The day that you died it was raining.
“Of course it’s raining!” you would say if you could speak still.
It always pours here in December.
Right now, I am looking out my window at the rolling green hills basked in a late afternoon sunset, staring at the blue and storming ocean as it bites at the land, pulling the soil back down, back into a shadowy deep from where it was once born.
Is that where you have gone? And if you are there, will you too rise again like the land does, like a phoenix freed from a mortal cage?
I used to think that is what I wanted, but now?….
Though the rain is bad, it is far warmer than usual for a winter month, and I can smell the forest around the small house breathing, rejoicing in the fake spring. Its scent is a sweet green pine mixing thickly with the foggy waterlogged air. It makes it feel like the water is both falling from the sky and coming up from the earth. That is when I understand that the ending of the ocean does not exist- not really. No, the line between sea and land is not so clearly or easily marked.
It might appear that the waves don’t reach much beyond the shore there in the distance, but the truth is they do. Anyone living near water will tell you that.
And those waves are touching me right now as they are touching you, even if we are apart.
Those waves are everywhere, even at the heart of the world’s driest desert.
Outside my window a bird is trying to fly in the dwindling storm, trying to catch an updraft to rise back up to where the clouds are starting to part. The bird’s flight makes me imagine how the ocean’s watery reach travels across the whole world with that wind.
Each droplet is picked up and carried in the form of mist, the ocean’s water beading into droplets that cover the wind blasted trees clinging precipitously from the sides of the cliffs. It is the ocean showing us who has dominion here.
It certainly is not the land.
I think death is the same.
Death has dominion on this planet, not life, and though it feels the end of all, in fact there is no clear line of demarcation between life and death though we like to imagine that there is. Instead, there are gradients like a wheel the ancients used to visualize the year’s passage.
After you left earlier, I walked down to the beach talking to you even though I knew the morgue had come and taken you away. I knew you were gone, but I can still feel you next to me listening though you are most definitely dead …. aren’t you?
… are you?
I know that you are dead because I saw them enter your room.
I know that you are dead because I watched as they checked your pulse, your eyes wide and staring.
I know that you are dead because I could see as they carefully rolled you up with a white sheet and placed you onto the gurney.
And I watched as they pulled you down the hallway of our tiny cabin out into the yard blooming with great red rhododendrons you planted, splashes of blood on the verdant greenery. And I know you are dead because I watched as the raindrops seeped onto that white sheet making your eyes and pale face become outlined by the moisture. It was the same mist that clung to me as I stood watching and crying. You were dead because you did not pull the sheet from your face. You did not comfort me and tell me it was going to be alright. You just lay there, in the cold rain, silent.
Dead they began to push you into their transport car that wasn’t a hearse, but at least it was black.
It was fitting that then the rain came down so heavily and suddenly. One of the morgue attendants cursed in displeasure as he suddenly slipped sideways on the slick path. He almost fell before catching himself with the side of the gurney, almost making you go slipping off too.
“God damn it!” he yelled. The supervisor turned to glare at him, motioning towards me still watching.
Be careful his look conveyed.
The attendant shut his mouth as if he’d blasphemed in a church.
He crookedly smiled at me, embarrassedly muttering.
But I really didn’t care. He didn’t need to apologize. And you would not have cared either. You would have laughed at the preposterousness of the whole thing. The slapstick of him slipping and falling, of your now unoccupied body almost spilling out onto the driveway.
They handed me the paperwork and though I nodded when I was supposed to and signed at the appropriate spot when they asked me to, despite this finality, this underlining of your death, all I could only think about what you had told me the night before.
That you would come back to me if you could.
And then you told me someone had been tapping at your window, not just that night, but for weeks.
It was well past midnight and as we live in the middle of nowhere, I told you to never mind it.
Still, I checked both inside and outside of the house. The bottom of the window was easily seven feet off the ground and there was no way anyone could have been there trying to get in. I told you all this in as even a voice as I could muster. And I told you that it was the morphine making you dream while you were awake.
Despite this though you insisted to me that I was wrong. You insisted it was someone that you knew and that they wanted you to come out into the warm night.
You said they were calling from the ocean.
