|We burned Adriaen today, his flesh given over first to the strange wasting disease on the isle, then second to the flames of the pyre. I could not hold my composure and wept, yet others among us remained silent.
He had already been feared lost almost a season ago – some claimed they thought they had seen him amongst evil-looking soldiers, but they could not be sure, and feared to approach too closely lest they be captured as well.
Still, to see him return, so sickly and feral like a hound, lashing out at all he could find, it took three men of the town to bring him down with clubs until he collapsed, still clinging to life. We gathered around, horrified, none of us knowing what to make of it, until Marten ordered we burn him, lest the infection spread.
|I examined Adriaen's ashes on the morrow – I could not say whether the flames had consumed him or whether he had simply vanished, for no bones or trace of him remained - only a strange shaping of wood, dyed red, that seemed untouched by the fire. A parting gift, I thought, something that sustained him and not even the fire could burn away.
I did not speak of what I had found, merely buried the keepsake in the fields where Adriaen had labored for the harvest, and then I scattered Adriaen's ashes from the pyre atop it. Wherever Adriaen is now, I hope he is at peace.
|I found some small comfort today. Where I had buried the Adriaen's red keepsake – the oddly shaped sculpture of wood - a violet flower had sprouted. I sought to pluck it for the mantle, but it resisted my efforts, so I brought a knife and clipped it sharply where it clung to the soil.
In the morning, however, the flower had died, the petals black, though I had made sure it had enough soil and water – and the smell from it was quite peculiar, almost like rot. I cast the remains away, then returned to where I had taken the flower the day before. To my surprise, new flowers had blossomed where I had buried the keepsake, almost a dozen sprouting forth where none had been the day before.
I am afraid to speak of the matter to Marten. I thought to tell my Mother what I had seen, but then put it out of my mind – she did not want to speak of Adriaen - as if by saying his name we would bring the disease upon us.
|Marten has not returned. We went out in search of him, but it seemed he had wandered off. There were no signs of a struggle, nor bandits from the road, but they gathered us together and ordered us to bolt the doors. It has been days now, and the villagers have taken to whispering amongst themselves.
I did not speak of the flowers I saw where Marten had vanished, and how their color looked red in the dusk, as if drinking in the day's last rays. The flowers grow thickly there as they did at Adriaen's grave – and I have seen them elsewhere in the village as well. The men and women complain about them, how they choke the crops and seem to resist spade and shovel.
They call them not flowers, but weeds – to me, they still have a beauty about them, and I am glad there is some trace of it on this isle, for there is little joy to be had.
|I saw Adriaen last night. It was no trick of the eye - he was at the place where I had scattered his ashes. It was barely a moment, then he was gone from sight. Though I know it would have made mother and father upset, I took a torch and went to see for myself – yet there was nothing, only a thick carpet of flowers, even thicker than before, so thick it was impossible to see if any tracks lay in the dirt.
I remained there for longer than I realized, for when I came to my senses, dawn was rising, and there I was in my nightclothes. Adriaen, I will watch for you, and next time, I shall be swifter – if you are to be found, it is I who will catch you if you wander outside the village.
I took a flower and placed it in the sill, a reminder to you that I still think of you. Unlike the first flower, this flower was pulled easily from the soil at my touch, as if recognizing me.
|My daughter, my precious daughter Kathrijn is gone. Her bed was not slept in, and on the sill, one of those horrid-smelling flowers, wilted and dead. They seem to infest the fields now like a blight, a vile weed that jests at our labors.
The men gathered together in search of her, and rode out in the early morning. It was nearly night before they returned, and they were half their number, their faces white. They would not answer our questions until they were inside, the door and shudders bolted. When I pressed for details, had they found her, they said nothing except that I must put her out of my mind.
The other men said nothing, merely clutched their weapons to them.
|Marten's daughter, Anika, claims to see have seen Kathrijn. She said she saw her with Adriaen, and two other men of the village who had gone missing. I told her where, and she said, “in the flower fields.” I told her to stop telling stories, and she went quiet at my tone. She asked quietly if she could sleep in my room, and I sent her to bed rather sternly.
