Romance, Necromance

The moonlight showered down upon her skin, making it glow in all the right places. She tried to stay alert; tried to focus on her task.

The leaves rustled, and she couldn’t help but peek. The gravestone remained intact, but seemed to smirk.

Control was key.

A giggle swept through her. The art of control, the art of power – it made her quiver with excitement.

And then there he was.

He stumbled toward her, dazed. And when he approached she saw his eyes had sunken into an abyss. But still, behind them there was a glint of recognition… wasn’t there?

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

The Anticlimax

I guess you could say it was like a dream. The kind of dream that you’re aware of, but isn’t quite lucid. You go through the motions; let the dream carry you, because fighting it seems like a waste of energy. Yeah – I guess you could say dying was like a dream.

And I wasn’t alone. Death was a strong presence, there to collect – more patient than a bookie, but threatening nonetheless. I tried to laugh, really, I did. It was funny; like a bad movie that’s meant to be taken seriously but can’t be. I think they call those cult classics.

My death: A Cult Classic. I like the sound of that. It’s fitting, since my life turned out to be an accidental joke with an anticlimactic punch line.

“So? What now?” I ask Death. My tone is almost annoyed; almost apathetic; definitely irascible. I suddenly think I might have to take a number and stand in a line, and the mere thought of it is infuriating. But that’s not what happens.

Death leads me down a tunnel. There’s no light at the end of it or anything cliché like that. But it is a tunnel that seems to go on forever. It strikes me that my legs aren’t aching though, and I have to appreciate that. Silver linings.

“This isn’t going to be a ‘pick a door’ kind of deal is it? I hate those,” I snicker.

We finally arrive at a threshold. Beyond it, there is blackness. It’s absence of color, absence of light, absence of life. It makes me very uncomfortable, and I can’t even think of a snarky remark to cut the tension.

Death gestures for me to sign in, and I do. I sign my name, and beside it appears today’s date – my date of death. Again, I’m uncomfortable. It’s slowly but surely becoming real.

I look at Death. Death is also absence. There’s no black hooded cloak; rather, Death is just a shadow. And that’s when I realize, it’s my own shadow. I squint for a better look, but it’s unnecessary. For at that moment, the Shadow is coming to life. First, the eyes, then the hands. A vibrancy takes hold, as though watching one’s reflection manifest from thin air. Terrified, I instinctively hold my own hands in front of me. But they are dissolving, like sand in acid rain. And then… everything goes dark.

When the light comes back, I’m something altogether different.

*****

“Are you a ghost?” she asks me. I smile. Mainstream cinema has taken on the unfortunate task of representing a figure of the afterlife that floats through air and has a transparency about it. That’s why she’s confused. Indeed, I float. Indeed, my form is less than solid. But ghosts aren’t real. And I am.

“Not exactly,” I say. “I’m a spirit of the Otherworld.”

She ponders on this for a second; bites her bottom lip, then resolves to obtain more information.

“What does that mean?” she asks. “Are you dead?”

I smile, fully expecting to have to answer such questions. “Not exactly. My consciousness once belonged to a human, but that being has died, and its consciousness re-formed. It belongs to the Otherworld now, and it lives inside of me.”

I pause to let the little girl take it in. She is a willing believer, provided she is given the right tools. I watch her carefully process what I have said, and when I decide she is ready for more, I continue.

“Not everyone cans see us. You have a very special gift, and it will become stronger as you grow.”

She looks up at me, doe-eyed and curious. The compliment appeases her, but she’s still confused. I can see another question bubbling in her gut.

“So,” she finally begins, slowly. “Why are you here?”

Truth-time.

“A tragedy is going to befall your home soon. I’m here to cast a spell of courage upon you.”

The reference to tragedy sends a chill up her spine. Her shoulders tense, and she quickly tries to form her next question. Deep down, she probably knows I can’t answer it.

“Will something happen to my parents?”

I remain expressionless, and after a moment of silence, I move passed her unanswerable query.

“For all the elements of this world that seem out of your control, know that you are always in control of the elements within yourself.”

I let the words whisper through her, and while she’s still trying to interpret them, I gently release my magic. Then, with only a wink and a smile, I disappear from her forever.

Being a spirit of the Otherworld has given me the opportunity to bond with people in a way I couldn’t have when I lived among them. In that life, my consciousness was as selfish, petty, and mundane as the rest of them. I had always felt it, but could do nothing about it. But from the vantage point I have now, I realize how wrong that was.

People are not as fixed a state as I had once believed. And when that little girl crawls out of the fire, it’s my magic that will be carrying her. Her consciousness will be forever tethered to my strength. She will be amazing. And I will be a part of it.

I guess it’s still a little anticlimactic, but I’m no longer looking for an unattainable impact. Only humans have such trouble defining satisfaction.

