He’s gone. With luck he won’t return, smug little devil. Always pestering, whispering to me; trying to break my silence. She will leave me alone now, that little bird. She wouldn’t dare come near on her own, carrying her pencils and scraps. Stupid little thing tries to draw me but all she can ever see are shadows. I’m good at hiding.
I’ve hidden for too many years to count, here in the Hall in the hole they made for the priest. No one comes here. People live above and below me. Over the years I have learnt this English language. I, like the others, watch and learn. I am secluded and quiet and want no company. I do not speak.
I killed them, my family. I have hidden from them ever since because I know they will be looking for me. I killed them. This is my confession.
I lived here in the first house. The village then was named Umlouebi. It was a longhouse then. Wood and stone. Many of us lived here, making a settlement in a new land. We travelled far over the water from our true home. Norsemen. Strong and brave. I was young, just a baby when we arrived.
I was of middle years when I did it. Not old enough to be a father or young enough to suckle like a child. I held no anger or spite. It was an accident.
I met a boy like myself out in the woods. He was teaching me his local language and I was teaching him mine. We hunted and caught rabbits, swam in the ponds and played battles .We avoided our jobs together and chased small children through the fields. My friend.
One day he was collecting a plant for his mother; rhubarb, with its grand green leaves and red stalks. I took some too, a surprise for my family. Great bunches of it. My grandmother chopped it up and boiled it, serving the evil brew that night while most sat around the fires. I was out with the animals and on my return found the whole house groaning .Some survived but my elderly grandparents, my mother (who was round with a new baby) and my small sister died. Others too fell afoul of the poisonous brew. The village was already weakened by a heat under the skin that made them sweat in the cold. The rhubarb finished them. My father beat me till he couldn’t see through his sadness and then left the house, swearing to never return.
So by morning they were all gone. My whole family, gone. I was helping to build the pyre to burn their cold bodies and immediately understood what I should do to appease any gods watching and cure my sad, guilt-ridden heart.
Out there, in the garden of the present Hall, is where we lit the fire to send their bodies upwards and onwards to the next life. Out there, once the flames had taken hold and the heat was scorching on the skin, I jumped in.
Now I know he meant no harm, having seen the living eat it in pies. Now I know. Time cannot be retrieved, lives cannot be re-lived. Guilt must be carried. Silence observed.
I went to visit the boy in the woods days after my death. I went to his home. I hated him for his treachery and believed he should suffer as I had.
. A small wooden shack with children running in and out like bees in a hive. Such a scene of happiness. There was a fire burning gently inside the hut around which the older family members huddled. It didn’t take much, even in my new bloodless state, to send out a few big sparks, landing on clothes and blankets. I watched through the smoke as the family screamed. We were even then, the boy and I.
I have one chance at redemption; I must save rather than destroy. I have had ceaseless years but feel unable to meet them yet; my family, my friend.
I can feel something dangerous coming to the Hall. The idiot boy and his pretty playmate have no idea. They prattle and gossip but are blind to the truth. The Captain sees it but he is consumed by his own needs. They may need me downstairs soon. I think it’s time.
I will not write again.