Canary Blues: A Short Story


The Blossom of a Flower

She looked like a rose; cheeks flushed red, the glow of sun an aura around her. Vivid red hair piled on her head, and a row of pearls resting against her pale skin. Florence—the one who watched her from afar—knew that she had not found her soulmate, but the other half of her own soul.


One-hundred, and thirty-four years. That was how long Florence had existed. Living was something she still searched for.


Once, Florence aged like everyone else. Until she reached twenty-one years. There was no explanation, and no urge to find out why. That way, life went by faster than she imagined. Loved ones died of natural causes of disease, but she felt no need to fill those empty spaces, even if it felt like she was withering away. Until she saw the woman—the one like a flower.

Florence returned at nine o’clock in the morning, outside the local bookshop. The woman stood by a table of books, a small parasol shielding her from the warm rays of summer light. Florence went to her side, looking at the way the woman’s fingers stroked over each of the books spines.

“You like to read?” Florence asked.

“Oh,” the woman said, flustered, as though she did not expect to be spoken to. “Very much so.”

“Anything in particular?”

“Anything I can find,” came her soft reply. “Do you read?”

“Not as much as I would like to,” Florence said.

The woman nodded, then picked up one of the books, leather-bound and thick. She offered it to Florence. The gentle smile on her lips was what made Florence take it, even though reading was not something she did a lot. “I’ve read this one over and over, even since I was a child. You should try it.”

Florence stared at her with a sense of longing. “What is your name?”


“Don’t you want to know mine?”

Elizabeth smiled. “I do – only I’d much rather learn it tomorrow.”

Florence remained smiling even as the day darkened to night.


“You must handle a book with care,” Elizabeth said the next morning. “Without grace, comes the risk of damaging such fine work.”

“Do you not simply see it as a book?” Florence asked.

“Oh, more so.”


“Stories take you elsewhere – somewhere that isn’t here,” she said. “That, I find, is an incredible power to wield. I respect it.”

She was an unbelievable woman, with the mind of elegance, and fascination by the words on a page. In the days of Florence’s life, she came across people who were too smug to give a damn about anything that wasn’t bottles of wine, or too shy to approach anything more. She forgot about meeting people she could fall in love with. It seemed fate was kind and cruel enough to find her someone. That someone was a beauty with red freckles and shining eyes, refusing to let Florence walk away.

“Where are you from?” Florence asked, out of disbelief that Elizabeth couldn’t possibly be from this world.


“Are you certain?”

Elizabeth gave an odd look, but laughed. “Of course I’m certain.”

“I only ask because—”

“You needn’t explain why. What about you? Where are you from?”


Her smile is wry. “You were born nowhere?”

Florence had been born somewhere, but it was so long ago the image of her origin became blurry. She couldn’t remember the faces of her mother and father. Her life was nowhere, no traces leading her back to the person she once was, but her existence trailed after her wherever she went.

“Yes,” she said. “I was born nowhere.”

Elizabeth said, “You’re somewhere now, aren’t you?”

She took Elizabeth in, and smiled. “Can I paint you?”

“You can paint?”


“Well,” Elizabeth said, mildly confused. “Yes – but why?”

“So I can remember you.”




Florence could remember one thing about her true life: painting. She did it everywhere, as soon as she could lift a paintbrush. That was years ago. She had not tried it for decades, but when she gazed at Elizabeth, the urge to capture the moment overwhelmed her.

The paintbrush was unfamiliar in her hand, but once she found her balance, Elizabeth waited. She sat on a chair, red-velvet, painted gold, and one of the expensive furnishings passed down from her parents. It never had meaning, not until Elizabeth sat in it. She folded her hands in her lap, and her hair cascaded down her shoulders in fiery waves of red.

Once Florence was ready, she asked Elizabeth if she was.

Elizabeth nodded.

And so Florence painted. It felt unnatural, the mesh of colours too dark or too light, and shapes contorted. By the time she finished, hours had passed, and Elizabeth came to stand by Florence’s side. Florence hated the sight she created, neglecting Elizabeth’s true beauty. When Elizabeth saw it, her face broke out in a smile, leaning over Florence to get a better look.

“This is wonderful, Florence – where did you learn to paint so beautifully?”

“I had time on my hands as a child.”

“You taught yourself?”

Florence nodded.

“You never fail to surprise me,” Elizabeth said, smiling.

