Prologue"I care too much for those near me.

Some say to love and care are the same things. I disagree. You can love something or someone and very easily throw them away once you have expended enough energy towards them. Love is a selfish thing, care is selfless. You would have thought in the 355 years of my existence I would have learned not to care. It hurts too much, it stings, burns and freezes. However after all the loss I have lived through, knowing that those alive today can very easily be snuffed out of existence, I care more for their fragile lives than can ever be understood. Maybe it is the condition of my curse. For all the benefits of never dying, I am destined to be alone. My one chance at everlasting love was taken from me on the same day that my life (or unlife) was forever changed. I was a different person then, innocent, naive and foolish. That does not cheapen the fact that my love was real. With his greyblue eyes like a stormy sea, his noble dimpled chin and a sweet smile that could light up a room. I regret that in my selfish love of him and my lack of care I brought about his demise.If you are faint-hearted or easily moved to tears do not read on. I hope you are prepared. For I have a harsh communion for you to partake of. There is joy in my story, it's only purpose to further illuminate the shadows of my despair

and loneliness. This tale does not have a happy ending, nor an ending at all. As civilizations are born and then crumble I will continue to be."

Chapter 1 I was born into a decade of turmoil. From a society where extravagance was the norm, to piety and servitude to the christian God. From poets, ornate clothing and jewels, satire, debauchery, vulgarity and a place where excess was worshipped. To piety, the belief that God was the only true authority, the only true pathway to heaven by rejecting all ' sins of the flesh'. At the time before my birth the King was God appointed, a ruler without question and the most extravagant of them all.

From what I can gather the revolution started with a whimper. No one spoke aloud about their puritanical faith. Except maybe those who had a death wish. In hushed meetings my parents and others like-minded showed their true selves and brought about the temporary destruction of royalty.

My parents were moderately wealthy. In a word comfortable. A family with five children, myself being the youngest.

Religiously dedicated to the Bible my mother ran the household but my father was the king in this home. Bible study and prayer while breaking fast, further schooling before lunch, then the afternoon was free for chores or prayer.

In the year I was born Cromwell led parliament in an uprising against the King, Charles I. I did not comprehend until many years later the integral part my family played in the revolution.

Being the fifth child in a household over-populated by women was no easy task. As a young child I had everything any little girl could ask for. A sound roof over my head, meals every day, schooling, clean clothes, both a mother and father alive and well. Everything except freedom. To say my parents were overbearing and controlling was a major understatement, but it was normal at that time. My sisters were content with the life my parents had mapped out for them, but I was full of fantastical ambitions. Countless times I was scolded for neglecting my studies for day-dreaming, or talking too much while I was supposed to be doing chores. Being 10 years younger than the next sister, I was the most different of all. To emphasise the already prevalent issue of a personality clash, I also looked nothing like the rest of the women in my family. My

sisters and mother were all honey blonde, rounded features, statuesque and curvaceous, pink cheeked with generous bosoms. I, on the other hand, was dark haired, narrow faced, short in comparison, white as parchment, with a very slight, slim build. This was not the epitome of beauty at that time, it was thanks to Hollywood, centuries later, that slim became the new voluptuous. If it wasn't for my strong resemblance to my father I would have honestly questioned my lineage.

At 16, I was the only child left in the household. My sisters had married and moved away and I had become nothing if not a burden. My greatest relief during that time was my friendship with a boy my age, William. He was my polar opposite, outgoing, happy, peaceable and grounded but interesting. To my darkness he was light, when I was brooding he would tell jokes and stories to cheer me up. He distracted me from the routine of reality.

My parents were trying to instigate a marriage with a man from the local church for me. He was a widower with a family estate east of the local village. Thomas McLaren was my parent's ideal for marrying off their youngest troubling daughter. I did not fight this as I knew it had been decided. I

may have ended up with a simple life if Thomas was what he appeared to be.

