Methuselah's Daughter

Musings of an immortal being

Tuesday, July 29

Etherian asked me about loneliness. It defines my life, but not in the way one might think. Early on, after I came to understand what I was, every dislocation was wrenching and death came to take on an aura of a prize that I had been deliberately denied. I have never had children, but I raised many and to have to leave them… to this day that is the single most difficult act I have ever committed. So, the short answer is yes, I am terribly lonely.

Despite this, loneliness does not cripple me. I know that death stalks every relationship, that friendships are ephemeral, but I am blessed as well: I have had so many friends, so many interesting people in my life that I have to count the balance as in my favor. I met Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He took my hand and smiled when I offered up the notion that his writing was timeless and he said, “Perhaps it is, my dear. Unfortunately, I am not,” and he chuckled. I remember his scent and the twinkle in his eye, thirty seconds of time locked forever in the vault of my treasured memories. Who is there living today that can recall that day? (And before anyone asks, I have just described the entire encounter- he was a magnificent man.)

There is a secret inside me that aches to be told, to be shared with people who, when they look upon me, see an object of adoration, a partner in their journey of life, someone they love. I have had that precisely four times in my long life, each time an all too brief episode of delirious joy, followed swiftly by devastation. Each time I swore I would never again allow myself to become so delusional as to love anyone. The interludes between those times grew longer, but I am afraid I crave the wholeness that is part of being in a loving relationship and I will stumble again, and again I will weep for a century when my nemesis, time, steals away all I hold precious.

I loved them, and more important, they loved me. Rufus, who swore he only learned to love a woman in my arms. Robert, who gave up the only chance any mortal has for immortality to be true to his love for me. Genevieve… sweet, gentle, laughing Genevieve with her emerald eyes and golden hair. You saw right through me, so perceptive and so warm. And Jeremy. Good God, Jeremy, I still weep for you. So wise, and strong, and gentle, and firm… Jeremy, if the world desired a King they could have found no better than you. So desperately I tried not to love you, but you were in my soul, and you are there still. I stayed with you to the bitter end though you tried to send me away. You gasped your final breaths cradled in my arms, my tears the final blessing to fall upon your brow, and you told me you were immortal now, for I would always remember you. And your words were so true. I remember the promise I made you and here today, this day, I honor it again- you will never truly die, my love. There will be others, but never another Jeremy, or Genevieve, or Robert, or Rufus…

Loneliness. Loren was right: you people cannot truly fathom loneliness. Be thankful for that.

Sunday, July 27

I am not an easy person to like, at least not for the past three hundred years or so. I spent the vast majority of my time hiding or as an add-on to somebody else’s life- it was a habit, and an excruciatingly difficult one to break. I do not believe you the reader can fully grasp the enormity of the challenges I faced when the need to re-establish myself in a new life forced itself upon me. That is why I was drawn to the Americas, and eventually to the North American colonies- it presented an opportunity to be less a slave or a servant and more an independent entity.

There was a television show I saw once a decade or so ago, the kind of silly, mindless entertainment that I mostly cannot fathom, but there was a character in this show that struck a chord with me- she was a creature destined to be paired with a man to whom she would bond completely by adjusting her personality to become a perfect mate for him. I did not watch the entire show (I seldom watch anything but the news) but that character stuck in my memory because that aspect of her was somewhat similar to my experiences through most of the centuries of my life. I adapted and ingratiated my way from one situation to the next, always making myself in to what I felt my new master/mistress/husband/duke wanted me to be. It was something I never questioned, my modus operandi, and I stayed with it because it worked. It also made me very popular so long as times were good.

When I first broke with this tradition I came as close to a mental break as I ever have. It was unnerving to be in a position to simply speak my own mind rather than carefully calculating the expected response and delivering it with a smile. Suddenly I could take lovers who interested me rather than seeking out those who would be least likely to ask uncomfortable questions. Having money helped as well. Needless to say it did not always go smoothly at first and I was run out of more than one community to cries of “Harlot!” or the like. As I ran I laughed with every step I took. It was pure exhilaration, a sense of personal freedom the likes of which I had never truly allowed myself to know, and it nearly drove me mad.

