Today has been just another hot and stickily humid day in a seemingly endless string of many. Neither night nor day has offered any relief from the oppressive heat. Even the nonchalant insects seem to be overly burdened by the tyrannical sun. Not that there is anything noteworthy about this during the summer months. In Mississippi, it has always been this way.
The sun has just begun to set, splaying a soft, pink glow between the darkening thunderclouds in the distance. The air is thick with an imminent promise of heavy rain. Swallows exude an unspoken urgency as they quickly skim and dart in the skies, looking to make a quick meal out of the mosquitoes that hover unconcernedly amid the southern dusk. Thunder rumbles threateningly somewhere along the horizon, and a welcomed breeze that was not there a moment ago suddenly picks up.
One look at the sky would tell you that it is not worth going out—this storm is sure to be a bad one. However, it is moments like these, when no one else can be found, that I choose to seek my refuge.
I close my eyes and permit myself a rare moment to breathe deeply, taking multiple thorough draws from the no longer stagnant air. Finally, I begin to feel that it is peaceful here. I remain motionless, allowing the hard-earned solace to seep into my tired and weary bones.
When I open my eyes, the solemn angels that silently guard their keep are painted in a deep sorbet of colors, highlighting the planes of their cold and chiseled faces. In this light, these pale stone markers of the dead serve only as softly warmer reminders of what once was.
It might seem odd to most that I find my time spent in this place to be rejuvenating. Usually, this is not where most living people readily choose to go. Rather, the opportunity to visit is forced upon them either by fate or a sense of obligation. To them, this place represents only the bad—death, loss, sorrow, unfulfilled dreams, and pain . . . all justifiably true. Though for me, if only for a moment, it is only when I am here that these same emotions are not so chokingly poignant.
You see, this is the only place where I am permitted a momentary courtesy from heaven—the briefest awareness that everything is, and will be, right. Although the impression never seems to last, no matter how fleeting, it is a worthwhile gift nonetheless.
The air has continued to grow heavier. No longer are there any signs of the swallows or the pesky mosquitoes. They’ve vanished as the thunder has grown increasingly louder, heralding the way of the storm. It won’t be long now, I think anxiously as I glance up at the sky.
Right on cue, the sky loses its hold on the weighty burden it carries inside. A torrent of rain is released, a merciful break to the summer’s seemingly incessant heat.
I wear only jeans and a T-shirt with some nondescript lace-ups on my feet. Initially, a jacket sounds like a welcome idea to the unmistakably chilly rain spattering on my unaccustomed, sun darkened skin, but I remain seated on my cement bench beneath an ancient magnolia tree.
Relishing this generous change in the weather, I close my eyes and tilt my face upward. My dark hair quickly begins to trickle with water, the rivulets leisurely running down my body. There is nothing quite like a summer rain. I soak up its vitality and newness. I cannot help but hope that maybe this time the rain will manage to cleanse my dirty and stained soul. Perhaps then I will finally be offered the absolution I have so long desired.
Thunder rumbles a reprimand, God’s reminder of my folly.
Instantly, I am brought back to the painful reality of the hell I have been forced to live. Peace, yet again, is merely an imagined and forced perception. Just as quickly as my mood was heightened by the prospect of final release, the rain casts everything in a dank shade of gray.
The water continues to drip down my back, and bitterly I shiver at its sting. As I breathe in the rain, feel the contrast between its cool moisture and my hot, living breath, I accept that I can only remain oblivious to the obvious for so long. At last, I find the courage to stare at the headstone that lies before me.
A desolate hunk of rock carved in the shape of a tree stump looms in the shadows before me. It is moss covered, weather-worn, and neglected. Only a few indifferent words were given to remember its charge:
Daine C. Dalton
August 15, 1840 – November 22, 1915
Daine Dalton lived a good amount of time—seventy-five years. Seventy-five years, and this is all that is left of him a hundred years later—a rapidly deteriorating rock, decaying alone in the shade of an ancient magnolia tree. It is depressing.
I have often wondered if I were to dig up his grave, would I find anything that resembled a man remaining? After this much time, surely not. Besides, I do not think that he would appreciate it much if I did.
One would think that after visiting this place for what seems an eternity, never witnessing a renewal, and unfailingly bearing witness to the perpetual demise of the new, that I would be more convinced of the grave’s terminal nature. I am sorry to say that I am not.
There was once a time when I hoped for as much. When I believed that eternal rest was granted irrevocably in death, and when I was confident that mortality was brief, but definite. No. All of that no longer applies, and the finality of the grave has been lost to me.
Daine Dalton’s gravestone states that he has been dead for a hundred years—yet here I am, still living, breathing, bleeding, feeling, and . . . unending.
I am Daine Caradoc Dalton.
This is my grave.
I remember my beginning and everything that existed until what was to be my end. And death, yes, I remember death. The deep cold that settled, leaving me paralyzed in a terrifying haze as consciousness detachedly slipped away . . .
After, there was no heaven or hell. Only a waking, in which I discovered myself lying naked upon my recently filled grave in my thirty-four year old form. Since then, I have not aged a day. I have tried to end this life, but death refuses to take me.
And so, here I remain—a man who both bleeds and breathes, but yet is unable to die. Tirelessly visiting the spot that is supposed to indicate his final resting place, but finding only disguised anguish instead.
YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE LIFE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN.
All that you can do is make the most of what you’ve been dealt—fight a good fight, resist being beaten by circumstance, and hope that somehow, despite it all, you’re able to accomplish the impossible.
But even then you cannot change the fact that you were born cursed.
I am one of those unlucky few upon whom the Curse of the Four Fathers has fallen.
It is I who must bear the burden of having a life that is unchangeably intertwined with the Fae. A sorrow made all the more great by knowing that where they are tragedy, loss, misery, and despair most assuredly follow.
As a Druid it is my responsibility to uphold the boundaries that keep the worlds of the Tylwyth Teg, and our own, separate. As a man it is my only ambition to protect the family and woman I so desperately love.
The only problem: I'm not sure this curse will allow for me to do both.
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Genre - Paranormal Fantasy, Horror
Rating – PG-13
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