Dream Girl

“Let’s go to our happy place.” Mommy would say when Daddy’s voice began to hit a certain octave–somewhere between a beastly bellow and a rumbling growl. It bounced off bone. Broke bone–when a slur accompanied it. Sometimes when it didn’t.

Mommy told the nurses I was clumsy–a topsy, turvy tot falling head over teapot. Lost in my own little dream land. The nurses never looked as convinced as Mommy did.

Hospitals were frequent but transient haunts, us hollow-eyed phantasms in advance mourning for the identities we’d hastily shed once clear of the emergency room’s sliding glass–don’t catch your doppelgänger’s eyes–doors. Make-believe Mommy and dream-clumsy daughter, a match made to burn.

Mommy ignited first. Led by example.
Shot herself up with liquid fire then drew my bath like a matchstick drawn across its box. Asked me to jump into the flames. Pretend I was a molten mermaid. Hold my breath till it was true. I’ll help you, my dreamy girl. Help you dream.

I don’t recall who helped me out of the tub. Breathed for my little lungs until they realized they were not gills and magma burned going down. Woke me. Some neighbor, maybe.

Not Daddy.

No, he was out cold in his la-z-boy parked in front of the TV set, lost to whatever place existed behind his icy blues. Dream land or darkness. Happy places aren’t given, dreamy girl. They’re created.

“Whaddya wan’?” Daddy grunted when an ee-em-tee in midnight-blue finally nudged the bulky shoulder he was using as a drool rag. Then, when he was informed told Mommy injected enough heroin into her veins to burst into flames went sleepy-bye like she wanted and asked if he knew about her prescriptions–for dis-ah-sea-ation?–in the medicine cabinet why, he muttered, “Crazy bitch” and rolled over.

I was taken away for a while.

Poked and prodded at hospitals. Questioned in white-on-white offices by white-on-white docs. Tossed like a hot-potato from one home to the next till finally returning to Daddy.

“Ya look like yer ol’ lady.” He says when we see each other again. Takes a swig from the bottle in his hand. “Crazy as her too, I hear. Freakin’ out the fosters at e’ery turn.” Another swig. A head shake. “Ya go goddamn gaga in that bathroom like her and you’re gone, capiche?” I nod when it’s clear he’s waiting for it. “Good. Just had it remodeled.”

Only the tub was replaced, I discover.

Swapped for one with less dingy porcelain. Less attempted-murder-successful…

It’s a blank slate. A white page reflected in the mirror above the sink. Don’t stare at your doppelgänger. It’s what got me booted from the last foster home.

(There’s only you, the docs said.

Mommy never liked docs. Dreamless, unhappy types, she said.)

Once Daddy leaves for his nightly bar crawl, my evenings are spent lying in the tub, legs stretched till toes find the lip of the drain, arms crossed over my chest as if I were in a casket instead. Sometimes, I add water–up to my neck how Mommy preferred.

Usually not.

Just me and my dreams–Mommy brushing my hair back, her fingers twitching in staccato against my scalp…. Daddy dragging me by the hair, throwing me into the tub and locking the door…. Slurred shouts and muffled screams…. Me staring at my reflection, a captive companion…. Mommy lowering me into the water that last time, Let’s go… to a happy place….

It’s all fragments. Phantasmagoria. Lucid dreaming.

I will doze, though. Fully. Especially when there’s water. Warm and inviting, it lulls me. Sounds safe and familiar, its lapping at my skin whispered secrets. Nonsense babble reminiscent of Mommy’s bath-side chatter.

Tonight, I wade into an accidental slumber.

The tub was empty when I got in. Now, as I am jolted awake, water is chin-high and beginning to overflow, trickle down porcelain to uneven tile in trails that slowly creep towards the doorway Daddy looms in.

A door screeching on its hinges, slamming to a halt against drywall. That’s what woke me. Not dreamed screams.

Daddy stumbles forward, his steadying hand thrusting the door backwards again. Bang. The weight of the water soaking my clothes, my skin, finally hits. No going goddamned gaga in the bathroom.

A stream licks the toe of Daddy’s boot, darkening the leather. I shiver. The water is cold.

This is gaga.

“Whad di’ I tell ya, girl?” Daddy slurs, drifting closer. Bracing himself with his other hand on the edge of the sink. “Whad I goddamn warn ya?”

Daddy,” I scramble to my feet, fighting drag, knees knocking each other. So cold. “A pipe must’ve burst–”

“Not in ma new goddamn bath!” Daddy pounds his fist down on the sink, its echoing thud consuming this tiny space. “You’re as crazy as her!”

“No, Daddy!” One leg makes it out of the tub. A bare foot finds tile. So, so cold. “I was jus-t-t-t…” My teeth chatter. I’m too, too cold to think of a good excuse. “lying down. Like I said, a pipe has to have burs-t-t-t-”

Crazy!” Daddy careens towards me. A fist finds purchase in my hair–tugs. Hard.