The Yeti asked me how I found the will to go on, century after century. I never answered him in any direct way for as I look back upon it now I simply do not understand it myself, at least not entirely. On an intellectual level it is clear that I maintained a survival mind-set and made choices that maximized my comfort, where comfort was defined as not having to move on every few years. Any time I remember feeling truly happy directly correlates with being able to spend twenty or thirty years in one place. Placed in the context of my life over the previous few centuries, that past bears a disturbing resemblance to Hell. It does not surprise me in the least that breaking with it proved so wrenching. My only regret is that I left so much wreckage in my wake as I worked out my new sense of self. Many good people tried to help me and most of them received far, far less from me than they deserved. My only consolation is that the vast majority of them never expected anything from me to begin with.

So, I am not easy to like, and I am nearly impossible to love. I have no real sense of humor and I do not suffer fools gladly. Furthermore I have it on reliable authority that my definition of “fool” is exceedingly harsh. I have been called “cold” and “aloof” and “spaced-out” and I deny none of those characterizations. Oddly enough I now spend less time intimately involved with people than ever before yet I feel far more engaged with those around me. I do keep people at arm’s length in as much as there is a secret I decline to share, it is a requirement, but I no longer have to hide my personality behind a pleasing mask in order to preserve my place in society and that has a value to me that I do not expect anyone to fully comprehend. I still have my moments (sometimes even decades- the late 60’s and early 70’s come to mind) when I simply wallow in decadence, but my life is much more deliberate now- I drive my own destiny and in a delightfully expressive turn of phrase I just “make it up as I go”. I like it this way.

Perhaps that is why I took exception to suggestions that I might have some larger role to play in the future of mankind: I have become quite fond of being my own mistress and I dislike the idea that I surreptitiously, even unknowingly, serve a higher power. I noted before that if I was created to a purpose, my creator is likely disappointed in me. Let me venture further to say that should this creator appear and demand its due, it will be disappointed further still.

Saturday, July 19

E-mail from John at Weekend Pundit:

I’ve enjoyed all the speculation and “what-if’s” proposed by other readers that you’ve been posting lately and your responses seem geared to making everybody take a kind of laid back attitude. You seem to be in some sort of “whatever” mode regarding what you might be. In particular I liked the Yeti’s comment that perhaps you were some sort of “key”. So far everyone seems to be acting as if this were all benign, so let me get all dark and paranoid, since somebody’s got to do it:

What if you are simply a Judge? Seems to me you'd be uniquely qualified to pass judgment on the human race as a whole.

I take exception to that characterization, but not with any ire. Perhaps I would be qualified to pass judgment on the direction of cultural development in the western world, but the human race? I think not. Consider: my experiences have been mostly confined to broader Europe, the Mediterranean area, Northern Africa and the Americas. On reflection I have spent less than two centuries in the Middle and Far East, and that in bits and pieces. Hardly an all-encompassing worldview, to be certain.

I understand that you might have assumed that I had traveled the world extensively since I have never offered any detailed accounting of my travels. This is partly by design and partly out of necessity, as I could not truly give anyone an accurate accounting of just where I was for the first ten or so centuries of my life. I have done some research and what I recall versus what is recorded in the historical and archeological texts fails to match up at all neatly. I could make some educated guesses, but that is all they would be.