In the Otherworld, everything is easier.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

The Waiting Room

Warren stared down at his form, blankly. He had no idea how to answer questions like, “what is your ideal career?”, or “do you prefer warmer or cooler climates?” Nor did he want to. The truth is, he didn’t much mind being dead, and Limbo suited him well. He wasn’t sure he even wanted to move on, let alone sure he knew where he wanted to go.

But those were the rules. If you were chosen to be a Watcher, you had to go back to somewhere and be someone (covertly).

“Excuse me,” Warren hailed the receptionist but she made an obvious effort to ignore him, again.

He released a sigh of defeat and lowered his eyes back to the form. His number, 057, was fast approaching; once it was called he would have to have some real answers and make some real decisions. The pressure was unbearable. Warren had always had a proclivity towards procrastination and indecisiveness. How had the elders decided he would be a good Watcher? It didn’t seem like his thing.

He had had a comfortable life before the accident. He had managed a meat factory – okay, that wasn’t entirely true. He was the second assistant, but often enough he’d be left in charge. He didn’t have to do much though; in fact, it was an accepted truth that he was only given the promotion to acknowledge his sixteen years of loyal meat-packing service. It was fitting that he had fallen into the meat-grinder and died six months later. The job had consumed his life.

But Limbo was very nice. It was quiet, and polite. Warren liked it.

He looked up. The screen read 038.

Okay, first question: What is your favorite pastime? Button Collecting Bird watching.

‘More outdoorsy.’ Warren smiled, satisfied with his creative response. ‘I always wished I was a bit more outdoorsy.’

What is your favourite season? Summer.

That was a lie. Warren liked Late Fall best because the chill in the air was a good excuse to spend his nights inside. But summer was more suitable for bird watching.

What is your favourite movie?

Warren thought long and hard, rapping his pen against his temple. What was the last movie he had seen? He thought his favourite movie of all time might be something with Indiana Jones, but he couldn’t recall which ones he had seen and which ones he hadn’t. Warren straightened his glasses, an excuse to raise his hand to his brow and discreetly wipe away the sweat.

044.

His heart rate increased as he scribbled down his answer: Indiana Jones. ‘Vague yet direct. All of them, or the most famous one. They’ll get it…’

Warren continued to forge his way through the questionnaire and was nearly done when a new woman entered the waiting room and took a seat next to him. She was beautiful, even though her right arm was severed clean off.

“Lawnmower” she sang out to Warren when she caught him gawking. She didn’t seem offended, at all.

“O-Oh, Oh I’m sorry.” He looked away, blushing.

“You?” She asked through a wide smile.

“Meat Grinder,” he replied, pointing to his bad side. His left arm was mostly gone, the left side of his torso ripped apart, and his left thigh looked as though it had been chomped into.

“I would have guessed shark,” she chuckled flirtatiously.

Warren laughed along nervously. The sweat was streaming now.

“So, where are you off to?” he asked.

“Hawaii, I think. It should suit my free-spirit.”

“Oh? Do you surf?”

“Well, no. I was something of a recluse in my past life. But I’m planning to rebuild my image.”

Warren smiled, and jotted down his final answer. Hawaii, it would be.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

The Day the Reaper Came

Discounting the mortal hiss in the air, it had been a rather ordinary Thursday. Jonah was tired, as usual, but forced himself to take his afternoon walk nevertheless. He fumbled with the buttons of his knee-length, thick polyester, coat for longer than he had the day before. He sighed at that realization, then pushed it to the back corner of his mind reserved for disappointments. He covered his balding head with a black bowl hat and reached clumsily for his cane.

Outside the air was crisp and refreshing. Autumn had always been Jonah’s favourite season. When he was a boy, he used to rake all the lawns on his street, and when no one was watching, he’d jump in the piles and pretend to be swimming on some opposite planet. His joints ached at the thought of doing that now, but he still quite enjoyed leaf-gazing. Actually, he had very few pleasures in life anymore, but Autumn walks were on the top of the list.

In the park he hesitantly watched the children play cops and robbers. They cackled and roared gleefully, and Jonah found the scene carnivalesque and difficult to watch. In his eighty-four years, and especially in the way he had chosen to live them, he had seen enough casual brutality. Children today; he had not been able to attain that level of desensitization until his sixth kill.

“That’s not true, Jonah. You always had a cavalier approach to right and wrong, didn’t you?”

Jonah looked beside him. The park bench he had been sitting on alone suddenly occupied a second body. The man seemed more a shadow, cloaked in a black hooded garb that left his face to the imagination.

“I suppose you’re right,” Jonah whispered, regrettably. He did not need to ask the shadow who it was, or what it wanted.

The man and the shadow watched the children play their grotesque game in silence for a little longer, while pigeons squawked uninvited at their feet.

“Are you afraid?” the shadow finally asked.

“No. Just tired.” Jonah reflected on his reply, and then spoke again, still not turning to face his visitor. “What’s on the other side for me?”

“That part, Jonah, is up to you.”

