This place doesn't exist on any map, in any memory or any dream; this place doesn't exist to any living person except me. The clouded grey water reflects not the sky, not the tree growing at the edge nor myself, but faces of complete strangers; dead or dying strangers. The moisture-heavy mist swirls about constantly and the clamminess of it on my skin is the only way I know I'm still alive. I accepted this role to 'watch over the dead' in exchange for longevity, the catch being I had to live in this realm to maintain it, but this cannot really be considered living. I eat nothing, drink nothing, and have no way of telling when it is. There is no sun, but something beyond this island is illuminating the mist around it and when it doesn't the water itself looks luminescent.
The island is small, but it has grown since I have been here; the reason was explained to me, but it didn't make sense at the time and I cannot recall the reason now. The hut is the center of the island. I don't know who lived in it before me, but looking at the symbols painted on the walls use to help calm my mind. There is still a feeling of peace in here that is one of many things absent from the rest of the island.
I was staring at the symbols once and fell asleep, dreaming that they had rearranged themselves into words, words half translated that I didn't understand. In the morning I became obsessed with figuring them out, scratching them into the soil with my little knife so I could see them again. I could only remember a couple letters. The next night I dreamed the same thing, and the next. It never rained on the island, so each morning I awoke remembering a letter, I would immediately walk out the entrance and scratch it into the dirt. After several days I had: -ou- -r—he- w-ll –e t—a-. I was close to solving it, and had the feeling that when I did something was going to happen. I tried willing myself to sleep, but couldn't and ended up placing letters in the blank spaces, attempting to make words.
Taking a break I sat next to the only tree on the island, reaching its twisted branches out over the water towards the beyond. It was the tree that reminded me of the times I ventured out into the forest to pick berries, it reminded me of the days I lived in the world, and it was the tree that reminded me of my brother that day.
It didn't click immediately because I have always thought of my brother by name, not by 'brother', but as soon as I thought of the actual word I was back to my scratching in the dirt. 'Brother' fit one of the spaces. A morbid thought entered my mind and I almost didn't try it, but I had to know and scratched the appropriate letters out. The feeling of accomplishment for solving the puzzle was killed by the words: Your brother will die today.
I rushed over to the water and searched for his face. Anyone with black hair made me forget to breath, the dread of finding him didn't outweigh not knowing the truth and so I searched until my eyes were dry and heavy from not blinking; every blink was another chance I would miss him.
Just when I was going to give up, one of the tree's few leaves fell on its own accord and landed in the water, drawing my eyes to the spot. When the ripples stopped, the leaf sank and the water settled down; I saw him. His hair was a little longer than I remembered and his face a little thinner, but there was no mistaking him and his red eyes. I sank to the ground and the words 'dead or dying' kept circling around in my mind. If he was there in the morning he was dead, if he wasn't then he may have lived. Newly dead's essences stay toward the surface while older ones sink to the bottom.
I haven't left the hut since then. I don't need to eat, I don't need to drink, and I don't need to know if my brother has joined me in this realm.