by Dylan Taylor

 

It has been told in the lowlands there lives a lady whose startling eyes have lead a village to rapture and ruin. At dusk when the last train blows that solemn sustaining whistle, a gaslamp flickers from her porch against the swollen amaranthine sky. A low hue halo’s around her, shadows set from her Cimmerian skin to mark the last hours of an unmarked day. Listen. A thin hum carries on a ceaseless wind. Her fragile lyric, broken and absorbed, eyes and ears of the village turned to her warning.

 

look at the night when it’s darkest

drink from top of the stream

visions are soon to tarnish

blindness calls to those who’ve seen

 

The village speaks with muted tongues of times new past, of the fire at the altar after she knelt in supplication to drink a solitary time. Father Clement whose ashy clothes sooted the lady’s stoop day after day, screaming Revelation to her unmoved face. “When she looked upon me directly as she had never done before, my voice turned to pebbles and my hand reached for her neck… reached but she was in the garden and night had fallen….”

The carpenter’s wife Ruth, who sewed a dress of lace, ambled under the mosstrees, a veiled beacon of pearl against the lidless night. The gaslamp melody a lament urging her ever near. A kiss from painted lip to painted lip.

“ You shouldn’t have come your man is watching.”

“He doesn’t matter, what can he do?”

“Men capture us in unimaginable ways.”

“You’ve set me free, your song, that first touch.”

“I lost myself, I’m so sorry.”

“So you won’t come with me?”

“I’m coming my love. I’ve never known a heart like yours”

“Why are you sorry?”

“For what will come to pass.”

Their silent vow incanted in the orchard grove as two dresses fell atop midnight’s dew dangling grass. The masculine eye, following under a new moon, a husband debased in the sedge discovers the germ of his torment.  The next workday the carpenter’s shop opens early. Silent care and silent work, two pineboard coffins sanded until the blood from the carpenter’s hands stained that thirsting wood. The town looked on and assumed, two graves for two maidens. The rifle loaded, scabbed hands could barely lift its weight. Kerosene soaked the shop. The air was heavy as washed bedclothes, high summer, the smell of ignition carried out the open windows. A shot roused Ruth from her slumber. Smoked billowed from the shop. The carpenter, laid out in his blood-soaked coffin while her pine box smoldered like a forgotten oath closing its narrow fist. Try as they might the town could not extinguish the blaze. Flames rose hungry, scorching the block, possessed with orphic ferocity. The lady of the lowlands looked on from her gaslight perch, no songs from her lips, just two rivulets of tears silently falling down to stain the scared porch. Had the town thought to collect those tears, the fire’s appetence would cease.

 

look at the night when it’s darkest

drink from top of the stream

visions are soon to tarnish

blindness calls to those who’ve seen

 

Two young men drink bourbons at the tavern after their show. Hoyt picks the banjo, Eustace the mandolin. The dozen people who came to listen have long since left, but Eustace’s eyes peer, narrow and darting looking for apparitions in the corner. Hoyt touches his friend’s arm.

“It this why you dragged me back here? To look for that mute gypsy?”

“Don’t… she never”

“She never came, last year you sat on her porch singing and playing, two long weeks, our money spent, our tour up in flames, did she even speak one time, she talk a single word to you?”

“She talked, spun magic.” He remembered her voice low and halting, each syllable rolled and molded long before utterance.

“She told me her story.” The man who paid father for her hand. Her existence ornamental, a taunt at the town. His touch turning hard. Her years spent silent. His sickness. Rabid with fear. His face playing out the darkest means of her revenge. To live on would be enough, she waited, even wipped his brow with her shirtsleeve. Sage burning, a bowl of lambsblood, chickenfoot, bonemeal and babies breath. “They will come for you, you will want them, they will all turn to ash between your fingers, may your beauty never fade, upon my blood may they all turn to ash and choke your heart with soot”. She could not reach the knife at his throat. She could not turn down the smile atop his open wound.

“Jesus, that’s some cardboard voodo Eustace.”

“It’s real, we’ve heard the stories.”

“I’m getting outta here and you are too… not in a weeks time, tomorrow.”

“Fine.”

Alone in fulldark Eustace walks through the cicadas song, nails down a screen door. The gaslamp beckons. Her eyes shine under low butane glow.

“You can’t help me little boy.” She chants after tasting his bourbon.

“The train is late tonight.”

Eustace plays for her a melody, delicate and wordless, his fingers faultless on the frets. A year it has taken to craft. She hums. The stars continue to burn up. The sedge shakes against the rising winds. Lilac petals flavor the air.

“I’ll sing you the words tomorrow.”

“I’ll be here.”

 

In the morning there was a note hooked to her door. A solitary verse of a song unsung:

 

Her head lolls under the gaslamp light

Rocking with the chair

Mine under an apple tree

Slantwise swinging through the air

 

She rushed out back to the orchard. Eustace was swinging from the apple tree. His face assuaged yet astonished. She cut him down, cradling his flaccid neck in her arms. She dragged him to her bone garden, where babies breath ran feracious.

It has been told that in the lowlands there lives a lady whose starting eyes have lead a village to rapture and ruin.

 

Dylan Taylor is Dad who sneaks off in the small hours to write. Dylan is a writer who spends his afternoons as a dinosaur. He has work published in Scissors & Spackle, the Kentucky Review, decomP, Crack the Spine & Entropy Magazine. Work forthcoming at WhiskeyPaper. Find him on twitter @MacTaylor89.

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