Living Dead Girl IV

Part I, Part II, Part III,

I’ve become accustomed to being watched.

Hollow, sightless eyes boring into me from beyond. Gaping gazes trying to swallow me up, their seeking ravenous for every last scrap. For anything that could fill the empty spaces. Make them a little less like windows without torches.

It’s ever-night where they are. Nana said one evening while I was studying the intricacies of incantation intonation at the table, her knobby knuckles knocking a suspiciously rhythmic beat against the window’s wooden sill. Cloudy and shadowed… Dark. So very dark. She paused then, considering before revealing, Like the inside of a sealed jar.

Pandora‘s? I remember asking, looking up from the large, dense tome laid before me. Myths and folklore were the only non-educational reads Nana allowed in the house.

Yes. Nana offered me a rare smile, resuming her rhythm. And, we’re their only company. Understand what that means, Thana? I did, then. Still do, sometimes.

Gotta keep the lights on.

Feeling observed, the sensation of it–goose-flesh and a vague, all-over tingling–is familiar. Constant. My companion. If not entirely welcome as a guest, accepted as a ward with nowhere else to go.

There is a difference, though, between what must be suffered in silent acceptance and what can stand not to be. A degree of tingling, more piercing than passively probing. Too weighty for any starving set of sightless sockets.

Not gluttonous enough for a pair of sockets filled fathomless like mine, either. 

 “Are you here to collect my soul, Reaper?” I don’t turn from the tombstone I stand before, despite the approach I can hear behind me. Steps soft for the weight of their owner’s gaze. “Or, just to stare?” Like you have been.

“Neither.” A low voice, strong but subdued. Quiet footfalls cease just short of being intrusive. “My business can wait, though, till yours is complete.” I don’t have to look to know the Reaper’s bowed their head–to match my position. I do anyway. Just a peek.

A slight glance reveals their scythe–nothing vague about its shape this close–similarly crooked in posture. Reverence may be the tool’s first lesson.

I return to my vigil.

Since I began working for Ms. Redding, once a week finds me facing off with her late husband–his grave, at this hour–a bundle of roses in hand. Gotta keep the lights on. Got to try.

Another moment of silence disturbed only by the hushed sounds of breathing and I lay my meager offering down. Then–a controlled breath–I face the Reaper standing a respectful distance away, finally able to observe them as I have been observed these past few nights. (Getting a good look at a Reaper is usually a final act.)

They are tall–enough to be imposing if they desired–and clothed in black, a long cloak obscuring much of their person from view. What I can see is utilitarian–boots, pants with knees patched many-times-over tucked snug into them. The hilt of some secondary weapon juts outward from the hip. Can’t imagine why it’s needed. My focus wanders to the promise of the Reaper’s scythe. From point to heel, its blade must be longer than I am.

Lowering the hood of their cloak, the Reaper reveals themselves to be a young man with a head of hair less kept than his discipline would seem to allow. As if conscious of the fact, he runs his free hand through his shaggy mane, attempting unsuccessfully to smooth fly- aways. In the day’s fading light, his locks look almost like raven feathers–deep black but shiny, iridescent at the right angle. Like the feather braided in my hair.

He’s striking, yes, but he might easily have been any guy I crossed paths with on campus if it weren’t for the eyes–solid white. No pupils. No irises. Like freshly fallen snow without the glare. Barely a sheen of life to them.

A slow, measured blink and I wonder if he’s not entirely blind? Was the added sense of tingling just my imagination? The shiver, my paranoia…?

“I can see.” The Reaper responds to my unvoiced suspicions, startling me out of what I belatedly realize is a lengthy once-over. “More than you I believe, Necromancer.” It is purely a statement of fact, no underlying haughtiness to it. Still.

“Sure acute vision is handy.” Again, my sight cuts to the scythe. “For aim.”

Another slow, measured blink and then, “Are you finished with your business?” He tosses a blank yet decidedly pointed glance at the solitary white bloom peeking out from its covert hiding place in my coat. A lily. Nana’s favourite. None of this Reaper’s concern.

“Done enough.” I stuff one hand in a pocket, use the other to brush through my ponytail, find the dark feather in the silvery mix. “Onto what business you’ve with me, Reaper.”

“Hayden.” I lift a disbelieving brow. “I know who you are Thana, acting Necromancer of Deadwood territory since the former….moved on. It’s only fair you know who I am.”

“You don’t know me.” I clench the fist in my pocket. Remember Nana’s lily resting in the other and what happened to the similarly innocent hydrangeas earlier at the shoppe. To the dahlias Hel took a liking to. Breathe, Thana. “I’m no acting Necromancer.” I relax my fist, stifling the wince as blood flow returns. “That would require official recognition of my being one at all.”

“By the Circle.” The Reaper–Hayden, I correct–clarifies. “They came to see you today,” A hesitant pause, almost trepid.  “…much to your displeasure.”

“In the living world, following someone without their knowledge and/or permission is called stalking.” Again, I crook a brow. “Know that?”

“I thought I’d misjudged you.” He points to his feather hanging in my hair. “And, you were selling out the ghost.”

“I’d have to be on a side to do that.”

“And, the Circle doesn’t want you on theirs?”

“They’ve made Their preferences abundantly clear.” Gar’s not you echoes in my ears, like a throbbing pulse. I shake my head, look Hayden dead in his dead eyes. “As I’m sure you heard.” From whatever shadows you crept within.

“I heard them ask you to be on the look-out for rogue Reapers.”

“Yeah,” I tilt my head. “know any?”

