We leave this world alone and defenseless. The way we arrived. Hence our life comes up in a full circle. Sometimes it becomes difficult to assess where we are and where it’s leading to. One feeling however remains: a feeling of dread. A feeling that something is just around the corner, the very thought of it sends shudders down your spine. The feeling bubbling inside to consume you from within. The sense that you are slowly moving towards your dissolution. On your way to complete the circle. It’s the only closure we ever get. One life. A perfectly closed curve.
Within this curve everything is in disarray. The perfectly closed nature of life holds no longer. The sense of order is thrown out of the window. Here chaos reigns supreme. In this we lose ourselves and this is what living is. Turbulent, wild, disorderly. In the noise of it all the anxiety is lost in the background. Yet, when silence settles, the fear rears its head again.
As I returned to the place I once called home, I felt as if I was completing a circle. The prodigal son returned home. And the dread I had always associated to that desolated valley. The dread that had drowned in the ambiance of my life returned to me. It was as if it had never left. Here I was completing a curve with in a curve. Perhaps I had messed with the natural order of things.
As I looked out of the window of my coach: my ancestral home was as beautiful I remembered it to be. The mountains standing at the background, ever vigilant protectors. It was them who sheltered this valley from the cold harsh winds of North and allowed life to grow.
It was green as far as the eye could see. Soon harvest season would be upon us. And the orchards will burst with shades of red, green and gold. The effect should have been beautiful. It was not. Despite the overwhelming beauty of the place it had never become a famous spot that was haunted by busybody travelers or young couples in love. The youth of this places like myself were always desperate to leave. It had an eerie, almost sinister atmosphere and the locals had all sort of theories. Some claimed it was a site of many bloody battles and the restless sprits of warriors still roamed the place. Other claimed it was once under a reign of a King who committed grave atrocities against his people. None of the theories were supported by any evidence. For all its recorded history the valley had been a small town blooming with apple orchards.
Even on the streets the atmosphere was somber, tedious some would say. Vibrancy had little place here. It all seemed appropriate with the occasion to me. I was returning to honor my dead father. There wasn’t a body waiting for me. No, my father had died alone in his family house. A solitary existence. He died alone, friendless and loveless. With my mother long gone, I was the only one who survived him. However, waiting for me was not an option. And it wasn’t a month before someone had got hold of me to break the news. By then my father was inside the gray stone of the family crypt. He had made the arrangements himself long before. He knew I’d never make it in time, or I wouldn’t want to. I was always a disappointment to him. The first in a long line to leave our rightful home, as he put it.
I had no intention of lingering at this place. Though I wish I could have visited my father more often. All I could do for him now was make sure his beloved estate and the land around it did not dwindle and fall into ruins. It was the least I could do for the man who had raised me, even though we never saw eye to eye. He was as big a disappointment to me as a father, as I was to him as a son.
The coach stopped taxiing. It allowed me to release myself from the web of my thoughts. The horses jerked as we halted and the whole cabin shook from their struggle as the coachman tried to contain them.
I descended to see what the commotion was about. I saw that the graveyard was in sight yet the horses refused to take another step. The coachman asked me to get back in. Saying that he’ll sort it out. I, however decided to spare him the trouble. Truth is I preferred to walk. So that it might take me longer. The prospect of facing my father even if he was securely locked inside a crypt was not something I was relishing.
I had not visited him for twenty years. As he forced me to leave for school as a child, I took the opportunity and never returned. It had to do with him and this place, but most of all it had to do with what happened the eve I left. The very thought of it sent a chill down my spine and I instinctively wrapped my jacket around me. Though I knew the chill had little to do with the cold.
Finally I reached the graveyard. An ominous place anywhere in the world, here it gave a sense of pure dread. The walls around it were made of stone and covered with moss, the huge wrought iron gate covered in growth of vines. For a second I felt they had completely clogged the gate which stood at an impressive twelve feet and my spirts soared a little.
It wasn’t long before I noticed that the growth abruptly cut short and a smaller entrance stood there. It seemed like someone had cut through the bars to create this hole. It was diminutive in stature. Standing at six feet I had to crouch appreciably to get through.