Now they faced each other, and Jonah saw what was hidden beneath the hood. Empty eye sockets, like an abyss with a magnetic draw. Worms wriggled about the holes, apparently unable to decide if they would rather be inside or outside. The skull was spotted with rotting flesh, but was more bone than skin. The sight of the bits of flesh dripping and dissolving did not disturb Jonah in the least. Mostly, he was contented by the cognizance that there was no associated foul scent. On the contrary, all he smelled was Autumn.

“I must confess, then?” Jonah asked with a hint of disinterest in his tone. He pulled his attention away from the rotting flesh and un-eyes, disgusted more by the idea of confession than anything else.

“No.” At this, Jonah turned to face him again, startled. “It is I who has a confession” he finished.

Jonah stared blankly until the voice resumed. It was low and steady; apathetic, much like that of Jonah’s own father’s had been.

“Jonah, it is not your time. But it can be.”

Jonah felt a numbness overtake him. His hands, though shaking on the ball of his cane, felt disconnected from himself; as did the rest of his limbs. It was his time – he could feel it in his bones, in his lungs, in his heart.

“Jonah, focus.” The voice was even softer now, and Jonah was wondering if he had altogether lost his grip on reality.

“You’ve taken many a life,” he continued. “Today, you will be asked to give one.”

The pigeons took flight in unison, the flap of their wings sending a chill straight through Jonah’s thinning body.

“I don’t understand,” he whispered, his voice quivering enough to give way to odd cracks.

“His name is Eric. He’s fourteen, the grandson of a Mr. Garret Lyon.”

Garret Lyon, he had been Jonah’s last kill.

“He’s been quite ill. Right about now, his fever is blistering. He’s home in bed, just across the street there.” The visiting man did not point, but Jonah instinctively knew where to look.

“He’s dying.”

“Not if you’re willing to make a trade.”

“I have a choice?” Jonah’s tone lightened.

“We always have a choice.”

Yes, choice. That was something Jonah had always believed to be true. But for the first time in his life, having to make a choice was not a burden, but a blessing. Jonah’s heart quickened and he began to perspire under his hat. Somewhere in the background, he heard the man say: “Give yourself to me, Jonah, and your soul’s debt will be paid.”

His heart continued to beat harder and harder against his chest and the sweat became profuse. Without so much as a word, he had made up his mind.

This was the end.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

One Hundred, Ninety Nine, Ninety Eight

Enervation was setting in. Colors became opaque, and sounds became feeble.

“You should stop visiting. It takes too much out of you.”

“I can’t help it. I miss you.”

The fog was enveloping me, and a layer of frost was forming on my lips. I was so cold I could no longer feel his touch; ironic, since all I ever came for was his touch. I closed my eyes and directed all of my energy to that one essential sense. Time was unperceivable, except for the dulling of sight, sound, and touch. Scents never dissipated, but that didn’t mean anything to me. I couldn’t smell his warmth, I couldn’t catch a whiff of his fingertips digging into my waist or caressing my shoulders. But, if I could just hold on to his touch a little longer, the arduous journey would be worthwhile.

“I know,” he whispered solemnly, pulling back his hand. He knew there was nothing left for me.

“How long has it been?” I asked. The concept of time passing still meant something to me, even if I could not sense it  myself. Numbers seemed instinctively (or, habitually) important to me. I had to find ways to keep track – superfluous as I knew it was.

“Six months.” He sighed and shrank back. His shape was blending into the fog now.

Six months was good. It was half of a year. It was more than one season. It was enough time to build memories, if I could figure out how to do that. Up to this point, I had only mastered the ability to retain knowledge. I knew him, and was comforted by his familiarity. I missed it when it went away. But I couldn’t remember anything. As it was, the six months had already faded; buried in the crevice of my mind that was once reserved for memory and time. Now it seemed the only parts of me that still worked were the parts that yearned for his presence.

“You should go. It’s time.”

“I know,” I whispered, not willing to admit that I was already gone.

The fog grew heavier; darker even. He was only a shadow now and his voice was surreal. I was no longer hearing it with my ears, but rather recognizing it somewhere in my mind. I knew he was saying words, and I let that be enough as I drifted away.

“What is time?” I mumbled in half awareness.

I knew the answer: just a number of minutes until I could feel him again.

I just needed my strength back; I needed to become whole again, and then I’d be back. And we would be happy, again. And the monsters would sit at bay, so far from us that they would be virtually inconsequential. And no one would control my fate, or take me away, or take him away.

Just a number…” I groaned.

The air wrapped itself around me and dragged me through the blurry darkness. I would be back, in time; whatever that was.

My brain swelled, my fingers shrivelled, my eyes fluttered shut. I exhaled without will. Slow and steady, the release came. I gave in wholly, eased by the calm it brought. But soon, that quiet non-existence would be awoken to awareness again. Awareness of his absence would ignite all of my senses, and send me back to him – until we ran out of minutes, again.

Somewhere, deep inside, I knew I was counting down those precious numbers.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©