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Sad Fiction Speculative

TW: self harm

She pointed her little mitten-covered hand somewhere off to the right of the trail we were walking-

 

Do you see that, momma? It’s a crocus. It means The Dark Season is almost gone.

 

I smiled to myself, and then to her as she turned around to see if I had heard her.

 

Yes, pretty girl. Good eye. How’d you get so smart?

 

She shrugged, stuck her tongue out at me and then turned back to skip along the trail. Sometimes I don’t believe she exists. Sometimes I wonder if she is the only living piece of me left. She’s so beautiful. She’s so small but so graceful, and she sees and hears all the beautiful things there are that surround us. And she always remembers that I can’t, so she told me about the crocuses.

 

Come on, momma!

 

So I jog my way up to her and she rushes back towards me and wraps herself around my legs. I clasp her little head into my stomach, her soft, golden hair capped in her favorite winter hat with the white pom-pom.

 

I love you so much, pretty girl.

 

And then I tried not to. I tried not to; I’m always trying not to. But I started to cry. Not for love or happiness or grief. Not for anything. And when she felt the first heave, she squeezed me tighter.

 

The Dark Season will be over soon, momma. But we gotta go to The Field to see if the daffodils have come yet. It’ll make you feel better. The Field always makes you feel better, remember?

 

Yes, baby. I’m sorry; I’m so sorry. Take the dog and run up ahead of me. I’ll be right behind you.

 

But she never leaves me. She’s just a child. Her bones aren’t even hard yet. But every day, at least once a day, she looks at me like I might be made of glass. I think she hugs me hard to prove to herself that I’m not. But she’s never angry with me, even though pieces of her mother are missing, and so is her whole father. She has almost nothing, and I-

 

Momma! Let’s go, c’mon!

 

She saw me leave for a moment. So she grabs my cold hand, the one I still wear my wedding ring on, and she pulls me towards The Field. The Field was always our spot. I can’t count how many afternoons the three of us walked the trail we wore down ourselves over the years since we’d gotten the house. 

 

But now we were missing a dog, and her dad, and me- I had always been missing. Somewhat. I don’t like The Field anymore, but I know it’s her scaffolding. And, to be honest, even on this cold, dark day- the hundred-thousandth since we lost him- it still makes me feel something. In my chest somewhere from when I used to be grounded. And she was right, the daffodils are here. So I sit at the edge of the treeline while the dog carefully follows her as she counts the flowers and looks for bones of small creatures that lost life here, too. She and her dad always used to look for bones. They’d find the skulls of raccoons, rabbits, deer- they’d take them back to the house and paint them in all sorts of bright colors. She used to say it was like bringing them back to life. And then I would find them under my side of the bed the next night, until there was a forest full of life and death sleeping below me. She has always known something about me that I just don’t.

 

And this is where I lose myself. And she gives me time to.

 

He was almost as beautiful as her, but as all parents know, the little people we make are the best of us. They’re exquisite in their existence. They’re something that seems unattainable… but we had to have had it at some time. We used to be them.

 

He was almost as beautiful as her. And he knew me just as well. He was the only thing that tied me to the earth until we had her. And after that, it almost seemed as if the two of them were always conspiring to keep me awake, keep me alive, keep me in the light. And I try not to think about him because I can’t think about him because he was the only person who ever truly understood my uncontrollable hauntings. I can’t think about him because I’ll forget to feed her and I’ll forget she has school and I’ll forget to shower and I may even forget this is the place in which we truly exist. I don’t want to be here.

 

I would see The Red Man in the woods on our walks and I would scream. He would grab me, hold my face in his hands and tell me to look at him. Over and over until I did. And then he would show me how to breathe with him, and he never looked away from my eyes. And if I did, if The Red Man hadn’t gone, he would repeat the cycle. Until I could breathe. Until I could remember where we were. And he would move his hands from my face to my hair and my shoulders and tell me how much he loved me. He never told me it wasn’t real, because he knew that for me it is.

 

She’s running along the ridge top with flowers in her hands. 

 

I remember the conversation we had when I got pregnant with her. I remember screaming at him that we couldn’t do this, because she would be sick, like me. She would come out in pieces and she wouldn’t understand why and it would be my fault because I allowed her to exist. I hyperventilated. I told him I needed to throw up and I got the boxcutter out of my makeup drawer after I closed the bathroom door. I opened up one of the patches on my left hip- to remind myself I was there. To remind myself I was. And then I don’t remember. But he came into the bathroom with me at some point, kissed my forehead, put a hand towel over the bleeding and carried me into the bedroom. He never said a word; he just laid behind me and held every piece of me between his arms and his legs and his breath and his heartbeat. I remember barely feeling him.

 

Sometimes he would say something that should have been innocuous, and I would explode. I would be back in The Cabin and the things that happened there would be happening again. I would see The Thing That Follows and it would grab my wrists with its bone branches. I would sit in the back corner of our walk-in closet and I would try to stop it, to shake it away. And every time, he would quietly sit down across the closet from me and wait for me to stop sobbing- to remember where I was. Sometimes I asked him to tell me my name so that I could be sure this was the place in which I actually existed.

 

That is what I miss most of all: the sound of my name on his lips. He was my scaffolding. And then when our beautiful girl came, it was almost as if she was born knowing that it was her and her dad. She loves me so much, but she knows I am not a mother, and I think she knows I’m not really here. A few times, when I’ve left myself, she asks me if I’m a Walker. I asked her what she meant once. I could tell she didn’t want to answer, but she explained it as being allowed to walk through any world or season or field of flowers but not really be there. As if I had no heat signature.

 

She misses her dad and the dog. I’m sure she misses not being alone with me. I miss my sky, my sun, my oxygen. I miss something I’ll never find again.

 

He never got mad at me. He just held me until I came back. Now she does the same thing. She is all we have left of him.

 

He was almost as beautiful as her…..

 

And then she is standing right in front of me, the dog sat behind her, wagging his tail. She puts her little mitten-covered hands on my face and tells me to look at her, and for just a split moment, I heard his voice. 

 

Momma, I love you so much. You gotta come back; we gotta put the flowers in water before they get sad.

 

I CAN’T HEAR HER.

 

Momma, please.

 

She squeezes my face and kisses my forehead. She sees me see her and holds up a groundhog skull-

 

Look! We have another one we can put at The Tree.

 

You’re right, pretty girl. It’s perfect. But you have to paint it- Daddy always liked to do that with you.

 

Momma, he’s not gone. So you can’t go away either; I don’t know how to buy dog food.

 

She made me laugh. This exquisite little creature.

 

I miss him so much.

 

I miss him so much.

 

When we get home from The Field, she’ll remind me to take my medications and she’ll get me a glass of water from the faucet she has to stand on a stool to reach.

 

When we get home from The Field, she’ll lay newspaper on the kitchen table and get her paints, and she’ll bring the groundhog back to life. But her little pieces of life and death don’t go under my bed anymore; they go under The Tree. 

 

The Tree. You can still see where the impact from the car almost uprooted it. We still hear tiny pieces of glass crunch beneath our feet when we go to put another little skull underneath it. And The Red Man always stands in the woods behind it, smiling with black teeth and black eyes.

 

March 26, 2021 00:20

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