Today, I started a short story. I feel rather good about it, and I really want to finish it. The best way to secure said finishing is to post it half-way through. It's sort of a commitment. I usually don't post any work. But most doesn't get finished anyway. So.... yeah. The Wooden Cross. A patch of freshly upturned earth under a new moon. There, under a cloudless sky she lie, her fists clenched the dirt beneath. The taste of the dry ground in her mouth mixed with the bitter tears that were slowly dripping down her face. Her young face, awash with dirt, was ash-gray. It seemed to have aged a decade in the last few days. All thoughts were blurred as past and future seemed fused in the present. It simply didn't matter anymore. A torrent of images mixed with numbing emotions; hate, fear, anger, doubt. Love, yes. Yes.... no. All of her body ached and shivered. The void in her heart and the knot in her stomach had spread across her body. Suddenly, she thought of her dress. It must be dirty beyond laundry; the thought gave her a vague smile. She was always so careful about it, but that too didn't matter anymore. That thought cast a blanket over her erratic brain. Her grip eased, her breath relaxed. Sleep grabbed her and took her away, a dreamless sleep under the cold autumn sky. She awoke before dawn. Heavy steps fell in the gravel, approaching her resting place. The haze of sleep receded quickly and left her with a feeling of awkwardness. There was no way to present herself in any way decent, and abandoned the thought. She made out a light in the mist. It was carried by a man in a long, black coat, reaching to the brim of his boots. He carried a spade in his right hand, a storm lantern in his left. The little light it produced showed a pale face, leathered by age – but his eyes were piercing. He stopped at her feet, staring straight at her with a soothing look in his eyes, observing. She held her breath, not sure whether to trust or panic. He made the faintest movement with his mouth as he moved along and continued his path, carrying the light away, slowly dying in the mist, as his footsteps in the gravel faded. She thought, as she lay her head back in the dirt, whilst her curly brown hair fused again with the mud below. She thought, but didn't know what to make of the stranger. Her head was empty now. The air smelled of damp earth and dust like after rain in summer. Dust, mixed with her own sweat. She sat up, staring in front of her, senseless. Time passed without notion. It was time to go home and. As she got to her feet, the sky was already lightening. * * * Drawn from her bed, her feet brought her back to the plot marked with the wooden cross. She stared at it, as her eyes began to water. A now crescent, watery moon illuminated young wood and reflected off the one nail that held up the cross beam. She fell to her knees, which sank into the mud. Only few leaves had covered the place where she had spent that one night. Her impression could still be seen. Only a few leaves. And one rose, its white petals almost translucent in the moonlight. She delicately picked it up and brought it to her nose. She tried to smell, but her nose was too clogged up to palpate the fragrance. A tear landed on the flower, it quickly disappeared between the petals. She let her head hang and tried to replace the rose when one of the thorns gripped her sleeve, as though unwilling to let go. Not sure what to do with it, she let it rest in her lap. There she sat, as the mist gathered around her. With the moon watching over her, she thought of the time before. It filled her with love, warmth and bitterness in equal measures. An abrupt line was chalked across her life, now signified by that wooden cross and the dirt beneath. Bitterness got the better of her and more tears fell, silently exploding on the flower of the rose. Footsteps could be heard again in the gravel, quite close now. As she watched, the elderly man appeared once more in the mist. This time, he was not carrying a lantern. When he came closer, the mist revealed he wore the same long coat and carried the spade again. But this time, he held a satchel in his left hand, which ringed slightly with his heavy steps. He stopped behind her, and she turned around. Again, he was looking at her, his pale face lit by the low hanging moon. She felt she could trust him, strange though he was, but didn't find any words to say. “Do you know what time it is?”, he asked. His voice was gentle, but grave and deep in a way. She didn't know what to say, it was as though it wasn't a question. And she didn't bring a watch. She stared back at him, confused. He broke the spell as he closed his eyes and turned away, disappearing again in the mist, leaving her in loneliness. She stared at the rose again, which was still lying in her lap. Slowly, she stroked the stem, being her only company. Absent-mindedly, she picked it up and tried to smell it again, only to find that she couldn't. In stead, she held it up and eclipsed the moon with the flower. It was beautiful, she felt touched by this miracle, as the white petals played with the little light there was. Suddenly, her eyes filled with tears, and a deep bitterness came over her: life shouldn't be beautiful now. She squeezed the stem tightly and she felt the thorns sink into her skin. Slowly, a warm drop of her blood crept through her trembling hand, and ran down the stem into her lap. She watched as the red drop was soaked into her skirt. She touched the stain with her left-hand finger and looked at the flower again. Slowly, a drop, a tear, ran out of the flower, falling onto her hand. She took the flower home.