Finally, I existed in what would best be described as semi-civilized barbarism for a large portion of that time. Not that there was no social order, but my own place in that order was always very low and constantly shifting. As a barren woman I was at the mercy of the men surrounding me- unable to bear children I was either sport or burden, but seldom if ever considered exceptionally valuable. When food became short, or other dire circumstance arose I was always expendable, hence my prolific wanderings between clans and villages. Given the suspicious and superstitious nature of folk at that time I was often forced to live on my own, in some cases for decades at a time, scratching an existence out of the wilderness and meeting only the occasional passer-by who might shelter in my hut out of need or desperation. After that time I was still a dweller on the outer fringes, but civilization advanced to the point where it was easier for me to ingratiate myself: civilization leads to wealth, and with wealth comes the ability to afford such luxuries as myself. I became more valuable as sport, and less of a burden: a gritty calculus, but one that I accept. It allowed me the time and opportunity to prove myself to be more than what I had been before.

So were I a judge, upon what should I pronounce judgment? What constitutes desperation? Or despair? A properly run brothel? A worthwhile civilization? And to whom would I render such a judgment? God? No matter what form of deity you choose to believe in I find it hard to comprehend why the Alpha and Omega would choose such a one as myself for that task.

Forgive me my stridency. I have had those in whom I have confided seek to twist the fact of my existence in to some form that would concur with their own understanding of the world and reality. I do not resent it, but neither do I enjoy it. I simply am what I am and I have yet to find any great significance to my existence. In the unlikely circumstance that I was created to some purpose I can only assume that I have proven a disappointment to my creator.

Wednesday, July 16

The bath was finally ready, the water heated with stones from the fire until it was just shy of painfully hot, and scented with the oils of flowers. The rising steam was fragrant as a garden in spring- Rufus would be pleased. For such a hard man he had an abiding love for nature and things of beauty. He surrounded himself with art and exquisitely crafted wooden and stone furnishings, as well as beautiful slaves. His banquets were famous for providing all sorts of fine food and wine as well as offering up satisfactions of all sorts of carnal appetites, of any nature. Of handsome young men and women he owned dozens.

I had become his slave almost by accident. I had been living a solitary life after washing ashore many years before. The urge for human contact had remained dormant in me until the day a ship laid anchor near the beach I called home. I had come out to greet the strange men who came ashore and there Rufus had first laid eyes upon me. We shared no language in common, but the attraction was powerful and I stayed with him that night. In the morning he made it clear he expected me to accompany him. There was no force involved, just his calm certainty that I would not deny him. He named me Felicia.

Rufus sauntered in just as the preparations were complete. Two young men relieved him of his robes and sandals and he walked with practiced ease down in to the steaming bath. He motioned to me and I stripped off my tunic then slid in to the water, suppressing a small gasp as the heat sank in to my skin. Rufus grinned at me as I took up a decanter of oil and waded to him.

“This is perfect, Felicia,” he sighed as I slid in to place behind him.

“Thank-you. We worked very hard, we know how much a good bath means to you.”

“Yes, still, I should take you with me when I travel to Rome- the great baths are magnificent!” He continued to talk as I began massaging his broad shoulders, working the warm oil in to his skin as I worked at the hard knots of his muscles. This was really a man’s job, but Rufus enjoyed my personal attentions.

“It is a place where more true commerce is conducted than anyone would care to admit,” he continued, “I have made some impressive contacts just by frequenting the baths… I had hoped to build something like them here, but there are so few true Romans about. Who would come?”

“Perhaps if you were to build something as magnificent as you dream of then more would come just to behold them?”

“You think like a man, Felicia,” he smiled, “but in the end it would come to nothing. Some would come, and they would marvel, but every praising word would be followed by ‘But in Rome…’ and they would be right. My pride would not willingly endure that,” he sighed after that statement, then continued, “But of course, I will build baths. Magnificent baths. My pride, again.”

“You war with yourself even here, when you should be relaxing in my embrace.”

Rufus laughed and turned, his muscular arms drawing me close as he looked in to my eyes.

“I’ve warned you before, Felicia: this is a bath, not a brothel,” at which point I burst out laughing because his left hand had slid up between us to cover my breast. I rubbed up against him, the firm muscled mass of his body setting my skin to tingling. All he ever had to do was touch me…

But he was serious: this was a bath. He pushed me off, gently but with firm strength and I made a show of pouting before taking up the soft spiny brush he preferred and setting about the task of bathing my master. He appreciated the flirtatiousness. He also demanded that I respect his preferences- later there would be time to light the lamp and pay homage to Venus.

