“Oh my blessed god, forgive me, forgive me forgive me. They are gone. I saw all of them, all but one.”
Theresa uttered this and if anyone had heard her they would’ve wondered at the strangeness, a woman walking alone on Thanksgiving evening, darkness coming in, spouting gibberish. The look in her eye, the set expression, grim, questioning, would’ve had most avoiding her path.
She did have a purpose. Someone would be there. The new priest, almost too youthful, Theresa thought, for her old-world manner. And she was from a different world, a different country. Croatia, where her roots ran deep, held its secrets. No one in her adopted country had ever travelled there and this always made her feel sad. She couldn’t say anything to anyone she met about Croatia without a hint of grim nostalgia as if it was a place she’d escaped from. Far from the truth, really, because she’d once been a pampered child with parents who wanted the best for her, gave everything for her future dreams. Now look at her. A husband so ill he couldn’t leave the bed for more than a few moments each day, the bills piling up, along with other more earthly things, laundry, garbage, the grass growing too high in summer, a neighbor kind enough to take over that chore, others from the church visiting and dropping off casseroles, cookies, food that her husband no longer had a taste for, his sense of spice deadened, all flavors squeezed to blandness. Theresa took the nanny position over a year ago, and she was good at it, didn’t impose her will on the two children (even when they needed a heavier hand, a smack even, not a hard one, simply to startle them into making well-mannered choices—that Fergus—and Theresa shuddered remembering his insolent face, his snake-like disposition—made Theresa feel lucky she only had Parker and Chelsea to make lunches for, take to Washington Park’s playground, wash clothes for) more than a sour verbal reprimand when the kids were really acting up. Parker was a bit too self-contained, studied the world like a scientist, and acted like he was already clouds and stars above Theresa’s age in intelligence. Chelsea, the sweet pea, the laughing girl, made Theresa grimace. She had grown fond of the girl and now could only conjure up the last image she saw of her eating turkey and stuffing at the kids’ table. All black as night, coals after fire, a hardening corpse, and a tear formed in her left eye.
The priest would help her. He would know what to do. This was something she could help him understand. She’d never seen something like this before. The yellowing butterfly escaping and searching and landing on the young woman’s palm across the table from her. She was a witness. And the others, everyone but this young woman turned to black, obsidian eyes crossed with molten red streaks—the young woman, Peggy, in white, blinding, and burning, browning at the edges, her clothing about to be engulfed by flame. This vision was an instant click in her head. She remembered pushing away from the table and little else.
She’d told her employer, a nice lady, to send her a check and even this was done with little thought, still trying to be kind. When she watched Ivy’s mouth open to speak, her black teeth now stumps, she had to look away, and she escaped into the clearing day, a frosty chill, an open blue sky turning to dusk.
In the silence of evening on Fidalgo Island no one else roamed the streets, the rural roads splitting the island into quadrants, Mt. Erie poking up to the sky and taking over the southern part of the natural wilderness and farmland area. She glanced up at the mount and shuddered.
Was someone watching her? From way up high?
Theresa felt something, someone, an intuitive bump at the back of her subconscious making itself known, akin to the instant vision of doom around the Belloon table. She heard herself say once more, “You’re all dead.”