I wept all night after hearing that and only when the night began to gray from the dark storm black of the evening, did I fall exhausted into a fitful sleep. I had nightmares of the water creeping into the house, and with it some presence, something ancient, something dark, with boney fingers long and thin, reaching for you, reaching for me, and where it touched obsidian flowers bloomed.
I awoke in a panic, the sound of someone tapping on my window. I sat up and looked, but of course no one was there, but I still had to sit for a minute forcing myself to take deep breathes before I was even able to stand up and go and check on you.
That is when I found out you had passed.
Now that I think about that, I think I already sensed something was happening, something out of any kind of reality that I had known up to that very moment. It started the day you were told you had ovarian cancer.
The day we found out we would never have children.
This evening when I arrived at the beach after they had taken you away, high tide was coming in. The sky was split down the middle, half near the landside, all a brutal shade of purple and darkest gray, but out at sea the clouds were gone, and, in the distance, I could see the sun now slowly sinking beneath the waves. Red and orange covered the waters out there and light caught the bits of rain clinging to the seagrass growing everywhere making the blades sparkle like jewels.
I looked for you out there, I am ashamed to say. What am I becoming in my old age I ask you in my mind. Am I like my own grandfather? Am I going mad? Or will I be like my mother, certain in the rules of good and evil, of life and death?
In this winter’s darkness I am not even sure I am either.
But I am straying from my point in writing you this. You who read this, whether it be my dead wife, or a neighbor finally come to check on me when I don’t show up at our store for days, you must carry this weight now.
You must be the one to know gods exist still, they just might not be what you have been lead to expect.
As I stood there on the darkened shore, what I was thinking I do not know, I suddenly had a vision, or was it a hallucination?
Out in the waves I saw you swimming.
You were no longer skin and bones from the cancer. You were no longer in pain. Your skin had become a luminous, glowing white and your eyes were the color of lava under arctic seas. You looked at me as I stood there, and I know you saw me too.
I heard you in my mind then, a voice like a thousand hollow bottles as a wind blows across them.
You told me that she had come for you. You called me to me to join you, you called and called….
So I ran.
I am writing this now in the dark, a single candle flickering with some unseen breeze. In winter night falls so completely and so very, very fast.
Why am I using the candles you wonder?
When I got back from my walk to the beach, I tried to turn on the overhead lights, but now all the electricity seems to be off. I tried the phone, and it is dead as well. I looked out the window and now I can’t see the ocean anymore.
I do see the morgue car. I understand suddenly they never left. I went outside to look and found that all the doors are open, and everyone is gone.
There is no moon tonight.
I am back inside, and I have locked the door. I am scared.
I am terrified.
I can hear it roaring, the dark mother of the deep singing. She is ravenous. The dark always is.
And I know you are returning tonight for me.
I will finish this letter but now that I am done, I don’t know any more who I wrote it for. I guess I knew it would be seen as a suicide note of sorts.
Yes, that is what they will say. They will say a man lost his mind when his wife of five years died from cancer. I wonder if they will blame me for the missing morgue workers.
I suppose it does not matter. Not really.
But then I think maybe someone else will read it and know what happened. Maybe they too have seen the dark queen of the water.
Maybe they too know she is always present, always there, even when the sun is at its zenith, even when water cannot be found for a thousand miles and daylight burns like white hot silver until your closed eyes see the red of your own blood under the lids.
And though she is a vengeful goddess, she is fair.
Suddenly I understand,
She is like a thief in the night ….
Know this as I set this pen down.
Know this as I go and unlock my front door.
Know this as I take your wet hand and let my own dry one be wrapped in its cold embrace.
Know this as I let the deep take me.
[Sarah Walker is an anthropologist, artist, and writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with too many cats, three dogs, and one very patient partner. She has been published by Audient Void, Lovecraft Ezine Press, Antimony and Old Lace Press, Planet X Publishing, Oxygenman Publishing, Silent Motorist Media, and more. She has stories coming out in Vasterian, Nightmare in Yellow, and others. Her first novella is to be published by Nictatating Press in the Spring of 2022. She loves nature and spends most of her day wandering the swamp with her dogs.]