I awoke to a light burning my eyes. Quick short breaths are working my chest hard and the hands around my neck are relentless. I press down on the asthma inhaler and breathe deeply as I suck the cool spray deep into my lungs. The hands let go. My breathing slows. The light above my head is intense. I brush the lamp aside with the back of my hand and place my hand to my chest. It’s there, as it always had been, I roll it in my fingers. Just knowing it’s there comforts me. My breathing becomes normal. It’s there, this is the day and to me that is all that matters.
In my hand is an old brass key, that has long ago lost its shine, tarnished a deep brown and green. The inscription on the shaft of the key is still legible, ‘Remember Sarah.’ I read it every day, to remember. The key is attached to a thin strap of leather that hangs from my neck. I rarely remove it, except for this special day of the year which is so important.
The first rays of sunlight are creeping over the Highfields mountains in the eastern distance, displaying a beautiful deep orange, I admire it momentarily, then step off my veranda. I’m carrying a torch, but the sunlight coming is still enough to give me some confidence. A heavy fog is beginning to drift over the small town of Peacehaven.
I take a deep breath and I taste the cool, moist, morning air. It tastes good. I leave my home behind me, making my way along Mocatta Street with streetlights barely visible in the thickening gloom. Shop fronts that would soon come to life for the day stare out like dark empty eyes sockets in the mist.
I like to walk; it always clears my head and helps me to think. More than any other day I choose this day for my path to remembrance. The only day of the year I visit Green Acre Cemetery. I’ve made the trek for these past forty five years. I often spend the day there, just talking and remembering, what once was and what could have been. Head lights drift out onto Main Street, the first of the mine workers that mostly populated the town now, driving to the New Acland coal mine.
Soon the road will fill with them, so I pick up my pace. I pass R and K Accountants to my right. I can see the dark shape of the Pioneer Hotel looming in the distance. I leave the road and walk along the streetscape among the jacaranda trees. The leaves hang heavily with dew; the large drops rain down on me as I pass beneath. Their flowers mat the ground beneath my feet giving off a pungent decaying odor that hangs heavily on the moist air.
I reach the town limit as the darkness surrenders to the morning sun. The mist hangs low and thick across the nearby paddocks as I make my way along the bitumen surface. I follow the road as it takes me on a wide sweep to the right.
The rays of sunlight that are breaking through the mist gently caress my face and I feel good, better than I’ve felt for some time, but a nagging thought crept into my head.
I knew it was him. He wanted to get inside me. He was trying to close the curtain forever. To stop something I should remember. The thought hung deeply, just a whisper. I pushed it down, tried to ignore it and pushed on.
A crow broke the stillness with a piecing cry to my right. I watch it sitting in a dead iron bark tree, watching me, those dark penetrating eyes, judging me. I try hard not to look but those eyes won’t leave me alone. Ahead the road dipped across a creek. The sign reads Little Comoran Creek. I hurry across, stepping through a trickle of water from the previous night’s downpour still running off from the surrounding hills.
I gaze back at where the crow is perched, it sits there still, its eyes fixed firmly on me, it grins. Of course, I know it didn’t, but still it mocks me, laughing at something only a crow could understand.
I leave the creek. I continue following the road. I pass Coleman’s and James Roads then the road opens out onto a straight stretch that I know so well. I push on through the morning which was promising a warm summers day but still something gnawed at my mind.
My head feels as if full of rats, hurriedly devouring my mind, before they could be discovered, like a rat chewing on a nut. I round the cemetery turn off; my legs are beginning to tire. I reach the large green gates of the cemetery by eight o’clock that Wednesday morning.
The rusty iron gates stand across the path in a defiant gesture. The green paint is flaking off the iron in large pieces from corrosion. Nature slowly rotting away what once stood proud. From around my neck I retrieve the brass key, given to me by Sergeant George Hillman, the only key left in Peacehaven that would ever fit that lock again.
I slide the key into the keyhole, the inner mechanism moves with the force of the key, emitting a dull clunking sound. I push the two gates apart with a defiant screech. No one has been interned in the cemetery since George closed the cemetery gates forever. Closed for a reason no one in Peacehaven could tell you or remember, even if you could find someone who could.
I return the key to my neck and step through the gates. The fog hits me hard. Like ghostly fingers reaching for me. I hear the screams in my head, I stumble. It screams my name as it did on that night. Deafening as if my head would explode, my head aches. For the first time since that night I was certain it had found where we buried it. A blackness, deeper than I had ever seen it. It wanted to engulf me, swallowing me whole into its own world. I feel as if I’m falling.
I awake, the headache is gone, but the curtain is closed. The sun had been replaced by the shine of the moon and surrounded by a billion stars, making a night as beautiful as I could ever wish for. The evening is warm. I struggle to my feet, discarding the coat I’m wearing.
A backpack lay beside me, inside I find a torch and something cold touches my chest. Have I laid there all day? My headache was gone, replaced with the fog that feels as if it is swirling inside me. I feel the coldness on my chest again, I touch it, something hard. I pull it from around my neck.
By the moonlight I can see it is a key. I shine the torch on it. On the shaft of the key is engraved, ‘Remember Sarah,’ was this something I was supposed to remember? Why I was here? My head feels clear but lost, I make my way through the head stones.
With the help of the torch I read each head stone as I stumble through them. A statue of Jesus is sitting high on a concrete block, carved into the marbled surface was ‘John Kruger Died 1913,’ I’m in the old section of the cemetery.
A crow suddenly called in the distance, it startles me, I stumble backwards, falling onto a grave surrounded by a steel spiked fence. The spikes dig into my chest driving out my breath. My chest burns. I groan heavily pushing myself back to my feet. I feel under my shirt, the heat and swelling has already begun.