Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Ember

I’ve grown so weary of all this sickness and pain. Black boils and coughing, Death’s door left standing ajar for her next victim. Why? That’s all I seem to wonder anymore. Why my family? Why my home? Once upon a time, I was one of the most curious people in my village and those surrounding, but the arrival of the Black Death seems to have sabotaged my wondering nature.
I never contemplated death quite so much as I do now. My mother, always the good Catholic, has been assuring me all my life that I just need to accept Jesus to live an everlasting life in Heaven. Trying to be the best daughter possible, I pretended to believe in God for her sake. My opinion on the afterlife was—and still may be—of a forever of nothingness. No sun, rain, or people—just nothing. But as my mother lies in bed, coughing and whimpering, I am left to myself to wonder, Where will she go?
“Ember!” mother calls in a heated daze, barely able to lift her head from the bed.
I go to her and all she manages to croak is, “Water,” before her head falls back down and she struggles to breathe. As I try to lift her head and ladle water into her mouth, she coughs and the distinct odor of Death creeps into the room. The smell of Death, with her sweet temptations, sweeps over my mother, preparing her for the coming black parade.
Mother sips at her water and begins to doze in my arms. I lay her back and perch myself just before the window. She has been sick for a day and a half now. Most of the villagers that had Black Death died within two or three days. I keep hoping that Mother will persevere and once again be the energetic woman she once was, but as the day creeps to an end, my hopes become more and more shallow.
Father John says I should pray, but I don’t think it will do much. If God is real, then why is He letting my mother, the last of my family, die? Yes, I admitted it. My mother is going to die and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Nothing, nothing, nothing until I am driven to nothing by madness.
If mother is to die, then I must learn to face it. I’ve already taken on all the chores we once shared—she and I. We were a happy family until Father caught the Death, and then Edward. Once they were gone, all that was left was my mother and I. Just two peasant women in this world with no one to protect them. I suppose I should be glad that we don’t live in the times when the knights pillaged and raped lone women like us. But perhaps I would prefer that over a fate such as this. A lonely fate that I’m not sure I can survive.
“Ember, honey? Wake up and help your poor old mother make your father and Edward some dinner. They have been over in Flanders trading all day.”
“I’m coming mother!”
Her face. Fading. Fading. Fading…gone.

My eyes open to a chilled slab against my face. Pitter-patter. Drip-drop.
“Mother?” I call into the nighttime darkness of the cottage. “How are you feeling?”
No answer.
I walk over to the bed in a sleepy daze. I try again, “Mother?” Pause. I pull back the covers and a soft “no” escapes my lips. And, with that, I have officially become what my name implies—the last smolderings of my family.
As the day wears on, all I am able to do is sit on the bed with Mother’s head in my lap. Her hair is soft; washed only a few days ago with some of the last remaining soap that Edward had gifted to her from his trading. My thoughts fill the room. What if I hadn’t fallen asleep? Would she have called to me and whispered her love to me with her last breaths? I know there is no point in asking questions that will never be answered, but I can’t help but wonder: Could I have saved her? Even as the death trolley works through its rounds, finally checking at my cottage, I just keep pondering and stroking her wonderfully smooth hair. She was always so beautiful that all the men despised my father for having married her. My thoughts keep roaming. Why her? Why the Black Death? Why now? Why…?
“Ember,” a shy hand sits on my shoulder, “she’s gone. You have to let me take her now.”
Why my mother? She was such a well-liked woman. I don’t understand.
“Ember,” Philip says. “I’m so sorry.” And with that I let go the first tears for my mother’s death as he embraces me.
“Philip, I don’t understand why,” I finally whimper.
“I know.” He pulls me in closer and my dry eyes quickly become waterfalls once more.
After a long while I nudge myself away and, without a word, I help carry Mother to the cart piled high with the deceased. Philip meets my eyes as we set her down and, with all the understanding in the world, he lifts the handles and begins his trudge to other homes like mine. Some homes empty, some with one or two survivors. Some that never even had the chance to become a home to some unfortunate, unborn child in the stomach of a dying mother-to-be.





Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

SashMarie said...
Jul. 12, 2011 at 11:06 am
If you read this story and it doesn't make sense, it's because all of my indentations and italices disappeared as soon as I submitted it. I'm sorry that it is grammatically incorrect right now.
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback