{ THE BLOOD DIAMOND }

Prologue

I've always pondered why the human mind never really gives much thought about funerals or dying; those were things that remained on the back burner of the conscience until the time came when they were no longer avoidable. I suppose this would be considered healthy normalcy – I mean, what person in their righteous mind thinks about dying all the time, right?

Well, I've never exactly been the "normal" type, then.

Perhaps this odd mindset started with my great-grandmother's funeral. I always have recurring nightmares about that day. I was too young to understand how to mourn her properly or why everyone was weeping profusely. The little funeral parlor was decorated not much different than a wedding chapel, complete with a bright rug that led down the aisle toward her casket, which was surrounded by a sea of candlelight and colorful flowers. Because of this, I assumed there were no reasons to grieve – Nanan looked like she was just sleeping, anyway – and instead, we should've been celebrating, like a wedding ceremony of sorts.

As my mother led me toward the extravagant white coffin, her trembling hand grasping mine painfully tight, I noticed one particular young man seated in the third row of the pews. His head was bowed a little and no one was sitting beside or around him. In fact, it seemed like no one else even noticed he was there. He looked quite sad, but I didn't recognize him as one of my family members. He appeared to be rather young, too much so to ever have even known my great-grandmother, let alone have been close enough to mourn her. He was also strikingly handsome, of this I could be very certain, despite my age (I was probably around four years old at the time)or the fact that he was focused on the ground most of the time.

When my mother and I reached Nanan's casket, she broke down into tears. I watched her for a few moments, then observed Nanan, until my eyes finally came across one of the many pictures placed in pretty frames around her coffin. I don't know what sparked my interest in this particular photograph, especially considering it was black and white and not as clear as the ones I was used to; but I approached it regardless and examined the faces captured within it. I grew profoundly confused when I saw the man seated in the third row standing beside a young woman in the picture, not grinning, but still noticeably happy. My bemusement only continued to increase when I realized that my Nanan was that woman – she had the trademark family curls – next to him.

I had no more time to study the frame however, as my mom tugged me away and started back up the aisle rather briskly. I searched for the man immediately, and found him to be staring at me from his seat. Yes, he was unrealistically attractive, but his eyes were undeniably horrifying. Oddly still, I didn't turn away from him; I figured I was too petrified by the ruby red color of his irises to do so. He seemed to know what I was thinking, or so I felt, because he watched me the entire time my mother and I traveled to our pew in the rear.

When we sat down, family immediately engulfed us – well, my mother – and I could see through a thin gap that he had risen from his seat and was making his way quickly toward the exit. Being the curious little bunny I was, I just had to follow him, and so began my trek. He seemed to float through the corridors like a ghost and I lost him within a few seconds of pursuit. I left the funeral parlor and entered the garden in the back, which was a vast acre of labyrinthine rosebush maze, and my attention was immediately snagged by a puppy.

It was wandering around and looked rather mangy, as if it were a stray; but I was a child and I didn't give a damn at the time. It was cute too and let me pet it before suddenly perking its triangular ears as if it heard something, then took off into the garden. I stupidly followed after the damned thing.

It scampered through various twists and turns, then finally toward the man I had seen earlier. He hadn't spotted me yet, so I stayed behind one of the maze walls to observe him, oddly intrigued by what he might do or the manner of his reaction. I thought maybe the dog was his, and I was right to some extent. He picked the puppy up by the scruff, sniffed it and scowled as it watched him blithely; then I could see the tips of his incisors advance and grow larger, pointier, considerably more gruesome than I might have even imagined. I watched in horror as he was about to bite down on the poor animal, now squealing helplessly in his grasp –

Then I wake up.

Usually in a cold, clammy sweat, but just recently the dreams have been a lot more bearable. I guess I've grown used to their frequency, or maybe I've taken comfort in the fact that I haven't seen the man in person since then. But that doesn't change how often I picture my death, whether it be passing peacefully in my sleep like Nanan, or getting eaten by a handsome, ageless man with red eyes. Nor does it change how many times I see his face in my dreams; mainly his features: those awful red eyes, prominent cheekbones, and wide, full lips, for some reason always hiding the fangs I know lay behind them.

Since then, I've switched my nightmare's place with that of thoughts about funerals, dying, and the manner of which might happen to me, and positioned it in the back burner of my conscience instead. I think fear is what is keeping me from searching for the truth, as if I may not like what I find, whatever that may be. Not just anybody has eyes the color of blood or skin like white marble that doesn't age with time.

Right?


Song played: The Chairman's Waltz by John Williams