That earns me a faint smirk, a corner sharpened so minutely to a point it’s almost missed before it smooths back into a mask of impassivity.

“Look,” I start after a length of comfortable silence. “I don’t want any trouble. So, if you want to go now, I’ll forget I ever saw you. If not… Well, again, I don’t want trouble.”

“We’ve dead unaccounted for.” Hayden takes a step forward, still not intrusive. Just toeing the line. “It’s why we’re out of sorts. We’re searching.

“You think you’ll find some hiding here?” I question, slightly taken aback–both by his directness and the possibility of an accusation. “That’d violate our agreements.” Between Reapers and Necromancers. No playing keepsies with the spirits. It disturbs the order. Tips the scales off kilter.

“You misunderstand.” Hayden shakes his head, feathery locks hanging in his face. “We’ve dead coming to us for whom no record or their reaping exists.” Uncomprehending, I blink at him. “If you haven’t been reaped, you haven’t died.”

Oh.

Too many. Not too few.

“So… you’ve got dead-but-not-dead on your hands?” I try to piece together what I’ve learned. “And, you’re not sure where they’re coming from? Or, more importantly, how they’re getting to you?”

Hayden nods, more shiny strands falling in his face.

“That sounds like trouble.” More than I want and certainly than I need. “And, not particularly my problem.” The so why are you telling me it like it is? goes without saying.

“It would help our search greatly is we could speak with one of these…. undead. But,” Hayden’s blank eyes find mine. “as you undoubtedly know, death doesn’t lend itself to discussion so much as it does to–”

Screaming.” I finish and Hayden bows his head. From somewhere above us, a crow caws. “You need someone who can summon the dead from your world to mine.” A Necromancer.

“Yes.”

“Lots of trouble.” I remove my hand from my coat so I can rub my now pounding temple. “That’s lots of trouble.”

“It’ll be worse than troublesome if this problem isn’t rectified soon. The veil between realms is already showing signs of stress.” Hayden raises his head, blank gaze imploring. “My kind are too proud and, admittedly, too wary to ask your Circle to interfere in these matters. But, you are not Circle, Thana.”

“And, you are not overly proud, Hayden?”

“My only pride is in my work.” Hayden’s fingers flex on the snath of his scythe. “It is my purpose. Something or someone playing it for a fool cannot be tolerated.”

“I’m not a Necromancer.” Not officially. “Or one’s apprentice.” Not anymore. “It’d be a punishable offense for me to perform a summoning. Harshly punishable. Today’s earlier guests would see to that. I could be stripped of this territory.” That’s belonged to Nana’s blood for longer than the Circle’s had any to its name. “Stripped of worse if I’m discovered.”

“Were the stakes not worth the risks, I would be not but a shadow on your horizon.” Hayden intones, as solemn as the scythe at his side. “The dead deserve better, Thana. Ends proper. You know that.”

I look away, undecided on whether or not blank eyes are preferable to hollow stares. Both want so much. 

One hand runs its fingers along a silky feather’s bristles. The other, along soft, white petals. So do I–want. Other sensations have become muted–to touch and sight.

It’s getting dark.

In the sky, the sun sags, fog appearing like manifested dream to drag it under. Soon, the screaming will start. Sockets will delineate themselves from night. From nightmare. Pair up to hunt. Scratch at the glass. Desperate.

Gotta keep the lights on.

They‘ll feel less alone, Thana. Nana told me, something that can’t be taught through any tome coloring her tone. Less abandoned if there’s a little light. You too.

“I know.” Hayden’s should-be soulless eyes meet mine, hopeful. Their sheen reminds me of the sparkle Nana’s starless set seemed to hold. “I’ll need some supplies. Time to prepare, too.”

“How long?” Is that a hint of impatience I detect?

“By all means, feel free to play that other card you’ve got up your cloak.” That seems to silence any further complaints. “No? Then, I‘ll need a day or two.” Mentally, I expand upon that grocery list I never got around to today. Unexpected company, what can you do? Thinking of…

“You wouldn’t happen to have a place where I can…work, would you?” I look at Hayden. “Somewhere secluded. Not too small. Preferably near hallowed ground.” In case.

“How big?” I can’t help but grin. That’s always the first question, Nana clucked her tongue. Though the answer should be obvious.

“Enough for a body.”

For his part, Hayden remains seemingly unfazed, contemplative, perhaps, but his features more neutral than mine must’ve been when the truth of the matter was made apparent to me. After a moment to think, I raise my eyebrows.

“I’ve a place in mind.” Hayden reveals, the white of his eyes taking on a crimson tint as dusk dies. “I take it blood and bone don’t bother you?”

Another grin I can’t devour.

“It’ll save me time,” My flesh begins to tingle, nearly hum as the last vestiges of my peace sink into dark surround me. A crow’s cry becomes the beginnings of a wail–for company. Mine. “not having to collect either myself.”

Shrieks settle in my ears. Empty sockets on my skin.

It’s going to be a long night.

Better light that torch.

****

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Can you guess who we’re going to meet next time?? I wonder…

If anyone has any interesting reads on necromancy or death deities or tarot, please feel free to share ^.^ I’m interested in incorporating as many as I can in this little series here…. Is that too much of a hint for who to expect next week….?? Guess we’ll find out!

Thanks as always for reading!

All my stories can be found under the Killing It tag ^.^

***Link to Tweet inspiring this piece***

(Yes, I drew the featured image and the other skull drawing in this post. The featured image is a piece I’m working on for a class. It’s done using charcoal. My fave~~)

 

 

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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.***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.