MetempsychosisMigration in Six Parts
Like a tattered scarecrow Donovan sat slumped in the dusty corner of the deserted church, his shattered form shrouded in shadows, and his arms wrapped tightly around his midsection in a chilled hug. Thin strands of earthen tresses obscured his hollow face; his crystal green eyes encaged the mosaic pattern spilling from the stained glass window onto the stone cold floor. Entranced in mournful thought, he failed to notice the approaching female.
Like a cat in all its pride, Anna pranced toward him, a black transparent nightgown enhancing the sultry motions of her walk. Burnished auburn hair cascaded gently to her shoulders, partially cloaking her youthful visage. Catching her form from the corner of his eye, Donovan glanced up, at which time, in the midst of her prance, she tripped on her own oversized heels and crashed to the floor. Giggling with embarrassment, she stood up, leaving her shoes lying behind. "Oh my!" she exclaimed, brushing herself off. "Would you look at that? I've gone and gotten my new nightie dirty, and on its first day out." She shook her head lightly back and forth with the realization that there was nothing she could do. "Oh well, let me introduce myself. I'm Anna, and I wanna know what you're doing in this old church."
The cadaverous man examined the young girl with a light disinterest. "Why are you here?" he echoed with sarcasm." And why are you costumed in your mother's clothes? You look foolish."
"I thought you might be lonely. And they're not my mother's clothes; they're mine. I'm a grown woman, and I can wear what I like!"
"Don't be silly. You're a child. You can't be more than six."
"I'm not a child," she paused with thought. "But, if you'd like, I can change."
"I would appreciate it. I'm not comfortable looking at a half-dressed lass."
"I'm a woman!" she retorted as her night gown changed into a flowered sun-dress, "and you're avoiding the question."
The man lowered his eyes from her gaze. The room grew darker as a squadron of cumulonimbus clouds crept over the battle front and into the village. As he searched his mind for words that would not come, he noticed her tiny bare feet. Their milky skin was clean, still retaining a few wrinkles from a recent bath. She sifted the dirt on the floor with her toes, their nails trimmed tightly against the skin revealing how well she had been cared for.
"I'm here to die, he whispered in trembling breath. I was stabbed in the war a while ago... see." He unfolded his arms where his once white shirt had stained a deep red. The young girl turned from the bloody mess as he once again folded his arms to cover the gash. The sounds of violence from outside crept into the sanctuary, destroying the uncomfortable thick silence that had pervaded the room, as they both became unnaturally aware of the war's song unfolding. A choir of planes flew low overhead; bombs exploded adding rhythm. Guns fired and a bass line of men lay groaning in harmony. A mother received word of her eldest son's death and sang her screams to the rhythm of the song.
An aged mulatto, tiring on his return from the town well, rested on the top step of the war-drenched church. Two wooden buckets filled with semi-clean water sat on the step by his feet. The first drops of rain began ambushing his leathery face, opening his unoccupied eyes. He wiped the rain from them and focused on what was before him, a gold circle sewn to a verdant-grey garb. He followed the path of gold up to a young face topped in a military hat. Recognizing the opposing man, he stood and saluted him. With mud brown eyes the soldier stared coldly at him. The mulatto extended his arms and grasped the soldier's uniform by the shoulders. "Ivan? Ivan, is that you? It's me, your grandfather. Don't you rec..."
A second soldier intervened. As the mulatto was pushed back, his sentence left unfinished, he tripped over the steps and crashed into the church doors. The remaining soldiers surrounded him and brought him to his feet. Three times they beat him against the church. Each time the doors, nearly breaking under the force, trembled with more fear and pity than the previous. He looked up, with fear-filled eyes, at those resembling his own. "No, Ivan, please don't," he begged as a drop of red rain dripped from his lips.
Ivan turned to the general and began to speak in a language unknown to the mulatto. The general, shouting with disapproval, tore the rifle from Ivan's grasp. He placed the barrel tight against the mulatto's stomach, and then forced Ivan's helpless hand onto the cold metal of the gun. The general's muscular grip forced the trigger back as Ivan screamed. The mulatto tensed. His body jerked and then completely relaxed; his eyes stared wide at Ivan. The sour stench of blood and urine filled the winter air. As the rain came it washed away the blood that had splashed onto Ivan's face.
The church doors smashed open, creating an unnaturally peaceful zephyr. A black shadow fell across the mulatto, engulfing him with cold. A female figure robed in black stood in the archway. Blood ran down her cheeks, spilling from the cups that once held her eyes and splashing onto the stone steps. The silken train of her robe swept across the rocks and licked up the red liquid, leaving only a dreamlike stain to mark her attendance. She loomed above the elder and a victorious smile snapped across her twisted countenance. He felt a splash of warmth as blood tainted drool dripped from her fangs and pooled onto his face. At the popping of her knees he knew cold death had pounced upon him.
Soft hands begin to gently stroke back the matted tresses of his hair. He opened his eyes to a silhouetted figure in bright light. "Dear Lord," the words shook from his lips, "thank you, thank you for saving me from that, that demon." He sat up trembling with fear, supporting himself with his weathered hands. "You're an angel?"