 Out of the tub, I’m lifted the rest of the way then thrown. My hip clips the sink, my head, the mirrored glass above. Something cracks. Belatedly, I wonder what ever happened to the medicine cabinet? Then, the pain catches up to me and I can’t think of anything but.

It’s more of a burning, scalding sensation that begins at the crown of my head and works its way down, my face–the left side–my neck, my shoulder, hip–goddamn–all the way to my toes. Did I say I was a little chilly earlier? What I meant was so numb, so wholly freezing that I feel like I’m on fire. Roasting alive. Magma in my veins.

Let’s go, dreamy girl.

Something warm and thicker than water trickles into my eye–the left one, gazing dead into my double’s eyes. They’re red and slashed across the middle. Crazy. They look crazy. Below, a grin is also slashed.

To our happy place.

My double lifts a shaky hand. Traces a crack with its trembling finger as if searching for an opening. Success!–I guess. Her smile sharpens, shattering what glass remains with its pointiness. With her fist.

There’s only you.

There is. Only me. I push myself off the sink, ignore the sting in doing so. The crack and pop. Only my happy place. The one Daddy’s perched on the edge of, leaning temptingly over, trying to plug a dam that can’t be. Not now.

Water sheets across tile, pooling in dips and missing spots. Icy hot. I barely feel it. The step or two I take toward Daddy. Hardly registers. I feel nothing.

She drowned, you know. A nurse said to an ordely when they thought they were out of white-on-white earshot. The girl’s mother. Enough dope in her system to kill her but that’s not what did. Woman drowned. And, the girl… she was found in a bathtub. Unconscious but unharmed. Some water in her too but other than that…. Suspicious, ain’t it?

No.

Mommy wanted to go to a happy place so she did. Needed a little help getting there, maybe, but it’s what she wanted. What she deserved. Rest, finally.

Another step. I feel nothing but awake.

Mommy wanted to sleep. To dream. I never did. There were only nightmares when I shut my eyes. Screams swallowed by slurred shouts, breaking sounds till silence. Peaceful pain but pain nonetheless. Searing, red-hot pain.

There were no dreams. None. No happy places–till I made one.

Last step.

I close the distance between where I stand and where Daddy leans. He’s got one meaty hand jiggling the tub’s faucet back and forth, the other reaching down for the drain, water up to his shoulder.

“One thing, goddamn it.” He grumbles. “Asked ya not to do one goddamn thing. An’, how difficul’ was it?” A hard yank of the faucet’s knob. A slurred curse. “Back to the fosters’ with ya! Hell, the crazy house!” He shakes his head. “Whad di’ I e’er do to deserve this….?”

I widen my stance, place a steady foot on either side of Daddy’s bent legs. Flex my fists. Brush glass shards off the one.

Another none-too-gentle yank rips the shiny knob off its shinier faucet head. It hits porcelain with a sharp, poignant clank. Daddy begins to turn my way.

“Hope you’re happy–” I will be.

The rest of Daddy’s speech becomes garbled, half-sputtering half-ineffable disbelief. He’s not used to receiving this kind of help. Giving it but not getting it. But, I want to do for him like Mommy tried to do for me. Like I did for her. Daddy’s given so much, he deserves this.

A shiver runs down my spine. Blood scorches beneath my simmering skin.

Thrashing is easily calmed with a few swift meetings of bone and porcelain. There goes the finish. Nothing was ever said ’bout anyone else going gaga in the tub.

Mommy didn’t struggle. Breathed like the mermaid she wanted me to be.

“Don’t ya want to be happy, Daddy?” I push down until porcelain keeps me from going further. Thrashing lulls into twitching. “Don’t ya think ya deserve to be?”

Slowly, twitching ceases, fades into stillness entirely. My hold doesn’t loosen till the bubbles stop rising, though. Guess he did think so. No matter, he stopped fighting it.

I rise and back away from Daddy. When my hip finds the pointy edge of the sink again, I realize how sore I am and, also, that the water has stopped flowing. There’s only painful silence. Reddened eyes glance at Daddy in the happy place. Peaceful pain.

My blood cools.

I face what’s left of the mirror and stare at my reflection. For the first time, I don’t see my double. I see what Daddy saw–Mommy.

“Happy?” I ask.

She nods, flashing me a smile.

I return it.

“Me too.”

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Hope you enjoyed~

***You can find more of my delightfully disturbing stories under the Killing It tag ^.^***

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Living Dead Girl III

Part I, Part II

Deadwood’s sole flower shoppe used to be Moses’ Roses–the liveliest place in town.

Then, Moses Redding passed away.

Peacefully in the night. I know because he came to our window, hollow-eyed and with a red, red bloom in hand. Nana put it in a vase on her nightstand, beside her citronella candle. It wilted by morning.

