The mundane business of dying.
Shadows. Speech. A dream.
“What the Sam Hill is going on in this court room?”
The businessman summons something. The swirling darkness becomes a court room. The ghost of his assistant warns him:
“The prosecutor, sir- he’s not of this world.”
“But I thought he was the judge!”
“He’s that too, sir, apparently. The celestial court room is rigged, and the prosecuting angel has found you wanting.”
“I always knew the Devil was a lawyer.”
“Shh- he’s reached his ruling!”
A third eye burns on his head. The Left Hand utters his judgement:
“Your soul is piss-ugly and dark as Lucifer’s shit. I can, however, be swayed by vodka.”
“And what? Cough up the Play Bunnies and alcohol and I let you off. There will, however, be a cost. Just a paltry thing. Your get-out-of-Hell-free fee.”
“A cost- I see. You want my soul, I presume?”
“Are you out of your rotting mind? Your soul is hideous. No. Your daughter.”
“My daughter? That, sir, is too far!”
“You summoned me to court. Only I can prevent Michael’s shining sword from being rammed up your sinning ass. Trust me, it’s not pleasurable at all.”
“My- my only child? I could never…”
The Judging Angels smirks.
“Eternal torment, human. Do you know how long eternity is?”
So the father sold his child to the man of many names.
Seven winters pass. She has the face of a starving angel. Her mother dies in labor. The father does not remember.
Each night, she has a visitor.
“Daddy, I saw him again. The Shadow Man. He was standing at my door, watching me- daddy, I can’t sleep.”
His daughter stands before him, clutching her stuffed doll against her trembling chest. He tucks his little angel into bed, urging her to sleep.
“It’s just your imagination, sweetheart. Monsters belong in movies. Now shh,” he whispers, stroking her flaxen hair. “Daddy- daddy’s here for you.” He flips on the TV, unable to shake inexplicable fear. She drifts off to sleep.
He curses under his breath. Above, her room is pristine, with a silky pink bower over her bed. He often marvels at how she plays. She sequesters herself in her room, methodical in the perfectly arranged tea sets. She sits there all day, rearranging the china cups and perfect, porcelain dolls. She holds them like relics, smoothing the pleats in their dresses, calming a stray hair.
Then, she will sit and stare. Humming softly to herself, the strain of a violin. Her father can never complain. She is the perfect child. Quiet and obedient. An angel in the making.
“Daddy, don’t leave. He’s coming.”
She will wake with bruises on her thighs. Acid kisses fester. Hidden under muslin, not allowed to show her dad.
“No, darling,” he whispers, stepping past the threshold. “There’s nothing here.” Gently, he shuts the door. He closes it fast so the shadows cannot catch him. A wind creeps under the door slit. Something ices his bones. He stumbles down the staircase and fall into stupor-ed sleep.
A vicious silhouette slinks from behind tf his daughter’s door. It stands by her bedside. A freezing draft teased the lacy curtains.
“Nothing here?” A chthonic voice echoes. “Oh, but of course there is.”
The shadow brushes her hair back. Kisses the child’s brow. It sings a lullaby, somber, like the wind.
She stirs, rosebud lips opening in question. Her cherub nose tilts upward, as if breathing in the moon. He hushes her silent struggle, kisses her asleep.
“In time. In time. In time.”
Rains come. They flood her soul. The world turns, as it would.
Her father lay sdead in the ground, pale and rigid as crypt. She sits in the shadow of his masoleum, crimson umbrella fending off the rain. It pours from the stone eaves like tears from angels’ eyes.
The funeral procession marched away, a ghost train on the wind. She has imagined it in her head- it is only a flock of crows. Three for a wedding, ten for Old Scratch No one had come to mourn him. Only her, in black lace and a nude taffeta gown.
She curses the corpse below her.
Her mourning veil drifts in the stormy wind. The roses she carries wilted, white as the touch of death. She sips pomegranate tea, paralyzed to her fate. The drink mists like a ghost. She waits at the mausoleum’s steps.
“I know you’re there,” she whispers.
A crow caws in the dripping pine.
She draws a doll from her purse, hands clad in calfskin gloves. The shadow takes it from her, brushing against her skin. His touch is like winter’s bone.
“Such a fragile thing. How charming.” The thick shadows recede. They revealing the pale cold one. Sam Hill grins back at her. He holds the porcelain girl, placed it atop her father’s coffin. “We will bury her, but not yet. It is good to look at your rot.” He traces the doll’s cracks. “These are the dead parts of you. You can be her no more. Go ahead-” he says gently, hands on her shoulder. He guides her to the base of the stone. She stares down at the faded doll. “Make peace, dove.”
“What ties you to this world. Your innocence. It was a thin thread cut by death.”
“You know I won’t go with you. I’m taking my life if you do,” she says calmly. She withdraws a silver blade.
“Antique Venetian? Impressive. Either way, dear angel, you know that I will have you.” His voice rasps like an addict’s. His darkness drown her, suffocating like a black cloud. She recoils, tripping blindly down the steps to falling in an icy puddle. He lifts her off the ground.
“Either way, I have you. I hoped it was alive. But dead- dead can work.”
“So I have no choice?” she demands. “Absolutley none at all.”
“Some claims run deeper than blood. Nothing keeps the moth from her flame.”
“It was made before I was born.”
“There is no birth or death. Just change.”
“Then what are you?”
“An end. A dance. A beginning.”
“Sam Hill, rot in Hell.”
“Gladly. If it’s with you.”
Her cheeks burn with anger. She smashes the doll on the stone.
Thirteen crows caw above. She whispers a broken rhyme. She knows what it means. A curse.
They bury the shattered porcelain,. It is a spiriting away of sorts. Mists rise in their trail. Lilies bloom in their wake. His raiment is death, her bridal train crows. He holds her in the crook of his arm.
“You won’t miss much. I promise. This place is cruel and broken.”
“I never loved this world.”