She thanked me for her grave.
I’d gone out to Tod Island to make sure it was free of interlopers from the Hollow, and I found a young woman’s body.
She was dead, though only recently so. And I couldn’t see a damned thing wrong with her.
I scouted around a bit and discovered she’d made a bit of shelter and a fine one at that. She’d built it out of deadfall and long grass against a boulder, and she’d left an opening just large enough to crawl through. Once inside, I found a musette bag and the dead embers of a campfire. Above the firepit was a partially covered hole, one that would have kept the weather from getting in while letting the smoke from the fire out.
Whoever she was, she’d been smarter than most.
In her shelter, I emptied her musette bag and saw a bit of food, a change of clothes, and a journal. Upon opening the journal, I saw it was in a language I didn’t know, but there was a photograph of the young woman. She looked into the camera without anything hidden behind her eyes. In their depths, I could see her knowledge of betrayal, and I wish I’d known who she was and why she’d come to my island to die.
I put the photograph in my breast pocket and went back out to where her body lay. The ground beside her was soft, the air filled with the sweet smell of lilacs and the buzzing of bees.
Without hesitation, I began to dig with my hands.
It took a long time to dig her grave, but I succeeded and covered her face with her spare shirt. I didn’t bother speaking any words over her body. There was no need. I hadn’t known who she was or whether she was fair or foul.
I did know she needed a decent burial.
When I finished placing the dirt over her corpse, I gathered up what stones I could find, and I built a cairn upon the grave.
As I stepped back, the woman’s ghost appeared.
She said not a word as she approached, finally coming to a stop before me. She offered up a beautiful smile, took my face into her cold hands, and kissed me gently upon the lips before slipping away into the stillness of the day.
For a moment, I stood there, lips numb.
Then, I wiped the dirt of her grave from my hands and made my way to the shore.