“Is that a good thing?”

“Most definitely.”

Florence was surprised when Elizabeth inched close, until they were a breath away. It was Elizabeth who reached up and curled a strand of Florence’s hair behind her ear. It was Elizabeth who closed the distance, pressing their lips together. An explosion of feeling erupted within Florence, feeling like a warm summers day. When they broke apart, Elizabeth’s cheeks were tinged red, again like the petals of a rose. It took Florence’s breath away even more.

“You’re truly unbelievable,” Florence said.

The smile returned. “Is that a good thing?”

“Most definitely.”

A pause. “We should go away.”


“Anywhere – or nowhere – as long as you’re there.”

Florence smiled back. “Here sounds fine.”


They lie in bed when Florence felt the sweat on Elizabeth’s forehead. She was red-faced, not the slight tinge of rosy cheeks, but a colour feverish to touch. She shook under the covers, hair splayed out across the pillows, unlike anything Florence had seen in her.

“You need a doctor.”

Elizabeth sputtered a cough. “I’m fine.”

Florence handed her a handkerchief, which she took, coughing into it. It was stained red, but Elizabeth flashed a smile—always smiling, even in the worst times.

“You’re not fine,” Florence said, gesturing to the blood. “This is not fine.”


“You’re seeing a doctor—”

Elizabeth’s hand shot out and grabbed Florence’s wrist. Her eyes showed a glimpse of fear. “Don’t,” she said. “I do not need to be told what I already know.”

“And what do you know?”

“You already know too.”

It was harsh to face the reality of what could have been a fantasy lived. Although Elizabeth would have died of old age, Florence would have memories, able to move on. This was the kind of death that took someone away before their time. It was the ruthless kind that destroyed not only the person who had fallen into that darkness, but those who were willing to take their place.

Elizabeth sensed her distress, cupping her cheek. “You needn’t be so upset. We have time before the inevitable comes. We can spend it together, better than to dwell on what we cannot control.”

“How can you be this way?”

“I must.”


“Because to not is no way to live.”

Florence was yet to understand the meaning of living. She had felt it when she met Elizabeth, spent the few precious weeks with her, kissed her. Now it was to be taken away. She bowed her head, holding Elizabeth’s hand tight, trying to hold back the tears.

“It is okay to cry,” Elizabeth murmured, running a hand through Florence’s hair. “You mustn’t close yourself off from the world. Be open. Be kind. Live.”

“How can I when the closest thing I had to living is dying?”

A sad smile. “You never know – we may live in another life.”

This was the only life Florence had.



Petals That Fall

“I’ve heard this play is divine,” one person said, fanning herself with one of the pamphlets.

“Are you sure?” said another, a wry smile on her face. “I heard it was nothing but abysmal.”

“Clearly what you’ve heard is not reliable,” the first said, looking around, anxious to have the double-doors open. She stood on her tiptoes, looking over the crowds of people. “When did Eliza say should would be meeting us?”

It was the name that grabbed Florence’s attention.


“There she is.”

Florence followed the woman’s line of sight, and—

It was as though someone had squeezed the air from her lungs. Eliza. Elizabeth. It was her; the same woman, standing in front of her with a long, red dress, hair curling around her face and plaited into a bun. She walked with elegance, a fan held in one of her hands, moving past the crowd. She caught eyes with Florence, only to look away seconds later. And Florence knew why. Because she was a different person. She was Elizabeth, but she was Eliza.

“Eliza, dear – what took you so long?”

“It’s a lovely evening, so I wanted to walk.”

The woman tutted. “You shouldn’t. You know how dangerous the streets can be.”

Eliza fanned herself, and they dissolved into different conversation altogether, one that Florence couldn’t eavesdrop on. The doors then opened, and they filed into the theatre. Florence followed them in, losing sight of them, but went to her seat anyway. As the curtains opened, and the play begun, Florence didn’t focus on any of it. She searched for Eliza instead. The person she should have ignored—or have never set eyes on at all—and moved on with her life. Because she had not believed what her precious life had said: You never know – we may live in another life. And yet this Eliza was Elizabeth.

It was after the curtains closed that Florence saw her.

Her dress flowed around her as she left, fanning herself again. The two women that had been with her vanished, but Eliza waited by the door. She stopped Florence with a gentle hand on her arm.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” Eliza said. “I can’t help but recognise you. Do we know each other?”


