I have always lived here.
The Elders brought me here when I had breathed free of my mother’s body for less than one rotation of the sun. I remember being hot and hungry then cold. I don’t remember passing over. Just that I was here, and then I was still here but no longer hot, no longer hungry and no longer cold. As I am now.
I have heard that if a babe is not “accounted for” by both mother and father it is given to the crossroads. There was no doubt of my mother. She was barely past a child herself, of 13 years and as innocent as I. But my father – well, even my mother did not understand what they wanted from her when they asked about my father. And he for certain did not come forward.
So they gave me to the crossroads. It is an old custom.
This is my haunt then. My charge: to guard I suppose. To….judge mayhap. To guide, for certain. Do ye choose the north wherein lies the enemy? Do ye choose the west wherein lies the sea? I try to point the wanderers eastward, there is peace there, and prosperity. The south calls to some and they cannot be dissuaded – ’tis a mighty call.
The most powerful of times is at dusk – ’tis the rare soul that can resist me then. Caravans pass and stop to sacrifice an ox, a sheep or a speckled goat. Some try to draw meaning from the cries and flight of birds, especially those of doves for they are the messengers of the gods and their hearts are free.
It is at the crossroads that women place the first fruits of the harvest and sacrifice white hens for the souls of their dead children. No one sacrifices for me. I wonder sometimes what happened to my mother.
Men encounter their fates here, and set their destinies in motion. Some reap consequences as well. Thieves and suicides are often buried in the unholy ground at a crossroads; their graves unmarked save for an empty road sign which at one time might have pointed the way.
There is magic here especially during the depth and silence of the night. Many are the revelations to be had. Ancient oracles pass through, whispering their prophecies. Sometimes manifestations appear. These I avoid, it is far too difficult for one such as I to discern which are benevolent and which are….not. Women who call themselves witches hold Sabbat meets in the space where the roads cross, drawing on the sacred energy created there. Some carry away handfuls of the dirt for use in later spellmaking.
This is my place, my tiny hold on the world of the human and I was not pleased the night they brought another into it.
Close on midnight two of the Elders appeared bearing between them a bulky burlap sack. At the northeast corner they upended the sack with little ceremony and a full grown man fell out. The gaping wound in his chest told me he was dead, the dark, nearly black blood oozing forth told me his death had been very recent.
“Here’s another one won’t be stealing from the village no more,” one of the men muttered and spat into his hand. The other one grunted and began digging a shallow grave. As I watched it occurred to me that if they left the man’s body here his spirit was likely to be tied here as well. I couldn’t have that so I stood over the body and slowly materialized into a being they could see. I did not choose a pleasing shape.
As expected, the men dropped their shovels and ran hastily towards the safety of their homes. I regarded the body and wondered how I might now dispose of it elsewhere.
Then it moved – or rather, it seemed to move. What I actually witnessed was the spirit detaching itself and floating into a standing position in front of me. We regarded each other silently and a cold feeling of dread began to overtake me. I somehow knew this other – there was a tiny silver strand which attached our two spirits together. He felt it too.
“Well – ’tis true then,” were his first words to me. I stared at him. “Come on then, son,” he said and handed me a shovel.
And so it was that I came to help my father bury his dead body.
This story was written for the inaugural writing challenge of Grammar Ghoul Press which is a new writing site created by Suzanne of Apopletic Apostrophes. Check out the other wonderful writing by clicking on the left badge below The crossroads image is a painting by Brent Cotton, a contemporary artist who paints in the Tonalist/Luminist style made popular in the late 1800’s