As my parents set up my marriage with Thomas they discouraged me from spending time with William. As I was 'of an age' they deemed it inappropriate for me to be alone with a lowly stable-master's son, just in case the devil tempted us.

Many centuries later I can remember that particular cloudy day more clearly than this morning's news. Thomas had been courting me several months by that time, he was polite, careful, if a bit stuffy and my parents thought everything was sorted out. I'd finished my Bible lessons for the day and it was time for my afternoon ritual of strolling or riding with Mr McLaren. Every day after lunch at 2:00PM on the dot, Thomas would come by my parents estate and we would go off into the woods.

On this day Thomas promised a special surprise for me. As we rode through the woods I noticed we were following a different path than was usual. A lot further than we would normally travel. I asked about getting home in time, and he assured me that he had spoken with my father about his plans (I found out

later that he told my father we were going to the local church, which was several miles away, to pray for blessing on our upcoming nuptials)

As we travelled further I saw a change come over Thomas. He started asking strange questions about my friendships with the local farm boys. How much time we spent alone in the barn? How long had I known them? As well as other odd queries such as: how much had I seen of the farm animal's during breeding season? Being naive and 16 I couldn't understand where the questions were leading. But for all my innocence I did get a sinking chill throughout my body. At that point I looked into his eyes and they were piercing and alien. Completely removed from their usual careful gentleness, it appeared as if a mask had fallen away.

Without wishing to be rude I enquired as to how much longer journey would take. He grunted, looked away and mumbled, "not far". A few minutes later we came upon a clearing. A picnic rug was laid upon the ground with a basket off to the side.

I could feel my heart beats slow as I chastised myself for being

so silly. My mother had always said that Satan was constantly fighting for control of our thoughts. That must have been why I had become suspicious of this man. My family had known him for years and I, in turn, had gotten to know him in the last few months. God, through my father, had ordained that we'd be together and everything in God's plan was always perfect.

Thomas helped me down from the horse, his fingers lingered just a second too long on my waist. There was Satan making me imagine things again. I shook my head to clear my thoughts and set about arranging our afternoon tea while Thomas tethered our horses to a couple of trees. I knelt down to open up the basket, there was nothing in there! I realised his servants must have brought the wrong basket, that was all it could be. I turned my head toward him to tell him...

Today, I remember that thought clearer than anything else in my existence. As Thomas leapt on top of me, knocking me flat against the ground, his hand clasped over my mouth, bruising my lips and whispering hatefully in my ear. That previous thought was the last I ever had as an innocent girl.

...

I awoke. The room was dark save for the candle in the opposite corner. I couldn't remember how I ended up here? I was laying in bed, my hair was wet and I smelt of camphor. Someone must have bathed me. My body felt heavy and bruised, like the time I'd fallen off my horse, my mouth was dry, lips peeling and I couldn't focus my thoughts. Struggling to sit up I ran through my last memory.

It was day, I was riding through the woods with Thomas ... Images started flashing through my mind, and feelings, terrible feelings. Pins pushing sharply into the back of my head. A warm hand grasping my thigh. Cold dark eyes, penetrating me. Something else pushing under my skirt. And I was crying, crying, pleading, no, no, no. Then the words in my ear, "if you tell anyone, I will kill you".

I screamed. Or tried to scream, but no sound came out. Inside my own head I was screaming so loudly I was sure everyone in the estate could hear me. Wrestling with the bed-clothes, I tried to get off the bed. On the third attempt I was standing beside it, the room started to tilt... then everything faded away.

...

A hen like clucking brought me back from my mental abyss. I was back in my bed, light pushing against my eyelids.

"She has lost her mind the poor dear"

"Mr McLaren said she was a thing possessed ..."

"She always was a strange one"

"But to think she did those things to herself, and in a church no less ..."

With consciousness there was pain. I couldn't handle the knowledge, so I slept.

...

