The Lingering Shadow: Chapter 1
Posted April 30th, 2022 by Ninasilverrose
in British Columbia
The morning was just as any other, bleak and uneventful, the clouds swallowing the sun in the small town of Blairsville. I was plagued by the very same dream as I was every night. A man sitting at the edge of the sea, the tide crashing unto his quivering form as he screams. Helplessly I watch his fists dig into the sand, as if he'll find his heart underneath. Why do you weep so desperately? I can only ponder, as he never once speaks. Standing on the beach, I feel his sorrow engulf me whole, dragging me with him. It weights me down as if a thousand weights, becoming ever so suffocating. How can he endure this pain without his lungs collapsing? I can hear the rasp in my voice as I struggle to breathe. The world spins and collapses into itself, the edges of my vision darkening. And that is whence I wake.
I've heard one too many reasons as to why this man haunts me, and none too convincing. One might argue that he is a manifestation of my sorrow, but I've no sorrow as desperate as his. He always looks as if his very soul is wretchedly torn from him. But of course, as is with men of science, they must always find logic within even the strangest things. Unexplainable things. But often we'll find that logic cannot define all that is in existence. I believe that this man exists, and I shall find him, no matter what others believe.
My skirt slips from my hands in my pondering, snapping me back to reality. I quickly regather it from the wooden floor, patting it down. The ebony colored fabric glows under the light. I throw it on and fumble with the buttons, it enveloping my body loosely. The crooked mirror standing in the corner of my room reflects it back to me, and I pinch the sides for adjustment. My entire body is dressed in dark, causing my orange curls to stand out against the fabric. I've rather ordinary features, with my pale, translucent skin, and dried lips which I unconsciously pick at. My cheeks are ever so slightly flushed, and they never cease to be. The only truly redeemable quality I possess are my eyes. They shine the way molten gold might. Even I, who see them in the mirror every morning, cannot help but lose myself in them. You think to yourself, what if I were to swim inside this liquid gold? What a blissful thing that would be.
The thundering sky alerts me to my lateness, and I scurry down the stairs hurriedly, the wooden stairs creaking beneath me. It's about time they had them replaced. During the entirety of the time I've spent here, never once have these stairs been repaired. I worry for the state of the one finally breaking a bone or two due to it. Albeit the budget of the church was rather low. As I turn the corner in the narrow, musky hallway, where the wallpaper is peeling, the echoes of the choir fills my ears. There is always something strange and nostalgic about dozens of voices harmonizing in unison; something which warms your heart and heals your soul. If only it could atone for ones sins.
Mother Superior kneels before the statue of the Goddess, her small figure hunched over in prayer. I move to kneel next to her, gripping my pendant which bears the symbol of the Church. Twisting the simple star and moon between my fingers, I tune into Mother Superior's quiet mumbles. They are much more urgent than they had been previously. As the silver statue towers over us, making us out to be mere ants in Her presence, I gently rest my hand on Mother Superior's shoulder. She ceases her rocking and lifts her head, eyes filled to the brim with tears.
"Freya, my dear child," She begins, releasing the tight grip on her pendant, "I did not expect to ever be seen in such a dastardly state." She heaves a heavy sigh, turning towards the seemingly endless cathedral. I follow her gaze to the empty benches meant for prayer, and a sense of sadness overwhelms me. So this is the reason for her worries.
"Mother Superior, what ails you so? Is it the absence of prayer from the Holy children of our Goddess?" She nods slightly in response, her expression twisting into an even more remorseful one. I strain to find a solution, when suddenly strong, purposeful footsteps sound from the entrance. "Who goes there?" I cry out, stumbling to my feet. "The Church has not yet been opened to civilians." The man standing before me was quite fit. I would have considered him confident, and even charming, if it weren't for the odd expression he bore.
Silently, he took large strides towards us, the light streaming through the windows reflecting on his raven hair. I have the sudden urge to flee, and was surely about to, until he flung himself to the floor and clasped his hands so tightly his knuckles turned white.
"Please allow me to pray, sister. I desperately require it. I beg you, I swear on my honor that I will not disturb you." Baffled by this request, I order him to raise his head at once. Judging by the material adorning his clothes, he must be someone of higher stature than me. My face feeling hotter than usual, I press my lips together and nod to him. A large grin plasters onto his face, although oddly enough, not a happy one. It was a certain desperate, wounded smile one might see at an orphanage. One where you feel the child's fear and uncertainty; that strange transition between hopefulness and hopelessness. I knew it all too well. I offer him a smile, which he graciously accepts by the momentary glitter in his eyes. How such a refined gentleman can be so disheveled is beyond me. His hair hung around his face in tangles, and under his light hazel eyes were the darkest crescents I have seen in a man.
I decide to leave him to his own devices, all the while Mother Superior rocks back and forth on a nearby bench. I hand her a handkerchief, and she wipes away at her soaked cheeks with a sniffle. She doesn't ask about the man, or what he wanted. I felt that she could understand his sorrow from all the way across the hall. After a full minute of silent whimpers, Mother Superior inhales sharply.
"Would you check on Addison, dear? I'm certain she could use the company." I make certain that she can be left by herself, and then make my way to the yard. Addison was the newest addition to our abbey, barely a girl of 18 years. She was rarely useful in chores, and so spent her days idling away in the garden, tending to the flowers. But as I approach the bed of crimson roses and pink lilies, I fail to catch sight of her anywhere. Confusion and concern strike me as if lightening itself has descended from the heavens.
"Addison??" I call, sprinting towards her room. The door is left ajar. I swallow the dread building in my stomach and gently push it open. Frozen in the doorway of her plain, flowery room, a scream echoes as if from a distant land. I soon understand it to be my own.
There lay Addison, in a pool of crimson blood.
See more stories by Nina