"What?" Anna asked with amusement. "Oh no dear man, I'm not an angel as such, but I am going to escort you on your journey."
"You're Death?" the man asked with shock. "But... but the beast... I thought... You're not frightening... you're a child!"
"Oh dear man, that was just a manifestation of your fears. Perceptions are often deceiving. What you expected to come as a tempest came actually with lullaby whispers and now stands before you with compassion. Now come with me." She extended her hand in invitation, "there is a confused young soldier who needs to talk with you."
"Ivan? They killed him? They killed him too?"
"I'm afraid so. He turned on them. He killed the general and injured two soldiers before his death, but he feels your death was his fault, that maybe he could have done more. He needs to speak with you, to learn you don't blame him." The storm clouds above them had split, and they sat in a single ray of sunshine. "Are you ready to see him?"
"Yes. Oh yes. I know it wasn't his fault. What could he have done? I'm ready to see my grandson. And what of my wife, is she there too?"
"Certainly," Anna answered as she and the mulatto faded to mist and disappeared into the sunlight.
Inside Donovan stared glassy-eyed at the floor, unaware of anything that had occurred between Anna and the gentleman outdoors. Blood filled spittle had pooled into his mouth. He swallowed harshly, forcing it down the closing caverns of his throat.
Anna sat down next to him. Tilting her head with compassion, she attempted to console him. "I know it is not me you fear," she spoke in kitten whispers. She searched thoroughly his pale iris for thought, but could discern none. She stared at her own ghostly figure mirrored in his hollow eyes, her weightless form a portraiture of the painted Virgin trapped in the stained glass behind him. Donovan, within his mind, was trapped in the obscurity of a small cellar.
The soil drenched smell of wet earth stuffed the caverns of his nose. A ray of light penetrated the pitch through a crack in the ceiling and fell onto his clay covered form.
Cold, it's so cold. Thoughts turned through his little boy mind. Mommy, I didn't mean to; it was an accident. I won't do it again. Please let me out. Mommy? Why won't you let me out? Can't you hear me crying, screaming? Why don't you come to me? Mommy?
Days slumbered silently by, the hunger stayed constant until he grew nearly numb to the pain. Each day of winter grew colder, as daylight became sparse and loneliness devoured him.
I'm frightened, Mommy. He spoke silently to himself. Each day I can see it more clearly, the beast waiting to taste me. It scares me, Mommy. Please let me out. I'll be good. Donovan cried hopefully at the opening door as dim light flooded in from above, like the light of an angel, he once thought, like those described in church. His maladjusted eyes could barely identify the figure that each day slipped him a shallow mug of water and a thin slice of bread. Please, Mommy, let me out. I'll be good! Please. It's so lonely down here. But the door would always shut; the light would always slip into black.
Mommy? Loneliness. Coldness. Hunger. Fear. Eternal, black loneliness.
The memories began to recede; his mind soaked them in like a tear in the sand. As present day devoured the past, his numbed nerves became aware of a similar pain. As his thoughts pushed through the stickiness of his mind, he grew more paranoid of the identical blackness that awaited him, of the cold, dampened earth that would fall upon him, and of the eternal loneliness that would engulf him.
Donovan jerked back and hit his head on the stone wall, snapping him to reality. In inebriated consciousness he knew what death would bring him, and this he would not accept.
Fight, I must fight. He struggled with his thoughts. I will not die. I will not be alone.
She crawled to him and wrapped her arms about him, cradling his form. "You mustn't fight, Donovan." She spoke in lullabies, whispering his name. As if she had heard his thoughts, she spoke about loneliness. How could she know? She could not understand; yet, she assured him all things are not black.
He couldn't trust her. He would not trust her; he must fight fear, black, loneliness.
"Close your eyes," she sang, as she gently shut his eyelids with her fingers. A lullaby. She was singing him a lullaby.
Fight! He must fight! But her arms were so warm. Her words such a sweet hypnosis. Too weak. He could not fight. Warmth. Her arms were so warm. Sleep, devouring sleep.
"Anna!" the strong southern voice of an aged black lady filled the summer air. Eying the child, Mrs. Hetland approached the great chestnut oak where Anna sat. "Anna Marie, I called you to supper ten minutes ago! Your mamma's gonna skin us both if you don't get in that house."
Anna sat in peppered sunlight in her flowered dress; a rag doll lay at her side. I'm acomin', Mrs. Hetland. Don't you have a hissy now." She stood up from the sand pile that rested beneath the tree and reached down for the doll. "What's for supper tonight?" she spoke as they turned toward the white Victorian house.
"Never you mind Miss Anna. You'll find out after you get washed up. Now run on ahead, old bones like mine can't run as fast as young ones like yours."
Anna took off in a trot through the screen door and upstairs to her play room. She moved apart a collection of dolls she kept on the bookshelf in front of the window. Each doll stared soulfully at her; each looked content. She placed the rag doll among them. "Your new home," she spoke. As she started to go down for supper, she glanced back at her new doll.
Warmth. Friendship. Peace. Anna knew all was well, for across Donovan's cotton face beamed a cherry red smile.