Rufus was very serious Roman. He had a wife and three children in Bruttium, but had accepted a post in the “hinterlands” on the request and advice of his patron. It had been on his journey to this place that he had encountered me on that beach and as I came to understand his language I had to wonder what kind of man it was who would profess such admiration for his wife while openly keeping time with me. It took time for me to understand the he admired his wife as mother to her three children, and respected her as one who was adept at maintaining the proper social ties and proprieties, but of love there was nothing, merely an agreement to share a household and have children. Among the upper classes this was not so terribly unusual.

As for his relationship with me- Rufus had fist been intrigued by the idea that I might be a manifestation of Diana, appearing as I had clad in skins and carrying a staff. My willingness to submit to him had quickly disabused him of that notion, but he still considered it small twist of luck and fate that we should meet, hence his chosen name for me.

For me, it was all delightfully, refreshingly new.

Saturday, July 12

Joe Bowers offers the following:

Eu li apenas sua resposta a Yeti em seu blog. Eu suponho-o acredito que h? alguns para fora l? do esse o acredita. Quando você diz que somente a lata m? vem deste blog, eu n?o sigo completamente. Eu sou certo que se você sentir ameaçado, a coisa l?gica seria abandonar apenas o blog, paro de escrever. I, para um, faltaria realmente suas entradas, mas você deve proteger-se. Yeti menciona que seu corpo pode ter sido habitado pelos esp?ritos estrangeiros, mim perguntou-lhe uma vez que sobre o Nefilim... você n?o comenta naquele. Você n?o acredita em tal "absurdo"? Eu sou muito curioso sobre seus pensamentos no Nefilim. Você acredita-os existiu, e se você acreditar, n?o é ele poss?vel que você pode ser um produto deles? Eu esperarei sua resposta, se você escolher assim. Obrigado fazendo exame do momento de ler minhas perguntas.


I say that only bad things can come of this exercise in writing, and I do believe that; however, I am not so terribly concerned that I would be moved to stop just now. It is merely that there are essentially four responses to what one finds here: critical curiosity, acceptance as fiction, angry rejection, or delusional acceptance. To date I have been fortunate in encountering only those who seem to have a firm grasp of their own reality and do not feel threatened or outraged by my scribbling here. Those who would become angry over this are easily ignored. Those who are delusional can be… difficult.

As for the Yeti’s references to the Scientologists’ belief that proto-humans were invaded by alien spirits, or any reference to Nefilim, I do not hold to that belief any more than I do to supernatural manifestations such as vampires, werewolves, zombies and the like. While those tales are somewhat ubiquitous it has always seemed to me that they are more related to ignorance and are often encouraged by those in power as a method of keeping the lower orders in thrall. The idea that aliens were involved in the early development of humanity is an attractive conjecture, but lacks any truly debatable facts and as such cannot be proven or disproved nor even profitably discussed. I am aware of the stories of St. Germaine, and the various iterations of The Wandering Jew, but these have nothing to do with me. I cannot explain why, but I harbor a certainty that I am alone and I have never expended a great deal of effort in the search for others such as myself. For that matter how, exactly, does one go about tracking down an immortal being? Remember that it is only fairly recently in terms of human history that record keeping, communications and travel technologies have advanced to the point of making such a search conceivable.

Friday, July 11

Comments from The Yeti, and my responses:

On your peculiar regenerative condition.

It indeed sounds like you do not die, but rather consume fuel, which would not make you human. You could perhaps be an intelligence inhabiting a human form that was reduced to a simple parasitic state in the distant past. It would explain your comments on how you thought you were rather stupid when you first remember consciousness.

There are plenty of science fiction stories from the 60's that theorize this kind of possibility. I could look them up if you are interested.

