don’t change. Did he ever hit you, Robert?”
“No,” his voice was bitter, “I was the son, not to be touched. Only my mother was punished.”
“I am glad he never hit you; children should not be beaten. I believe that, and I tried very hard to protect my babies.”
I smiled at the startled look that spread over Roberts face.
“Yes, I had children. Two lovely boys. And I was fiercely protective of them, kept them away from their fathers cruelty, as much as possible. But it was not enough.”
No, it was not enough. I tried, but I did not protect my children.
“My husband regularly became drunk at the local tavern, and came home angry. One night he started beating me, as he did often, and he woke up my son Geoffrey.”
I paused, just for a moment, to look at Robert, and compose my thoughts.
“The darling boy tried to rescue me, and it was the last act of his life.” My voice caught the words, spilling over the grief that still hovered close.
“My husband hit him, and snapped his small neck.”
Robert tried to take my hand, before remembering he could not touch it.
“As I stood in my home, looking at the body of my son, I felt a cold rage. I could hear my husband swearing threats at me, and I picked up a sharp butcher knife, turned around and plunged it into his chest.”
I closed my eyes remembering.
I could still see the blood pumping out of the wound, when I yanked out the knife, could still hear his curses and yells turn to moans and pleas. His freshly laundered white shirt slowly turned crimson as his blood stained the fabric, and he collapsed into a helpless lump upon our floor. A feeling of joy filled me, as I loomed over his carcass. I think I even laughed.
“When the last breath left him, and I knew he was dead, I sat down on my floor until morning. With the sunrise, I went to my other son, and explained what had happened. Then I sent him to tell the story to the village reeve.”
My poor son William. He never came out of his room during the night, or during the fighting; he knew better. He was very calm in the morning, even after seeing the sprawling bodies of his brother and father. He never said one word to me, just did what he was told.
“The reeve was not sympathetic to my tale, nor were the villagers. I was charged with murder, brought to court, where I was found guilty and sentenced to a beating and exile from the village, as I had no money to pay fines.”
“I could have borne this punishment, but for the fact they took away my son. My husband’s parents petitioned the court to take my son William, as compensation,” I spit out those words, still choking on the memory. “And they were granted their wish, they stole my son.”
“I’m sorry. Where did you go, in your exile?”
“Nowhere. Without my son, I had nothing. I managed to procure a sharp knife, and I slit my wrists, before I was banished. I died because I killed myself.”
Robert made a small gasp, but said nothing.
“What was one more sin? I could shame my family no more than I had, and the village certainly did not care if I was dead. They threw my corpse in a nameless grave at the crossroad and forgot I ever existed.”
Robert looked at me sharply.
“How do you know about your burial? Was your poor soul adrift so soon, to be the undead?”
“Yes, my soul was condemned from just after the moment of death. I haunted the places I knew for many years; I had no other place to go. I watched over my son, until he was fourteen years. I saw him turned into the same type of man my husband had become, and I could do nothing.”
“I eventually left, and travelled where I wished, until I arrived here.”
“I am sorry for your heartbreak. Do you know why you were so damned?”
“I sinned; I killed, and I enjoyed it. I took my own life. But mostly, because I had no repentance. These things condemned my soul to wander.”
Robert’s face clouded over.
“So if I repent my sins before I die, my soul will not be as your’s has become.”
“No, you will not be the undead.”
“So to avoid your fate, I must repent of the murder of my father, of the vengeance I sought for the death of my mother, and ask forgiveness for the joy I took in killing him?”
“And if I do not repent?”
“Then you will wander as I do, forever shut out of the world. It is your choice Robert.”
“Leave me, I must think.”
So I left him to himself and his thoughts, only to return a few hours later.
I found his body just as I had hoped; crumpled on the ground, lifeless. The vial of poison he had used lay a few inches from his limp hand.
I smiled as I turned around.