Her twin sister was shyer than she was, and preferred the quietude of the suburbs to the city's reckless lifestyle, feverish heat, and abused metal surfaces. Her sister felt safer there, amongst its green enclosures and its nights where the constellations could be seen. Because of this slower, quieter life, the young woman had always believed that her sister would outlive her, would be safe from the risks of city-life. But now, like a broken promise, her sister had left her alone and unprepared for solitude.
Her sister, the detective had explained in phrases that were laconic and almost half-swallowed, had been found dead, murdered in her own bed. The culprit had entered the apartment without forcing their way in, and strangled her by hand. It had either been an acquaintance, or a stranger who had somehow managed to acquire a copy of her key. There were as of yet no leads as to who the perpetrator was, and could she kindly suggest anyone she knew of who might have a possible motive? She shook her head, forgetting that the detective on the phone could not see her, and said that she knew of no one who would bear her sister any malice, but added that her sister was very private, and had recently been growing more distant from her. This was odd, she explained, her own voice a distant monotone that seemed to come from underwater, since they had always been close - especially since their parents had died unexpectedly a number of years ago. She then told the detective something she had feared secretly for a while, but which she had shared with no one else; that there may have been someone in her sister's life that she had kept secret. The detective thanked her, expressed his condolences, and left his number, should she recollect any other details that might help the investigation. She would have to come to the station later that day to formally identify the body, but until then she could rest and prepare herself.
Alone now, the young woman hung up the phone, and stared in disbelief at her shaking hands. She did not weep. She felt emptied of life, drained of all emotion. She felt that she was the one who had died.
Unable to plan the next few moments, she called in sick to the office. A migraine; she did not explain any further. Her supervisor would no doubt find the excuse curious, since she never called in sick, but the young woman was unconcerned by this. She hung up the phone, hugging her own shoulders as if suddenly the air had grown cold in mid-July, and looked about the room anxiously. She kept her home sparsely furnished, functional and clean, smooth and cool - a space easily illuminated, like her mind. It was so unlike her sister's home, with its excess of clutter and discordant colors. Until now, the room had never felt empty.
An hour later, the detective called again to say they had determined that the murder occurred at least two nights before. The coroner had not yet determined the exact time of death, but that it had occurred at least two nights ago was beyond doubt. For some reason, this, far more than the original news of her sister's death, sent the young woman past the edge of despair. She openly wept into the phone, moaning at the thought of her poor sister's cold body, alone for two days in an empty house. She imagined it so vividly - her sister, in bed, her naked body only half-covered by the sheets, as the sun and moon and stars passed in perfect semi-arcs through the frame of her window. Her sister had always been a daydreamer. The young woman imagined those dark brown eyes, so much wider than her own, watching without blinking as life and living things, all the little things that she loved, moved past her window, indifferent to her fate.
She sobbed loudly, and dropped the phone to the floor. The detective's voice, suddenly a distant miniature, chirped indignantly. She pushed her fingers into her temple, tugging at her hair. The objects in her room began to flow like syrup.
The young woman wiped her nose with her hand and hung up the phone. She checked the back of her hand to make sure it was not streaked with blood. Sometimes, she would awaken with a congested nose, and not realize until several minutes later that congestion was the result of a nosebleed, and not her usual allergies. This time, her hand was clear and pale, and she quickly moved into the bathroom to wash her face and rinse her mouth.
A little while later, unable to eat, unable to bear the loneliness of her own apartment, the young woman grabbed her cell phone, dressed haphazardly by pulling on her slacks and a loose t-shirt, and stepped into the hall. The door locked itself behind her with a secretive clicking sound. For the first time, she passed by her neighbors' front doors in the middle of the weekday, and knew who was working during the day and who was at home. Each wooden door was closed and expressionless as always, but only some of the doors were mute. Others whispered, mumbled, seemed to be closed only temporarily as if waiting for her to pass. Some of the doors were lifeless, and some were only holding their breath. Avoiding the elevator, she walked down five flights of stairs, and emerged into the morning of a bright summer day.