Cerese Redding, Moses’ wifewidow, came around next, a similar bloom–only slightly wilting–woven into her graying hair. She approached Nana and me in the grocery store, though. Not outside our window, gray as the strands streaking through her tresses. As the stones dotting out lawn. In a weary voice, she made a confession and a request.

“Everything I touch dies.” Ms. Redding explained. “And, I’ve been left a flower shoppe. You see my dilemma, yes?”

“Call that no-good son of yours back home.” Nana suggested. “He inherited his father’s green-thumb I do recall.”

“Aaron says he can’t come.” More like won’t. Horse’s ass. “It’s the middle of derby season.”

“Too bad.” Nana hummed, the sound not a bit sorry. Her eyes moved from Ms. Redding’s disgruntlement to the fading bloom tucked behind one ear to, lastly, the short list she held in her hand. She seemed to weigh what was written against the weight of our basket. We’re short some herbs, I think. Sage. Rosemary. Salt, too. Always.

Ms. Redding caught my eye.

“I was actually wondering if you were still looking for work, Thana.” Still…? I don’t remember looking in the first place. Before, I can say as much, Nana speaks up.

“That she is.” Nana ignores my betrayed look. Hands me the basket she’s apparently deemed less wanting than me. It’s heavy. “What did you have in mind?”

“Part-time.” Ms. Redding’s answer is immediate. “Just someone to tend the flowers. Keep the greenhouse clean–Green. Thana could stop by after class. Have Sundays off if she stopped in on Saturdays.”

“I’d like her home before dark.” Before the dead come out to play.

“Of course.” Ms. Redding agrees. “No one makes late-night flower runs.” Save your late- husband. I swallow a smirk.

“Then your worries can end.” Nana elbows me. “Right, Thana?” Her dark gaze dares me to defy her. Ms. Redding’s expectant, hopeful gaze to deny her.

“Right.” I sigh, letting the bulky basket in my grip finally drag me down.

“Oh, thank you so much, Thana!” Ms. Redding beams. “You won’t regret it, you’ll see! Oh, you’ll love the flowers….especially in the spring! Moses had the place lookin’ like a veritable paradise….”

“It’ll be good for you.” Nana nudges me as Ms. Redding disappears down an aisle. “To see the other side. How it lives. Might find you prefer it.” I won’t.

I did. I do.

In the flower shoppe–formally renamed Xanadu at my request–there is peace. Quiet unsettled only by the gentle but steady hum of the greenhouse’s generator. No screamsNo nails shrieking across glass. No Nana.

They stay away, the hollow-eyes, from the shoppe. Can’t or won’t go near the place. Near me when I’m inside, surrounded by the day’s vivid blooms. They’ll stare–as they ever–but they keep their distance. Like moths circling a zapper. A citronella candle. Not too close or they’ll fry.

When I arrive at Xanadu this morning, I find the shoppe already open, stained-glass door swung wide. I’m not that late, am I?

Hesitantly, I approach. Early hours are mine. Have been mine since I stopped attending classes last semester. No one ever keeps me company, not even Cerese. She used to, right after her husband….and then Nana…. But, not lately.

Besides, the shoppe doesn’t even officially open for another hour.

“Hello…?” I call, peeking around the shoppe door’s baby pink frame.

“Thana!” Cerese. The sound of her hobbling across the shoppe’s weathered mahogany floors summons me fully inside. The clubbed foot of a recently and reluctantly acquired cane stops me from proceeding further.

“You’re early, Cerese.” Why? I swat her cane out of my face. Cerese lowers it with a huff, revealing the answer to my unasked question in the process.

Two finely clothed figures–a man and a woman–stand by the register. The woman admires a dahlia that seems to be reaching for her, perhaps to offer itself as a compliment to her similarly hued ensemble. The man looks at nothing, clearly unimpressed with the decor.

“They were here at dawn.” Cerese huffs. “Banging on the door till I came downstairs and let ’em in. Relatives of yours?” She looks from the couple’s silvery locks to mine, from their dark, dark gazes to my own. “Didn’t think you had anyone else.”

“I don’t.” Cerese tilts her head–weighed down by its usual, half-wilting bloom–in confusion. “There was just Nana.” Always just Nana. I gesture to the couple. “I’ll take care of them. You can go back upstairs.”

Tsk. Tell your guests for future reference,” Cerese points sharply with her cane at a festive poster in one of the shoppe’s large, front windows. “we don’t open till 9.” With that, she hobbles up the scant steps half-hidden behind a recent–honestly, monstrous–delivery of hydrangea.

“Well,” The woman turns to me, releasing the dahlia from her attention. It flutters to the floorboards, dead. Sucked dry. “she was a delight.”

The man snorts, pale lips curling downwards with distaste.

“Frail thing’ll be another pair of empty-eyes outside your window in a year, Thana.” He says, then, crooks a toothy smirk. “If that.”

