On Saturday, even Jesus must answer to the Baron, Lord of the Dead.
Saturday, July 20th, 1799
The roar of flames.
Prayers. So many fervent prayers.
The chants of the slaves as they tried to enlist their spirits into staving off the inevitable.
My . . . own.
I ended up trapped inside the cottage with the other slaves. My mother was not with us, but my last thought was about her.
The fervent plea to the cruel gods that she’d escape the wretched fires that seemed to be consuming the entire city.
Then, we were the ones consumed.
I don’t even remember the pain, only that my mind could not grasp it. There is no comprehending such agony.
No fate worse than that of being burned alive.
After . . . silence.
There’s a scraping above me, a shuffling—no, shoveling.
I’ve attended enough funerals to know the sound.
Darkness is a suffocating presence all around. Panic explodes, realization dawning.
Buried. Even though everyone knows the flooding will cause the coffin to rise back to the surface.
Of course, whoever handled it didn’t care. They were just getting rid of my body. With no money or family willing to pay for one of the above-ground tombs, this was the only option left.
Oh, Lord, help me.
My spirit remains in the flesh.
I want to open my mouth and shout at the horror of it, yet there is no movement in me.
Because I’m dead.
A shattering of my thoughts takes place, an indescribable event that is more traumatizing than dying in the fire. I am disconnected from myself, floating away from all consciousness . . .
The lid of my coffin is torn open.
Light leaks in.
Two figures stand above, dressed almost identical, their faces skeletal.
It’s . . . it’s . . .
I’m in my own grave, aware, presumably within my charred body, yet it’s what I see above me that leaves me frozen in silent shock.