The world, she noticed, was changed now. The cars, the billboards, and the newsstands were all absurdities, insults to her being. Feeling oppressed by the city - an emotion with which she was unfamiliar - she began walking in a random direction. At first this eased her mood slightly. Constant movement brought focus. If she stopped walking to wait for a light she felt she might stop breathing, and had to shift her feet, right-left-right-left, until the light changed. Soon even walking briskly was not enough, and she realized she had to choose a destination. She turned a corner, catching a glimpse of her hunched, scowling reflection in a bakery window, and headed methodically towards the water.
She walked with her face down, deep in thought. The crowds passed by the edges of her vision. She could soon smell the sea-breeze, and this calmed her, but not for long. Something very odd troubled her. She tried to dig up the bothersome memory, the thing askew. Suddenly, it hit her. It was too obvious. She had received a voice-mail message from her sister early yesterday morning. Sometimes such messages arrived many hours after they were sent, but in this particular message, she had specifically made a remark about the lightning storm the night before. She had been delighted by the lightning, and had watched it from her bedroom window. This had pleased the young woman, bringing at the time an unconscious smile to her lips, since as children they had been dedicated storm-watchers. They had been raised in the plains, and had grown fond of the big skies with their grand gestures. Her sister had kept up the tradition. The young woman, on the other hand, had spent the night of the storm in bed, surrounded by file folders, reviewing contracts on her laptop. The lightning had disturbed her, twice causing strange symbols in a foreign lexicon to spill across her computer screen. Each time, the computer had to be restarted.
She had foolishly neglected to return the call - but here of course was the terrible incongruity. According to the detective, her sister had already been dead for many hours by the time the call was made. She would have been dead well before the storm even arrived. If she had returned the call, would her sister have answered?
Suddenly, a feeling of hopeful doubt came over the young woman. Of course, some kind of mistake had been made. The detective was in error. Perhaps another woman had been found dead in her sister's home! Perhaps her sister had called her that morning from somewhere else, and had forgotten to mention it in the message. This was very much unlike her, but it was the only possible explanation for the incongruity.
She now stood on the walkway at the edge of the water. There was a ferry dock nearby and a small wagon where an older man sold nuts and caramel popcorn. Feeling voraciously hungry, she bought a bag of roasted peanuts and sat on a nearby bench. She shoveled the food into her mouth, heedless of the passersby. Tears of joy and relief welled in her eyes. Her sister might still be alive after all! She wanted, achingly, to dial her sister's number immediately, but also feared not knowing what to do if there was no answer.
As she neared the bottom of the bag her cell phone rang. It was the detective. I'm afraid ma'am, he said, that you will have to come down to the station as soon as possible. Why, she asked, no longer trusting him. Because, ma'am, and I'm very sorry about all of this, but did you not say earlier that you had been to your sister's place only just a few days ago? Indeed, she had. Well, were you at her home at any time in the last two days? No, she said emphatically, she most absolutely had not been. Well, miss, we need to explain something we've found on her computer. Specifically, we have found several emails dated as recently as yesterday morning, sent from her address, some of which were addressed to you from her. It appears that you and she corresponded within the last twenty-four hours... but that's impossible, isn't it?
Yes, of course it's impossible, she said, her eyes again welling with tears. Clearly, someone had pretended to be her.
Clearly, said the detective. Could you please come down to the station? He gave the address.
The young woman said she'd be there shortly. She put the phone back into her pocket. She stood and looked out at the water. The ferry was just getting ready to leave. If she turned to the left, and kept walking, away from the ferry, she would head directly towards the police station. If she bought a ticket and raced to catch the ferry, she would be able to arrive at her sister's house on the other side of the bay in just over an hour or so. The ferry gently rocked as numerous families and tourists in pastel colors were herded onto it. She decided that she did not trust the detective at all. She was no longer certain that he was a detective, and she came to suspect that her sister might still be alive, and yet in some sort of terrible danger. She rushed to the booth, bought a ticket, and leapt on board just as a boatswain untied the lanyard and another was bending over to lift up the ramp.