Other possibilities - that you are what was once perceived as a minor God, as you thought yourself for a while. The Scientologists teach that precursors to human beings were invaded by alien spirits. Perhaps they are not entirely wrong, and only a few people were. Those few are destined to wander?

You raise some interesting points; however, I am not quite prepared to abandon any claim to humanity just yet. The idea that I consume fuel and that this would be sufficient to distinguish me from humankind seems a bit rash. Let me propose that you allow me to lock you in my basement and feed you nothing but water for three weeks. I daresay you would come out of it alive, but with a noticeable loss of body mass. Would I be justified in saying that you consumed your own mass as fuel?

Do not misunderstand- I freely admit that my continued existence is in and of itself sufficient to raise suspicions as to my humanity. Add to this that I apparently cannot reproduce and I have to conclude that if this is a mutation it is a singularly unsuccessful one. While immortality might seem a desirable goal for an individual it appears it would be terribly inhibiting to a species, an evolutionary dead end.

Or perhaps anyone like you truly does just learn to lay low. With the vast amount of experience gained over time, they would seem god-like to others. Or demonic, as you have found.

Jesus Christ? Mohammed? Buddha?

Of course one might begin to remember what happens to those who step forward to show a new way for humanity. Christ the Almighty has risen? How hard would that be for you to pull off?

Or perhaps myths and scary stories.

Vlad the Impaler? Zombies? Werewolves?

No doubt a person with your peculiar talents would easily inspire stories among illiterate peasants. But what might it do to a philosopher with an ability to write and on whose writings portions of societies are created.

Why did I “lay low” for so long? It was not a conscious choice at first, just a seemingly fortuitous set of coincidences which led me to move from one situation to another in a way that served to protect me from scrutiny by those too primitive to understand my nature. I am willing to entertain the idea that at some subconscious level I was aware of the danger presented by staying too long in any one place; however, by my reckoning it was some four hundred years or more before I came to fully understand and accept my condition. This implies more than just subliminal understanding, almost a programmed response. I dislike the idea that I might be some semi-autonomous device gone slightly awry.

As to myths, scary stories, etc inspired by me, I tend to doubt I have had such influences. I recently recounted probably the most public and untidy of my exits from society and that failed to generate much in the way of folklore. Of course since I make a habit of avoiding returning to places I have dwelt in the past it is possible that I did leave such things in my wake without being aware of it. Still, I tend to discount it for as I have noted before I have steadfastly avoided bringing attention to myself. Even in those rare circumstances where people began to suspect something was odd and acted against me it was never a momentous event. In most cases I was simply banished. On occasion it was worse.

What would Voltaire, or Emerson, or Thoreau have done with this knowledge.

And if there are more of your kind, is there some impulse that leads itself to eventually outing yourself to the world - like you have just done on your blog?

You count on hiding out in the open - and I'll respect your choice whatever it may be and never ask you, the suspense of not knowing of course being a fantastic creative engine on its own for me. Well done, Methuselah's Daughter. Here's to another 3500 years.

As to what impulse has led to this “outing” of myself, who can truly tell? Perhaps it is a subconscious urge to self-destruction. It is certainly frightening to be so open (and believe me, I am being deliberately obfuscatory in both my replies and my recounting of events), and in all honesty I can only see bad things coming of it. Yet still, here I am.

Monday, July 7

Acidman asked 25 questions. I heasitated, then chose to answer as best I could.

1. Do you have a personal hero? If so, who is it?

My first real husband. He was a farmer and a father of five when we met and he devoted every moment of his life to making his little corner of the world a better place for his children. He married me to fill the void left by his late wife and never stopped showing me how much he appreciated me. In a very real way he set the tone for the vast majority of my following years.

2. What is your favorite book of all time and what made it so fucking good?

Plato’s “The Last Days of Socrates” , in particular Crito where Socrates defines his respect for law even though it demands his life.

3. What does “diversity” mean to you?

Freedom and respect. No more, no less.

