The Dead Girls

Now moving finally—mercifully—away, no longer looking at him with those horrid eyes.  There’s a sound, high-pitched and hoarse, but where’s it coming from, and he realizes it’s his own scream, and he clamps a hand over his mouth, shuts his eyes.

Quiet: the crickets, the wind soughing in the trees, the lazy babble of the water.  When he is able, he looks but sees nothing.  The gentle surface of the lake and the rising slope of pine trees beyond.  He looks back—yes, there—halfway to the other one, her twin.

He watches until they’ve reunited again and are drifting over the lake.  He then withdraws into his boat, his little island of comfort out here in the night.  He sets the rod down, opens the cooler and cracks a beer.  Takes a swig, head angled up to the sky, relishing the cool taste and looking at the stars.

In ancient Egypt, they believed pharaohs became stars after they died.  He wonders if this is relevant tonight.

He concludes the beer with a hollow burp, another trademark of his old man’s, and begins fitting a fresh worm onto the hook.  He won’t be scared away by a pair of wandering spirits.  No.  He has a promise to keep, a deathbed promise no less.  For this is no ordinary night.

Twelve hours ago he was at the hospital watching the last breath piddle out of his father’s lungs.   His father, who always seemed so indomitable in life, so strong-willed and unaffected, but who in death had been altered, turned into a shriveled carapace, a husk with black and blue rings for eyes.





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