Blood Forgives

Seventeen bodies swung from the tree, knocked against each other when the wind blew. Around their necks were signs, their names written on them in charcoal, to draw the knowledge from their ghosts and leave them unhomed, deaf to the corpsewomen who gathered at the water’s edge and called to them. Water, running water, ringed the hill, water choked with nenuphars and green lilies. The nameless ghosts hovered over the water, anchorless, unable to go forward or back. On moonless nights you could see them, if you were brave enough to cross the salted fields leading down to the water, shining faintly, rose-coloured and green.

Sometimes one would come to town and give his true name to a corpsewoman, let himself be taken under the name of another, hanged with another’s freight of sin on his soul. Then the corpsewoman would call his name and the sound would pull his ghost across the water and into the body of the woman. They would flee into the wastes surrounding the city, to feed on blood and hair and menstrual fluid for nine months. Their child carried all the memories of its parents, they say, and no soul of its own.