The darkness. It swept me up, writhing in the shadows as I fell unconscious and its spell under that night’s starless sky, never to wake again complete. All my life I’d been alone, trapped in the dark, with no one to comfort me. I died that way too, alone on the hilltop, tired of the universe.
I have to look up from my window, where I’m watching a rich nobleman and his family enjoy their hearty supper. Their baby is squealing joyfully in the warm room as the fireplace is crackling merrily and the roses in the dining room vases perfectly reflect the sparkling light at the lively group. Someone is behind me.
I’m used to people walking through me all the time, but I thought I was safe from the shocking cold and pain hidden in these bushes. As I rub my lower back after the sudden jolt, the young man who had intruded my space peers through my window, licking his lips. I have seen him before. He is the twelve-year-old son of my favorite cobbler, a man named John. He has always been different from the others; less likely to fall into the spinning whirlpool of a sad life. He tries to make the best of what he has, but I fear that he does it the wrong way sometimes. Just because others have more money than they can ever spend in a lifetime does not mean that you can take it from them. Sometimes life isn’t always fair, but you just have to deal with it.
The boy pulls out a thin rope and tries to loop it through the smoking chimney. It does not work, and the rope falls back down. He tries once again. No luck. It takes a few more attempts for the boy to get the rope to tie around the brick protrusion.
I chuckle as I admit to myself that he isn’t the best at committing crimes.
John now attempts to climb the building, but his scrawny legs give in to tiredness after a short while.
Following a small break, he gets going again, but I know that his determination is hopeless.
I sit there for quite some time, wondering if the boy will make it. As he struggles, I am reminded of the time when I was just a normal little girl, struggling to work on the farm, escape the plague, and ultimately survive.
But in the end, everyone gives in. First, one gets infected, then another, and another, until the entire country is devastated by the vomiting, the pain, and the deaths. Everyone fights alone in their battle of life, and not everyone wins.
But I’m past that now. I’ve moved on to a new world, a world that is slowly growing, changing, and learning from its tragic past. It is not a better world in any way, with all of the constant warring and unrest, but it seems that way to me. I tell myself, however, that I’m not part of this world. I will always be alone, looking at lives that could have been mine.
I ignore my musings. Living alone for so long has brought me into a state in which I cannot let myself fall into dreams of the past or the future. The worst poison is that of thinking that you can actually change something. You can’t. I learned the hard way.
So I stay in the present.
Soon, however, I become bored with looking at the child struggle to break into the home for who-knows-what kind of trouble. I decide to go and be nosy with other lives, peer through other windows. Being a ghost is easy this way. You have nothing to care about. You don’t need anything to survive or anyone to love or care about. You can do whatever you want.
The next morning as I drift past the many small peasant homes, I notice the cobbler and his son distributing pieces of bread and chicken to other villagers. I see the smile on the boy’s face. His hard work has paid off.
But was what he did truly right? I shake the thought off. What surprises me is the fact that he stuck to the end. He must have spent hours trying to climb the rope, and then worked hard to steal the food, and then bring it back. People of this century are different. Hopeful, even. Not like back when the plague struck.
A woman walks right through me, sending a tingling shock reverberating inside. I was so distracted in my thoughts, I had forgotten to walk away from other people.
I look backward at the woman. With a pang, I realize that she is the rich nobleman’s wife. She looks depressed, holding her young child in her arms protectively as if he had recently been in some sort of danger. Her husband is beside her, holding a large, empty bag.
Then it strikes me. I can’t believe the cobbler’s son would have done something so horrid. He must have kidnapped the baby and blackmailed the nobles. It is a horrifying thought, but I have no other explanation for what I saw.
I run in a frenzied confusion, leaving the streets so I can be alone at the hilltops. The grass is clean and the sky is blue. There’s not a person to be seen here. I let myself fall onto the ground and close my eyes after a very long time.
Time passes quickly when you are crying, and it is almost sunset when I look up to see another girl wandering up the hill. She sits down about a meter away from me and rests her head on the grass, just like I am doing. She seems tired of everything, tired of life, and tired of death. Just like I am.
The girl is the daughter of a peasant. I don’t know her or her mother by name, but I can relate with them, being a former peasant child myself.
She recites out loud the phrase I had heard a thousand times from my own mother, “Everyone has their own problems, and everyone is doing the right thing in their own eyes.”
I hadn’t considered those words since I was alive, but hearing them again, it causes me to realize something.
This. This is the reason the world is so cruel. No one knows what their actions do to someone else. All they know is how it makes life better for themselves and a few others.
My eyes, which I thought were dry, let out one more tear.
Everyone is just a pawn in the game of life, just a sapling on a planet full of trees, just a speck of dust in an infinite universe.
Just a ghost, waiting in the darkness, for someone to make everything right.