A scent casts power to call forth buried memories allowing the past to rush from its grave, releasing long-dead moments held captive in time. A scent summons into focus memories that were before as mere wisps of smoke, a forgotten fragrance stirring concealed emotions. Neglected, that is, until last night when a foolish misstep led me to the place I vowed I’d never return.
Long have I slumbered. I began my sleep to forget, only awakening to answer the call of my thirst. In restless dreams I battled against myself until the part of me who once danced in the sunlight resigned herself to the darkness. Conquered by endless nights parading eternally before me, I move through the shadows – a specter, neither living nor dead.
Yet the call of the hunt always awakens me, the gnawing thirst growing until I must rise to answer it. We are lonely beings, my fellow creatures and I, only joining together for the pursuit. Our mentor tells us it is more efficient and gentler this way. For this brief time we rejoin humanity. Humanity. Such an odd word that stumbles off the tongue and one to be avoided as much as the looking glasses I inevitably turn away from during our sojourns in the world. When the moon shades her face, we gather our charms as roses, strewing them before us, luring in our prey. They remember nothing; our mentor has trained us to fog their minds and alter their memories. And after our thirst is quenched, we become whispered lore once more as we return to our slumber.
As I began my journey back to our forgotten hollow in the world, though, the thirst had not been satisfied, so I descended into a meadow. There, the fragrance of my past rose up toward me. Memories, tumbling like waterfalls down the jagged granite hills of our hollow, splashed me with their iciness.
A kiss. A vow of undying love. My Jacques. I tamed my thirst for him. We wed in secret, living in the shadows of polite society and hoarding happiness until my secret was discovered, forcing me to flee. I left my three beautiful children behind, vowing to the town elders never to return in exchange for their secrecy and my family’s safety. I returned to the ever-present darkness, to the world in which I had been raised, whose members solemnly promised never to set foot on the island again. They kept their promise, but in those fields of lavender, I tread once more as only a fool would carelessly dare.
Searching for his gravestone, I read the epitaphs of my children and their children and their children’s children. My stone-cold heart broke once more as I tried to recall their faces, our short time together but a dim memory. Returning to the lavender, I found his headstone, weathered by time. Alongside it leaned another, “Narcissa Villareal Beloved wife and mother. Love is as eternal as the night.”
“Narcissa,” I turned to hear my name. “You have returned.”
“Jacques, my love . . . You have waited,” my throat was reluctant to release the words.
We walked through the fields, hand in hand, as he recounted his life after I had gone. Was I right to give into the council’s demands? He shook his head, muttering softly, “It does no good to question the past.”
Dawn began to stretch her sleepy fingers across the sky. “Goodbye,” he whispered, stroking my cheek once more as I struggled to say those final words. I blinked back tears. He was gone.
And now I shall return to my slumber.