The young woman leaned into the sea breeze, relishing the flat expanse before her. The sea, oddly enough, reminded her of the plain. The thing that was different about it only emerged up close; that it endlessly churned and rocked. Being on a boat reminded her of when she and her sister were very young. Their father would sleep on the couch in the summer, and they would climb on top of him and lay next to each other, with their heads on his heaving chest. They would watch each other rise and fall with his slow, cavernous breathing. She could look into her sister's eyes and see herself reflected in them, and touch the tip of her sister's nose and feel an itch at the tip of her own.
A thought now occurred to her. She wanted to hear her sister's voice, but did not want to try calling her phone - if anyone other than her sister had it or was nearby they would be alerted. Instead, she took out her phone, and replayed the message that her sister had left. She had to turn up the volume all the way and put a finger in her other ear in order to hear the phone over the wind. She surreptitiously glanced around at the other passengers, the wide, hearty tourists in fluorescent clothing who touched their lips and pointed to details on the horizon as they struggled for balance on the rocking boat. She listened closely, hoping to hear something new in the message that she'd overlooked before.
Hello sis, the message began. I know you're busy at work right now, but I just wanted to hear your voice, or maybe you wanted to hear mine. Don't let that ridiculous job turn you into a zombie. You work too hard, sis. Anyway, are you checking out this incredible lightning storm? Isn't it just amazing? I saw some of the bolts come down in the city near where you live. They looked like giant tree-twigs on fire. Blue fire. Remember how we used to poke twigs at the ground when we were little? Near an anthill? Mount Antland, we called it. We'd take the twig and go fpew! fpew! like it was lightning. Well, it was a beautiful storm and I tried to paint some of the colors I saw in it, but it was difficult. Like painting colors that don't really exist, that you saw in a dream but can't quite remember. I sometimes make up names for colors like that. The color rheen. Or griallo. Oh, I'm just babbling now, and I know you've got important things to do. Give me a call soon, 'kay? Bye sis. Love ya!
The message ended.
The young woman, now completely reassured by the sound of her sister's lively voice, closed the phone and smiled. She looked across the bay, where she could see the parking lot that marked the end of the road that eventually led to her sister's house. A cloud passing overland darkened the trees. Above the silvery water, they appeared to be oil-black. The water near the dock glowed like a daub of mercury pooled at the bottom of a thermometer. Another thought occurred to her, and she opened up the phone again. She hadn't thought to check the origin of the call before, because her sister was such a creature of habit. She clicked the tiny buttons with her fingernail. She checked the phone number from which the call had originated. The boat lurched. The wind grew cold. The call had been made at ten-thirty yesterday morning, from the land-line phone in her own city apartment. Her sister had not called from home. She had been in the young woman's own apartment while she was at work.
Feeling sea-sick, the young woman went below-decks to find the restroom. The land that loomed past the bow of the ferry now seemed to encompass her threateningly. She once again recalled with awful clarity how her morning had begun - by learning the news of her twin sister's death by strangulation. Strangulation. The thought not only nauseated her, but filled her with a mortal fear for her own well-being. It seemed to her that no stranger could have murdered her sister by strangulation. It was too intimate a method. She decided that there must have been someone with whom her sister had been quite close, someone that had access to her apartment and whom she had kept secret from everyone else she knew, from all family and friends. Obviously, if her sister had deliberately kept a secret from her, then she had clearly changed in some fundamental way. It was therefore possible that she had told this someone things that she told no one else.
