Archive by Author | afstewart

Sweet Ophelia

Daddy, Daddy! Look! It’s snowing. Can we go out and play?”

Ophelia giggled and pressed her face close to the windowpane, staring at the flakes descending from the sky. She traced her chubby finger along the frost touched glass, waiting for an answer.

It never came.

Her silent father only sat in his high-backed chair and gulped another mouthful of Scotch. He stared into the flames crackling in the fireplace, ignoring anything else. When he drained the glass, he poured himself another drink.

Impatient, Ophelia sighed and climbed down from her window ledge perch. She glided out of the room in search of her mother. She found her in the kitchen washing dishes.

“It’s snowing, Mummy. Can we go play in the snow?”

Her mother never looked at her, simply kept at her task, and Ophelia sighed again. “No one pays attention to me anymore.” She tried stamping her foot. It did no good. She pouted and yelled at the top of her lungs, “I want to play in the snow!”

Still no response. Her mother stood at the sink, washing a teacup, oblivious to her daughter’s tantrum. Dejected, Ophelia gave up and wandered upstairs to her room. She didn’t like going there anymore, but it had the best view of the back yard.

Entering, she gave a little sighing whisper. “It’s so empty now. I wish Mummy hadn’t taken all my things away.”

Then she smiled. At least her own small chair still stood by the window. Ophelia walked past the crisply made bed and curled up in its seat. She laid her hand on the frosty glass and watched the snow fall. She loved the soft quiet of it, its gentle flutter as it blanketed the ground; remembered the crisp, cold touch of it on her tongue.

She gazed at the snow until the edges of night crept past the sun.

Voices from downstairs finally pulled her attention away. Her parents were arguing. Again. She slipped from the chair and ventured to the top of the stairs. Below her, in the hallway, the pair were screaming at each other.

“God, you’re drunk again! That’s all you ever do now! Sit in that damn room and drink! You smell like a goddamn distillery! What happened to you?”

“You know what happened! I’m sorry I didn’t handle it as well as you! Prancing about, like our fucking life didn’t fall apart! I’m not as cold-hearted as you I guess!”

“At least I’m not running away and jumping head first into a bottle!”

“Stop it!” An anguished cry rose from Ophelia’s throat. “Why are you always fighting? Why can’t it be like before?” She practically flew down the stairs and sped past her parents into her father’s sanctuary. She curled into a ball in the corner and waited until the angry voices stopped.

She looked up as her father entered and flopped in his chair. He poured himself a drink, as her mother trailed him to the doorway, hesitating to come all the way in.

“Another drink? Predictable.” The mother’s face scrunched into a look of contempt. “I don’t understand, when did you turn into such a coward? What do you get out of it? Why do you sit here, night after night, drinking yourself into oblivion? It isn’t healthy.” She took a step closer, her voice softening. “She’s gone. Ophelia’s gone. You need to face it.”

From across the room, Ophelia gasped, her little form shaking. “Shush, Mummy, shush! Don’t say such things!”

The man in the chair looked up, and stared. His grip on the glass of Scotch tightened.

Ophelia’s mother continued, “Wake up! Our daughter’s been dead a year, and brooding here won’t bring her back.”

Ophelia whined, her face suddenly pale, and translucent. She whispered. “No. No! I’m not, Mummy, I’m not! I’m right here.”

Her father turned his head slightly, looking away from Ophelia’s mother.

That enraged the woman and she screamed, “Did you hear me? I said wake up! Our daughter’s dead! Time to face it!”

For a moment the air in the room seemed to slow, and every breath sounded large and lingering. Then Ophelia screeched, “I won’t listen anymore! I’m not dead!” The child rushed to her father’s side. “You’re upsetting Daddy!”

Her father’s face seemed to pale at her words, and Ophelia rested her head against his chair, so close she could smell the whiskey. “Don’t listen to her, Daddy. I’m here. I’ll always be here. I promised.”

Her father took a gulp of liquor and stared at Ophelia’s mother. She stared back, words tumbling from her mouth, “Why? Why are you torturing yourself? I don’t think I can take this much longer.”

“I don’t know why.” His voice barely sounded above a murmur. “I understand she’s dead. I was there in the hospital same as you. It’s just… sometimes I can feel her. Feel her in this room with me, like she’s talking to me.”

Ophelia laid her little hand on his arm. Her father shivered. “It’s all right, Daddy. I’m still here. I didn’t go. Don’t listen to Mummy. I promised I’d stay. You remember, that night in the hospital. I promised not to go. And I didn’t. I’ll stay with you forever and ever. Right here with you. For always.”

Her father took another drink, and closed his eyes. “I think I’m losing my mind. I swear sometimes I can hear her voice calling to me. Calling to her Daddy.”

Ophelia smiled, and kissed him on the cheek.

“Forever and always, Daddy.”

 

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2017 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

Death Should Be Remembered

When I arrived, the gate to the graveyard was open, wrought iron swinging on its hinges. I hesitated. I didn’t like company when I visited. I preferred to be alone, to stand at the headstones in the silence.

Should I go in?

I looked over my shoulder, back down the road.

I could go home. Come back another day.

No. I needed this. Needed to remember death, relive what happened, hear the screams again. It would help ease the pressure until…

Yeah. Take a chance. Could be someone just forgot to fasten the latch properly. You can always lie if you meet someone.

I passed through the gate, shutting it behind me. I decided to visit Patricia today. Her family buried her in a secluded spot on the east side of the graveyard.

Less chance of being seen.

