Ghost Girl

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

~ Edgar Allen Poe

Mama went in her sleep.

How she wanted. How she dreamed.

Death is an illusion. An imagined end. Mama rasped toward her own foreseeable ending, breaths short and shallow. We don’t live here. We live inside. When you dream, my little ghost, look for me. I will be there.

So I did.

When Mama moved on from here, I searched–inside. Reached into the recesses. Haunted my hollow spaces, hoping for a familiar specter. A lingering trace, no trick of longing.

What I found, though, was smoke and mirrors, fogged glass stretching for as far as the eye can fathom. A maze of murky reflections and, wailing through it like a willowy wind-chime in a gale, Mama’s voice, beckoning.

I’m lost, little ghost. A hazy figure in the fog. I reach for it till fingertips kiss frigid glass. Help me find my way. Cold stings skin. Just a smudgePlease. It hurts.

Mama wasn’t a beggar. A bargainer, yes, but never desperate. If she ever appeared as such, it was an act. A performance. A scheme. Artifice. Those smoke and mirrors.

See, in the waking realm, Mama was a magician. I, her faithful assistant. Mama lowered the curtain and I disappeared. She held the saw and I split in two shards.

Defying death, Mama would tell the evening’s adoring audience, her top-hat tipped to stymie applause. is child’s play. A dream forgotten upon waking. A little ghost, her hand on my shoulder, proud. of who you were. If asked nicely, they’ll return. Show you how to remember. How to escape.

Please. Mama calls now, from deep within mirrored halls. Come.

So, like a faithful assistant, I do. I split in two.

I follow the sound of Mama’s imploring cries, her delighted giggles when I hit a dead-end. Hunt the hush of footfalls, discordant echoes off emptiness. Raindrops tap-tap-tapping the glass in out-of-tandem staccato. Pitter-patter-pat. Like a taunt.

Mean.

Hiding was an acquired skill of mine–from Mama. Crouching in crawlspaces, tucking limber limbs from suspicious, searching sight. Mama taught me all I knew. Every trick…

Or, so I thought.

Suddenly, a shimmer through the fog–the sparkly band ’round Mama’s trusty top-hat. I give chase. Pat, pat, pat–around sharp corners, down splintering corridors, a tinkling of… bells? in my ears. Maybe wind whistling through chimes….?

A silvery glint twists left. I clip my shoulder veering after it. Hear an explosion of clinks and of tinkling–feel a tingling run up my arm. Realization dawns. It’s glass. The sound is glass. Broken bits and pieces flinging through the air.

The mirrors are shattering.

I pick up my pace. Ignore the jagged fragments gnawing at my heels, biting into the tender flesh. This is not the end. Mama promised. There isn’t one. Not in my dreams.

At last, the top-hat is in reach. I thrust out a numb arm. Snag the hat by its brim. Tug it close for safe-keeping to my chest.

Immediately, silence falls.

Across the void to me. Then, the quiet stretches from where I stand, top-hat in hand, to the lone mirror before me. For once, the glass isn’t fogged, my reflection only a vague impression. No, now, when I look in the mirror, I find Mama.

She stares at me, a smile slashed from ear to ear. Her hand is outstretched and, after a measured moment, I move forward to meet her.

Fingertips caress glass, warmth seemingly radiating from within. Mama’s….my eyes glance from my recently captured prize back to my face. Put it on, they suggest. Then, little ghost, you’ll remember.

So, ever-faithful, I raise Mama’s glimmering top-hat to my head.

A perfect fit. I tip the brim.

As if in approval, Mama nods. My breath hitches. In my ears, a ringing–no, a pounding. InsideMama said. I will be there. I fall to my knees. Mama does the same.

Defying death is…. a little ghost of who you were. My hand brushes a shard, fingers its cracks, its poignancies. My reflection begins to tear. They’ll… show you how to escape.

