It still doesn’t seem real that The Caitiff comes out tomorrow, Friday the 13th of February, 2015 – I wake up every morning, turn on my computer, make a cup of tea, before loading the file up and scrolling to the bottom, as though I expect to continue working on it; perhaps it has simply become a force of habit; perhaps I just need to prove to myself that, yes, I have finished it.
I found the grave easily enough. The directions had become ingrained in my muscles when I was younger, that I barely even needed to remember the way, my body carried me there without conscious thought. There were a few new headstones, though I couldn’t be sure if they were fresh graves or simply a renovation of old burials. One, close by my destination, caught my eye. It loomed above its peers so that they were caught in its shadow at different times throughout the day, the twisted shape stretching out across the grass and I could easily imagine the sun blinding any mourners who might skulk beside the nearby graves as it curved around the black stone.
It was beautifully carved. It was a giant cross, absent of the long-haired figure so typically nailed to it, with intricately worked angels clinging to its flanks so that, from a distance, it appeared hazy and ethereal instead of the stark definitions that shape normally possessed. Some of the angels carried horns, a few had drums strapped to their chests and sticks with rounded edges clasped in miniature hands but the predominant accessories were weapons. Axes, pikes, spears, swords, maces, morning stars with long chains, dirks, scimitars, bows, crossbows and ornate muskets littered the thing, occasionally highlighted with golden ink as a contrast to the polished, obsidian-like stone. The Heavenly Host itself was composed of tall, thin figures with tightly-fitted robes clinging to their bodies before billowing out around their feet and cherubim; their naked bodies glistening in the sunlight, plump and curly-haired.
It loomed above me by a few inches, and I crouched down at its foot like an archaeologist discovering a pharaoh’s tomb. There was no doubt that this thing was a work of art, in all its morbid glory, but there was only one thing missing from it. Despite the wide base, like a pedestal for the cross to sit upon, there were no curling lines of golden ink, there were no smooth engravings in the stone’s face. Whoever had built this headstone had forgotten to put the name of the person buried several feet below me. There was no information, no date of birth, no date of death, no ‘in memorium’, no ‘R.I.P’, no ‘loving wife’ or ‘husband’, no half-thought out quote from a better man than the thieves who wrote it upon their tombs. Perhaps that cross was not dedicated to one person’s memory, I thought as my feet carried me away, perhaps it was simply another monument to death, just like the church which squatted across the grass, dark stone and black windows.