4. What is the wildest thing you’ve ever done?

Oh, my. I am not certain the provider’s TOS will let me be explicit. Does scratching my way out a shallow grave count?

5. Do you regret doing it?


6. Can you drive a stick shift?

Of course

7. What’s the highest speed you ever traveled in a car?


8. Were you driving, or riding at the time?

I was behind the wheel but I am not certain you could truly call it driving. It was more of a desperate struggle to stay on the road.

9. Which is better: snakes or spiders?

Snakes- they make a better meal.

10. What is the most disgusting thing you ever ate?

Oh, the possibilities. Raw human flesh, I suppose. It is not so bad when cooked.

11. Have you ever shit your pants? Be HONEST!


12. Was losing your virginity an enjoyable experience?

Immensely, if I was actually a vigin at the time. It was all so confusing.

13. Should oral sex be outlawed or encouraged?

Encouraged. Silly question.

14. Name one man with a fine ass.

In the modern pantheon? Ah-nuld, circa 1980

15. Do you watch golf on television? If not, will you iron my shirts?

No and No.

16. Who is Martha Burk?

A very earnest woman with a chip on her shoulder the size of Texas. She means well.

17. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Physically? I wish I could have children. Personally? I would like to sharpen my wit and stop sounding so arrogant when I write.

18. Do you eat raw oysters?


19. Are you claustrophobic?


20. If you rode a motorcycle, would you wear a helmet even if the law said you didn‘t have to?

No. In my case it is somewhat pointless.

21. Name five great Presidents.
Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy R. and Nixon.

22. Name three shitty Presidents.
Grant, Taft, and Nixon

23. Now call me fanny and slap my ass. Just kidding.

That will cost you $1500 in advance.

24. This is the 4th of July. Did you set off any fireworks?

No. I leave it to the professionals

25. If you could have dinner and conversation with anyone in the history of the planet, who would you choose?
Sulla. He dared to flirt with Empire and had his name damned for it.

Saturday, July 5

More e-mail from Joe Bowers, whom I have mentioned before. He touches on some topics that I have been reluctant to speak to:

Do you keep friends that are ignorant of what you are? Telling untruths to hide your nature? Destined to leave them after a decade (or a little more) and never to meet them again? That has to be hard on you, not being able to get close to anyone, not having something lasting. It must be incredibly lonely to be immortal

Those I would call friends are few and very far between. Friends must be confided in, and even those whose company I truly enjoy usually cannot be trusted with the truth. I do not enjoy lying and I go to great pains to avoid situations where I would be forced to lie to someone I care about. Most times this is accomplished by remaining aloof and refusing to care, painful as that can be. In the end it is the most merciful solution for all involved.

I have married, but I have always chosen my husbands carefully- men who already have families, who are looking for a surrogate mother for their children or grandchildren, or who realistically have no prospects of ever having a family. I am not so cruel as to deny a man his chance at the only form of immortality available to him simply to satisfy my own emotional needs; furthermore, the deeper my ties the harder it is to move on. Better that I be the young bride in a May/December marriage.

Loneliness. There is a topic I deliberately avoid dwelling upon. I cannot truthfully say that I experience loneliness because my life has been so solitary for so very long that I am not sure I have any true understanding of the concept. Do I enjoy the company of others? Yes, I most certainly do. Can I tolerate being completely alone? A meaningless question for I am completely alone and so far I have tolerated my existence quite well. And yet… I keep this very public journal, something I have never done before in any way, shape or form. I keep no written diaries, no journals; I leave no traces of myself in the history books, but I decided to begin this site. It is addictive- I enjoy telling these tales, discussing things with strangers that I have kept from all but a few confidantes. It occurs to me that I have never in my life gone in to such detail and the act of revelation is thrilling in a way I have not experienced before. I know the day is coming when I must abandon this and for the first time in a very, very long time I feel reluctance at the thought of moving on. Perhaps when I do I will again become acquainted with loneliness?