The child has taken to sleeping beneath my bed when scared. If it gives her comfort, so be it. The poor child has nowhere else to sleep, and her presence makes Kathrijn's absence… it makes it less, for a time.
|I shared Anika's imagined tale of seeing Kathrijn and Adriaen with the millwright Elias, while we were drawing from the well. I cloaked Anika's tale with scorn, expecting him to shake his head sadly and offer sympathy.
Instead, Elias went quiet, not with disbelief, but in that hesitation I know comes from fear of speaking the truth. I pressed him on it – even threatened to strike him, until at last he cried out that he had seen them, too.
“They're not lost,” he said. “They've been coming back. Each of them… sometimes to the fields. We see them walking among the flower beds, but gone at our approach – we work in pairs now, for fear of being led off into whatever hell claimed them.”
I told him that if we were lost out there, we would want to be found. He shook his head. “It is bad enough they have come back to us, we should not go looking for them. They aren't our people, our family anymore - they belong to the island.”
|Elias has taken to checking on me. I do not leave the bed, I feel not myself. Elias volunteered to take Anika for a time, though the child still wishes to sleep here, beneath the bed, seemingly content to be close to me.
I awake some nights, not certain of where I am – there is simply the smell of the flowers, all around us. It is a sea, calm, not like the storm-thrashed waves that surround the isle.
|I awoke to a flower on the sill. Its petals were black, its stem resting in a dirty cup as if dug out of a river. The flower smelled of rot, yet I could not throw it out.
I do not know how I knew, but I knew Kathrijn had left for it for me. My daughter had told me she was alive. That I should seek her out amongst the flowers.
|Marisse is gone. We went in search of her, even braved the darkness, but to no avail. We searched for two days and two nights. But her going missing - that is not the worst of it. Not at all. It was what I found on my return.
When I returned, I immediately went to Marisse's bedroom to see if she had returned - and found flowers scattered about the bed, the same grave flowers that have swallowed our village.
The flowers… they are so bright when they lie in the earth, violet by day, yet blood red at dusk – and they die so quickly when cut from earth's embrace. We have seen the life this isle brings… we have not seen the death it brings, in all its shapes and kinds.
I fear to say it, but this village is no longer ours. It belongs to all those who have gone missing. And soon we will lie like the petals about the bed in this village, each home now their home.
|I was hiding beneath Marisse's bed when Elias returned. When he stood in the doorway, I didn't move. I hadn't moved since the night before - when Marisse had come home. And spread the flowers.
When Elias found me, he asked about the flowers Marisse had scattered around the bed. I didn't tell him I had heard her return. I didn't tell him I had seen the flowers fall. I didn't tell him I was there.
I didn't tell him because he is more scared than me, and adults are not supposed to be scared.
I didn't tell him when she had come home, the floorboards did not make a sound. I didn't tell him how afraid I was to breathe. How I saw Marisse's feet, dirty, torn, covered in scabs, as she walked slowly around the bed, a black petal falling with each step. I only closed my eyes and prayed until she was gone.
But she's not gone. None of them are. I need to find a new hiding place where no one knows. [The X].
|I am still hiding. It has been three days - I have no more food, I am so hungry, but I am afraid to sneak out, to get more.
All the people of the village who had left came back. They smelled like the flowers in the fields when they are dug up. They don't speak, they simply walk, even do the same things they used to do but they don't do it properly – they do it like they barely remember how.
I don't know how long I can stay here, but they are not leaving. I can hear them moving through the houses even now, their feet scraping on the floorboards, hear their breath. Sometimes… sometimes I think I hear Marisse, whispering my name. She wouldn't hurt me. She would never hurt me.
|I do not know how long I can stay here. I hear Marisse's voice more and more, in the distance, but I do not know if it is real. I am able to see the whole of the village from my hiding place now, so I do quick looks when I think it is safe.
This last time, I thought I saw Marisse in the field, walking toward me through the flowers – smiling, happy. If it is her, then I will run to her, and ask her to take me away from this horrid place.
There is a sound at the door – someone is here. Marisse?
I can smell flowers, freshly cut. She has come for me, to lay the petals around me so I might sleep.