The Vessel

by Elaine Bentley

He sat motionless, his feet tucked up beneath him hiding his scuffed, worn sneakers.  A light dusting of snow covered the ground around him, its icy dampness seeping into his clothes, chilling his bones.  How long had he been there, a minute, a lifetime?  That wasn’t important.  Why he was there, how he was there, these were the ‘importants’.  Lost time, breaks in consciousness were not new to him; they had been his, for as long as he could remember. 

The sadness of this place pressed down upon him, heavy and thick, enveloping him like a death shroud.  He looked around taking a slow inventory; a stone wall marking the edge of the field; its mortar chipped and crumbling.  A narrow road flanked the field, winding into the distance only to be swallowed into the gaping mouth of a dark tunnel.  A few feet away was an area of burned grass, its bare blackened patch at odds with the surrounding snow dusted grass.  He looked away, feeling a vague discomfort, knowing the burn spot was related to his presence. It would be revealed soon.

He understood his role in the transition, he was a vessel, somewhere to leave the pain of a life behind as the soul continued its journey.  He would not deliver a message nor offer assistance, he would merely listen.

Many came and did not know why they were there, the sharing brought with it the awareness that they were moving on.  

He waited patiently, watching the swirling patterns of the morning mists.  Time meant nothing he would stay until it was done.

After a while, the mists seem to thicken and take a shape; the shape of a shadowy figure.  It approached through the fog causing a tingle of fear to run up his spine in anticipation of what was to come.  He never knew what to expect, each time was unique and new. The figure was close now; he could see it was a female.  She was dressed plainly in jeans and a heavy sweater, sensible shoes laced and double knotted.  Her hair was free, long strands whipping across her face; a face, so sad and frightened.

She continued toward him and then passed him, barely glancing at him.  She stopped at the edge of the blackened grass and knelt down to touch it. Her form was wavering, the edges of her being, blurry and indistinct.  He idly wondered if he appeared whole and solid to her or if she also saw him as a shifting illusion.

She turned to face him, watching him, an expectant look on her face.  She seemed to be waiting for him, needing him to start. He stood and approached the darkened earth; he could smell its burn smell and almost feel its heat. It drew him closer, beckoning to him, threatening to swallow him.  He felt an overpowering urge to speak, to talk about that spot.  

Endless moments passed as realization dawned; he was not there to listen to her, she had come for him. She was his vessel. The remembering came like the opening of a floodgate. It coursed through him like electricity, all so clear and vivid; so painful.

“It was cold that night, clear.  The roads were icy but I didn’t notice,” his voice sounded strange to himself, seeming to come from far away.  The woman watched him and said nothing; she waited for him to continue.

“I remember the stars, they were everywhere,” he raised his gaze skyward as if he could see them now, “the tunnel was coming closer and I was wondering how fast I could take it,” the woman nodded, acknowledging his words.  “I didn’t know about the ice, if I’d have known…,” here he stopped to compose himself.  He reached down grabbing a handful of burned grass, allowing it to slip through his fingers.  “It happened so fast, the road turned, but the car kept going straight and slid into the embankment,” he stopped to catch his breath, the despair of his loss overwhelming him.

 “I heard an awful screaming, I think it was me, Oh God what have I done?”  The boy sank to the ground, “there was a flash and then nothing, just nothing.  I don’t remember the fire or even the pain; just the feeling of absolute aloneness,” here he stopped.  He looked at the woman and an overwhelming feeling of sorrow washed over him.  He wanted to speak to his family to his mother, his younger sister; explain that he would take it back if he could, how sorry he was.  The woman sat motionless allowing him the time to feel, to let go.

Despair seeped through him and out onto the scorched earth leaving him empty and drained. It was over, done.

An eternity later he raised his head.  The world he had known was slowly disintegrating. The woman seemed to be moving away, becoming vaguer; her image dispersing like a wisp of smoke.  He turned away and began his walk, a walk to something new and unknown.  He felt a lightness coming upon him and knew that this was a new beginning; it was time for him to continue with his own journey. 



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Writers Bio

I currently reside in British Columbia Canada, but was originally born in England.  My day job does not offer me much chance to be creative and I love words so writing seems a good fit as a creative release.  I haven't been writing long but I hope to be able to devote more time in the future. 

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