I’ve been working on an actual long, possible novel to go with https://phoenixrisng.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/the-beating/ this short. What I’m posting now would be the diary entries that the main character “Sam” finds from her great-great-grandmother. They provide the back story. Just thought I’d see what you all thought. Hope you enjoy.
October 18, 1848
We will be leaving Pennsylvania tomorrow for California. Father has dreams of gold in his eyes. He plans to take the Southern route with a group of settlers. The North route is too crowded as of late. I am excited for this adventure. Mother on the other hand does not wish to leave the city. She says she will miss her parties, and the road is no place for a young girl. But, there was no persuading Father. I look forward for what is to come.
November 1, 1848
I thought traveling would be exciting. It has been difficult, and there is not much to eat. We have to stay in cramped quarters and cannot get out to stretch our legs as often as I’d like. A one of the settlers has developed a cough. Mother seems content with sewing, but I know she is worried especially with winter upon us. Luckily the south is much warmer than the North.
November 10, 1848
I am too distressed to write. Mother has is now coughing like the settler. They think it is tuberculosis. I am petrified. I cannot bare it if something was to happen to Mother or Father.
November 21, 1848
The conditions are not improving. We camped for two days in Texas. It is a very large place. It will still take us another week to cross. Though we are south it is still very cold and Mother is so ill she cannot leave the wagon. I am no longer excited, but frightened about what is to come.
November 30, 1848
We have just entered a place called the New Mexico Territory. It is supposed to be safe, but there was a war here recently. So, I hope nothing terrible happens. I have to put cool rags on mother hourly to keep her fever at bay. I am still being hopeful, but it is foolish to think she will make it to California now. The settler died last week while we were in Texas. I hope he finds peace in that large piece of land.
December 9, 1848
I am devastated. Mother passed last night. I don’t know how we can have a happy Christmas now with her no longer here to celebrate. It’s hard to believe that Father so longingly still wants to get to the gold mines in California. We have just reached the mountains in the Arizona territory. I know that her final resting place will be a beautiful one. I cannot write anymore now.
December 30, 1848
It has taken us almost a month to travel through the mountains in this territory. They are treacherous in the snow. A wheel broke on the wagon and had to be fixed. Luckily, around this area with red rocks we found a small village who settled from the war. We are resting until the New Year. I cannot believe it is almost 1849. I will be twelve years old next year, and we will start the year without Mother. It is unimaginable.
January 2, 1849
Father left. He wrote a note that said without Mother he cannot take care of me, and the gold mines are no place for a young lady. He just left me in this village. I cannot bare it. It is too awful.
March 4, 1849
I have been staying with a very nice family. They have twin boys that are four years old. I know they do not have the means to keep me, but I help out the best I can. They town is building an Orphanage; they have a few other children that need a home as well. It will be finished come April. I will be glad not to burden this family any longer.
April 10, 1849
I have just moved into my new room at the orphanage. Red Rock Orphanage. It is comfortable, the head mistress seems nice. Her name is Miss Sullivan. The Gates said I may visit them anytime I would like. But, I know they were glad that I have a more permanent place to live now. I am excited to begin lessons again. At least I will have that. I wonder if Father ever thinks of me?
May 1, 1849
We are not allowed to wander into the forest that stretches behind the building. Though you cannot exactly call it a forest, it is more a dense, black, mangled corpse of dead foliage. I heard Mrs. Gates once say there had been a great fire there during the war and then nothing would grow afterward. It looks so intriguing; I find it hard not to inspect the forest. Aside from lessons and things that proper ladies ought to learn, I have nothing to do. A little adventure never hurt a young girl.
May 15, 1849
It was my birthday. The cook made a nice cake and the other children sang to me. It was quiet. Nothing like we used to have in Pennsylvania, when Mother was alive, but I thought it was sweet. I had not expected anything. Miss Sullivan gave me a new journal. I hugged her; it was so thoughtful.
June 3, 1849
I have to record everything. Miss Sullivan is a nice lady, but she does not believe me. She has this whole predisposition about witchcraft. I know what happened. I would not have believed it myself if it did not happen to me. It began today after church. We are allowed free time after church. The other children were playing a game of tag. I on the other hand wanted to take this time, while Miss Sullivan was having her afternoon nap, to explore the forest. I snuck away from the fray of the children and into the silent forest. The guardian trees loomed above me murky, creating shadowy figures and the appearance of night, though it was mid-afternoon. I walked further into the forest, the paths wound around each other intersecting. I could not tell where I was being led. I just kept to the one I thought I entered on. There were no flowers, bushes, or anything that breathed life. It was all dead. On the right I saw a beautiful tree; though it was no longer growing it had wonderfully twisting branches, perfect for climbing. I veered off my path and began the ascent. I had almost reached the top and could see just over the tree tops. When I heard a crack, the branch under me hurtled toward the ground. Of course it had been dead and brittle. I should have known. My heart pounded as the ground came closer and then it stopped. I stopped. I knew I was dead.
“Ooh a little girl, yes this should do nicely.”
I could hear a voice. I knew I was dead. I asked myself, how could I hear a voice? I decided to speak. “How can I hear you, am I not dead?”
“Yes, of course. This is most unusual. My victims usually do not speak after I have killed them. Interesting, very interesting.”
“Who are you? Why did you kill me?”
“I should ask you. You wondered into my forest. This is becoming tedious. I am going to rip your heart out now. I am tired of conversation.”
I had come to the assumption, that I must have been different from her other meals; therefore I could not let her rip my heart out. She had already told me that she had never spoken to her food before. I would have to negotiate.
“Can we come to an agreement?”
“What kind of agreement?”
“You tell me who you are and what you want, in return, I help you and you do not make a meal from me.” At this point, I was still having this conversation subconsciously. We seemed to be communicating without speaking out loud.
“Very well dear.” A hideous cackle escaped her lips and she said something in a language unintelligible. I was able to open my eyes and sit up. In front of me was a young woman who could not have been older than my Mother. She had dark eyes and long dark hair. “I am Kerys. I am Death.”
I scooted backwards, but remained in front of her. I could not risk upsetting her again. It was obvious she could take my life with a snap of her fingers.
“This is my domain. I reside in this forest. Of course, I cannot just be sustained from nature. I require more nutritious substance.” Her dark eyes twinkled as she looked me up and down. “Though, if you want live, I will allow that, but it will not come without consequence.”
Every year I would have to bring Kerys a child, so she could have the heart and death would remain. In return she would allow me to live and the orphanage to remain unharmed. I ran out of the forest pondering the bargain I made. When I tried to explain to Miss Sullivan about what happened she only scolded me for going into the forest and talking about witchcraft. Especially on a Sunday. There was no one in this world that would believe the truth of what happened and now I and my future family would be cursed to do the unthinkable for years to come. What had I done? I should have died.