“I don’t think so,” was Florence’s real reply. “I suppose I have that kind of face.”

Eliza eyed her. “Yes, that must be it.”

They stood there for a while, and Florence said, “Did you enjoy the play?”

“I would have if my two friends hadn’t spoke of how handsome the leading man was.”

“I hadn’t noticed he was.”

“Nor did I,” Eliza said. “Have you travelled far?”

“Not very.”

“I only ask because we could walk together. Safety, is all.”

Although her mind screamed for her to decline, Florence smiled back despite herself. Eliza returned it, and they left the theatre, out into the black of night. Florence found that Eliza followed her back home, no sign of going elsewhere. When she reached home—the same one she had painted Elizabeth in—still she did not leave. She stepped close, until they were inches apart. Memories of their other life flashed in Florence’s mind.

“Perhaps I’m wrong to think this, but,” Elizabeth said, sighing, “I feel like I should come in.”

And like that, Florence did not need to pursue her, because Eliza did it herself. They were drawn together from the start. Florence liked to use the as hope that perhaps this time would be different.


“You have curious eyes,” Florence once said to Eliza in bed.

Sunlight poured through the huge, bay windows, shining down on Eliza’s red hair. She bit down on her lip as she smiled, linking their hands together. “What do you mean by that?”

“Exactly as it sounds.”

“Yes, but—”

Florence quieted her with another kiss. Red tinged Eliza’s cheeks. Florence ran her fingers over the colour, feeling the warmth of her skin. It was the same tinge to her cheeks that was there when they had a photograph taken of them hours later. It couldn’t be seen in the black-and-white shades, but Florence knew.


However, it all came to an end as soon as it begun.

And in the worst way imaginable.

They had started the day by looking through what was left of Florence’s memories, scattered in the attic; chairs, throws, paintings. It had been that one portrait, hidden away for over a century, that Eliza came across first. Dust had settled on the canvas, the colours almost faded, but the image was still there. Eliza pulled it out before Florence could stop her, and she stared at it with a mixture of confusion and recognition.

“Who is this?”

Florence plastered on her most convincing smile. “A friend.”

“You painted it, didn’t you? Somehow I know it.”

Reluctantly, Florence nodded.

“It’s extraordinary,” Eliza went on, studying the piece. “But—” She paused to sigh. “I can’t help but feel I know her myself. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?”

Despite herself, bombarded with the memory of Elizabeth’s face, she said, “No, not at all.” She took a deep breath. “Because it’s you.”

Eliza looked up.

“I’m sorry?”

“The painting is of you.”

As expected, she reached over and placed a hand on Florence’s forehead, a timid yet uneasy smile on her lips. “Are you feeling all right? Because I could have sworn you said this woman is me. Impossible, since we only met—”

“We met in 1750,” Florence interrupted. “You were known as Elizabeth then.”

“How could you be alive?” Eliza coughed a laugh, but it had not humour attached to it.

Shame burned her face. “I do not age.”

“And I? I am sure I do.”

“You do – did – because you – Elizabeth – died.”

It finally caused Eliza to frown. It made her think this was Elizabeth after all, since she had been the one to suggest new lives before she died. It made her think she believed in hope too much. That was until Eliza looked at the painting with those curious eyes of hers.

Her fingers ran over the painting. “Could it truly be me?”

“I would know you anywhere.”

A pause. “I believe you.”

“You would without explanation?”

“Yes,” she said. “Because I trust you.”

Perhaps she did believe in the impossible, or she liked play into the fantasy like Florence did.

Florence took Eliza’s face in her hands, and brought them together in a sweet, sweet kiss. They went back to bed, releasing breathy sighs and whispered sentiments, until Eliza forced herself to pull her clothes back on. Florence slept on as Eliza leant down and pressed a kiss to her forehead, and closed the door with a gentle click.


She slept through the horrors. She slept through the footsteps as Eliza walked down the street. The scream as someone dragged her into an alleyway. The deathly silence that followed. She woke to a normal day, expecting to find Eliza at home. Two days later she found the newspaper, explaining how a man had found a body—a woman’s, mid-twenties, red-haired—lying in the alleyway, naked and beaten, dead for forty-eight hours.

Only when she saw the blood-stained path for herself, did Florence fall to her knees.