"... had enough of your laziness, you have gone and made a right mess. Did you know your father and I spent days calming your betrothed down? Thomas had a right mind to report your

behaviour to the church, you are lucky your father stepped in and blamed it on some bad..."

The voice continued on. I knew there would be no more peace, so I opened my eyes.

"Oh decided to come back with the living now, have you?"

My mother stood at the end of the bed; hands on her hips, toe tapping.

"Now what have you to say for yourself?"

I considered telling her the truth. I didn't know how to explain it. At least if I started with an apology it might calm her down. I went to say the words, but all that came out was air. I'd completely lost my voice! I couldn't even whisper.

"Nothing to say is there? You know that God is watching, he will judge you..."

I just stared at her helplessly.

"Well if you aren't going to tell me, you can explain yourself to him then." She sighed.

"Now get up and you can resume your studies. There will be no outing with Thomas this afternoon, nor any other afternoon for that matter. He's called the engagement off. I don't blame him either, I don't know what we are going to do with you now after the... incident... I just don't know, if we were catholic I'd send you to a nunnery. Why are you just gaping at me? Get up! Get dressed! You can see if God will forgive you for this insanity."

I did as she asked, for the next week I went through the motions with chores and study. All the while unable to even squeak, just as if I'd ceased to exist. At meal times I ate what was in front of me like a mindless animal, all the while staring ahead and trying to ignore those around me. During that week, while in bible study I poured over the Old Testament, searching for an answer to what God thought of me now. One morning I found it.

"DEUTERONOMY Ch22 v23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband,

and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;

v24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you."

Those verses perfectly applied to me! God wanted me to die for what had happened. I couldn't tell anyone the truth, especially not my parents. The word of God was law. If the bible said that was what had to be done, they might actually do it. I was thankful for that verse, it brought me back, I realised I didn't want to die. Something that did die within me at that moment was any trust or faith in a loving God.

...

After this revelation I still had to maintain my studies. I was well on the way to ignoring this god that apparently wished my death. However, regardless of what I thought, I had to prove myself to my parents. They believed me besieged by the devil. I still couldn't speak a word to them, even if I were able, what

would I say? The story they had been told by Thomas was just too believable. Rather than focussing on my parents ideas, which I could not change, instead I put my energy towards planning a means of escape.

I was still forbidden from seeing William, especially after all that had transpired. So I maintained an appearance of normality in the hope my parents would change their minds. Despite my best efforts they were increasingly suspicious of me because I couldn't communicate with them verbally.

One afternoon a few weeks later, as I strolled through the fields surrounding my home, I saw a shape that was far too incongruent with the surrounding trees. It was William. I glanced back toward the house and confirmed that my mother was no longer watching me. I ran full speed towards William. I knew I only had a few minutes to organise a proper meeting for later.

"Is it true, what they are all saying?" He asked with a shake of his head. "William..." I paused, shocked that speech came naturally to me after weeks of nothing.

"None of it is true, in fact it is much worse." Speaking in hushed whispers, just in case someone overheard, we organised to meet that evening once everyone was asleep.

The hours leading up to that night felt like they stretched on for weeks. It was apparent that my miracle of speech was limited to William only. The afternoon went on just the same as any other. Finally it was time to leave. The moon was high and proud, the only light that permeated the darkness. As I crept out of the silent house, my heart beat a staccato rhythm: It was saying "They will find out,They will find out,They will find out" over and over. I ignored it.

I met William in the stables. No one was there at that time of night and the horses were too busy sleeping to pay us any mind. As we sat on some bales of hay I told him everything. What had really transpired, what Thomas had done to me, my alarming discovery in the bible. All of the pent up words, emotions and fears came flooding out. I talked on and on until I was hoarse. He just sat there silently, listening to every thought that came out of my mouth. I was as if he instinctually knew exactly what I needed. It came to the point where I had

nothing else to say. So I just sat there, my head on his shoulder, my hand in his, crying silent tears.

