11.4.19

We would carry the bodies together.

Joe would take them at the head, because he knew I didn’t like to see their eyes. He was kind that way. I didn’t like the feeling of them looking at me as we slid them into the fire, judging me, as though I was some kind of monster. Joe didn’t mind their eyes. Joe took very good care of me.

“We won’t be doing this forever,” Joe would say as we sat by the door, waiting for the next body. “Whatever’s going on out there is gonna dry up eventually. Or they’ll kill it off. One way or the other. Then we won’t have to be here anymore.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

I’d believe him, because I trusted him. Because in the hours between bodies, things would be quiet and still enough for me to forget what was going on out there. Because Joe would say it like even he believed it.

I believed him, because I loved him.

So when the body we had to carry was still breathing and talking, and it told us to run, I did what Joe told me to do.

We ran.

11.3.19

You can’t add to a person once they’re dead. When they’re dead, they’re finished. All the things they’re ever gonna do and all the things they’re ever gonna be are written in stone. They don’t get a stitch more of anything. They’re whole.

So when a person dies without knowing they’re gonna die, they die unfinished. They had plans, I’m sure, for all the spaces in who they were. But because they ended up dead, there’s no filling those spaces. They spend forever being finished with a lot of things undone. And if you never learned a thing in life, you sure as hell not gonna learn it dead.

So you’re stuck. Being unfinished.

And you’re already dead, so it’s a real shitty place to be.

I don’t always deal with the unfinished dead. I try to sniff them out when people are telling me their stories. Unfinished ghosts have some tried and true tells. Moving things so you’ll think they’re lost. Footsteps upstairs when everyone is downstairs. That sort of thing. So I can generally avoid the unfinished dead.

But every so often, one of them lands on my plate. Maybe there’s a kindness in their voice or a sweetness in the way they smile or a nagging desire to get deep into some bullshit. But I’ll take an unfinished dead from time to time. To keep my hand in it.

That’s why Jeanine’s at my kitchen table. And that’s why the kitchen table is floating two feet off the ground.

11.2.19

He pulled the curtain shut when he heard the women’s voices.

“Malcolm!” Gravia sounded drunk. “Malcolm, there’s a body -“

“Lower your voice, you cow.” Lenka’s voice was wobbly, too, but she was at least still clear enough to think.

Malcolm stepped out of the wagon and saw them. Still in their performance clothes, they leaned into each other, unsteady. Their faces were smeared with blood, blood that dribbled down in rivulets and streaked their fronts in red.

“Malcolm, there’s a body.” Gravia’s exaggersted whisper was practically as loud as her stage voice. She burst into giggles. Lenka elbowed her in the stomach.

“You can’t eat men that have come to the show drunk,” Malcolm kept his voice even. “If they’re drunk, you get drunk -“

“We know.” Lenka kept her eyes low, a touch of shame in her voice.

“But we aren’t sorry.” Gravia spit the words at Malcolm. “If you don’t feed us —“

“I feed you when I can ensure we don’t create a problem for us to solve.”

“You feed us when you want us to worship you. To owe you.” Gravia was now face to face with Malcolm. “We aren’t your dogs. We decide when we are fed.”

In a second, Malcolm’s thick hand was locked around Gravia’s throat. The ingratitude of children, he thought. And the messes they were prone to make. If they’d gone into town and killed some drunk. If they’d left him where it would be easy to find him. If they’d been seen, crowing and laughing covered in a stranger’s blood, there’s be questions. And police. And inquiries. And trouble.

And trouble is unwelcome when you feed on human flesh.

“Let her go.” Lenka didn’t beg. Her voice sounded bored.

“She’s messy.”

“She’s also barely 220 years old. Don’t waste your energy. She’s not mortal until she’s at least 500.”

Lenka was right. No squeeze would be enough. And if he had to spend his energy, there was apparently a body to take care of.

11.1.19

There were no ghosts where there should be ghosts. That worried her.

“Maybe you’re wrong about a rip in the Veil,” Brea said.

“I’m not wrong,” Chels said. “I’m never wrong. There’s a rip and it’s here and there should be ghosts.”

She remembered the last time a rip site was cold. They’re typically vibrating with movement between the worlds, spirit of all kind passing back and forth. But the last time — all spirit had left, steered clear of the rip site, got as far as it could away.

Because there are things worse than ghosts. There are things that terrify the dead. There are things that make the dead prefer being dead to being alive.

And the thing that came through the rip in the Veil was that kind of thing.

“So… there just aren’t any ghosts?” Brea said.

“There are ghosts,” Chels said. “There are always ghosts. There are just things out there bad enough to make ghosts… ghost.”

10.31.19

The doorbell rang.

“It’s after eight. They’re supposed to stop trick-or-treating at eight.” Randy grabbed the bowl and lurched off the couch.

“Are we really going to police a kid in a costume who shows up at 8:04?” Luke grabbed the remote. “Want me to pause it?”

“I’ve seen Halloween a million times. No.” Randy headed to the door. “If it’s a kid over 12 -“

“If it’s a kid over 12, you will give them candy. “

The doorbell rang again. This time, two rings. Insistent.

“I mean, that’s just rude-“

Randy turned the door knob and plastered a fake smile over his minor annoyance. The kid was probably cute. Probably a mom and dad that worked late. Luke was always telling him he needed to “temper his temper,” which wasn’t really anger, just easy frustration.

Before he could pull the door open, three more quick rings of the doorbell. Randy’s eyes rolled ferociously. Come the fuck on, kid. You’re not owed, not entitled to —

“Happy Hallowe—“

The porch was empty. Randy scanned you and down the street. There were a few kids some houses down, but no one close enough to have rung and run away.

“Hello?”

No answer.

Randy closed the door. Weird. It was ringing. Luke heard it, too. He closed the door and heard it click into place.

The doorbell. Once. Twice. Three times. Four. Urgent. Aggressive.

“Luke what the fuck is —“

Randy turned and the dead thing stood as close to him as his skin. Its breath swam into him like an oil slick, sticking to him in an instant.

“Trick…”

The dead thing consumed him like a piece of candy.

10.30.19

The boots were back.

They sat at the mud room door as they always had, as he’d always placed them as soon as he’d come home, as he would have this day if he hadn’t been dead a month.

They were back, and this frightened her.

She’d taken the boots and his coats and his work shirts and his winter socks and his fuzzy wool caps and she’d boxed them up in sturdy cardboard boxes and she’d given them to the thrift store in town.

She’d boxed up other things of his, reminders he had been there, reminders of their thirty years together, She’d wanted to make space that wasn’t haunted by his things. His work clothes were the hardest to have around. They still held his smell, his weight. They had to go. And they did, in the boxes she lovingly packed.

But the boots were back. And the mud room door was ajar.

10.29.19

He pushed the book aside and looked more closely at the markings on the table.

He’d seen them somewhere before.

He ran his finger over the circular carving, rough and uneven. Inside, what looked like a rudimentary tree, less a picture and more a gesture. What would pass for the idea of a tree.

He’d seen this before.

“Marta.”

Her forearm. The sleeve she pushed up to dip her hand in the sink. The tattoo there.

It’s a college thing, she’d said. All the sisters got them. They’re ugly, sure, but sisterhood over aesthetics, you know?

A sisterhood.

A coven.

“I can’t believe you figured it out.” Marta’s voice was behind him. He spun around, pressing the book to his chest.

Marta. Only now seemingly seven feet tall. A tower of a woman. A tree.

“The sisters said you’d never be smart enough to put all the pieces together. But here we are. I’m impressed. It’s too bad you now have to die for it.”