Give Me Strength

It was a smouldering day in California, with sundresses and milkshakes, and songs playing from the local diners. Laughter and joy—that was how Florence would describe the atmosphere. It was unlike how she felt, tired and old, even though she hadn’t changed. A century had gone by, now in time for dancing and sitting in outside film theatres, different from the starkness of England. The place that held awful memories.

Memories she waited to arise when she saw Elizabeth, and Eliza, again.

She had moved to America a decade before, as World War II ended, wanting a fresh start like many others did. Although it was loud, full of people who celebrated with extravagance, it drowned out her troubles for a while. Soon, they came back in the end as they always did. It was only a matter of time before the life she knew came rushing towards her.

“Excuse me,” a voice said beside Florence.


She knew.

Her heart fluttered and sank at the same time.



“Can I sit here?”

Florence ignored the romance film that played in the background. She risked it, as she was urged to, and looked up. It was her. Different, but her. Her red hair was pinned neat, a white and red sundress flowing around her knees. Her lips stretched around a smile. Of all places, she ended up in California too, following Florence wherever she went. It was a miracle and a nightmare, to live through it all again, but it pulled her in.

She smiled back even though it hurt. “Please do.”

“You’re British?”

Florence nodded.

“How strange. I arrived her only yesterday, and already I’ve found someone like me.”

“That is odd.”

The girl smiled again, sticking her hand out. “I’m Lizzie.”

Florence took it. “Florence.”

“That’s a lovely name.” She paused in thought. “Although I suppose Elizabeth is too, but I find it too formal. Eliza too. So I went with Lizzie. It seems more appropriate—” Again, she paused, but a flush crept into her face. “Here I am rambling whilst you’re trying to watch the film. Pardon me.”

Florence’s chest felt tight. “It’s fine.”

“Speaking of fine,” she said. “You don’t look it.”

“I imagine it’s because I don’t feel it, either.”

“Why’s that?”

She sounded different too, adjusting to the decade. Florence sighed, feeling her throat constrict.

“I’m tried of life,” she said.

“What made you come to that conclusion?”

“Someone. . .”

“Oh – forget them.”

“I can’t.”


“I just—”

Lizzie dropped her hand onto Florence’s. “Nobody is the worth the pain.”

She then took Florence by the hand, and dragged her to where photos were being taken. Florence tried to move away, but Lizzie was insistent, so they stood, smiling or a photo. It flashed bright, smoke wafting up, but Lizzie gave it to Florence.

“Here,” she said. “You should have it.”

Florence shook her head. “I couldn’t.”

“Yes, you should,” she said around a smile. “Think of it as a reminder of a good day.”

Lizzie left after the film, as did Florence, parting ways in different directions. Florence willed herself to follow, but the hollow ache in her heart told her to power on. She could find other things in life other than love. So went down the street, the polaroid clutched in her hand, never finding Lizzie again, thinking how it had not been a good day, and no day ever would.



A Damaged Little While

The fourth time had been fleeting; the longer she lived, the less she saw of the love of her life. She walked down the street, and they brushed shoulders. Red, flowing hair rippled behind her. This time Florence did not learn her name, but it was Elizabeth, Eliza, and Lizzie all in one. She smiled, gentle and timid, gone within a second.

Florence was a second to late to smile back—shaky and broken.

Because she had lived for four-hundred and thirty-four years, and lived for a few bittersweet moments.

And she could nor exist, nor live, anymore.

It took one last glimpse of the love of her life for her to know. It was the last realisation to know she could not longer take the memories of her dead body in their bed, or in an alleyway, or not seeing but knowing. It was the last piece of brokenness she needed to return home, and lay in bed, with the painting hung on the wall, and photos clutched in her hand. It was the last thing she felt, the deep ache in her chest—an old, broken heart—grow weaker, until she felt nothing at all. It took a moment to fall away like the petals of a rose.


The Dead One: A Short Story

You stare at the corpse; the waxy complexion, and dead-eyed gaze, are a new sight to you.

It is a girl, her body beached on the side of the cave, sand and seaweed tangled in her hair. She has bruises smudged over every inch of her skin. It is bruises and broken bones and nothing else. Cold sea air shudders through you. Your wet footsteps echo around the damp, jagged walls. In death, she has soft features—the full mouth, dainty fingers—a horrifying reminder of how young she is. You are seventeen, and the girl doesn’t look a day older either.

You take a step forward.