As I crossed the threshold, it was as if I had stepped into a different dimension of sorts. The most irrational of fears started to cloud me. I now wanted to leave this place. It overtook my desire to delay my meeting with my father.
I moved with a sense of purpose now instead of dallying. Or what I preferred to call a sense of purpose. For I knew deep inside I was running. Every moment around me startled me as I zipped on the overgrown path, which like everything else around me was covered in ivy and moss. A couple of times I almost stepped on a sharp edge or twisted my foot. Nothing slowed me down. Every moment around me, which I kept telling myself I was imagining. Every sound the wind made, every time it came in contact with the wrought iron gate and made a menacing screeching noise. It all startled me. There I was, a grown man scurrying through a grave yard. Scared, so very terrified by nothing more than the wind and the resting dead.
There was indeed something more sinister in here than the wind. While the whole town had a spell of gloom cast over it, this was so, so very different. There was a rush here. It was like if a lot of restlessness was bottled up here. Like something trapped inside waiting to burst forth. What? I dared not imagine.
I finally saw the crypts and willed myself to stop. My father would be inside our ancestral crypt. I had made trips there before as a child but never alone before. Never when I was this scared.
It was then that a strange malady overtook me and I lost my ability to think or navigate clearly. I began to wander aimlessly. My body was no longer under my control. The only thing I felt belonged to me was a small voice in my head that was my own. Even that diminished with every step I took. I felt like an unwelcomed stranger. In this valley, in this resting place of the troubled dead and in my very own body.
I began to suspect I was being led somewhere by an unspoken call. I felt I was charmed. Desperate to reach this place of unknown promise and untold secret. I could not tell if I was having a paranormal experience or simply an anxiety attack. Yet, I had never felt this helpless.
And then I saw it. Outside a freshly constructed crypt. This wasn’t our family crypt. Four figures hunched around a camp fire, carved in granite. Demonic, fiendish, outlandish. One caught my eye above the others. Its face was a cross between a lion’s and goat’s. From its head two mighty horns erected. Even impressed in granite its eyes had a mad gleam. It had a body of a man except that its creator only seemed to have a very vague idea of what a man’s body is supposed to look like.
None of these however were even the most disturbing facts about it. I had seen this beast before.
The eve of my departure, her face, the stolen kiss and the hellish vision. It all returned to me. My body became my prison as I was rooted to the spot. Made to relive it all. As the image of the statue engraved itself into my consciousness. The damn I had built was broken. The horrible memory of that night I had left this valley flooded into realization. I would have screamed my lungs out if only I were able to.
I do not know how long I stood there before I realized I could move. The cold burned me as it seemed a fire had been ignited within me. I was bursting to peel of my clothes, my skin and my bones. Desperate to be free. I felt a lump in my throat which could have easily been my heart. It made it difficult for me to draw air.
A line of sweat came from my forehead and trickled down my throat. The spell I was under had been lifted. Exactly when I could not point, neither did I care. All I cared abourt was to put as much distance between this place and myself. I should have never returned. It was then I dashed. Not a control dashed like before. A truly frantic run. My strong legs trained under years of training somehow remained steady as my whole body jerked and shook with fear. Sweat kept trickling down my back. I kept running. My surroundings didn’t matter. I was in a daze. Under a different sort of possession now. This was just me running down the length of a pitch. Nothing would stop me. Nothing could.
I was so sure that I would make it. Leave it all behind me. Passion fueled my run and an engine of fear sustained it. I could see the Iron Gate again. I was going to make it. I was so very sure of it. Then it went all wrong. I felt my ankle wrench under my weight as I took a hurl. It was an out of body experience. I could see myself falling down in painful detail as if I was standing next to my body as it fell. I saw myself smash my head against the stone and warm blood gushing forward. Only then did I return to my body. My vision turned to a tunnel red. Blood mixed with sweat covered my eyes. And it was the last thing I remembered. Agonizingly mindful of the fact that I was losing awareness and there was nothing I could do about it.