“Its eyes are bleeding as it tries to stay awake with me. It wants to get me sleep but I won't let it. There is still so much left for me to do, and so little time to do it. If I can just stay awake a little bit longer, I can finish my work and then and only then can I let myself sleep.
There is a hope in its mind that I will let it help me. There are so many friendly creatures around here. All you hear about are the bad ones, but that is mostly because the simple acts of nature go unnoticed. But it noticed me, and it noticed how hard I am working. And more than anything it wants me to be rested, to be ready for the next day.
The rest of them are already asleep. No help needed there. I took the liberty of taking care of that part, and I will take up the rest of it as well. An old motto; don't leave undone today what will be made worse tomorrow.
So I keep on digging and it keeps watching me.
It builds up a bed of moss and tries to build a small fire to add some warmth. It is a wonderful gesture, if unwanted. If it is just patient a little bit longer than maybe I will let it put me to sleep.
The ground is harder than I would like, and though I have tried to pace myself I am soon perspiring. The sweat begins to cool, and I start to get cold. This just causes me to push myself harder so my muscles won't tense up. All the while it looks at me with growing concern, its eyes never leaving me even as it gently coaxes a flame from the bed of twigs.
What I have done is a crime no matter where you are, but it doesn't care. Like I said, it only wants me to be rested. That is its nature, this small, wicked looking thing that lacks any measure of malice. Any judgments will be for the morning.
And by then it will already be gone.
The hole is starting to get to where I want it to be, but I know I still have a lot of work to do. Even if it is mostly done, my muscles are already spent. The next ten minutes are the hardest part of the digging, my breath coming out in heavy gasps.
It has begun boiling water, and I detect the scent of pine needles coming from the tea it is making. This is its nature, and as I dig I can see that it too is getting tired, its bloody eyes drooping. It does not understand why I won't stop to rest. So it keeps upping the anti, and tries to make the prospect of sleep as attractive as possible. It hasn't caught on yet, but I think it will.
At last, the hole is as big as I want it to be.
I go to step into it when I feel its small, wrinkled hand hold onto mine.
It looks down into it, and I can see that it finally understands.
Gently, it takes the moss that has been warmed by the fire and places it into the hole. It hands me a cup of the drink, and I take it gratefully as I sit down in the grave. Sipping it, I take a moment to breath. To exhale.
It carefully moves the fire closer to me, though I am sure the embers are hot in its hands. It smiles at the way my shoulders begin to settle, relieved of some of the weight I was holding onto.
The fight was not against it, or its desire to sleep. In truth, the real fight I lost a few days ago. I've been fighting for so long, ignoring their call. But I know now that I could never keep it up forever. There was no way I could, not in any meaningful way.
It won't give up on me, but I have.
I finish the cup and settle into the ground. The moss has already lost much of the heat, but it is still warmer than the dirt. I reach up and begin to drag the earth onto me, the cold, wet dirt chilling every bit of exposed skin it hits.
The thing helps, taking up the majority of the labor when I am no longer able to sit up.
I settle in, trying to take pleasure in the help. But I know what is coming is going to be the hard part. What is coming next is what this was all meant for, but that won't make it any easier. The panic starts in once my arms are covered. To its credit, it tries to give me as much time as possible to prepare before it covers my face.
Before it it moves the last bit of dirt, it leans down and kisses me on the forehead.
“Goodnight,” it says gently. It's voice is like leaf cover in spring.
I smile, then grimace as the dirt hits my face. I feel my heart thundering in my ears, and I am trying to calm my breathing as scoop after scoop falls onto me. At last there is no more air to breath, the weight of the earth fully settling upon me. In reflex I begin breath rapidly, only with every breath I have less and less air. Every exhale the dirt compressed and more earth enters my mouth and nose.
I am shaking. Shivering. Panicking.
This is what this is all for.
My vision is spotty.
I want to scream.
I try to scream. But there is so much dirt.
I last longer than I thought I would.
My jaw cracks under the weight, as the last bit of consciousness drifts away.
I die then.
I finally sleep.
Then someone else awakes.
The earth is warmer for me than it was for her. Or maybe I just don't feel it.
Pushing through the earth and clawing my way up requires little effort at all. As I break the surface, I bask in the wonderful rays of the morning sun. The sun has so many new colors now, the light like music on my skin.
I breath in deeply, savoring my first breaths as a living thing. I look at my hands, blackened skin with talons settled at the tips of my fingers. Dirt grips the tips of my hands, and I let it sit like that. It is intriguing, the sensation of it, like my fingers are miniature graves.
Then I tip my hands and watch the dirt fall away as I pull myself out of the earth.
I pull off the last bit of skin left over from the girl and stand to my full height, my head brushing against the branches of the trees overhead. Though I had little to start with, there is no lacking to my form. My muscles tense as reach down and grab the smoldering ashes from the fire. I don't even feel it.
The thing from the night before put the girl to rest. As was its nature.
The girl finally welcomed sleep. The long sleep.
As was her nature.
But now I am alive, born as any new being must be, from the body of those who came before. I hear the jubilation in my sisters minds. I feel their welcoming hearts and I smile, feeling at last a sense of peace that had eluded that girl for long.
Sometimes, the only right thing to do is to give in.
I am going to see my sisters now. We have so many terrible things to do, things only the three of us can manage.
It was worth the wait.”
It has been ten years since I last had a dream I could remember. A consequence of my medicine is that my sleep is a black void, filled with little from the point I go to sleep to when I wake up.
It has been so long I almost couldn't really believe it when I woke up. My body was shaking, and it was nearly ten minutes until the sensation of being buried went away. I did not feel the power of the thing, the feeling of wellness it spoke about. Upon waking I felt like I was still in the grave, buried under the dirt.
The worst part is, while writing this I realize that I can recognize the smell in the dream, the smell of the dirt and the moss and the wetness that enveloped me. The smell of the grave that that horrible thing helped me put myself into.
It felt so real to me.
It smelled like the museum.