I did not want to die, but I feared to live even more. The river was flooded and I jumped in. Can you imagine? Me, the doctor’s son, jumping into the river. Oh, I know what they’ll say. “He couldn’t swim.” Or, “He fell.” But I know the truth. Me and these worms eating my eyeballs. I jumped. I declare it from my grave.
Death isn’t cold, like people think. The river was; death was much warmer, like wrapping up in a warm blanket. Or maybe like curling up next to my Maggie at night. I hope she can find it in herself to forgive me. I had to die, Maggie, don’t you see? The curse would have gotten you too if I hadn’t.
How long have I been dead? When did I die? Time has no meaning down here; I seem to remember a funeral, but I don’t remember if that was mine or one I attended? Please, God, where am I? The coffin lid is opening and the preacher is talking about God’s will for a child to die. Father, why did my child die? I thought I was dead?
My child laughs in my face and Maggie holds my hand. Where is this? When am I? Tears run down my face. I wipe blood away. My child, my little girl, runs across our yard to demons from my nightmares. They scoop her up and tear her apart. Running to her, I make no progress across the lawn. It gets bigger and bigger.
I drown in my daughter’s screams. My Maggie sobs in my ear “You did this! You did this!” Did I? Is my child’s death my fault? Can I live with the guilt for all eternity? Has the curse gotten to them already? Dear God, no! Please, God, don’t let it be! Dear God, protect them!
I drown in my child’s screams and my wife’s cries. The grass welcomes me; I collapse into it. It swallows me. Suffocates me. Demons dance on my back, pushing me further into the dirt. I am digging my own grave with my body. Maggie keeps screaming, weeping cries that tear the mind over the demons’ jeering. Is this what Hell is like?
Their jeering becomes a chant. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” they repeat, over and over. Struggle is useless. I am weighted by dirt and demon; no breath to pray, to hope. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”
I wake with a start. My daughter is bouncing on my bed and shouting at me, trying to wake me up. It is Christmas morning and there are gifts to be opened.