Friday, July 4

It is time to update the blogroll. Generally I will link to anyone who links to me so long as I find his or her site interesting. Fortunately for most people my tastes are broad and I enjoy topics from domestic realities to engineering to politics and beyond.

I did finally remove Glenn Reynolds since it seemed somewhat pointless to include him. I rest easy with that choice, confident that should he notice (quite unlikely) he would understand.

New entries include Etherian's Island and Dreaming Witch, sites I encountered via my referrals and which I enjoy reading. She's a Flight Risk I found via Pointy Ears after I noticed a flurry of referrals. If you read Isabella's tale you might understand my affinity for her. Finally, The Yeti is simply refreshing- my thanks to Weekend Pundit for guiding me there.

The last two posts were supposed to be a single entry, but suddenly Blogger's new and improved tool dislikes large posts. I would complain, were it not a free service.

As always, one gets what one pays for:).

Part 2

“Think she’s got any jewelry on ‘er?” Lester asked. I felt the hands reach for my arms and I let him pull them forward, then opened my eyes and drew a loud rasping breath through my ruined throat as I cocked the pistol an put the barrel firmly against Lester’s forehead.

For a full second, two seconds, the tableau was frozen. Lester’s eyes went wide and Zed froze. Even in the moonlit darkness I could see the color drain from their faces. Then Zed screamed. Lester’s eyes rolled back and he simply crumpled to the ground in a dead faint. I shifted my aim to Zed, but he was already scrambling backwards out of the grave, twisting around as he lurched to his feet. He made two steps and tripped over one of the shovels, hitting the ground with a sharp ‘crack ‘ as his head struck a pickaxe lying on the ground.

I pulled myself free of the casket as Lester moaned at my feet. I gave him a good thump with the blunt end of the chisel to ensure he remained out until I could decide what to do. Climbing out of the hole I grabbed Lester by his shirt and dragged him up next to Zed, then set about collecting the contents of my bag. Next I took the lid of the casket and did the best I could to pound it back in to place. Finally, I managed to work it back in to the grave just as Lester began moaning.

Time for hard choices to be made.

Lester struggled back to consciousness and promptly began retching up the contents of his stomach. I stood back until he finished and he finally sat up and looked about him, seeing Zed still unconscious on the ground, then turning and seeing me, my pistol trained on him. For a moment I thought he was going to faint again, but he simply stared.

I motioned for him to get up and he crawled unsteadily to his feet. I tried to speak, but all I could manage was a rasping croak, not at all helpful under the circumstances. I motioned to one of the shovels and to the grave. Warily he took up the tool and began filling the hole.

“I don’ know what the hell you are, lady, but Zed an’ I, we wasn’t tryin’ to be… disrespectful…”

I had to grin at that and he saw it, and it seemed to make him relax a bit. I let him go on as he filled the grave because it told me what I most needed to know. I had made certain that a rumor spread that I had been buried with an unspecified treasure in a bag. It had been easy to do- an offhand comment here, a little slip there- just enough information so that after I was buried someone might get just curious enough to decide to see if it were true. Had I been able to escape on my own they would find an empty casket and assume somebody had beaten them to it. Otherwise it was my back-up method to escape; a very messy back-up plan, but a functional one. After all, here I was on the proper side of the grass again, yes?

Zed began stirring and soon was busy filling in the grave beside Lester. It was clear to me that the two of them had heard the rumors, gotten all liquored up, had somehow managed to figure out where Joseph had buried me and had come to see if there was a fortune to be had. In all honesty my plan had been that if I had to wait for somebody to dig me out they would be going in to the grave in my place, but the two of them were just so… pathetic.

When the hole was filled I stood and walked over to where they had tied their horses. I picked the better of the two and mounted up, every muscle in my body sore and protesting. My mind was in a fog and I still was unsure I was doing the right thing, but there had been enough killing in this sad little episode of my life. I trotted up to the two of them and lifted my purse. I still had no voice, managing only a hoarse whisper.

