She was dangerous and half-mad.
Her name was Patience Blood, and she was a woman I loved dearly.
Patience was the product of a father poisoned by lead and a mother to whom the fey spoke.
She was my cousin, the elder by ten years, and the universe revolved around her as far as I was concerned. My Uncle Nathaniel would come and stay for months on an island, and he would bring both Patience and his wife with him. He would run ‘round the island, naked as the day is long, screaming at God to try and strike him down. My Aunt Elizabeth would sit at the water’s edge, lean close to it, and listen as the merfolk broke the surface and whispered secrets no human should ever hear.
Patience would run wild on our land. My father, when he was still in Cross, would shake his head at the madness of the family, but he let them each do as they would.
As for me, when my chores were finished, I followed Patience like a lovesick puppy. She taught me how to move through the woods, how to speak with the fey, and how to listen to the damned as they marched from one place in Hell to another.
Her father vanished in 1901, and her mother slipped into the water and joined the merfolk a year after. Patience drifted from place to place, often journeying deep into Gods’ Hollow, the same place where my father vanished.
I last saw her in 1930, when she walked out of the Hollow. There was a strangeness to her then. The way she spoke was frightening, almost devoid of emotion as she related her tales. Her smile was true, though, and when she asked me to walk with her to the family burial ground, I felt an old and almost forgotten thrill.
At the graves of our ancestors, I helped open a small crypt half-buried in a hill. Once there, she gave me a kiss goodbye and this photograph. Patience disappeared into the crypt’s darkness without a word. I sealed the door closed behind her the same way.
Sitting here and holding her image, I can recall the hours I spent outside the crypt, hoping she would change her mind. Hoping she would come home to me.
She never did.
Sometimes, late at night, as I lay sleepless in my bed, I can hear her walking with the damned.