You have been curious as long as you can remember. You have seen the sights, stretches of fields, the thrashing of ocean against rocks. You have heard of deaths, but you have never seen it. It is what makes you reach forward, pressing a hand to the girl’s arm. Something jolts through you. It rumbles the ground, a white light blinding, feeling as though it drains you of energy. You move away, waiting for your vision to clear, but once it does, you find yourself staring at the girl.

She is sitting up, gasping in strangled breaths, alive.

“What—” she tried to say, but there is hardly any voice to use.

It feels natural to lean forward, holding a hand out, saying, “Are you okay?”

Glassy-eyed, she stares at you. She manages a brief shake of her head before she twists to the side, vomiting murky water. Wiping her mouth, she looks at you again, lips wet and gaze cloudy. It is impossible concept, yet you do not need more proof than what you see.

You risk reaching out to her again. She flinches.

“Are you okay?” you repeat.

She scoots back.

You retract your hand, and she relaxes.

She opens and closes her mouth a few times before forcing out, “What’s happening?”

“You were dead.”

“I know.”

“And now you’re not.”

The girl stares at her hands—shaking, caked with dirt—then back at you. “Yes.”

You pause. “Do you have a name?”


“What is it?”

A crease forms in her brow. “I can’t remember.”

It compels you to reach out again, even though she looks at you as though she can see into your soul. This cave is one of wonder, but now that you see a girl who was once dead sitting in front of you, ashen-faced and shivering, it feels like something else. It can be danger, or confusion, but you do not both to figure it out. Instead you lean forward an inch.

Water drips from her hair.

“I have towels at my house,” you say.

You think she doesn’t understand in the way she stares at you, but she follows you anyway.


Your home is empty during the summer. Your parents work nine-to-five jobs, and most of your days are spent counting them. It is only ten a.m., easy to walk through the door with a girl in soaked clothes and sandy footprints. You find a towel, and hand it to her. When she doesn’t take it, you drape it over her shoulders. She does not look at you, but she tugs it tighter around herself. You sit her down on a chair.

She does not speak. You do; you have never been fond of silence.

“Is this okay?” you ask. “Are you cold?”

She answers with a shudder.

“Okay,” you say, going to your closet, and pulling out a set of clothes.

You hand them to her, leading her to the bathroom. She looks as lost as before, but emerges a few minutes later, wet clothes scrunched in her hands. She sits on the chair again, and silence ensues. It is uncomfortable, more so than her glazed-over eyes and cracked lips.

“Do you have family?” you ask.

She frowns, but it mingles with something like sadness. “No.”

You do not delve into the topic, thinking details aren’t relevant. “I’m sorry,” you say. “You can stay here for now.”


You nod.

“I shouldn’t be here.”

“It’s fine. My parents won’t—”

“No,” she says, breaths wheezed. “I should not be alive.”

You pause. “Why would you think that?”

“Because it does not feel right.”

“Did you want to die?”

“No,” she says, “but I did.”

“You’re alive now.”

“I look alive,” she says. “I do not feel it.”

It is the most she has said since you found her. It makes everything much more real. She looks dead, with the damp locks of hair, watery cough, and a look that causes an uneasy feeling in your stomach.

In the end, that is all you think about as the hours tick by.

The girl lies down beside your bed in the night, shivering under the blanket you give her. She does not say anything more, but by the time morning comes in a dreary sky, sleep-deprived and sore, you ask if she wants to eat.

She follows you downstairs.

You place a plate of scrambled eggs and dried toast in front of her. It takes her half-an-hour to eat half, and five seconds to bring it back up.

She coughs—a harsh, wrenching sound, leaning over the table to vomit on the floor. It is not only food, but what looks like black sludge, spilling over her chin. You cover your face at the rancid smell, and give her a cloth. She wipes it away. You mop the mess with sheets of kitchen roll, as she watches, eyes humiliated, staring downwards.

“It’s okay,” you say; it isn’t as though you haven’t been sick before. “It’s fine.”

It sounds like a lie.

You rest your hand on hers.

She flinches, but then relaxes.

“I’m not hungry anymore,” she says.

“Me too,” you say, taking her plate away.

If it is possible, she looks worse; paler, like the stone of a statue, not belonging.


It is curiosity that takes you outside, searching through the woods. The girl stays close to your side, jumping at all the little sounds. You have walked through these woods most of your life, gazing at the naked branches in winter, or red and white flowers of spring. It is beautiful, but it can be unpleasant, rubbish littered by kids, doggy bags left by lazy owners, and dead animals left to rot.

