Tiny Cages

Your grave is unmarked to all eyes but mine. The cobbled path is cool, almost sharp and so familiar against my bare feet, a track I am compelled to tread over and over. Harsh stones become damp grass becomes soft dirt the further from the house I walk, into the woods where the tension falls from my body and my gaze lifts, no longer fearful of being condemned.

The world has become my silent jury. When I must go into town, I walk with my head down to avoid the pity and suspicion on faces that watch me pass. The verdict is plain on tight silent lips, and hanging in the air around me—guilty. Let them have their gossip, their macabre fantasies, they will never know the truth of what took place.

The house we once shared is a vast empty space abandoned of meaning. I have packed away all sign of you. I scrub the house clean everyday, the windows sparkle, the floorboards gleam, but still sorrow hangs in the corners like cobwebs. I linger listlessly, roaming from room to room. At times your soft voice can be heard within the walls and I press my palms flat against them, trying to reach through. You sing the tune we often sung together as we sat on the swing in the garden, rocking slowly in afternoon sunshine.

I can no longer sleep, I feel ashamed of the warmth and comfort of my bed while your body lays cold and wet. The swing creaks throughout the night in the breeze, a grating squeak inside my skull. When I glance out the window I hope to see you there, your thin legs swinging up towards the night sky, but that never happens. The swing is as empty as all the other places you used to be.

All night I think of where you are hidden. If I dream it is of digging in ripe soil with a never ceasing rhythm, deep down into the bowels of the earth. Each cold morning, with only hot coffee to ease my clenching stomach, I set out to visit you. I am drawn to your body, searching for a place to belong.

In the forest all death is fair and equal, not divided into right and wrong. In the forest I am not a criminal or a monster.

It was not your life I took away but your pain. I snuffed it out, the malignant burning that was consuming you and turning your insides to ash. No struggle, no resistance, just a moment of tension then nothing, just your blue eyes wide, frightened, drawing you from the lull of disease for one last moment of stark awareness, and then falling back in to that nameless pit as your breath came to a halt.

The pine trees are tall and triangular, long low branches sway and close behind me as I pass, pulling me into thickening shadows. They emit a sharp, clean scent, which gels with the moist decay of the forest floor. The strong trunks are rippled grey bark but in some places amber resin has seeped into stagnant lumps, protecting a wound, fighting an infection that eats at the marrow of the tree. When I touch it the resin gives a little, and I remember your skin, newly dead, growing stiff, the dent of my fingertips remaining after I had pulled my hand away.

I keep walking, checking off the signs that mark the way to you—a tree stump, a large smooth stone, the rotting trunk I climb over. No one else can see the path; it is ours alone.

Far from the trail, in the rich brown dirt, within a large crevice in moss covered rocks, safe from scavenging paws and whiskers, and prying, unworthy eyes, lies my shrine and your tomb. I was reluctant to leave any personal sign of you, no photo or name engraved, no flowers to mark the spot; but in a deep crack in the stones I have tucked away the necklace you always wore, a string of colorful plastic hearts and flowers.

Gently I raise you piece by piece. I stroke your small fingers that once laced my own with pure trust; they are disjointed, white fragments. Your ribs curl out of the earth, a tiny cage not strong enough to hold a beating heart. I choke back inhuman sounds, a whimper, a growl. Your skull I cradle in my palm, precious and delicate as a bubble, the bone fine and translucent, eye sockets too big, too empty. And the curve of your sacrum quivers in my hands like a rare gem. Your remains still hum as if there is something you left unsaid and they are longing for words again. Thick tears squeeze from my eyes, hot and painful; I fear I am crying blood. For a while I nurse your pieces then I must reassemble you like a doll-shaped puzzle in the small pit, reassemble you like a precious and mysterious relic that holds a history yet to be understood. I sweep the earth over again, fill the hole and pat it flat.

Not long after I walk away the buckled growl in my throat escapes and explodes as a roar. The forest swallows my grief as readily as it swallows your bones, reducing us both to dust.

∼Veronica Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2017 Veronica Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved.
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About Veronica Magenta Nero

Veronica M. Nero writes dark and weird fiction. She hails from Italy and currently resides in the Northern Rivers, Australia.

24 responses to “Tiny Cages”

  1. afstewart says :

    A deeply haunting story.

    Like

  2. Joseph Pinto says :

    Beautiful tale this week, Veronica! Your forest pulsed with a life all its own; you did a nice job creating a rich, dark atmosphere throughout your story. 🙂

    Like

  3. Lee Andrew Forman says :

    Beautifully told story! Loved the atmosphere and tone!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark Steinwachs says :

    Damn, Veronica. That was beautifully dark. I loved it in a gut wrenching way. And on the lighter side, now I have to follow that. Yeah, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brian Moreland says :

    I loved it Veronica. Absolutely magical prose and dark imagery.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Brian Moreland says :

    Reblogged this on THE CRYPT OF HORROR and commented:
    A hauntingly beautiful horror short story “Tiny Cages” by Veronica Magenta Nero​ is available to read for free at Pen of the Damned​.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Adele Marie says :

    A beautiful tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. John Potts Jr says :

    Well that was quite the haunting piece! The macabre details weave so well with loss and remorse and longing. This is crafted with such misery and grace. Great job, Veronica!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John Potts Jr says :

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Veronica Magenta Nero crafts a haunting piece on this weeks Pen of the Damned. Her prose is chilling and beautiful, filled with sorrow and macabre details. Come on over to Pen of the Damned and give a read!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Steve says :

    Exquisite detail and visceral imagery are your trademarks Veronica, but for me this time, it’s what’s left unsaid that makes this piece so powerful.
    Another in a very long list of triumphs!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. jonolsonauthor says :

    A sad but haunting piece, Magenta! As it was mentioned before, the forest was very much alive and I would argue the main character in the story. What you left unsaid was just as powerful. Great job!

    Like

  12. jonolsonauthor says :

    Reblogged this on Jon Olson and commented:
    TINY CAGES by Pen of the Damned’s Veronica Magenta Nero

    Like

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  1. Tiny Cages – Pen of the Damned - July 18, 2017

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