After a moment or two of dry-heaving, the young woman emerged from the restroom and ordered a ginger ale at the concession bar. It occurred to her now that she was once again thinking of her sister as deceased, although it seemed to her objectively that the situation was now more confused than ever. Why would my sister send emails using my name? she wondered. Who would she have sent them to? It was eerie, utterly inexplicable, unless and here she did not want to contemplate much further, because the implications were too difficult to accept. But the more she puzzled over it, the more a certain possibility gnawed at her.
Ever since they were children, her sister had been jealous of the young woman's dominance in all matters, of her greater confidence socially, her success with boys, her prestigious college career and the higher standard of living that soon resulted from it. Her sister's only refuge, in fact, had been her art. She was a moderately able landscape painter - the human figure proved too perplexing for her - and she had been able to supplement her modest income by selling her art. It was the one skill she had developed independent of her sister, and the one thing she remained truly proud of.
Throughout childhood, and occasionally even in early adulthood, her sister had sometimes pretended to be the "better" half. Switching places in this manner was not uncommon for twins, of course, but what was uncommon was the effect of this pretense upon her sister. When pretending, she was actually able to emulate the young woman's success in most matters. The artist had, in fact, written several school papers for her, and via the influence of this pretense received grades on them that exceeded her own usual, comparatively unexceptional scores. She had once pretended to be the young woman in a track meet, and broken both their personal records for the 100 meter dash. Her sister had even lost her virginity by pretending to be her. The young woman recalled quite vividly the look in her sister's eyes, the swagger in her walk, when the two had traded identities for a day. Her sister would put her hair up, revealing prominent cheekbones and small ears. It was easy enough for the young woman to let down her own hair and embody her sister's more deferential personality, to speak softly and shrug her shoulders as a form of habitual punctuation at the ends of sentences. But what she witnessed in her sister's pretense went far beyond mimicry. It was almost as if some of the young woman's own fire had been transferred to her sister and, upon finding a host that rarely burned of her own accord, it blazed all the more brightly on fuel that would be easily and quickly consumed. It was always up to her, the young woman, to end the charade. Her sister would need to be coaxed out of it, often quite grudgingly.
The young woman sipped at her ginger ale, as the ferry neared the dock on the opposite shore. The engines were already beginning to change speed, and the boat rattled with an unpleasant urgency. A whole new set of possibilities was now occurring to her, as the wooded, suburban shoreline drew near, its uneven surfaces oddly dark in the midday sun. What if her sister had, in her loneliness, begun such a charade on her own? What if she had begun an affair with a man while using this identity? This would mean that, in some sense, the target of the murder would have been herself, and not her sister at all.
The cell phone vibrated in her pocket. She pulled out the phone and opened it. It was the detective.
Ma'am, said the voice, are you having trouble finding the station?
No sir, she said. I will be there shortly.
It's been almost two hours, ma'am. The walk should only take you twenty minutes. This is an urgent matter. If you can help lead us to the perpetrator
The voice continued. It occurred now to the young woman that she had absolutely no proof that the man speaking to her was a detective at all. He had given a name and a precinct, but she had not bothered to verify this identity and even if she had, there was no proof that the man was who he said he was until she met him face to face.
What if he was the killer? What if the murder he described had not yet occurred? But then why would he ask me to go to the police station?
The voice continued. Ma'am, what is that sound in the background?
The young woman drifted off into a momentary reverie, in which she imagined her sister, pale and cold, floating across the bay to the city precinct in the dark belly of a police boat.
Nothing traffic, she said.
The boat engine suddenly roared, and jets of white and yellow spume bubbled up from underneath the hull of the boat, just beneath where the young woman now leaned against the stern railing. The shore was now mere feet away. The parking lot near the dock was more empty than full, and the small, tacky shops that lined its perimeter seemed to be either experiencing slow business or were shuttered up. The whole town had a ghostly appearance. In the earpiece, the man's voice rattled on, but she had ceased to pay attention to it. She was convinced that her sister was still alive, but that she was in imminent mortal danger. She believed that the man claiming to be the detective had called her for one reason only: to guarantee above all else that she would not go to her sister's house, by sending her to the police station.