Which is how you find the dead bird.

The girl, quiet, tenses beside you.

She knows what you think, going to say something, but you stop her.

“It’s okay,” you say.

“No,” she rasps, face gaunt with death and weariness. “It’s not.”

You lay an open palm on the bird before she can say anything else.

It erupts within you, that something that feels like power. Earth rumbles beneath you, brilliance of white blinding you. You are drained again, heaving in uncomfortable breaths, but then you hear the squawk of the bird. You cradle it in your hands, its feathers frayed, skin half-decomposed, and eyes white. You smile because you feel like you have done a good thing.

“That wasn’t a good idea,” the girl says, and you see she is shaking.

You stand, nestling the bird in your coat pocket. You take her hands in your warm gloved ones, but she cries out, yanking away. You see a layer of skin has come off, raw and cracked, simply by touch. You take your glove off, and press your hands together again; it is a weak glow by now, healing the skin over. You smile, but the girl does not.

“Okay?” you ask.

“No,” she says.

You sigh. “Would you have preferred I left it?”



“It reminds me of who I am.”

She walks ahead of you, back towards the house, back to where she will think for the rest of the day. You know she thinks because she picks at her fingernails, and stares into space. You begin to think maybe she is right. She looks alive but she does not feel it. She does not have the rosy colour in her cheeks, or humming of a pulse in her wrist. She is dead, and deep down you know it, but you have been in denial ever since you brought her back.

You catch up to her. “I’m sorry. Do you wish that I had not done it?”

She does not answer, but nods.

“You know I can’t take it back.”

“Because you know you can’t, or because you don’t want to?”


She nods again.

“I wouldn’t want you to die again,” you say.

It is the truth. Sometimes you find yourself looking at the nice things of her, like the sheen of her when she brushes it, or the way her hand feels in yours. You look at her like she is more than a miracle.

Her voice is softer. “I cannot die if I am already dead.”

“You know what I mean.”

You let her walk on, back through the trees. Night creeps along the sky, painting it in dull pinks and oranges, but it does not ease the black and white atmosphere. As you walk into the opening of your garden, the bird in your pocket squawks, and it sends a shiver down your spine.


You know the difference between dream and nightmare, but you cannot tell the difference between if it is happening as you sleep or as you are awake. Blurred edges, distorted shapes, blank faces, suspended in a moment.

All you know is the ground has split open, tendrils of black twisting from it. It wraps around you like a web, around each of your limbs with a tightening grip, until it ties over your mouth and you cannot scream. Everything shakes the same way, as when you had touched the girl and the bird, but it feels like the force of it will tear the ground beneath your feet. It does, opening a gaping hell of nothingness.

“I told you,” a voice says behind you; the girl.

“It isn’t real,” you say.

“You believe it,” she says.

You do, but before you can do anything, the darkness swallows you. All your senses are silenced; silence has never been something you are fond with, but now it kills you. Your lungs feel like they are being stuffed, collapsing around gasping breaths. It is like vines lick at your skin. It is a blind prison.

You wake.

You are in bed.

You look down beside you, and the girl lies with wide-eyes too. You realise that she has seen the same thing—a vision. She looks at you with a similar terrified look, but even though you are away from the sight, it does not bring comfort.


In the morning, you go about your normal routine, smothering away the memories of last night.

You shower, scalding away the ugly sensation of darkness. You go downstairs, pouring yourself some cereal, but only eating a mouthful on a churning stomach. You go to look out the window—

You see it.

A crack, split down the middle, in your garden.

You run to the bathroom, hunched over the toilet, and wretch.

When you look down, you see the black sludge that should be vomit. Your hands shake.


“You should have listened,” the girl says, avoiding eye-contact, looking more dead than yesterday. You had thought you were accustomed to her looks, but you think maybe that was a lie. “Why didn’t you listen?”

You stand, splashing water on your face, gripping the edge of the sink with white knuckles.

You look different.


Pale skin, and cloudy eyes.

“I have listened,” you say. “You’re over-reacting.”

“What is this?” she says, pointing at the toilet.

You flush it.


“You’re becoming death,” she says. “You’ll spread it everywhere.”

You scrunch your eyes shut. “Please—”

“It isn’t right.” Her voice is raspy and weak, but has an underlying tone of force. “You’re paying the consequence of what was supposed to stay one way.”

