The Mid West, North America, 1865
The words release from my mouth in waves of horror but I do not flinch as I myself retain the hollow darkness in the absence of light.
“I killed him.”
The emptiness of the room is a sudden stark contrast to the activity and flurry of the wheat fields outside my window. It is morning and I feel the ache deep in my bones as my body rejects the stiffness and stature I have imposed upon it under the darkness of night.
The weight of the pistol caresses the inside of my palms as if beckoning. I look down at the quilt, holding and comforting the black, leather-bound book where I will further take my instructions.
“An eye for an eye.” I smile. I am justified.
Two days ago:
“Ana! The longer you let that child live, the longer your sentence in god’s hell will be.”
My brother paces the veranda, stomping strategically. The end of the civil war is upon us and his fear of discovery is tainted with shame. Soon others will return home and the expectant normality of life will seek all in the community. People will talk. They will decipher his shame. It is more clearly written on his face with each year the child grows older. Each year the mistake strengthens and gains its own power.
I am forcing down my own disgust. A hatred for life and for this man that raped me and spawned a child. An abomination in god’s world.
“Mamma,” a sound calls clearly, footsteps traipsing down the hall of the small timber cottage. The fields echo the sound and my brother turns, scowling. An audible hiss releases spontaneously from his lips. I jump from my seat and protectively cover the doorway.
“Leave at once!” I shout at him. The coverings of my religious attire a testament to my strength. The blackness of my heavy coat suddenly a reminder to him of the church and the truth.
“I will leave you be Ana. That abomination will not fall upon my eyes. This would not have held in the mother homeland. Not in the Province.” Per snickers and hurriedly scampers away as if the sight of the child would harm him.
“Here Issy,” I call, directing his move with the flow of my softening voice. He grabs at my hand. He smothers his porcelain fist into my own thin, pale fingers.
“There mamma.” He laughs and his stone grey eyes stare into the darkness. I hug his little body tight and ruffle the very pale, wispy blond hair atop his head.
“Play in the field?”
“No Issy. The plough is out today.”
“Plow hing, plow hing.” He sings the words.
“Come with Mamma. Help mamma with the chores inside.”
The unexpected warmth of the day heats the rooms and the washed out light encases Issy, as he swirls around in the air. He catches the dust invisibly, as blindness sees nothing.
“Issy. Come to mamma,” I beckon softly.
He follows the sound of the book rustling.
I read from the beginning to a child shrouded by darkness even when his eyes are open.
“And let there be light…”
He listens carefully. The imaginings of a world he cannot see now playing in his mind.
The next day:
“Happy birthday Issy,” I bow down and kiss the very top of his forehead. He is warm. I must remember. Remember him now.
We are standing on the veranda in the early morning haze and his eyes dart to the winds that call him. He is eager to walk the steps on his own, eager to lift the dust with his little feet. Today is Isak’s second birthday and I promised him the open space and the fields.
“Yes Issy. Play outside today.” I am crying but he cannot see. Salt water splatters down my heated cheeks, striking at the starkness of the coat.
In memory, I hear the word. “Abomination.”
Unaware and detached, I swiftly loosen my grip. Issy tugs his delicate, beautiful hand away from me… he moves away from me.
He descends the steps slowly, cautiously. No fear, as he unconsciously believes in his heart that I follow closely behind.
“Play in the fields, mamma says.” He sings the words. “Plow hing, plow hing.”
My heart stops. A weight that I have held in the palm of my hand over the last few days has now transferred to my heart and instructs my mind. It’s time. Move. I do as I am bid. I sit on the bed and watch the twilight fall. My room encompassed by shadows of shame. Memories of murder.
He did not cry. The weight of the earth pulled up by the triangular plough struck him so hard that the blow was felt only on my own bones. Crushed by the weight. Crushed into dirt then dust. Too quick for a boy with no sight to register. A small mercy. My brother at the plough, nobody would know.
“An eye for an eye,” I repeat as I raise the pistol directly to the left side of my temple.
Bang. Bang. I hear the noise resound through my head time and again as if it were darting from one point on one side of my skull over to the other. Through the winding tubules of my eardrums, bouncing back again and then darting through and repeating. The last flickering light at the base of the nerves entwining my pupils, now turning the colour of a dappled blue, opening to a long wide tunnel. Images play from memory – the good book, the fields, the sunlight. Then, I am bathed in silence as I watch my life play over.
The memories cease, until I see my grandmother and further along, standing beside her… Issy.