The ferry bumped against the dock. The young woman turned off the phone, stepped onto dry land, and, once out of sight of the crowd from the boat, ran up the steep and narrow street that led to her sister's house.
Her sister had bought a small duplex in a wooded neighborhood across the bay from the city. The ferry ride was only a few miles, but to the young woman it always seemed to take her to a different world entirely. The town was not a bustling place. It was inhabited by artisans and retirees, by people who had retreated from the city but somehow not been able to leave it out of sight completely. The streets were narrow, and had not been freshly paved in decades. They were uneven and wavy, like the water itself, but flowing too slowly for the eye to see. The trees by the side of the road grew and entangled with one another overhead. The young woman did not like to be near the woods for very long. The city seemed natural to her, because it was comprehensible. Things were either permanent, or they were over with very quickly. In the woods of this small town where her sister had bought a house nothing ever moved quickly, but everything in and amongst the trees seemed always to be moving a little bit, and this had always made the young woman uncomfortable.
When she arrived at her sister's duplex near the top of the hill, there were several police cars parked outside at erratic angles, as if a child had placed them there and then abandoned them. There was yellow tape around the lawn and across the door. The door was open, and there seemed to be people moving about the inside. Outside, there were about six or seven policeman standing, waiting for something. She heard voices coming from several directions, but all of them came from one radio or another. Her sister's neighbors, an elderly couple, stood outside at the perimeter of the activity, wordlessly watching arm in arm.
The young woman felt her knees go weak. What did this mean? That the detective had told the truth? That he had lied, but that now it was too late, and so the lie came true? That perhaps he had been honest but mistaken, that someone other than her sister had been found in the apartment?
As she approached the walkway that led to the front door, several of the policemen turned to look at her. They froze, grew pale, and only after several moments of her awkwardly standing there did they regain composure. She could not understand why they looked at her that way. She had examined herself in the mirror on the boat and, while she looked quite tired and haggard, she had by no means been conspicuously unpleasant-looking. She walked toward the open front door and felt several pairs of eyes tracking her.
There was a female officer standing near the front door.
Why is everyone looking at me? The young woman asked.
I'm sorry ma'am. It's just a little strange for us, as you can imagine. It's not everyday that we see
The female officer, who was shorter and darker than the young woman and had broad shoulders, looked away and knitted her brows.
That you see what?
We'll, we just saw your sister a little while ago, and now you're here. It's a little strange.
No, no, said the young woman, trembling with rage. You did not see my sister! My sister was not here! She was home with me and someone else was here when the killer came! My sister is I love her I love her so much. My sister is a gentle creature who would never hurt a living soul. She was a painter. She made beautiful things. There is no reason to destroy her.
Ma'am, said the officer, placing a hand in front of her, please try to stay calm. I know you're in a state of shock at the moment and -
A state of shock? What do you mean by that? My sister is fine. She's alive! She called me yesterday - from my house while I was at work! So that proves she's alive! She's so close to me. I can feel her within me.
Ma'am, please just -
A figure approached from inside the house. The young woman turned and looked past the threshold and into the darker space within. The stairway that led to the second floor began just a few feet from the door, and most of the bottom floor, what there was of it, continued back and to the right of the staircase. The figure had emerged from the kitchen, where other shaded forms were moving about. There seemed to be some activity, men making anxious gesticulations, from that area. Boxes and objects were being moved about. The figure stepped into the light. He was an older man, with a round head and very short white hair. He had a wide mouth with yellow teeth, what her sister would have called a Cheshire Cat grin: he was a man who was almost invisible except for his mouth. When he spoke he smelled like rancid meat.
What are you doing here? Asked the man.
Are you the detective I spoke to on the phone? Asked the young woman.
The man did not answer. You really shouldn't be here just yet, he said.
