The First Sigh: A Short Story

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Eilean Donan, pixabay

 

The First Sigh 

I walk through shadow. I am engulfed by it. I am shadow. I am the reason you are afraid of the dark, the tingle down your spine whenever you are alone at night. Nothing can stop my love and my grief. Nothing can withstand my wrath. Neither doors nor walls are a barrier to me, only the grounds and the unending role of the gods. I was too mournful when the light picked me up and carried me to the golden gates. My heart was too heavy with sorrow. I was mourning for my life, the very thing that I cherished most. The gods would not let such a person enter paradise. And so I was banished. Banished until I could be grateful to sacrifice my life for my soul.

A sound pulls me from the horrid depths of my mind.  I gazed out the window and absorb what is happening on the front lawn. A family has arrived.

“Oh Charlie it’s beautiful!” Carroll Streepe climbs out of the taxi and marvels at the massive structure looming before her.

“I knew you would love it. I just can’t get over this. Imagine getting reassigned to Scotland!”

“How lucky for Missy to grow up in a castle? Do you think she will develop an accent?” Carol scrambled into the backseat of the car and wrestled her 13-month-old daughter out of the car seat.

The family abandons their luggage and start across the lawn towards the Eileen Donan Castle on the shore of Loch Doich. The Citadel has stood on the lawn for over five centuries.

They knew that there were other  couples living in the castle and that it was owned and cared for by two eldery Scots. They didn’t know that the fortress was also inhabited by another, someone far older than comprehension. Me.

I watch as the newcomers settle into their cozy new living quarters, and my heart brims over with ecstasy. I’ve watched and waited for this day for a long time. For centuries no couple has been permitted into the stronghold accompanied by a baby. The owners know what would happen if this was allowed. But I have them all deceived. They think I’m gone, for I have not let anyone catch a glimpse of me in decades. I am no longer here in their minds, and in their hopes. With the baby, I will prove them all wrong. I will make them see that my wrath doesn’t wain like the moon.

**

I lurk in a dark corner, and absorb the introductions. The fire crackles in its stone prison as the inhabitants of the castle gather to get acquainted. Stories are traded between the clan and their tenants. The Murphy family had inherited the castle for centuries. Many tragedies have happened alongside many joys.

“But we don’t want to get into that.” Mrs. Murphy, my descendent and owner of the castle, said instantly when asked. “Now stay up as long as you like, but Mr. Murphy and I are going to bed. If you need anything, you know where to find us. Good night.”

With that, the elderly couple headed out the door and down the path that led to their cottage near back of the grounds.

I chuckle as the remaining group fidget uncomfortably at being left alone with one another.

Tentatively, Carol asks, “Why do they not sleep in the mansion? Surely there is enough room?”

The bride of the newlyweds, Aeryn, looked at her husband, Rodger, expectantly. He cleared his throat, “I did some research on this place and apparently there is a member of the family with whom the Murphy’s don’t like to associate.”

“But I thought they were the only family members that live here.” The wrinkled face woman, Mary Anne, leaned out of the corner.

Roger looked at her with a mischievous grin. “They are the only LIVING family that lives here.”

Everyone nervously glanced over their shoulders, even me.

“Go on,” Charlie said.

“It is told that a woman lived here in the 1600s. She was said to be the most beautiful woman in all of Scotland. Her hair was the color of the suns rays, her eyes a mixture of blue and green that made the trees jealous and the loch that surrounds this very castle resentful. Her lips were Scarlet like the petals that wilt from the roses in the garden. Her name was Liadan, a spirited woman of 26. She was part of the McLaughlin clan until she was married off to Liam Murphy at the age of 16. For 10 year she endured his drunken fury until one night his rage consumed her light. He buried her body behind one of the walls of this castle. No one has bothered to look for it, for they are afraid of what they will find. She remains here. A prisoner; waiting.”

An eerie silence fills the air. If it existed, a tear would’ve escaped my lids. I was lovely… Once.

“Waiting for what?” Carol’s curiosity inquired what the others were too terrified to ask.

“Well there is an old Scottish myth that a spirit can escape the misery of death by killing the soul of the baby and taking over the body. It will be reborn into the child and live.”

The parents of Missy Streepe exploded. Snatching up their baby, they shot venomous looks and chosen words towards Roger, before leaving the room and up the grand staircase. The group follow them with their stares until they’re out of sight.

They looked around at each other, shivered, and went their separate ways to their rooms.

I chuckle pleasantly to myself, following the family, and thinking of how foolish my descendants are. If that sorry excuse for a scholar knows my story, why do they not? Or why do they doubt?

We shall see how they believe when the child’s eyes change from the brown of her parents to the green and blue of the earth.

**

“How dare he say that! Just to scare us out of this place!” Carol slammed her legs into a pajama pants and clambered into bed.

“Now Honey, why would he want to scare us out of here? It just doesn’t make sense. It was probably just a chilling story made for the fireside.”

“We can’t take that chance. We have to get her out of here. I won’t be able to enjoy this house if I’m always suspicious that a 500-year-old woman is trying to suck the soul out of my baby. We have to go.”

“Do you realize how foolish you were being?”

Charlie’s wife looks at him and he sees the fear.

He hung his head. “OK we leave tomorrow.”

As the couple settles down to sleep, realization descends slowly on my clever mind. Tomorrow? They cannot leave so soon. I have gone on too long in discontent, existing with the consuming desire to breathe, to smell the roses that I planted during my lifetime. Seeing them every day, when they were once my only consolation during my years of torture, and not being able to touch, to take in their fragrance is almost as bad as the unending loneliness. No. I will not let them take away my salvation, my hope. I saunter across the room towards the cradle of the latent child. The tiny fingers capture a teddy bear, taking comfort in the grip. I reach for the bear and watch as my hand go through the cotton fabric. The baby shivers at the cool breeze coming from the open window. I only see the draft pick up the curtains and settle them down again. The child’s eyelids roll into her head as she travels through dreams of sunlight and her parents. I live in the imagining, wandering through it always, it is time for her life to become mine. To take back what was stolen from me. It is my turn to live.

I lean down to awaken the baby and gaze into her eyes, to capture her soul. I year to descend from my hellish nightmare and send her back to her creator.

The door slams open as the innkeeper comes rushing into the room.

“Leave the presence of the child, you demon!” Mrs. Murphy screams into the silence.

The parents of the child awaken from their slumber and bolt up in bed.

“What is going on? What are you doing?” Carol rushes across the room to Missy who had started to howl.

Mrs. Murphy was prancing around the room waving a wooden cross in the air. She was raving loudly in an ancient tongue.

Charlie crossed the room to his landlord and took her shoulders in his hands.

A sound from the doorway brought all their attention to Mr. Murphy standing looking dumbstruck. Mrs. Murphy stopped chanting which elevated the silence. After a moment she lifted her head and released herself  from Charlie’s grip. Standing up right she looked Carol in the eye.

“The spirit is gone now. Your child is safe.” With that she scampered from the room and was quickly pursued by her husband. It took Charlie a good 45 minutes to calm down his wife and to get her and the child back to bed.

Snuggling their daughter between them, it wasn’t until the child fell into a slumber that her parents found their own release in sleep.

**

Missy was awakened by the sweet scent of roses drifting through the open window. Chilled by the breeze, she snuggled up closer to her parents. When sleep would not return, she gave up the effort with a sigh and opened her eyes to take in the day. The purity of their blue green deaths was enough to make the trees and the loch envious.

-Miranda Rawson

 

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