“I suspect the two of you may be wise enough to avoid ever speaking of what happened here tonight.”

“I wouldn’t dare, ma’am.”

“No, ma’am, not a word.”

“Good,” I tossed the purse on the ground before them, “you might want to give up drinking, too. Just a piece of advice.”

With that I wheeled the horse about and set off. The sky was growing light behind me as dawn approached and I had a keen desire to put distance between this place and myself. I had a destination chosen and this time, with just a little luck, no one would be on my heels.

Part 1

Warm, dark and quiet- I could hear the slow rhythm of the beating of my heart, hypnotic in its promise of new sunrises to be seen. Awareness came upon me slowly, stealing up on quiet paws to slowly, carefully prod me back towards understanding. Finally I took in a slow, ragged breath, my chest relaxing as air finally streamed in to my lungs. Oxygen invigorates me and I was finally cognizant of where I was.

The casket was small and I could not easily move. I had to force myself to be calm, to move slowly and deliberately- the supply of air was very, very small- each breath gave a burst of energy that had to be husbanded and applied in a tightly focused manner.

My hands were crossed over my chest, but something was underneath them, between my palms and my breasts- my bag. Joseph had not failed me. Stiff fingers were forced in to painful action, pulling open the loosely sewn seams, allowing me to draw out the small, flat iron tool. I reached up and traced my fingers across the lid inches above my face, feeling in the utter blackness for the edge that I knew must be there… yes, just there.

My casket was plain, just a pine box with no fancy adornments. But in the lid I had had the carpenter cut out a section and put in an inlaid design- a stylized family crest. Not mine, of course, but he had accepted my desire to have it on the casket, though he questioned why I would want it placed as in insert rather than simply attached to the top of the lid. Money had been enough to quell his curiosity and I could now tell that it had been money well spent.

The tool twisted in my grip as I worked it up against the edge of the insert, worrying it in between the lid and the plaque. I had to be careful not to over exert myself- if I used up what little oxygen there was in the casket I would slip in to stasis again and then my only hope for a quick escape would be a very shaky and messy back-up plan. As I pried at the joint I became concerned: the carpenter had done a very thorough job. I was going to have to work a lot harder to loosen it than I had planned.

A noise intruded. Thumping, irregular, scraping and growing louder: Good God, somebody was digging! Had it been that long?

I fumbled with the bag again, caution gone now, for the next few minutes were going to be ugly in the extreme. I clutched the tool in my left hand and in the right I gripped a small one-shot pistol. It could drop a man at close range; otherwise it would merely be an annoyance. I had wanted something larger, but had been constrained by my desire not to provoke Joseph’s curiosity.

I listened carefully, trying to count how many were digging. As they got closer to the casket I could tell there were only two of them, and from the sound of them, they were likely drunk. I jumped when a shovel blade struck the lid of the casket.

“Here it is, Zed!” one grunted. The sounds of scraping and digging continued, the two men muttering to each other in slurred speech.

“C’mon Lester, gi’mee a hand up with this.”

The casket lurched up at the head as they drew it up to an angle, with the head end perched on the edge of the grave. Then they attacked the lid with a pry bar. I closed my eyes and held absolutely still- it was possible I could get out of this cleanly. Unlikely, but possible.

The lid came off with a creaking protest of nails drawn from wood and cool, sweet, fresh air caressed my face, tempting me to draw a deep breath.

“Well, will you look at that,” the one named Zed declared, “she sure don’t look like she been in the ground two weeks.”

“I would’n know, Zed. Damn! There’s the bag!”

I had let the bag drop to my feet. My arms were crossed over my chest, the pistol and the chisel as concealed as I could manage. One of them fetched up the bag and tore it open. I heard my money purse hit the ground and Lester giggled as he hefted it.

“Now why would she be getting’ put in her grave with all this gold?”

They were laughing, counting their treasure and I kept hoping that they would take what they had found and go. But they were greedy.