Russell Hemmell ~ Fire Beads for the God’s Acre

I walk on the frozen terrain that from Herrnhut’s centre leads up to hill, a lone sentinel against the darkness that has engulfed this town. We’ve stayed up all night in the freezing Lusatian spring, the brothers and I. Heads bent to the ground, eyes closed and lips tied in the silent contemplation of doom, the congregation is united in this pilgrimage and into a pity that I found more insulting than comforting, and always condescending. I caress the Easter lilies in my hands—pious offering to an already sated graveyard.

“Anno Domini 1732. The Angel of Death has descended on our village, to punish us for our sins. Let’s go to pray, brother, and purify our souls.”

As if there was anything left – to purify or damn. The new plague arrived and struck like the old ones, like the ruthless hand of an angry deity – though I don’t believe in angels as I don’t believe in any God, not any longer. Certainly, not one that leaves behind lifeless bodies and bottomless despair. The poorest of the village have died first as they always do, and so did Eve.

My Eve, golden hair on a face that turned into a white wax-like mask, with shredded, dirty linen as her bed for the eternity. My Eve, tender skin and a flare for sprites and angels, who spoke to her from the depth of Bluno’s shimmering waters. My Eve, whom they have locked into the hospital where she was helping the sick and condemned her to a painful end.

I stare in silence at the dark forest on my way to the God’s Acre, for an early-morning Easter service and hymns to the Saviour. Today, I carry more than just rosary and torchlight.

One brother comes near, her comforting hand lingering on my shoulder. “Don’t be sad, Hermann. There was nothing we could do for her.”

“There’s always something you can do,” I growl, my voice barely audible in the howling wind.

“Not this time. We had to stop the contagion, even if it meant to let those wretched souls die. Eve was a victim, too, I know, and you’re mourning her. But she will join us here, together with the others that have lost their lives in this tragedy.”

“Eve is dead.”

“Today is the day of the Resurrection. If your faith is strong, she shall rise, too. In spirit, brother.”

Or maybe you’ll follow her—in flesh, brother, I murmur, observing the congregation now united in prayer, nude knees down on the sacred ground, fingers scratching the hardened soil. All of you, who had let her die.

I step away in silence, unseen in the crepuscular light, my feet treading light on the frosted grass. Like a shadow with a scythe in his hands, I approach the wood I’ve assembled days before, ready to become a cathedral of light for an unexpected funeral service. I step out, locking the cemetery’s gate, and unleash hell.

With a sibilant sound, the fire creeps up, igniting the wood bundles that crown the burial ground like prayer beads, and suddenly spreads, fast and mortal. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, guilty to the innocent—and mercy for no one.

 

Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from the U.K, passionate about astrophysics and speculative fiction. Recent stories in Gone Lawn, Not One of Us, Typehouse Literary Journal, and others.

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