dark – side – thursday – four
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The Invited: Part 4
Its shadow has gone. How long since her frantic screams, she’s unsure, but their release has left her in a state of exhausted calm.
Seated on the ground now, and wiping her face on her sleeve, Helen can see a shadow, though from her former position close to the ground, it was broken up by the unevenness of the leaves and stones, but now, the shadow of the cast iron gate crosses the ground in front of her. It’s geometry, though broken by the drift of leaves and stones, is clear enough. She leans forward, grasps the ornate ironwork and uses it to pull herself, rather unsteadily, to her feet.
The moon is high in the night sky. It looks like a harvest moon, and the light from it glints on the painted edges of the gate. It is only now that she realises that she is inside the tomb. She has no recollection of how she got there.
She tries to rationalise her situation. I was outside, standing: no sitting, in front of the tomb and it was daylight. ….. Bright, hot and sunny. I looked up at the inscription and squinted. Oh, the inscription on the tomb!
She pauses. The thought of the inscription, was that real? and the black fugue starts to return, but she grips tightly onto the iron gate, squeezing it painfully until her fingers are numb. This is real. It must be real. She explores the smoothness of the paint, picking at a rusty patch and pulling off a flake of paint with her thumbnail. It jams under her nail and she winces. She lets go of the gate; and pulls out the sharp fragment. This place is real. She can still smell the urine. She starts to heave, but then with sudden determination, grabs hold of the gate again. I’ll not be defeated by this, she thinks, and she manages to calm herself.
On an impulse she puts her hand into her coat pocket. The card is still there. The invitation. What did it say? To your advantage! How can this frightening experience and the purpose of this place, possibly represent an advantage?
She turns, trying to take in her surroundings. The moonlight is filtered by the gate and some tall ferns, but it reaches across the floor of the mausoleum and catches the edge of a low shelf or plinth on the back wall. Helen decides that she would be safer away from the gate and from whatever lurks outside. Feeling her way with each step she makes her way to the back of the tomb where she sits, trying not to think about what else might be there.
Her mind is in a turmoil. In one sense she understands why she’s here.
The mausoleum is dedicated to her mother.
She doesn’t know where or when this place is, but she’s been invited here to be confronted by an inscription that reads, ‘Dedicated to the Memory of Rachel Forbes, Born 22 February 1921 Died 17 May 1955.’
That’s my mother, no doubt about it. She thinks. Yet I can’t feel that this is anything other than a dream. It’s just too impossible, all of it: impossible. I’ll wake up from this nightmare soon.
Oh, please God, let me wake up!
Helen’s thoughts start to head in a downward spiral. The tears run down her face and she sobs. She thought that she had dealt with the loss of her mother, but the yawning chasm of it had never, ever closed, over the years. There were so many unknowns. She never knew how her mother died. She was just six years old and always thought that she had been taken ill. At least that was what her grandparents had told her; taken ill and died; that’s what they said. That’s what they’d always said, but she had always believed that she was somehow responsible. Deep down, the thought had lodged in her mind. All she could remember was that she’d been naughty and that her mother had sent her to her grandma’s. That’s all she knew, and she’d buried it into a great void of uncertainty and unknowing, that surrounded her mother’s death.
Her tears flow for the emptiness of the years.