It felt like no time had passed at all when we had to leave. It had been so beautiful reveling in our friendship with each other, we both agreed to continue meeting every evening at the same time.

As the days and nights wore on we grew together, our friendship blossoming into something more. Gone were the days for childish games and frivolity. My experiences had scarred me and William was becoming a man.

After a month of these evenings together, we sat speaking of our ideals for the future. Without knowing how I found myself kissing him. I found I didn't care how it had started I just knew I didn't want it to end.

Emotion filled my body, It was warm and wonderful and made my heart ache—in a good way. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and our lips met. The kiss was pure love, sweet and blissful, with no despair or darkness. Steadily, though, the intensity of our kissing increased. It was still filled with love but became much more—something

hungry and powerful. It was like we were starving or drowning, and only the other person could save us. I clung to him, one arm around his neck while my other hand gripped his back so hard that my nails practically dug in. He laid me back down on the hay. His hands wrapped around my waist, and then one of them slid down the back of my thigh and pulled it up so that it nearly wrapped around him. At the same time, we both pulled back briefly, still oh so close. Everything in the world rested on that moment. When I looked into his gentle blue eyes, I could see without a doubt that he loved me more than anyone else in the world, that I was his salvation, the same way that he was mine. Then his mouth was on mine again, and this time, I knew there would be no turning back.All of our clothes finally ended up in a pile on the floor, but the feel of his skin on mine was more than enough to keep me warm. I couldn't tell where my body ended and his began, and I decided then that was how I always wanted it to be. I didn't want us to ever be apart. When it was over, I lay back against him. My body hurt…yet at the

same time, it felt amazing, blissful and content. Time didn't
exist anymore.

"Arabella!" Time started again. I came out of the haze long enough to see my mother, father and William's father storming into the stables. The barn door slammed fully open as they came through the doorway, we were up, doing the dance of the guilty. His shirt thrown on, our clothing buttoned, hair rearranged. However it was too late for that. The look of horror on my mother's face almost made me smile through my panic. Gone were her usually rosy cheeks, her face was as white as parchment. As I turned to look at my father any semblance of mirth died away. He was as red as my mother was white, like a kettle about to boil over. I knew at that point I was beyond redemption in their eyes.

As these thoughts were going through my mind my father grabbed William and started screaming at him. "you're the reason my daughter has lost her mind!" William tried to protest but my father was shaking him so hard, all that came out was a teeth-chattering groan.

Meanwhile my mother was staring stonily at me. Wordlessly she turned me around, bent me over and stuck her hand up under my nightgown and into me. I was so shocked I couldn't even struggle. As she pulled out I heard scuffling behind me so I turned around. For a second I saw William tied up in the corner, hands and feet together with a gag in his mouth. Then my mother gave me a resounding slap across the face.

"It's as I suspected husband, they've been sneaking out to have relations." Raising an eyebrow my father ground out through his teeth, "No daughter of mine would act in such a wanton way unless she'd been seduced by the devil." "Devil!" William's father exclaimed. "My son is no devil, surely I would have known if I had a hellish entity living under my roof." "This is ridiculous!" Three pairs of eyes alighted on me from my outburst. My father pointed at me. "Behold, she speaks. Only in the presence of your son has she dared utter a word. I say she is under his spell, there can be no other explanation for how she has been behaving. William's father ran a hand through his hair and stared at his

bound child. Following his stare I saw that William was crying unashamedly, aware that judgement was upon him. It felt like my stomach was filled with rocks. I knew this was a defining moment.

"You must be right, John. This demon can be no son of mine." My father nodded gravely. "Ready a bonfire, we must be rid of this threat on our souls." William started struggling against his bindings, "NO!" I cried out, my mothers warm hands grabbing me from behind. I was no match for her robust strength. "I can explain everything, please don't blame William. If you'll just listen to me." My father turned to my mother. "Gag and tie her my dear, anything she says now will be a lie, We don't need her poisoning our minds. We will bring her to witness the burning so that she will know the consequences of consorting with Satan."