“What do you want?”

“Harsh.” An almost pout. Another dahlia picked for inspection. “How long has it been?”

“Not long enough, Hel.” I can’t help but snip.

“Very harsh, Thana.” Hel shakes her head, picks at a spiky petal. “And after all we’ve done for you?”

All you’ve done for me?” My voice seems to echo in the tiny room, bounce off innocuous blooms. Hope Cerese is back in bed by now. “Does that include you rejecting me from the Circle?”

Breathe, Thana. Think of the flowers.

“Not I.” Hel has the gall to look offended as she continues plucking spiky petals. “You know those things are decided by vote. Majority rules and all. It just didn’t rule in your favor last time ’round. Sucks, huh?”

I watch a falling petal disintegrate in mid-air–draw in a deep breath–before I respond.

“Leave.” A shakier exhale than I’d like. “Please, leave.”

But, we haven’t told you what we want yet.” Hel pauses in her plucking. “Well, we haven’t told you what the Circle wants yet.”

“I don’t care.” Just leave–me, Ms. Redding, the flowers–alone.

“That makes two of us.”

Three.” Gar growls from Hel’s side where he stands–scowling–sentry, kicking at reddish splinters with the steel toe of his boot, watching empty air devour petals with vague interest. They’re not enough. He’d tear my petals if he could get away with it. The possibility of a chance presenting itself is probably why he came. That, and his orders. 

The Circle denies you, not you It.

“Pardon,” Hel lets another fading petal meet its fate. “three.”

We stare at each other, all our fathomless eyes each their own black holes trying to suck the other into oblivion. Unfortunately outnumbered, I must relent first.

“Fine.” I bite. “What does the Circle want?” Not me.

“Not you.” Another toothy smirk slashes across Gar’s severe features and I fight not to flinch. He didn’t read your thoughts. Can’t. He’s just an expert on how to hurt. Like the rest of the Circle.

I clench my fist. Sidle closer to the monstrous hydrangeas. Their fragrance is suffocating. Breathe.

“Had any peculiar encounters with a Reaper, as of late?” Hel inquires, ignoring my discomfort. Selecting another poor dahlia for defrocking. “Maybe seen one skulking where it usually doesn’t?” A prickly pause. “Where it shouldn’t?” My graveyard.

I school my expression into one of intrigue before it can betray me or my thoughts again. A surreptitious glance confirms the inky feather in my hair out of sight, safely hidden behind one beastly bloom.

“Reports from the far reaches have been coming in,” Hel runs her nail along a spiky petal, searching for its base before slicing. “figured I’d visit the loneliest place I know to check their validity.”

“Sorry to disappoint.”

“We’re used to it.” Hel releases what’s left of the abused bloom in her grip. This one hits the floor with a faint thud. I can’t hide the flinch it summons. “The Circle asks you remain vigilant, nonetheless.”

“Can do.” For them when they can’t won’t for me. Of course.  Harder, I clench my fist. Feel neatly trimmed nail cut through skin.

Before the smell of blood can provoke another of Gar’s too-toothy smirks, I motion my uninvited guests towards Xanadu’s usually more-inviting door. They arrived so early, though, the welcome mat is still rolled up beside some ferns. Shame.

Hel inclines her head slightly my way, a silver strand of hair escaping from its place behind a pale ear. She makes to leave but stops in the midst of the action. Seems to ponder something then cut a glance from me to the bouquet she’s been pilfering pillaging from.

“On the house.” It was going in the trash anyway.

Hel grins. Gestures for Gar to grab her loot. He obeys with haste, clutching the sorry batch of flowers close as he follows on Hel’s heels. Good boy.

I receive a parting glare as he and Hel disappear out the door and into morning’s honey-thick fog. When I can no longer hear the patter of their steps, I finally unclench my fist, wincing only slightly as blood flow returns. Four half-moons weep rose-red.

Sighing, I walk around the register. Open the drawer where bandages are kept. It’s the only one that doesn’t screech when pulled from its home. Too many thorny stems, too little patience.

Skillfully, I wrap my palm in gauze. Concentrate on the task. Ignore the weight of the feather woven in my hair. Ignore the dying dahlia on the floor. More, the hydrangeas grey and wilting closer to the steps Ms. Redding enviously vanished up earlier. Their keens and knells, too close to the wails outside my window.

There are no monstrous flowers. Not here. I lied.

Only monstrous people.

A monstrous girl

and her victims.

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Till next time~~

***Really love the direction of this series.***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bone Girl .V

Flesh dreamed monstrous

beasts. Dreamed somber, faceless

vultures, abandoned

skeletons, splendid demons

of yesteryear, patient 

gargoyles.

Incredible beasts still

call, in the morning. But

only briefly, abandoning

scandalous actuality.

Tweet, tweet….

Ba-dump.