The haze veiled over your eyes clears. You see that she is shaking, but her skin is ridged. Around her lips the skin is falling apart. You reach up and press your fingers to it. This time she lets it happen; the ground rumbles, and light blinds you, but it is accompanied by a wave of nausea. You barely have time to vomit again.

The girl looks sad. “See?”

“I don’t like seeing you like that,” you defend.

“I don’t like seeing you like that either.”

You don’t know much of what to say.

So you ask, “How did you die?”


Wind whips your face, drained of colour, the crashing of waves loud below you.

The girl stands by you, timid, shrunk even further into herself. She had taken your hand, and brought you here, claiming the hills. A dark, shadowy sky hovers over you both, a cold and unforgiving evening. You know why you are here, but you ask anyway,

“You died here?”



“I wanted to see the view,” she says, staring at the dark blue stretches of ocean. “And the ground gave out.”

You sit down, because the ache in your back, and the nausea stirring your gut. The girl sits beside you, knees touching, but you’re too numb to feel it. You stay until night turns black, waves fierce as they thrash against the rocks. You cannot tell when the odd feeling inside you begun—though you know it was after you brought the girl home, dead and alive—but it came as if to surprise you.

You are surprised, because you are on the edge of a cliff, with a dead girl’s hand in yours.

Still, you see it; a crack, splitting the ocean, separating the waves.

You have disrupted what holds the impossible together.

The girl asks, “Do you see now?”

“Yes,” you answer.


The bird is perched on your shoulder. It is dying.

Much like the girl, its skin is the first thing to go. It rots from the inside, feathers fluttering to the ground, one eye shrivelled. It doesn’t take long, letting out drifting squawks. You are itching to bring it back, away from the quickening grip of death. You manage to keep your hands to yourself, but the girl does the honours of burying it. You do not feel comforted.

Because you feel.

“How long before you go?” you ask.

“Any time.”

You feel obsession.

It feels like a knife twisting your stomach, heat that floods your cheeks, and a selfish compulsion that overshadows everything else. You touch a gloved hand to the girl’s cheek. She flinches, and looks at you with startled eyes.

Her mouth opens.

You look down at it.

They are not falling apart.

You lean forward, and she doesn’t move away. She holds onto your hand tight. You kiss, and although it is barely-there, it is warm.

Her hands are cold, her cheek is cold, but her lips are warm.

The ground shakes again, white light burning behind your closed eyes.

You think this is a good thing.

You think this is a good thing until you pull away and see her nose is bleeding.

She dabs her thumb in the blood, and you cannot read the expression on her face, but it is close to relief. A new feeling of panic jolts within you, forcing you to take your glove off, but the girl moves away. You try to follow her, even as she stumbles back, and so do you, desperation a smothering sense.

It happens too fast—

How long before you go?


Fainting, to you, has not been a dramatic thing until you watch her fall. She crashes to the ground, her eyes half-open, blood gushing from he nose and smearing her mouth. Your chest clenches, struggling to breathe, but you go to touch her.

She is conscious, whispering, “Don’t touch me.”

“You’ll die if I don’t,” you say.

“You’ll kill everyone else if you do.”

“I don’t care.”

A broken smile cracks her face. “You bring life with your touch, and you bring death.”

You do not know what that means, if you have over-used your power, or she is now immune. When you feel an ache in your chest, pressing your hands against her cheeks despite it all, you know it is none of those things, but what she warned you of. You have disrupted what was supposed to remain, untethering the forces of the afterlife. A tear rips through the ground, through your skull, screams merging together, one of pain, and one of despair, but you cannot tell which belongs to who. You see her. Her skin is wavy, crumbling away before your eyes, looking at you with a dead gaze. She is crying, or maybe you are crying, but you don’t let go.

The crack pulls the earth apart. You see dark tendrils, webs of them, come towards you. They wrap around you until you cannot see your house, or your garden, or the forest in the background. The darkness holds you in a suffocating embrace. It is like the vision, and you feel sick, but you do not look away from her. You do not let go. Somehow you manage to take hold of her hand, through the pain, and amongst the feeling of withering away.

You are the dead one.

You are death.

Yet you only care about the one girl you saved.


Death is numbing. The light is gone, the ground opens, and the screams that shredded your lungs are drowned out by darkness.