At this week’s meeting, my local writing group did something a little different. Instead of our usual critique session, we sat around and told scary (or scaryish) stories inspired by a collection of Halloween-themed prompts. It’s always great to practice giving readings, and there’s a different energy when you actually tell a story out loud – plus, my group is all kinds of fun and talented!
I thought I’d share my contribution here, as a little seasonal treat. So without further ado, let’s dive in!
My beloved guards the open door, and I cannot escape. Her gown pulses like gills, wafting scents of salt and decay through the room. Her hair waves like kelp, wet and clumped. Glimpses of bruises, of creosote stitches on the skin beneath. Where are her eyes behind those dark locks? I think they once sheltered me, their color – sunlight on polished walnut. I think they bathed me in warmth, sang through my body.
I sit on our wedding bed, facing her, sheets twisted about me like chains. Only a moment ago – a year ago? – we held each other, the sheets a sweeter binding. Or was it a lie?
In her left hand, her grandmother’s knife. Sheathed so I cannot see the blade. She holds the hawthorn hilt to me, pallid fingers around the fractured leather and speckled brass of the sheath. I could take it from her.
The window is open behind me, but it is always black there. Since she fell. Since she jumped. Was pulled. Pushed.
A pewter birdcage dangles from her right hand, too small for any bird. There is no light to reflect off it, and yet it gleams like starlight on old bones. So though I should not be able to see what is trapped within, it glistens as it moves. Sallow like spoiled cream and whelked with engorged crimson veins. Iris of blue, like the delphiniums she grew in her mother’s garden. Like the cornflowers I picked when I should have been mending the rotted fence on the Henderson’s land. The weeds she should have laughed at, but instead wore like gems.
The pupil is a deep, still pool. Fixed on me, always. I fall into its sunken depths when I stare too long.
I have waited into timelessness, but she will not approach or fade away.
“Come here,” I say, my broken voice drenched in years. Still my words are laced with church bells and kisses.
She does not move. No matter how I call, she does not move. Eventually there are no more bells. There are no more kisses.
“Leave me!” I shout, yet she remains stagnant. I rage until I am empty of words, of threats.
I let my feet to the floor and the sheets shrivel away. I charge toward her, but I might be a breeze for all I faze her. Still she stands and the eye rolls to watch me and the gnarled hawthorn hilt calls to my hand.
I take it in my hatred. In my rage. In my love. My fingers clutch and the hawthorn bites into my palm. The blade shines like moonlight on a leaping trout and flickers out, sheathed in my beloved’s heart. Dark water flows from the wound, seeping between my toes, gathering around my ankles. I sink with her, pushing her hair from her face, frantic for a last glimpse of sunlight on polished walnut.
The sun has set when I find her eyes, though her tears flow, mixing with the water cradling her head. Her hair and gown billow out, waving in the currents, brushing and tangling about my waist.
Her lips move, and I tilt my ear to them, leaning against the flood coming through the open door.
“Look away,” she breathes, and sinks into the depths.
Chill fingers dive into my ears and press against my eyes. I cannot feel her in my arms.
“Never,” I say, as water fills my mouth and freezes my tongue. Never.