Mama bird was first a baby bird herself. A fledgling, picking at bones brought to the nest. Mama’s Mama bird was an excellent hunter. Proficient collector of Nature’s provisions. And, not a scrap ever went to waste.

Want not, baby bird. Mama’s Mama bird was ever-squawking. Nature always provides.

Mama’s Mama bird taught her everything she needed to know. How to search and skulk. To lure. Catch.

Then, how to use. How to prepare. Preserve. Get to the bone.

The wait, Mama bird tittered, thumbing a bony groove, makes it earned. You’ll understand soon. Good things come to those baby birds who wait. Savory things. 

Mama learned well how to wait. To be patient.

In dreams, she struck. Like the vultures she watched when Mama bird left the nest to stock up on reading materials.

Awake, she held her Mama bird’s bowl steady, the pound of the pestle harmonizing with another rhythmic beat in her young ears. She handed chips and fragments over for reading, performing her own in her head. Good thing Mama bird never touches me like she does the bone.

Blood older, she wove Mama bird’s ligaments for her, tight around the crone’s bony limb. Tighter still around her flabby neck.

Mama’s Mama bird was a good teacher. Good provider.

Too good, perhaps. Or….

Perhaps, Mama bird should’ve read her bone better.

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Mama provided.

***I know I wasn’t supposed to add text to this task. My bad. The poem I was able to piece together though reminded me of a pieced-together–er, well not anymore–character and I just had to write. Hope it doesn’t take away from anything. You can read the poem and the proceeding narrative as separate pieces if you prefer ^.^ Kudos to Stephanie as well!***

Wasteland Girl

Fog thick like honey but not half-so-sweet clogs the air.

Is the air.

Without a respirator, it would coat my throat, crawl down the black hole between my bony clavicles to cloy in my lungs. Convince me to claw at my chest till the pressure had an escape route. Ten routes to be exact.

Our atmosphere was the first to go.

Corroded by uncensored contaminants. Ignited by the bombs. I fell asleep beneath a burning sky, lulled by Mother’s staggered breaths. By Papa’s sniffles. He gave Mother his respirator. Choked before he began to claw–thank god for small favors, we were told.

The water went next.

Rivers ran dry. Oceans evaporated overnight. Brooks boiled in their basins. Tongues licked lake beds for every. last. drop.

                                                               drop.

                                                                             drop.

Some wells survived. Shut up tight before the blasts became white noise, a circadian hum. Burrowed deep into the bowels of bunkers that long-outlived their irradiated occupants.

Mother and I managed to commandeer one. Before marrying Papa and moving to the city, Mother grew up on a farm. Knew how to wield an ax. Cut clean. Came in handy.

She made me handy. In case anyone returned for their missing pieces. Made me hardy. At personal cost, perhaps.

She succumbed to the smog, like Papa. Gave me the respirator she wore when I broke mine. Careless child, Mother said, trading our masks. I ground my teeth. Bit my tongue. Thought I could still taste Papa’s final exhalations on the interior of my new protective gear.

What did that make her, I wondered, for raising a careless child? For misplacing her respirator in the first place? My answer came swift, like the bombs.

It made Mother dead.

Me, alone.

Mean.

I should’ve been nicer.

The farm was a cold, bitter place, Mother told me while teaching me how to wield the ax. Froze things. Windows shut. Truck doors in place. Blood. During slaughter, it became a solid, crimson sheet of ice across the fields. Bright, red slivers into dark trails as far as the eye could see. Like how the sky looks now, she remarked after my first clean swing. Time to colour the fields, followed the next.

Maybe….maybe, I could’ve been nicer if I wasn’t taught to be so hardy. If Mother wasn’t. If Papa were.

This world gives as good as it gets, though.

It got Papa and Mother.

Now, it has me.

Wind whips across the withering wasteland stretched before me, ruffling what few patches of green stubbornly remain, stinging skin. Overhead, clouds a sickly off-white– almost-muddyruddy-brown streak across the sky. On-and-off they’ve spit.

At the moment, acid rain falls in gentle drops across the still plain. Good thing I covered the well earlier. Each drip seems to sizzle upon impact, eroded dirt rising like embers.

In the distance, several shadows. Lumpy, lopsided blobs just peeking over the murky horizon. Further out, ruins rise like knives, jagged and rough but pointy enough to tear through honey-thick fog. Remnants of a church, I believe. Eastern Orthodox according to the slightly domed spikes. Dead spires, Papa rasped not long before the end.


The blobs grow bigger. Become more than vague impressions. A figure with a crutch under one arm. No other arm. Another hobbling on stumps. One dragging itself along. I grip the hilt of my ax, knuckles out. Widen my stance. A baleful breeze tugs at the strings of my Mother’s hand-me-down respirator.

Time to colour the fields.

Deceivingly cool drops graze what daring flesh is exposed. They burn. I don’t wipe them away. Let them slide down skin. Keep my hold tight around Mother’s legacy. Inhale my inheritance. Every bitter particle.

