Until that day, fear had been an idea, a concept. Now it was real: a feeling I would carry inside me for the rest of my life. The day began innocently enough, with us going to town, to buy food. We were heretics, people sentenced to die, but I never worried because no one knew. We looked just like everyone else. I knew our God would protect us.
There was a man. He appeared young, almost boyish, but I knew him to be my age. He had hair like a yellow iris and eyes the color of a fish pool. He liked me. His freckles became indistinguishable with the red on his face when he smiled at me. Agreed to marry him. He wanted a house first and planned on it, and he had a younger brother that needed looking after. He was going to ask my father when he had sustenance enough for us. I was impatient, but I loved him.
It was on our way to town when my mother saw him, soldiers on either side of him. He was headed for the place. I wanted to run after him, but my mother pleaded. I would condemn my entire family if I went.
About a month passed, and I was sick from lack of sleep or bread. I was useless to my mother. Didn’t have the strength to sew or clean. I begged God to help him, but part of me knew better.
My father tried to talk to me about the judgement, about dying for the sake of our God. He talked about death like he always had, but it was different for me. My tongue got caught in my throat and nearly choked me. I felt as though snakes were crawling around my belly and bugs were digging into my skin. I was trapped in my skin with an icy fire, burning and freezing all at once.
It was fear. Fear came to me and whispered in my ear about death. Real death. Not the back-of-your-mind, of course we’re all dying one day death. Not an honorable and memorable construct of death. But a sorrowful, painful death. A death that was alone and did not even have the strength to utter last words. A real death that came to me every night as I slept and stabbed me in my brain.
It was this personification of death that tormented me every night until I watched him die. Only for a moment, only as my mind forced me to discover this dream of death in its gastley form. And it was as though, the moment I saw it, it faded from my insides, even fleeing the corners of my head. It had sucked away all the life, the dread…the hope, and left an empty shell.
My body stands here today, but I am dead while I live.