In the Summer We Remember Winter

They wrapped you in chains you could have shrugged off like cobwebs and cracked the ice to sink you in the pond next to the old kennels. You watched their shadows pass away as you settled to the bottom, blood heavy in your belly like the stone they tied to your ankles, lungs flat and empty until the water wormed its way in, surrounded by the scattered bones of the dogs no one needed.

You could have, easily enough, fought your way free, at any point from when they kicked open the door of your basement, but what would be the point? One spot was as good as another.

The sun rises and they gather to stare at you through the ice, and you play dead, or close enough; eyes opened and unfocused, chest still, stirred by the current. They count themselves successful, save one child, hypnotized with dread, who lingers. You close your right eye slowly: a knowing wink. They gasp and run off and you hear the sound of distant laughter. You were legend enough to kill, but not legend enough to believe in.

Still, you remember the child’s face; they will be worth looking up when the pond and memories have thawed. Faith should be justified.

Eat the Rich

You are not an animal.

Which is to say, it is not the substance of what you eat that matters; you do not convert food to energy, matter, life. You are a spirit in the shape of a person, a pit in the mouth of the world; as you are a sign, a symbol, so too is your food. It is, in a sense, arbitrary. You do not suffer from iron deficiencies.

Nevertheless, you find yourself thinking in animalistic terms. Hunting, preying, stalking, digesting. Snakelike, you stuff yourself powerfully once, then slumber for weeks, months, years, rising only to feed again, to coil slightly against a warmer rock. You tell yourself you are dispassionate, as a snake is dispassionate, meaning perhaps no more than that your face is not built for the convenience of men.

It is easy enough to blend in, there on the upper floors. You know how they speak, dress, act, move. The casual possessiveness you assume is a shadowy reflection of their own, the right to touch and not be touched, to offend and be unoffended, to yell and pound the table and be nevertheless coldly logical. There is nothing you cannot do.

You would think they would be wary, but not so. Apex predators, they are unused to looking for any threat except their own folly. Knock gently on the penthouse door, and be invited in, vipers imagining themselves dragons, ready to warm themselves on your regard.

Then sleep the sleep of the just, for years, decades, or centuries, until need or desire calls you back. No windows are locked above the fifteenth floor.

Running Water, Scattered Salt

There are secrets you cannot keep.

In winter, you crawl your way out into a frozen field and hack at the ground with your hands until your nails break off. You press bleeding lips to the shallow earth and whisper what is not unspeakable.

Stumbling home, you veer off course and fall through the ice into still water. Cold as it is, you are colder, and winter is long; you could kick your way to the surface, but to what end? For what purpose? You burrow deep into the mud and wait instead for the first moon of spring.

Months later, wrapped in weeds, you haul yourself up upon the bank. They have nibbled away your nose, your ears, your fingers, your toes; they would have taken your eyes, too, but there are some things you hold on to. The world is warmer, but you are not. You strike out for town, and on the way pass an acre of grass whispering the name you tried to bury.

Felis Domesticus

You hadn’t been much to look at in life, and undeath hasn’t done much to change that. Respectable-looking, that was your lane. You’d had a cat when you were alive, but you’d gradually picked up more in the decades since. It was nice, being surrounded by life; you kept the same crepuscular schedule.

You don’t see people very often, so the cats are good company.  When you get hungry, you pick up some guy at a bar and bring him home and, well. Do what you need to. Once in a very long while you’ll get a visit from the cops, if the bartender could bother to remember your face. You were the last person, that sort of thing.

Yes, you always say. You’ve been lonely, and you’d thought that maybe this time— but you haven’t heard from him since. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, you say. None of them ever come back again.

Half a dozen pairs of eyes shine in the dark.

It’s hard, I know, the cops say. You just have to keep trying. You’ll find someone.

Thank you, you say. I hope so. I hope you find him soon. I hope he’s okay.

Cauled Home

Short days and long nights: you grow even pastier than usual in a light filtered almost entirely through a thin film of water. “You must love it here,” chuckles one of the others, digging an over-familiar elbow into your ribs for the last time.

True enough, you suppose (pause to wipe your lips clean, your chin, your jaw, your neck—you’ll need to replace that shirt now); there’s definitely more room here, more time, more empty corners waiting to be filled, but you find yourself missing the sun somehow more here, rather than less. At least elsewhere you could fret about what you couldn’t have. Here you can stare directly up at the sky at noon and see only a vaguely brighter patch of indifferent sky. It’s all so unsatisfying.

Then too is the cold. You’re always cold, regardless of the weather, but there’s something about the insistent watery chill here that plagues your dreams with images of decay: the eye of a possum misting over, a mouse mildewed into the upholstery of a car seat, mushrooms growing from the corpse of a fallen tree. You pick at your skin obsessively, terrified of moss taking root, of lichen blooming out of some disregarded crack.