Shadows creep ever nearer. Dingy clouds dye the sky deep red. A sheer sheet of blood.

Time to colour.

My hands heavy with the weight of want. Mother’s. Papa’s. A careless child’s. A suffocating world’s.

Time.

It is not safe here.

That, I promise.

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Attribution:

@str_voyage

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Sound snippets ~cool site. check it out. (not sure if there’s a better way to embed sounds on WordPress *free of upgrade charge*… :/)

***All my short, sweet, & disturbing stories can be found under the Killing It tag ^.^***

Bone Girl

When my blood was younger, I imagined I could soar. Like the condors that circled overhead. Sights set high, I’d roam through the marketplace. Fly barefoot down the city’s skeletal paths, unburdened and unbound, wind tangling knots in my hair–knots Mama would carefully unwind once night nose-dived and then, re-wind in the leather thong she kept wrapped snug ’round one bony wrist. Only, double.

Twice the blessings, baby bird. She explained when I squawked confusion. Nature never weaves mistakes. In hair or flesh. Nature provides only the truthA gift you’ll learn to embrace when you can.

Mama was a natural at spinning stories. Did it for a living. Ours. She was a fortune-teller. An augur. Soothsayer. Soothslayer, hissed some shadows as we passed. Mama only tightened her hold on my wiry wrist. Clenched her teeth in a sharp smile.

See, some divination dabblers read tea leaves. Or, palms.

Mama read bone.

Mostly bird. Sometimes not. Always ground with a pestle and mortar till only bite-size fragments remained.

Once, shadowy whispers echoing in my ears, I asked where it came from. The not bird. Unruffled, Mama set her pestle aside and leaned down. Beady eyes to mine. Smile close enough to cut. She cupped my face in her rickety grip, ran her knobby-knuckled fingers over the knife points of my cheek bones.

Nature provides, baby bird.

She released me and returned to her work. I brushed my fingertips over the edges Mama soothed. Seemed to size up. Thought about birds. About bird bones and their brittleness. Thought, as Mama added pressure to the pestle, about how the only difference between bird bones and not is the sound they make when crushed. Bird bones snap.

Mama crunched and crunched and crunched.

It was a courtesy, Mama explained later, to provide for our clients as Nature does. Drain the blood. Soak flesh from bone. Gather the pieces for assembling a new whole. She never quite told me where the courtesy was, though, in tying ligaments ’round the bony wrist clients couldn’t see. Where only could see, once I grew more into my own bones. Perhaps outgrew them as deeper and deeper aches seem to suggest these days.

Blood older, eyes changed, I saw our home full of many unexplained courtesies. Undocumented provisions. Truths that flew high above my head like the condors I used to run through the skeletal streets chasing. Foolish.

Vultures always lead to the same place.

My place is before a pestle and mortar. Bone in the bowl. Leather wrapped tight ’round one wrist with knotted blessings, ligaments tighter ’round the other with less-knotted truth. Mama never specified which side of her she was referring to….

At the table behind me, a client waiting. They shouldn’t be kept…waiting. Long. It’s rude. Discourteous.

“Just a moment.” I call over my shoulder, hand gripping the pestle.

“Take your time, child.” A withered voice. Brittle like bird bone and raspy like a requiem. “Hate for your Mama to curse my impatience from beyond.”

“Mama would never curse.” Tighten my grip. Add pressure. Stone meeting bone. “Only bless.” Crunch.

“May she rest in peace.” PiecesWith my free hand, I snatch a fly-away fragment. Smooth my fingertips along its jagged edges.

Nature provides, baby bird.

How right Mama was. Nature gave. Her me. Me her. And now, I lift the bowl of carefully ground bone before me, finger the fragile fragment still in my hand, I can return the favor.

****

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~Mama provides~

Speaking of….

Attribution

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Living Dead Girl II

Part I

Nights are always the worst. The loudest. Screams do not the sweetest of lullabies make. With time, though, I’ve found the most incessant sounds can become lulling. A buzzing hum, attracted to a torch burning low. Zzzz…. Zzzz…. The occasional sizzle of an Icarus acolyte.

Nana slept with a citronella candle on her night table, her ever-cracked window an invitation for all kinds of pests. Even in winter, the window remained a sliver shy of its sill. Wind wailed like a whistle through it. Nana whistled along as she lit her candle. As she lowered the match for me to blow out.

They don’t mean to keep us up, Nana said, tucking me in to bed. They’re just lost and scared. You’d cry too. You will. Trust me, ThanaIt’s better if you’ve got a light on when the tears come.

On a little hackneyed table in the back room, a citronella candle rests. Dust chokes the wick.

Silence c r e e p s as the sun rises…. well, at the very least, screaming settles into negligible staccato as the living world awakes.