“Little ghost… Little ghost… Little ghost…” Mama reclaims my fracturing focus, her grin splitting–sawing–her in two. It’s just the crack. “Are you there?”

“No,” Slowly, back and forth, I shake my head. The fog has cleared. The curtain lifted. Dream dissipated. I clench the shard in my grip till it cuts. “I’m here.

I shatter.

****

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It Will Be Satisfied

Swamp surrounds the village, dirt little more than sponge, sopping up so much water even the slightest of us must strap net stretched across stiff wooden slats to our feet or else risk being swallowed whole. Too many have become meals, preserved in the muck for unsuspecting outside-dwellers to stumble across on one of their daring jaunts to our reaches.

It’s why we’re called the People of the Mud.

Big sister, unruly and untamable, always donning a reckless sort of snaggled smile, became one such meal.

Hushed me in my hammock when climbing down from hers disturbed me. Told me, in a conspiratorial whisper, “It’ll be our little secret little sister, yes?” and vanished into the fathomless void our world is once nights descends. Her muck-shucks remained, I noticed at daybreak.

She never returned for them.

Blood, an elder in the hobbled hut stilted beside ours said when it was clear big sister was gone for good. The mud demands blood.

Mother and father said nothing in response to the elder. Nodded, yes, but kept their mouths sewn shut. I followed suit.

Said nothing when no vigil was held. Nothing when big sister’s hammock was filled not a year later by another child. Nothing when big sister’s muck-shucks were pried from my protective hold and broken like mother and father’s stitches. Remade, so carefully, for a smaller pair of pitter-patter feet.

Silence would mourn silence.

Would mourn a farewell never voiced. A closure, unsatisfied.

In the swamp, the mud is not the only thing that makes demands. That requires sacrifice. The water–there is ritual that must be performed before it will accept our dead.

Touch. We must bless the passed with one last memory of our touch. Must comfort them a final time, skin to mud-stained skin, or else risk their disgruntled spirit coming back with a vengeance for what was denied.

Flesh swallowed by the murk without lasting comfort never satisfies.

Is never satisfied.

It slithers out of the murk and into your hut at night. Up into your hammock. Coils ’round and ’round you till its smooth, scaly touch is all you can feel. All you will remember.

It sneaks up on you while you’re muck-shucking at dusk. Watches you with beady eyes from razory reeds, saw-tooth grass, biding it’s time till you tempt fate too close and then it is tusks through your soft tissue. Skin separated from stained skin. Cloven hoofs crunching bone so you’ll never forget.

It is a jagged-jawed maw lying in wait in the shallows’ shadows. Scaled hide shades of void and muddy murk. Eyes dim until the moment mother leans too far for the laundry line and topples into the drink. Till father wades too deep to rescue her.

Then, those dull eyes sheen blood-red. Like mine and baby sister’s in our murky reflections from our perch above.

Mud people? More like Blood people. 

Blood and bone and fleshy parts people. So easily made. Easier torn apart. Swallowed. Blood and bone and fleshy parts a delicacy our world delights in dishing out almost as much as it does in devouring it itself.

After, when the red goes ruddy, Its eyes flat like void-night again, there is an acknowledgement.

A looked shared between It and me.

Fully satisfied. Appreciative.

Accentuated by a toothy, reckless curl of Its vicious maw. Gone in an instant. With a single thrash of its reptilian tail, back into the murky depths it disappears. Finally able to rest.

Baby sister wriggles in my arms.

“Ma? Da?” She mumble-grumbles, pointing a pudgy finger at the settling murk. “Go?”

Shhhhh….” I soothe her struggling, her searching, my voice less than pacifying from long disuse. “It’s a secret.”

I glance down at the red streaks still swirling in the murk, the bone fragments floating like the broken bits of an old pair of forgotten muck-shucks. They weren’t forgotten.

“Our secret, yes?”

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Wrote this while I was pissed because I missed my train. Decided to make my frustration productive. Hope you enjoy~~

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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!***

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. 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, shadows 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

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.