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I love history. I love old things. I very much enjoy standing in a house near a tree on a stone once part of an ancient thing and think: Many, many, years ago someone maybe very much like myself stood in this place wearing this or that. Holding a long lost item or playing with long dead children.
My wife would tease me often whilst on holiday; ‘Here we go again. Mr. boring as hell history man wants to go touch old shit.’ She was right of course. I would touch old things. I was obsessed with it. An ancient Celtic stone, cannon said to have been used by pirates, now preserved and stuffed with concrete. Every little scratch and pockmark tells a story.
I once viewed (and touched) several centuries of ancient graffiti engraved by prisoners in an old fortress. Most of the fortress had changed through time but this one large stone room had served as a prison throughout. A Roman fortress in England it was used by both parties until the end of the 17th century. Roman prisoners with markings and language far beyond my understanding left the first marks with the final layers left by Dutch Sailor’s held there near the end of its service. The last words of condemned men…My Dutch Wife was pulled into the unfortunate chore of translating each and every old Dutch sentence for my benefit. After twenty minutes she became bored and stormed of saying, ‘Your Dutch is better than you think! Translate it yourself. I’ll meet you in the café.’ And so I did.
The comments were mundane but fascinating! Cursing their captor, advising (no one really) of their presence by giving their name and ship. Praising their Captain and saying goodbye to loved ones. I was growing tired and started to become conscious of time when I noticed a rather long chunk of text written near the bottom of the wall with a bit carrying onto the floor. What drew my attention to this was that it was in English. It read:
‘Thus I end this day on this floor. Engles I spake to curse thee English. My last time I take to carve with blade hidden for thee as scurvy now sends me. Blade found no English hearts but mine words will take a English sole. So say I this last day I see. Curse thee and in Hell share we.’
‘Wow!’ I thought. What an amazing bit of text! And this sailor died right here! I felt the wall as I knelt where his head might have rested. Or perhaps it was lower. If he was weak and dying from scurvy he was prone for the last bit which is why it carried on the ground. As I stood up, flushed with the new discovery I felt a slight poke under my right heel.
I moved my foot away and looked closely. There embedded in the mortar between the foundation stones was a glint of metal. I quickly kneeled again and examined it closely. There a centimetre above the floor was the head of some sort of blade. An arrow head perhaps I thought immediately but then I thought of the text…
I eagerly tested the grout between the lying stones and found what I already knew would be the case. It was loose and crumbly and easily removed with the tip of my finger. It was late in the day and the cell part of the fortress was empty. I began to work on it quickly. Always thinking in the back of my mind that this was something I could bring to the museum as a new discovery. I would take it there straight away and turn it in…But then, a deeper darker side of my mind was in control. It advised if this item was what I thought it was I would not turn it in…I would indeed keep this item. Because the writing on the wall and the emerging knife blade and…yes! Yes! It was indeed such an item! Far too large to be an arrow head…This and the story was mine! I read them…I was part of this moment and I of all the visitors to this dark and horrible yet wondrous place found this piece of history. A symbol of the final act of defiance from a desperate, dying, man!
It was beautiful. A bit pitted with a small amount of rust but in excellent condition! The hilt had been removed for easy concealment on only the metal blade remained with a bit of the end that would have rested in the (most likely) bone or wooden handle. It rested quite comfortably in the breast pocket of my tweed jacket. The material thick enough that not even an outline of the blade was visible. My Wife, impatient, lead the way out to our auto. As we walked down the path through the parking area a large tour bus was unloading in front of us. Older couples disembarked with the help of the driver. I heard them speaking Dutch and I joked with my Wife ‘More Dutchies for the cells!’ She looked back smiling. As we approached the last of the passengers were walking toward the fort whilst the driver looked on pulling out an old…pipe? Clay. I recognized it right away. One of the old clay style pipes popular in the 17th century. He was thumbing in tobacco from an old worn leather pouch. A quaint little gimmick for the tourists perhaps? But why did he present it after they left? We were approaching him quickly as our car was down and slightly right of the bus. As my Wife passed I continued to study the man as he lit his pipe with a…taper? The man took a long drag of the tobacco and blew smoke. As it cleared I was ready to pass him when I saw his weatherworn face and sun bleached blonde hair. His eyes were ocean blue with a fine pattern of wind etched wrinkles in the corners…and he was smiling.
My foot caught on something right as I passed and I went sprawling. Face first in the hard packed dirt of the auto lot. I landed hard and the breath was knocked out of me. I gave a yell as my Wife came running back shouting. Hands helped me up and I was on my feet. My Wife was looking at me asking if I was all right. I felt dizzy and there was a deep pain in my chest. I looked down and saw the very short handle end of the blade sticking from my jacket pocket. A dark stain had begun to grow around the blade…I took one moment to look behind me to the man whom I knew had triggered my death but there was no one there…
Now dear reader I finish my curse. In life I was a man of many words and so in death I walk the same path.
It will come. The dagger has been placed again. You may stub your toe or prick your finger and wonder… Is it there? Is it time? Or perhaps it was placed in a more mundane location. Under the bed… In a closet… Or… Give a feel behind the screen… Let’s touch some old shit together shall we?
From Hell… See you soon.
Credit To – Brando