Please let me inside my sister's home, she said. And then she pulled aside the yellow tape and crumpled it into a ball and stepped inside, past the man, who did not stop her but watched her with his eyes squinting, as though she were bright and painful to look at. She stepped into the dark living room of her sister's home.
Her sister had kept a messy house, filled with art supplies and trinkets and library books. The library books were often kept past due, and she would fill them with pencil-marks and post-it notes. The walls were covered with her paintings, some of which were quite good. She had a partial view of the bay from her bedroom upstairs, and often painted while sitting on the edge of her bed. She would paint over the course of the whole day sometimes, without ever really getting dressed or stopping to eat. Sometimes one side of her painting would show the morning light, and then as she worked, oddly enough, from one side of the painting to the other over the course of the day, the light would change as she was painting it, so that the middle of the painting was bright with the midday sun, and then the colors would fade to orange and purple and blue-black at the edge. She once made such a painting where the window with a view of the bay and the city was positioned in the middle, and the interior of the room could be seen at the sides, so that it looked like nighttime inside the room and daylight outside. The interior of the room was filled with clouds and moons and stars, very subtly, so that it seemed as though the city was held in a sphere of brightly-lit glass that hovered in the cool darkness. Sometimes the darkness at the edges of that painting looked to the young woman like night, and sometimes it looked like the inside of an eye, at the edges of vision where the things are clouded and indistinct.
There were also paintings on the walls that her sister had made when they were very young. Her sister couldn't paint human figures very well and faces were especially difficult for her. She would try to make the faces come out right, and begin with an incredible focus and intensity, smiling as she drew and painted, chewing her lip. Sometimes she whispered to herself. She looked like she was speaking to someone or listening to them in those moments. Maybe she thought she was creating people when she painted, people who could come alive. When the faces came out wrong she felt betrayed by her own abilities, and she would grow angry and tear at her hair and rip the paper from the notepad or kick over the canvas. When they were kids, she would often have to hold her sister, hugging her and clasping her arms to her sides during her tantrums so that she would not flail about and cause more damage. She would hold her sister and speak calmly to her, whispering sweet things in her ear, calling her "Sardine." She would sometimes sing to her softly. She would pretend that she was a container, containing her sister.
Her sister found other ways to paint people though, and she painted "self-portraits" in which the both of them appeared together in other forms. These portraits did not show people or faces, but things like giraffes twisting their necks together in a corkscrew, or two fish chasing one another in a circle. She also drew pictures of beautiful creatures that had very odd shapes by themselves but which fit together to make one simple, perfect shape. Some of these paintings were still hanging on the wall of the apartment because her sister had not sold them and most likely never intended to.
The young woman glanced over at the dining room table, where an open laptop computer sat. It was plugged into the wall, and still running. Formless colors moved back and forth across the screen. The young woman recognized the computer.
The man with the wide mouth had been standing close to her all this time. She knew he was about to speak because she could smell him when he opened his mouth.
Is something wrong, ma'am? He asked.
I must have left that here, she said, becoming dazed. I'm not sure how that happened.
The man turned, and lifted his chin in the direction of the computer. That's yours?
Yes, she said. That's mine.
The man closed his mouth, and took out a notepad and wrote something in it. The young woman heard the sound of footsteps upstairs in her sister's bedroom. They were male footsteps, heavy and rude. The man put the notepad away and grinned. His teeth were brown between the cracks.
You really shouldn't be here ma'am, he said. It's too early.
Who's upstairs? said the young woman. Is my sister is my sister still here?
How do you know it was her? How do you know that someone else didn't die here? Do you know my sister? Have you seen her before?
She looked just like you ma'am. She looked exactly like you.
The young woman closed her burning eyes. She thought of it again, that horrible image of her sister, lying naked in bed, her body so white that it seemed to dissolve into the sheets. Her eyes never closed, even in death. They were open and hungry and still alive even when the body died, just as she always thought they would be. Her sister was a living thing, trapped in a dead body, looking through a small window at the entirety of her world.
