Picture it and write: Back

by joetwo

Hello there, here is my offering for this weeks picture it and write by Ermilia’s blog found here. The picture is not mine, I just use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Back

I woke with a shock, finding myself lying on wet grass. My first thought upon standing left me somewhat confused. I was surprised at how easy that was, as if I expected more of a struggle. I was in a forest and as I wandered aimlessly, little pieces of memory started to come back to me, first as a trickle, then as a torrent. Who I was, what I did, the agreement, all came flooding back followed by the realisation, the revelation, that I had died, again.

I have to say that I am getting sick of dying. It is bad enough to have to do it once but I have done it many, many times and it doesn’t get any easier. I would like to say that that wasn’t what I signed up for but I just know that He would find a way of getting around that, He always does.

I quickly found my bearings and walked my way through the trees back to my old cottage. I wasn’t very surprised to find that it had been burned to the ground. My memory of what had happened were still a little hazy but they almost always burn down my home after they kill me, it’s safer that way, they think. They usually leave my things though, too scared to take anything, so there’s plenty left to salvage.

I surveyed the damage, the place had been burned down almost to its foundations. The ashes were sodden,  it must have rained during the night, putting out the flames but there was still a little steam coming from the deepest piles of ashes, better to keep clear of there for the time being. Most of the stone and metal-work seemed intact however, more than enough to get started, especially with the practice that I have had.

There was some movement to my left. I turned expecting a fight only to find a cat, sitting down, looking at me. “So you survived” I said, and then, deeper “Well? What happened?” Most people who talk about my kind seem to think that Old Nick comes to us in animal form and speaks to us directly. They love the idea of our ‘familiars’. I doesn’t work like that though. He can’t take form in this world, the Big Guy won’t let him. All he can do is influence, and it is far easier to influence an animal than a man. He can even take total control of them. Also we find that if we look at the animal when he is in control it is easier for us to hear his whisperings in our minds. Pretty elegant really, but try to tell that to the writers. But that is just a pet grip of mine.

The cat stared into my eyes. It is best not to discuss it. I was a little perturbed by that, I still couldn’t properly recall how I had last died, I could remember all the other times. Had my memory been purposely expunged? I asked again. “Was it really that bad?” The cat gave the same, impassive look it always did. I’d rather not talk about it.

That bad huh? Well if he wouldn’t tell me I still had some tricks of my own. I searched through the debris in what used to be my workshop, shifting through blacked beams until I found it. It was an oval mirror, with an ornate frame. It looked so delicate but it was so much more, mere fire could not harm it. As I lifted the mirror, I felt something rub against my shins. Looking down I saw the cat’s stare. You really shouldn’t do that. “And why not?” I asked getting increasingly annoyed. I don’t want you to get hurt again. You mean too much to me. I stared right back at the feline “You were never that sentimental! You just think that if I’m traumatized then I won’t be able to do the job for you. How can you even think that? With all of the years that we’ve worked together, all of the things that I’ve done, the countless time that I’ve DIED for you! How can ANYTHING disturb me any more?”  The cat twisted its head a little, what I’ve come to read as its attempt at shaking its head. Very well. But don’t say that I never warned you.

I picked up the mirror and looked into it. It was the first time that I saw how my new body looked. I was young again. With long black hair, pert breasts, milky white skin, and a thin face centred with sky-blue eyes, I was absolutely beautiful. Damn!

People don’t respect power in beautiful women. The first thought most men have is “Oh! Please don’t seduce me! Well maybe if you have to!” It always means more work to ‘convince’ them that I am a force to be reckoned with. I hate that! I looked over at the cat “You know, for once maybe you can make a mistake and leave me deformed. Deformed I can work with.”  That is not part of our agreement. was the reply. “Things change, everything changes. You, above all, should know that!” The reply was quick and silenced me. Our agreement does not change. It was an old grumble of mine, the vanity of youth meant that I had to spend far too much of my existence as a young person. How inconvenient!

Thinking no more about my looks I instead stared deeper into the mirror. I whispered in my softest voice “Show me how I last died” The face, my face, started to fade. It was replaced with murky clouds that swirled into nothingness and then coalesced into images. I saw myself, my previous self, an old crone of a woman (sigh!) sitting in my chair, tending a fire. There was a thumping at the door and I watched myself hobble from my chair to open it. No sooner had I turned the latch then the mob, twelve men from the village burst in and surrounded me.

A funny thing happened as I watched the scene unfold. Somehow, the prompt of the third person caused my memory of the event to be unlocked in sickening real-time. As I watched I simultaneously relived, every image, every sound, every smell and every sensation of what had happened. I watched while they repeatedly hit me before I had a chance to defend myself. I listened while the pastor accused me of causing all the miscarriages and crop failures that had ever afflicted them and then prayed for my soul as the men worked. I smelt as they burned the skin of my arms with the coals from my fire. I felt the bones in my body break as they threw me about and violated me with their swords and clubs again, and again. And finally, I remember lying there, unable to move, all the while the feeling of the oil coating my skin as they poured a barrel throughout  the room. Then they left, all except their leader, John Riley, who stood on the threshold long enough to cast a lamp into the fire, filling the room with flames.

I was a little stunned. I lowered the mirror and looked out into thin air. Without thinking I said the first thing that came into my head “Well that wasn’t very nice. Was it?”

At the absurdity of that statement, perhaps coupled with the tension that had been allowed to build, I suddenly started to laugh, a light childlike giggle, suiting my new young frame (Damn!). Slowly the laugh changed, becoming darker, more malicious as I thought about the men, about what they had done, about how foolish they were to have crossed me, and EXACTLY, in all its glorious detail, what I was about to do to them.

I had an evil smile on my lips when I turned again to the cat and asked “Where is it?” The cat, who was doing a passable impression of professional concern, relaxed somewhat. How could I ever have doubted you? It’s where it always was. It pointed in the direction of the hearth.

I found the rough spot from memory and started to dig. There was a lot of ash and charred wood lying there but I quickly made my way down to the flagstone. Pulling it out I then removed what was held in the chamber within. There was really no doubt this would have survived either. It was a small chest, labelled with script that was not of this world. I had gone everywhere with it. It was my one constant through all my lives. I have cherished it always. But not just for sentimental reasons though, but also for what it holds inside.

Long ago, many lifetimes previously, I went by the name of Pandora. I became somewhat famous for my exploits but there were a lot of changes in the telling of my story (Damn writers again!). The chest was a constant though. The amount of trouble I caused with it, I can’t imagine it not being. One major thing they got wrong though, whatever else is in this chest, there is most certainly not hope. John Riley would be the first to find that one out.

I wrapped the chest in some unburned cloth I found and looked back at the cat. But it was just a cat again. Old Nick had gone, nothing left to say, just content to watch, and enjoy the show.

It was of no matter anyway. All was set for events to unfold. I was back, I was ready, and I was going to have some fun!

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