Two beady, black eyes meet mine first thing. A blink. An inquisitive crook of its head, perhaps curious at meeting a pair of eyes darker than its own, and the bird takes off. Too small to be a crow. Perhaps a rook? Or, a magpie? Corvids have called these cemetery grounds home for almost as long as my ancestors have. Lately, the birds have been leaving gifts. Shiny, polished things. Buttons and charms. Detritus of life.

This morning, I find only an smooth, inky feather.

A big stretch dislodges the quilt I don’t recall tucking around my shoulders last night. It’s the silvery one with the threads like comet trails. Must’ve sparkled in the moonlight. I’m surprised the birds didn’t tear it apart.

I leave my feathery gift on the sill for now. The quilts need folding and the salt on the floor, sweeping. Me, feeding.

Mornings are quiet affairs, interrupted only by chirps here and there, accompanied always by a warm mug of herbal tea. Jasmine, today. The only sizzle that unsettles the air is the one that lets me know my omelette is ready to be flipped. Nana made the best omelettes, from eggs Ol’ Sid brought fresh from the farm twice a week.

Now Sid stares in my window twice a week, hollowed gaze like two, bulbous black eggs.

I eat around the burnt edges of my omelette. Mentally add a carton of eggs to the list. When breakfast is done, I clear the counter. Place my plate in the sink. Leave the pan I made my omelette in on the burner. I’ll have another for dinner. Sid keeps his distance when I do.

My fragrant tea comes with me back into the main room. Past a small white table with two matching chairs and a flower to boot. Past mattresses–junkyard and estate sale finds– for walls. A neat stack of quilts. A less neat stack of tomes. Then, another stack beside a tall bookshelf. An open window, glass pane half-cracked. All the way to the mirror by the door. A black shroud hides most of its surface from view. Beneath it, a low shelf, its crevices crowded with more books. Many with Greek titles. Some German, Italian. One in Chinese. All about the dead. Well… all about bringing them back.

I set my mug beside a cluster of half-melted candles and reach for the shroud. Tip-toes are taken to. The stool is by the bookshelf, tucked in between the two haphazard stacks on the floor. Late night reading. It’s why I lost track of the clock. Can’t see it, here, ticking beneath the mirror, from behind a crooked tower of crooked magic.

The silky shroud slips through my fingers. A hollowed gaze, oozing a deep red, meets mine. In the mirrored glass, I watch shadows, grey in this early hour, quickly solidify into form. Torso. Legs. Arms. Neck. Head. Smile. A dainty hand–holding a decidedly less dainty cleaver–raises in a wave.

“Good morning, Mary.” I say, as the rest of Mary’s ensemble appears–a hazy, gossamer shift splattered in shades of crimson and stockings to match.

“Is it?” Mary inquires, drifting nearer. A cloying, coppery scent overpowers the heady smell of jasmine. Tea, is also added to the list. Preferably something strong. Killer, even.

“As good as any.”

Now, Mary smiles a big smile, a slash of white across her grey face. Without eyes to meet, both corners of her grin seem to end in knife points. Incisions where dimples should sit.

I fiddle with my hair. Finally meet my own dark eyes in mirrored glass. Take stock of the darker blood vessels weighing them down.

“Sleep well, Thana?” Mary appears at my side, twirling her cleaver the way I twirl my hair. Both gleam silver.

“You should know.” I shake my head. Ignore my heavier and heavier gaze. Pull my hair back, slipping the black band ’round my wrist around it. A ponytail will do.

Mary laughs from her ruddy belly and I step back from the mirror. A hand without a cleaver but with red caked under its chewed-down fingernails reaches for me before I get far. I whirl on it. They shouldn’t touch. Nana’s voice in my ears. Mary knows better. Knows my rules. The rules, Nana corrects in my head.

Mary–”

“Your feather.” She cuts me off. Hesitantly, not taking my eyes from the ones Mary lacks, I run my fingers through my tail of hair. Towards the end, brush something thin and silky. My gift.

Not turning my back on Mary again, I walk to the window, still open. Sill empty. A faint breeze unsettles the curtains. Fog creeps across the lawn outside, nearly the same gloomy shade as the stones embedded halfway in green. Nearly the same grey as Mary. A deeper hue flutters across. Then another. Crows for sure. A raven, maybe.

Deep in the fog, on the cusp of where green almost completely vanishes, devoured, a dark form too big to be mistaken for a bird. Unmoving. A living shadow. Reaper. The long staff of a scythe juts outward, its bladed head only a vague impression from this distance. But I know it’s there. Have heard the sharp swish of it, echoing across night. Off stone.

Long ago, Necromancers and Reapers came to an understanding–a compromise. Mutual interests intact. Less mutual interests honoured to a point. It keeps us peaceful. The Underworld from chaos. Oft, we live close. Territories not shared but brushing each other. It’s good to have a Reaper on hand. In our line of work. ‘Case something won’t go south, as Nana would say. Did say.

