This piece is one in a chronological series.
Feel free to find the others here, and to browse through any companion piece, set in the same universe.
1. Three Frenemies 2. Fall Coven Meet 3. BeingLovedAgain 4. The Fourth Witch
6. The Three Questions 7. Seed 8. Garden Graveyard Heart 9. The Cook
10. River Witch 11. Rage
5. Memory Elephant 12. Reincarnation
May 22 – Part 1 Stone Lady Paper Boots Dredge Half Yours, Half His Flower Seller
When You Must End Love Talk Scorpio Rising Pretty Men, Stone Lady
From The Olive Pit to Gratitude Reliability dead girl Soft Witch
The heart is a garden. The grave is growing roots. The roses are thriving, though I have not sought out what memories they hold. BeingLovedAgain is sitting with her body turned away from me; she is on her knees, facing the grave. She sits legs folded, head bent slightly as though in solemn prayer, little feet underneath her, dark hair like mine but thicker, long and down the length of her back. She is humming an old melody.
Her red soles stare at me. The skin is patchy, some areas bloody. I see muscle and bone in places, in pieces. A talar fracture on the left foot that never quite healed. “Does that hurt?” I ask her, interrupting her song.
“If I say no, will you believe me?” She asks. I can almost hear her smile. “I have said no many times. I have said yes many times, too.”
Memory, the grey elephant stands silently rocking his trunk back and forth, playing a lazy game with the bees, ears flapping gently in a summer breeze. The air feels thick, like a cloud of steamed milk in an overpriced latte.
“I don’t know what to believe,” I say. “No.Yes.I don’t know – ”
“You never know, and that” she says quietly. I look at her feet, the tangled mess of nerves and tissue and tendons, “is a problem.”
“Most things are,” she says. “Yes. I’m healing already. Look closer.” I walk towards her, and feel distance shift the air, pressing me into a single inch. She grows, a beanstalk child as I approach her. A giant child again, this time on the garden side of my heart. I swallow, remembering the sensation on the graveyard side of things, the walls of the grave growing like a building trapping me, me seeing her knee, bloodied with a single thorn. “Does it hurt?” I had asked. I suppose she does this – makes herself grow – so that I can see the muscles of her feet slowly twitching, stitching themselves, flexing painfully. I see little nets of capillaries, branching like a forest into arterioles, and broader arteries – on the other side, a venous canopy. Bone comes together, filling in the cracks like cement.
“You’re always by the grave?” I say. It felt like a statement, but falls like a question as I say it. I am not sure what I am asking, but she laughs, a sound like a bark.
Her answer is a riddle: “What is the body’s first line of defense against infection?”
“Skin. Intact. Keratinized.” I look at her feet. The layers of hypodermis slowly closing over layers of pulsing fat, then the collagen fibres of the dermis braiding together, then epidermis, skin growing, layer by layer, knitting together, keratinizing slowly.
The snake around Memory’s belly rises, and looks at me, eyes narrowed, tongue flipping like a finger, hissing against the wind. Memory takes a single step forward toward the roses.
“You can’t move” I say suddenly. I’ve only ever seen her near the grave – in it, around it, never quite anywhere else; I put her there when she was a baby, an infant, and asked her to die. “You can’t move. You don’t have any soles, you don’t have a single sole, how can you move without a sole?” I giggle, panicked, my metaphors have run into a very solid wall of reality.
“How can you move without your soul?” She responds, like a child, her tone is meh meh meh mocking. But her words wrap gently around my throat like a lover’s caress. Tender enough to turn my laughter into a small olive pit, green and growing in my larynx. Her scorpion tail runs along my lower lip, and I am very still.
“Perhaps,” she begins, “I asked you my riddles in the wrong order, the last time. Let me try again:
Third, what must you give back that does not belong to you, and what must you take back because it does belong to you?” She asks, a voice from the past, humming against my voice box like a knife against the rim of a glass cup.
“Second, if I am here, holding you, who is in the grave?
First, yes, good, you’ve emptied yourself of bees. The bees will nourish these roses – but why, what for, what is the point?”