Quite a whole long post about nothing. Been a long time since I did this. 1141 words.
It was cold.
She woke up to hear the rain falling outside her window. Not bothering to even open the curtains, she pulled the blanket closer around her. The comforter was warm, and felt very comfortable today. Closing her eyes, she drifted back into her dreams. In a state of half-awareness, she reached out and turned off the alarm before it had had a chance to ring. Dreamily and blissfully, she curled and went back to sleep.
Until a peculiar smell assaulted her nose. Something was… burning. Not just burning, but burning badly. She got out of the bed and threw the covers off her, not even bothering to put on her slippers. That was a decision she regretted as soon as her feet touched the ground. The cold floor woke her up immediately, and with a yelp she more or less ran to the kitchen, where the burning smell originated. Or she would have run had the smoke not more or less smothered her as soon as she opened the door. It caused her to cough and her eyes to water, and she knew at that point in time they were in trouble.
“Open the windows!” she shouted, as there was no heat to indicate this was a fire. Feeling her way through to the kitchen, she heard the windows being opened and then the whoosh! of air as the smoke escaped. A moment later, she heard the click of the ventilator being switched on.
Coughing and tearing, she somehow found her way to the countertop table, where someone guided her to sit and passed her a handkerchief. She whispered thank you and began wiping the tears from her eyes. With the windows opened and the ventilator switched on, they did not have to wait long till the smoke had been cleared. When she opened her eyes, she saw her sister putting a glass of water down in front of her while her brother was cleaning the electric stove. She sighed, then holding the glass with two hands, she began taking cautious sips, waiting for the snide comments to begin.
“Burning water again, brother?” Her sister sat at the other end of the countertop, away from their brother and the sink. He was growling.
“Brother is not a hopeless cook like you are, onee-san,” she jumped to the defence of their brother. Her sister laughed.
“I know, dear one,” her sister got up and hugged her, “Let me have my fun before I tell you the bad news.”
“Bad news?” their brother went on cleaning the kitchen while her sister sat down again. Her elder sister sat down and was about to begin when their brother stopped her.
“It can wait until we’ve visited Okaa-san,” their brother interjected firmly. They didn’t continue. The youngest suspected that the elder brother had been briefed before the smoke had awakened her.
It was nearly mid-morning when they had reached the graves, but it was quiet and peaceful. Overlooking the mountainside, it was an oasis of calm and serenity, something they had missed. The climb had been long but silent. There had been no exchanges, except for muttered thanks for help over the roughest spots. The path was worn in some places, but not enough to impede them.
When they reached the graves, they began cleaning them without a sound. They did not need to speak, everything was done in a companionable silence. As the years had gone by and this had become routine, the arguments had slowly died away. From time to time, they would look up and savour the view the graves enjoyed. It was a stunning one. The graves overlooked a fishing village on one side, and a large forest on the other. Deliberately chosen, the graves were located in an area that was close to the hearts of those buried there.
Once the graves had been cleared, they poured the deceaseds’ favourite drinks over the tombstones. One poured chrysthemum tea, the other grape juice, and the last, sweet sake. Three tombstones, three dead. Each had died within days of each other. The youngest had left first, then the eldest, and the middle was left to bury them both.
Before the middle had died, she had taken them to visit the graves, gathering them close and telling them the story of their origins, their duties and responsibilities, and what they were expected to do. She also told them about about their relatives, the men and woman who had sired and mothered them, the families that they had come from, and the hopes and dreams these families had, and what their obligations to those families were. And lastly, she had told them about the ones buried behind them, what they were like, what she was like, and what their hopes and dreams for the children were. Then she had taken them into her arms and held them close.
“But your dreams and your hopes are your own. Know where you come from, so you may know where you wish to go. Don’t let anyone dictate your life. You are the Favoured of the Gods, Guarded by Chance, but you are not Bound by Fate. Your lives, like ours are not predestined; it is not ordered, Fate cannot compel you. You can only reap what you sow, you are responsible for your own actions. Never forget that,” she held them close for a very long while, and then made them sleep as it was late into the night.
When they woke in the morning, there were three tombstones and the Goddess of Death was there, watching silently over the graves, one hand gripping the scythe tightly. The youngest opened her mouth, about to let out a wail, when the two older ones had grabbed her and held her tightly, half to comfort her, and the other half to silence her. There were narcissus blooming out of season at the Goddess’ feet; it was said that flowers bloomed whenever the Spring Goddesses cried. And Celeste was the daughter of the Maiden of Spring.
After a while, the Goddess had stopped crying, and the three had gone to her. She picked up the youngest, let the Scythe fade so she could hold on to the middle child’s hand, and nodded when the eldest had held on to her skirts. With a sigh and a breath, she had taken them away from graves.
The three of them stood there thinking silently to themselves. The middle, stood the longest in front of her mother’s stone, as though memorising every inch of it. Their brother bowed before his father’s stone, paying homage gravely. The youngest simply knelt before her mother’s stone, head bowed, fingers playing with a prayer bead.
They left the graves only when the sun was setting.