This particular Reaper’s been a little too close for comfort, though. Almost pacing the boundary where our haunts kiss these past few nights. Now lingering as day wakes.

I think about the quilt wrapped ’round my shoulders this morning. My favourite. So shiny. Finger the feather in my hair again. So soft. Corvids have coarse coats. Like armor. They like shiny things. Like to tear off trophies for themselves.

“Thana?” I look at Mary in glass, dragging my hand from my hair, my mind from its thoughts. “The time.” She motions with her cleaver to the clock. I release a curse.

Quickly, I shut the window–deal with that later–and toe on my boots. Shrug on my jacket. Pat my pockets for my keys. Glance one last time at the mirror.

“I look good?”

“As good as you get.” Mary chimes. Then, so does the clock. Again, I curse.

“Stay out of trouble.” I call over my shoulder as I throw open the door.

“If you do the same.” A breathy, almost-whisper.

Before I can pull the door shut, a gust from within does it for me. Then, brass tumblers click into place. I lower my key.

I will. I’ll try.

No time to linger, I hurry away from what looks like your typical, negligible, cemetery grounds shed. Hurry away from the fog. Away from living shadows that have some reason to be leaving peace offerings for living dead girls.

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Decided to keep writing this. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Dead Girl

Past Andromeda, the Milky Way. One arm of a downward spiral–there. Over an asteroid belt. A disparaged god of the Underworld. A sea god without a sea. Another god kicked on their rotund keester. Two hot heads and their harems. Another asteroid belt. Then brothers, HorrorTerror. A god of war. There. Past one lone sentry. Through a corroding atmosphere to blue. Vivid. To green. Alive. There.

Just past the lively green. Beyond less lively, uniform rows of grey, stone and marble etched in never-words –never who they were, never all they were. Never enough. A lone home, tall and still. Don’t want to disturb the neighbors. Sneak a peek through a crack in the curtains, see only dark.

Inside, mattresses are pressed to walls. Black curtains to glass–both window and mirror. Smoke still stains the air from hastily snuffed candles. Day collapsed into night faster than expected. Damn day-light savings saving who exactly? 

Within a ring of salt, a bundle of blankets–quilts, actually. Hand-made. Patchwork. Rough around the edges but holding true. The lump stirs. A pale foot, toenails lacquered an icy, chipping blue, emerges out from under a raggedy edge. Silver threads like comet trails weave themselves in between toes. Tangled, the foot cannot retreat back beneath the safety of its quilted fortress.

A groan. Resigned. Defeated. It echoes as loudly as it can in a room with padded walls. Silvery-blonde separates itself from silvery textile. Eyes deep as the dark space between stars appear next, eyebrows above them furrowed– in frustration, yes, but, also, with the distinct slant of fear. Speckled across the rest of the face is cosmic dust, freckles that fade outward from a nose crooked gently to the left.

With haste, a ghostly pale hands reaches for the unruly threads holding the foot hostage. Tears at empty air–another groan, wearier–before locating its target. This would be easier with a light. But the candles had to go. Light attracts them. Mosquitoes too.

Frantic fingers find frayed, ruthless wardens just when it no longer matters. Clueless moonlight filters into the otherwise darkened space through that overlooked crack in the curtains. With it, a breach in the salt circle is revealed. Obviously made by a struggling limb or two.

Blood younger, the quilted bundle may have jumped to re-seal the breach. Place every pesky grain back into place. Now, though, it knows better. Knows some boundaries, like those at the end of a beloved quilt, once torn, worn, cannot be repaired. No matter how many stars are wished upon.

Should’ve learned to sew. Like Nana told me to. Warned me it’d come in handy.

Warned me.

Now, at the window, a hollowed eye-socket peers in. Breeze–that should not have penetrated solid glass– ruffles the curtains. Blows them aside. The bundle shivers. Frost pricks at the corners of eyes now the darkest things in the room.

Outside, hollow gazes. They outnumber the stones. Swallow them whole.

Swallow me.

It’s an honour, I was told. Banshee wails, still faint hums, begin to rattle glass. Rattle bone. To see, is an honour. To be what I am is a gift. From the universe.

The bundle is shed. Salt kicked aside. A candle rolls into shadow, disappears from existence until a dull thud bounces off eardrums.

Towards the window, wails become unified. One entity. An ever-present scream. Muted in the waking hours. Blood-curdling now. A crack spiderwebs across glass. It will shatter. Soon. If I allow it.

What I was never told, my hands find the battered, vibrating window’s frame, was that there is more than one universe. A necromancer is weeping inside a universe. But, a universe also weeps inside a necromancer. Never stops. You can try to shut it out.

Or–an edge found, a hard shove, splinters fly–

you can let it in~

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Stars are not surrounded by darkness. They’re surrounded by emptiness.