A silence settled on the place, and the crunch of my feet on the gravel roadway sound like the crack of bone. A familiar sound, but I shivered. It unnerved me for some reason and I was glad when I turned off onto the dirt path. Nothing but the crunch of the occasional leaf there. Not even the chirping of the birds, or the swish of the wind.

I made it to Patricia’s headstone without seeing a soul. I noticed fresh flowers on the grave, a bouquet of carnations.

Patricia’s favourite. I guess her mother made her weekly visit.

I bent over and plucked a posy from the bunch. “Here’s to you Patricia.” I twirled the flower. “I enjoyed our time together, however brief. Though I doubt you found it as pleasurable.” I smiled, the sweet blood-spattered memories making me tingle. I stood a while, reminiscing, then tossed the flower and walked back down the lane.

Halfway along, I spotted a figure. Someone on the path. I pulled up short.

Must have been behind me. Shit.

I took a deep breath.

Just act cool.

I kept walking, until I got close. Then I stopped again. I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t every day you saw a woman sitting on a moss-covered rock, dressed like a southern belle in mourning complete with a parasol.

She twirled that lace covered sunshade and giggled. “I’ve been waiting for you, mon cher.”

“Have you now?” Her voice stirred things in me. I smiled, and gave her the once over.

Despite the strange, old-fashioned attire, I liked her look. A pretty blonde with a slight French accent. I enjoyed blondes. Blondes always screamed the best. I stared at her, that familiar itch creeping through me. I never planned on indulging so soon, but when opportunity knocks…

I licked my lips. I never killed a French lady before.

Oh yeah, this one will do.

I reached for my knife.

“That won’t do you no good, chéri. Little pig sticker like that won’t kill me.”

My hand froze. How did she know?

“Oh, I know all about you. You put too many women in this graveyard, mon chéri. Time to stop. Past time.”

I laughed. “Not going to happen. But you’re welcome to try. A little slip like you, could be fun.”

“Thank you, for the invitation.”

“Invitation, what—” I stumbled, suddenly dizzy, and… she vanished. Nothing left but her parasol.

No way! She was there. It’s not— Where did she go?

“Behind you, chéri.”

A whispered breath tickled my neck. I whirled.

No. No, it can’t be!

“Time to die.” Her rotting, maggoty face flashed me a smile, and pain sliced through my gut.

The smell, I know that smell.

I looked down. Her bloody, clawed hand ripped out part of my intestines. Same place where I sliced my victims.

No! No, No, No!

I tried to scream, but only a sad, dreadful gurgling noise slipped past my lips. I grabbed my abdomen, stuffing my torn organs back inside as blood gushed through my fingers. Agony shuddered through my body.

I’m going to die.

I fell to my knees and let it all go, watched my entrails slosh about on the ground. I clawed at her skirts, my blood leaking onto her shoes, her voice echoing in my ears.

“Don’t worry, mon ami. I’ll be sure to visit your grave. To always remember this moment.”

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2017 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

Rebirth

Evening raindrops clung to a broken spider web, and fallen leaves held water like tiny crumbling cups. Silence draped across the forest; the animals fled at sunset when the sky shed its first tear. Even the carrion birds flew away, and the rodents scampered deep down into their holes.

The animals knew.

Like a drumbeat, the chill rain pummeled the forest earth, slapping a copper stench into the wind. The air glided with the taste of elder blood, careening, coating the tumbling raindrops as they soaked back within the dirt. The greedy soil drank of the tainted water, as it once drank the soup of decaying flesh, and the trees rattled as bones.

Somewhere, came a moan.

Beyond the eventual and gentle hush, the rain ceased, but the sky stayed black. No moon graced the shrouded firmament, and no starry luminosity scattered the inky air swallowing the trees. A fog crept like silky spiders, thick and velvet over the ground, obscuring earth and flora. Grey met black and swirled, mingling, melding in a darkling kiss.

And the night waited.

It waited in stillness, the breath of air grave and expectant with longing. It waited cold and cavernous, as if time gave this occasion pause. And then… past the midnight hour it stirred. A faint noise from beneath the onyx soil. Scrabbling, scratching, a shiver sound of creatures crawling, of fingernails groping through the dirt.

Digging upward.

The ground trembled, softly, gently, as if a lover’s touch caressed it. The wind sighed, dancing among the trees and twirling with the hoary mist. Slowly, slowly, the earth gave way, in splinters and snaps and clefts of soft loam. The soil parted, cracked, and a bony hand burrowed out from beneath the world. A sallow, deformed hand smeared in grime and filth, its reaching skeletal fingers smelling of long rotted meat and crumbled skin. Strange grunts followed, and a heaving of dirt as a shoulder bone, and then a skull, pushed from under the tomb of earth into the interim of night. It crawled forward on jointed bones, hollow eyes somehow seeing, a throat void of words somehow screaming. It dragged and squirmed and writhed, this awakened remnant of what once was human, fumbling out of the dirt and standing upright. One step, then two, a stumbling walk through the woods, towing leaf and bark along its path until it escaped the confines of the forest.

There it stopped. There it shrieked.

Loud and strident, an articulation grotesque, yet wrenching in its suffering. A ballyhoo of noise to clatter the trees and jangle the ground. To echo past all the desolate unholy, far into the dark depths of the forest and beyond.

It gave voice to its eternal pain.

A single, howling voice, offered to the night…

To be answered by a thousand snarling cries.

By a thousand sounds of scrabbling and scratching.

By a thousand things digging upward.

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2017 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

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