My family have a gift. Every one of us was born with it. The prescience, the sense of death or disaster coming. Like a little tribe of Cassandras, it’s not a pleasant offering, and we quickly learned not to tell the truth we saw. But still, we saw.
I experienced it first when my grandmother died. The night before I was finding it hard to sleep. Something restless susserated in the air above me, calling for my attention, till finally I turned and looked up, lying on my back, defying the night’s blackness. And then I saw it, clear as day. The skull.
It materialised out of shadows and what looked like smoke, high above me in the air. I knew what it meant. I’d learned this at my grandmother’s knee, when I was first old enough to really understand the story. So I guess it was fitting it came first to tell me my beloved grandma was about to go.
It didn’t speak. It didn’t say what it presaged. It’s never that distinct, never that clear. My mother said oracles never are. They are always vague, and you only ever understand them in retrospect.
So they’re useless really, except to make you scared.
I wasn’t scared of the skull, only of what it meant. Days later at my grandma’s funeral, I wept. I prayed I’d never see the skull again.
But you might as well wish away the moon. People die, all the time. And it doesn’t only come for our family. Sometimes it signals something awful. The night of September 10, 2001, every one of my family saw the skull. The next day, the world mourned the death brought by airplanes in the bright lit air.
I saw it last night. I’m now quite old, but it never shows itself to the one who is going, only those who will mourn. So it isn’t for me. I’m frightened, because my niece is sick. So I’m praying it’s someone else, something else. Terrible, I suppose, to wish a curse pass by your door and settle on other. But I’m human, and this gift makes no saint of me.
So I pray.
© Helen M Valentina 2020