Sympathy For The Devil?
The night air is dark on my cheeks and I run, cemetery stones racing by, a jumble of dates with dashes in between. A Rowan tree casts moon shadows over the graveyard and for a moment I’m certain the one I’ve come for is gone. No! Surely there’s still a home! I hover between stones, eyes darting. This place is still so unfamiliar. And cold. Had it always been so? Frost has erupted now that the sun is long gone and looks like lace on the ground, cold beneath my bare feet as I race the rows. There! A stone, glossy gray, bears the burden of a cross and a name familiar scored into the granite. I reach it relieved, and as my fingers bump over the engraving sensation courses inside just as if the name etched in rock reaches back, touches my hand the way I’m touching it. Life, I think. This sensation is life, humming beneath my fingers like blood within veins. I fall still before the gravestone and “I knew you,” I whisper, surprised by the shard of hurt in my heart. I thought I was finished with feeling.
It is time, The Rowan tree whispers, for there are rules, and the few late October leaves the Rowan holds rattle in the night breeze, a call to all the dry bones. It is time. Twenty four hours of not long enough and every moment was precious; first that dead of night visit to a friend who believed the tickle on her cheeks was bunched bed sheets, not hands. She brushed them off with such impatience I laughed. But then her eyes popped awake in the dark and I shrank away. She must have sensed me anyway for as I fled I heard my name in the prayer that she said.
I said one back and moved on.
My husband I waited for ‘til the sun rose. I wanted to see him in the light.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have.
The lines on his face were new and the weariness in the way he didn’t lift his feet – or his head – made me long to reach out. But again, there are rules.
I tried breaking them but it is things, not people, I can touch and so my grasp slipped through his fingers again and again until at last he simply slid his cuffs over his hands as though he’d grown cold. The gesture struck me as lonely and the flood of rage that awakened my insides was shocking. Maybe I’m not done with feeling.
Or maybe I’m simply not done.
A sudden smile chased the chill from my face – God, it is cold here! – for the rules do not say revenge is forbidden, only that it forfeits the right to return to love on this, the Hallowed Day. Which meant … “I can even the score.”
My husband heard my voice as the rattle of dry leaves whirling in the wind at his feet, their sound that of dry bones tap dancing on the sidewalk. He looked at them a moment, bemused, then the cold kiss I placed on his cheek made him shiver and he pulled his collar up, against the cold.
I chose to not take one last look at him before the whirling wind lifted what’s left of me. Even the score, I think. Make him smile. I knew what would do it. No one had ever found the man who killed me. But the dead often know what the living do not.
And what I knew was that the bastard could not hide from me.
My Hallowed Day crept by and at last dying daylight received the killer’s face - and pulled the shadows from the walls. “Who’s there?” he asks, voice a little bit breathless, darting eyes a tiny bit worried. “Who’s there?”
“Why, no one,” I reply but what he hears are dead leaves – dry bones – tapping at the window. And what he sees …
“Not possible.” His voice is girly-high, like a whistle, and he scurries back as the door opens and shuts on its own. Cowers as his possessions are thrown and shattered. For it is things, remember? not people, that I can touch - and I do.
He becomes frantic and I like it. Then … ooh. I see it. The knife he’d used. Hanging in a spot as though it too is Hallowed. Still shiny-sharp there’s a memory in its blade – my face, reflected all wide-eyed and pleading. Sweat and panic taste the same, did you know? Before that night I did not. But he taught me.
I grasp the knife from where it hangs, his squeals of terror the sounds of a symphony as I draw designs upon the air with the blade.
Then I draw on him.
The rules say I can’t touch him but this knife surely can and his pain and panic are such adrenaline … perhaps if I could feel then maybe it would be pity that’d seize me as he tries to run.
Or maybe not.
I am everywhere yet nowhere and when he ducks the blade I’m patient, let it find him from another direction. Sweat and panic taste the same but someone’s terror? Now, that’s sugar. And their blood bath? Milk and honey.
The rules say revenge is wrong and I always assumed it was because it’s so wicked.
It’s ‘cause it tastes so damn sweet. No wonder the Universe Eternal grants only one short day – All Hallow’s Eve – for those of us Passed to be who we choose to become. No wonder there are ‘rules’.
But … rules never really were my thing. That’s why I went running that night in the first place, out in the shadowy twilight with music drowning one of my senses. Why my body didn’t just end up stabbed but butchered – for I did not play by the rules my killer had and a kill who fights back winds up mutilated, defense wounds. Rules. Even since the day I died I’ve risen up on Halloween and been out of my grave before the second hand slides off of 11:59 - then not back before my tombstone ‘til the clock is actually kissing the midnight-morning of All Saints Day.
All Saints Day. Guess that won’t mean much anymore. For shattered or not there are rules and from this day on I’ll have to play by a new set, keep company amid all the rest –the majority, actually - who’ve turned their backs on light, love and mercy. With all those who’ve chosen to become the fabled demons in the dark, righting wrongs as they see them on this, our Hallowed Day, twenty four hours during which the living and the dead are eye-to-eye equals.
It is almost midnight. Time to go, repeats the Rowan tree and I step forward, the earth accepting my foot as delicious as sliding into a warm bath. The last thing I see is a name familiar scrolled on stone. I knew you, I tell it again. But I don’t know her anymore. Am unfamiliar with her new longing to raise chins with chilled hands and force the unworthy to look fear in the eye. A calendar year lies between tonight’s midnight and next Halloween. An eternity to lie dormant, craving the electric taste of terror.
Surely it must be wrong to look forward to such a life.
But maybe not.
b.r ~ Halloween, 2011