We were thrown onto horses and rode into the village like trussed game on display. Wood was brought and villagers were woken by the town bell combined with shouts of "Witness the death of a demon!" I was thrown onto the ground at the same

time as a post was erected in the town square, wood was spread along the base, stacked high.

They tied my true love to that post. Villagers jeering, whispering, making catcalls. As the fire was lit, an eery orange glow covered the town square. I prayed for the release of the one person I could trust in this world. No pardon came. I watched as the fire rose higher and William started to burn, the smell of smoldering clothes filling the air. I was already in hell. No god would hear me now. He burned and burned, villagers laughing, my father and mother standing idly by. All the while he couldn't express his pain for the gag in his mouth. This was agony, but I couldn't look away. As the fire raged on I saw the light leave his eyes. Mercifully he didn't have to endure the pain any longer.

I didn't see them take his remains away, nor the clearing away of the ashes. By that point I was so mentally and physically exhausted that I just lay in the dirt, staring at nothing. After the hubbub had died down my mother finally untied me and took the piece of cloth out of my mouth. Now that it was all done she'd deemed it safe for me to have freedom of movement, It was too late to stop anything now.

She was almost gentle with me, covering me up with a blanket, bundling me onto the horse and climbing on behind. She accompanied me back to our estate. As we entered the stables I started crying uncontrollably. She led me up into the house, took me to my room, undressed me and started to clean off all the dirt I'd accumulated during this nights events. It wasn't until she started speaking that I came out of my shock-induced stupor.

"I'm glad this fuss is all over and one with. Maybe now things can go back to normal. The evil influence has been taken care of so you can come back to God now, if he'll have you."

"Evil?" I shrieked before even realising I was speaking. "William was the only good in my life and you took him away."

My mother shook her head. "Poor child, that was not William anymore, it was a demon disguised in his body, sent by Satan to tempt you, and from the evidence it clearly worked."

A red haze started to cloud my vision. "Do you have no remorse for killing a person in such a cruel way? William never did a thing wrong, while you and father turned your backs on

me, he supported me, Actually cared about the truth. You... ignorant.. woman!" My mother advanced on me, grabbing my shoulders, nails digging into my skin. "How dare you call me ignorant! You insufferable little girl. I've been looking out for your soul. A thankless task. I hope that one day you will appreciate and understand the sacrifices I have made for you."

"I will never appreciate murder, mother. I hate you, I hate your god that wishes nothing but death for me. You are an old sow that has grown feeble-minded from too many birthings. I will always and forever hate you."

She pushed me to the ground, towering over me, my head cracked against the wall. Blood was trickling down my arms from crescent-shaped incisions where her nails had pierced my skin.

"I curse you child. For you will never know the loving arms of the lord. You will wander throughout eternity, never close to anyone for you will drain them as you have drained me."

My mother's voice quietened, deeper in timbre than I had ever

heard it.

"No love will be kept and no child will be born from you. You are cursed and rejected by all. Embrace the darkness that you have hidden within. This will be your existence. Alone, unwanted and always in the shadows."

A chill crept up my spine, and without knowing how,I found myself standing in front of her. All my anger faded away, I only wanted just to be held by her. I reached out for her slowly, my face coming to rest on her chest. As in a trance she wrapped both arms around me as I stood breathing in her floral scent. I listened to the slow thudding of her heart. A wave of euphoria washed over me, every nerve-ending tingling, similar to how I had felt with William in the stables. Then it was quiet. Too quiet. My mother's arms had dropped to her side. I realised I could no longer hear her heart beat. I let go of her and her body crashed to the floor.. She was smiling peacefully but her skin was so translucent it was grey. I knew she was dead. I also knew in that moment that somehow I had caused it. All thoughts stopped. I ran.

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