Easter is a serious time of the year, a time for reflection and new life a chance to bury some of our demons.
Journalist, that was something that she was supposed to be. She snorted at the thought, all of those ideals, those values she once had. The only journalistic thing she had was the title alone. The one that punctuated the end of emails. She spent her time compiling top ten lists of shit people inexplicably cared about.
The plan was to save money, get a foot in the door, it had been three years and she hated it. The colleagues; the ‘research’ that was essentially looking at Wikipedia and retelling other stories on other popular sites – putting things in a different format and using new stock images.
Her last great journalistic piece was entitled ‘ten times people didn’t realise they had sent a message to the wrong person…until it was too late!” Áine’s soul had died a little. She was livid with herself, to have slipped so far leaving a taint on her that no serious publication would now touch her with the proverbial barge pole.
A wheel stuck on the trolley she was pushing, the one liveried in blue and white. Áine noticed the coloured boxes containing cheap milk chocolate eggs emblazoned with pictures of rabbits holding wicker baskets and chickens and various licenced cartoon franchise mascots, there were even a couple that showed superheroes in dynamic poses surrounded by a blanket of pastel colours, and incongruous fields that were growing more eggs. A real link to the Easter tradition. Saccharine sweet and cheap. She snorted in spite of herself, ironic as, without thinking she had thrust three of them into the wheeled cage, the price was three for two or was it two for three, some kind of offer Áine was not really paying attention to. Her mind always seemed to wonder at this time of the year.
Almost wistfully she thought back to a time when she had really done some honest to God fucking work, some real research. It was part of her real passion at the time. History.
The tinny tannoy faded and her memory flooded back, like a flick book of images. She was transported to the heart of one of the many Greek islands she spent so much of her early adult life in.
The memory brought into focus the quality of the light, so fierce that photos would fade over the course of days if left out in the light. It was this ancient place that she found the meanings in the old fertility rights, explaining the ideas and rituals that would become the main festival of the Christian faith. Though it was never admitted by the men in black with white at their throats, the rebirth of the Messiah followed those pagan, animalistic heathens throughout the world and antiquity.
Áine’s mind was wondering, it floated past memories until the ship of nostalgia hit turgid waters and settled on one particular island of remembrance.
She had gotten into trouble for entering what was the Temenos. The place that was supposed to be cut off, a place of purity and old Gods that would be tainted by mortals should they be there for any length of time. The locals had actually said, and she understood in her broken Greek that there had been a transgression. Áine thought it funny. She knew these peasants were, not stupid but superstitious. She looked down on them for that. They were the ones who still believed in witches and demons. She laughed, even felt sorry for them.
She spun on her heel and returned to modernity. There were lots of things she was always going to be in the right about and this was one of them, she had forgotten. She had walked away from that women. She had not remembered what had happened afterwards.
It is a skill that you wished you had. You know that thing that stops you cold in your tracks, the one you wish you could just forget.
“Lady, you must go,” she could not believe she was being told by this fucking local. “You need to go,” this idiot was throwing bread on the ground. If this place was so holy, then why was she throwing food on the ground that would only attract birds and their shit all over the place?
This was the fourth time today. Áine wandered off, but only so far. She sat on the side of the valley, away from the heat and surrounded by the olive groves. The dappled shade offered protection from the heat of the midday sun. She had her photos of the ancient places had found the inscriptions she would need translating; they had been emailed to a colleague at the university. She smiled inwardly, colleague, no he was hopelessly in love with her and eager to please. She casually let him do these things for her. Well, it was not her fault, she had told him repeatedly it would never happen, his own stupid fault if he did not really listen to what she said.
Birds, some kind of pigeon she thought, the locals called it spilopelia, Áine could not remember why that name in particular had stuck. There was a flutter of wings and more descended into the Temenos, pecking amongst the broken slabs of living rock. It was a pretty enough sight to keep her attention for thirty seconds.
Looking down at the earth and her hands Áine rose from the floor, the hard dry earth not yielding under the pressure. There was a loud cawing noise, overhead a large raven flew, signalling something. Áine knew of the links to death and wisdom, a strange combination. The whispering wind amplified the sound until it was as if she were surrounded by an unkindness of the verdant iridescence of ravens.
Her eyes momentarily flicked back to the scene of birds at the Temenos. There was a commotion, a flurry of wings and squawks and alarm. There was something there. Something violent. A face sank hungrily into the body of one of the pigeon like things. Ripping and tearing. The birds were trying to fly away but they were trapped under a glinting net that had not been there before. Barbs hooking into delicate feathers and coming to a stop on bone. Increasing the pain of the animals, spreading gore and ichor and shit everywhere.
No, there was not something violent there were several things, skin ashen and pale. Silent. Chewing and eviscerating the small lives. The local woman, Áine noted, was nowhere to be seen.
It lasted seconds, one face snapped round staring at her. It started ambling towards her. At the periphery of the Temenos it stopped, hard. Twitching in indolent hunger it stood. Sniffed the air and returned to the birds, clearly disappointed.
Áine was transfixed, moments later the beings seemed to melt from the outside in. Dissolving into the ground returning from somewhere. It had grown cold. The moon was shading the sun. Only briefly, it was as if colour had drained from the world, like something had gripped her senses and was shutting out the feeling and joy from life.
“Go! Leave now!” the old woman was back shouting, screaming. Covered in blood. She was dragging something large in a bag. It was clearly heavy.
Mist had grown again in the grove among the marble, the grey shapes were reforming. “Leave now or become thysia!” She was crying not as a threat but pleading Áine realised. The bag moved, seemed to moan. She ran and ran.
Just as Orpheus had, in the tale of old. She could not help herself and looked over her shoulder. The bag was now in the middle of the circle. Things feasting. The sound of an animal, yes it must be an animal, it had to be an animal. Screaming in pain.
She fled through the Greek countryside, was found, and cared for, raving and ranting. Until after three days she roused herself, finding no memory of what had happened. Just with a pleasant sensation of time spent combining research and holidays. Her reminiscence snapped into the here and now.
Without realising it Áine was in the car, she must have used those automatic checkouts. This was always happening, loosing time like that. Ah well. She continued on the journey home. Shit, she thought, that chicken she had taken out of the freezer a few days ago, she had forgotten to cook it. It would need to be thrown out.
The curious thing about Áine was a letter she had received about a week after returning from Greece. It was still unopened in a drawer; it was a translation of inscriptions.
“Gods sing me the anger of your voice, that brought sorrow on man. So many souls taken for not giving sacrifice.
Bring the flesh to the place where your feet touched the ground, to give flesh to the fleshless. To curtail their wrath at being forgotten. Let them feed or be freed boundless to the earth.
Remember the old ways. To forget is to bring wrath to the world. To let the grey ones who are blind but see, eat without satisfaction enter.”
I think it links to the idea of new life and rebirth, I know the stories are more your bag. Anyway hope this helps.
All the best,
That evening, a mist formed towards the back of the street Aine lived in. Shapes were moving, with eyes searching blindly.
It was odd how, even being in the city, she never saw a bird flying overhead. The shapes, year on year got closed to the rear door of the townhouse, the one painted in vibrant blue.