Did you cover her up before you took her away? She asked.
Did you cover her? Strangers shouldn't see my sister's body.
Yes we .yes. The man with the rancid grin looked at her incredulously. How did you-
He had started to ask her something and then caught himself.
There's people upstairs, she said.
The man nodded.
I'm going up there and see for myself, she said. There could be something out of place. There could be something unusual that only I could know about.
The man held out his hand and indicated the stairway.
The young woman climbed the stairs. For some reason, she began thinking about the laptop computer, and the odd letters that appeared on the screen during the lightning storm. They had looked spindly and aggressive, like tiny insects. She wondered now why she hadn't tried to call her sister from home or from the ferry. She felt that if only she could have called her sister, her sister would've answered the phone and then the call from the detective would never have occurred. She felt that the call would've changed the reality of what was happening. At a moment just after something terrible has happened, it always seemed to her that somehow one can choose to undo it. It feels for a moment as though time has an escape hatch, a small, invisible hole through which a wind is blowing, and if only she could find it, she could escape back into the reality that existed before the terrible thing happened. But she was always immobilized as if in a dream. Even now, stepping into her sister's house, she felt like she was stepping into her sister's role as she had when they were children, to give her sister some time to be the better half for just a little while. She recalled how, after a full day or two of pretense, an astonishing sense of envy would inexplicably overwhelm her. She felt that if she lingered too long in this submissive version of herself, that the habits of the role would overwhelm her personality and that she would not be able to escape it. The mere memory of this sensation, with its horrific possibilities, was enough to make her gasp uncontrollably as if suffocating. Her heart would race with anxiety. She didn't want to be her sister forever, which is why she always ended the charade.
The young woman reached the top of the staircase and turned to the right and entered her sister's bedroom. There were men and women in blue jackets and white gloves doing things to the floor and the bed with delicate instruments. The bed was rumpled. Pillows and sheets had been thrown about the room. There was a hideous brown stain near the head of the bed.
So, then, it was real. The murder was real, it had occurred here and it had happened to her sister. She knew for certain that her sister was the victim because everyone was looking at her as though she had come back from the dead. Someone - an older woman with gray hair in a ponytail - walked up to the young woman and touched her gently on the neck.
Do you see this, Carter? She asked.
The young woman pushed past her, and sat on the edge of the bed. The other woman and the grinning man followed her quietly.
Ma'am, asked the man, his words smelling like rotting flesh, did you get into a fight recently?
The young woman could see out the window from the edge of the bed. Through the trees she could see the city rising from the bay, its crystalline shafts emerging from a flat silver-blue plane. She recalled that her sister, who read much more than the young woman did, told her that living things must pass over a wide stream of water, a river or an ocean, in order to leave the world of the living. The city, when she was inside of it, was pounding and pulsing with life, and everything was like an artery, an open vein that spilled heat and life everywhere. And yet from here it looked as though it had ossified. It was frozen in time, ancient and dead and perfect. She thought, or she remembered, what it was to stare at the dead city and think of the one living thing within it, the warm heart, that part of herself that looked back at her from across the gulf.
Come have a look at this Bob. Those bruises on her neck. Hey check out her pupils. Miss? You alright? Hell, I'm not even sure she's all there right now...
She finally recalled the lightning, the great bold flashes that had come crashing down from above, whether in condemnation or fiery celebration she could not be sure. She recalled those flashes of color, those colors which were so difficult to place.
She pretended to be me sometimes, she said. She pretended to be me, and sometimes it went too far, and I was afraid that she'd forget who she really was.
Where did you get these marks, ma'am?
Her lip trembled, and a tear tolled down her cheek.
Farewell, sis, she whispered. I love you. Don't work so hard all the time. Cherish the day. Come back from the city. Come be with me soon.
M C R
This work is copyrighted by the author, Andrew S. Taylor. All rights reserved.