Sunflower Skins

June 29, 2010

Experiment 1 Continued, by Thom Roland

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: — Sunflower Skins @ 1:14 am

When I was a child I called headstones “sailboats.” Imagine a thousand lifeless bodies bobbing in the cemetery, clutching to their stone masts. It unnerved my mother, and so imagination was hushed.

When I was a teenager I was out of the house every chance I got. Sometimes, when things were really bad, I’d “run away.” My mother knew all my favourite places and it wouldn’t be more than a few hours before she found me and hauled me back home.

But one time—I was fifteen and it was early summer—I found a sanctuary. Sam mentioned the cemetery in passing one day and it almost didn’t register with me. It was perfect: the one place my mother would never look or even think of. Even if she did suspect, she wouldn’t ask anybody to check. Forget the police, she wouldn’t survive the humiliation of having an insane daughter. “‘An idle mind,’ they’d say. ‘Mmhm…a failure as a mother. The poor thing,’ they’d say,” she said.

And so things got worse. And I spent more time at the cemetery.

I spent entire days there several times; just sitting, or walking, or looking at the headstones or the sky. Sam knows my mother very well, but my mother doesn’t know her at all (mom doesn’t know people). Sam saw when the storm was building far better than I ever could and she’d encourage me to get out before it exploded. I didn’t listen the first time—I did every time after.

*

The owners of the most legible stones are usually at peace—usually; the most faded headstones carry the most restless spirits: they are forgetting who they are, or were. Too many are still in agony or consumed by hatred. Once they forget themselves, they also forget the object of their hatred and can break free of whatever kept them bound.

*

Sam didn’t know any more about the spirits than I did, but Mike did. He never explained how he knew what he knew and the most he’d say about that was an uncomfortable and unreadable laugh. That was late fall of grade 10. He knew about the headstones, the masts, and he knew how to see them. I learned after a while and only after too many failed attempts. The worst ended with my right arm being burned all the way down from just below my shoulder. I told everyone I knocked over a pot of boiling water for pasta, but most people just assumed my mom did it.

*

I think I’ve found one that I can trap. I have to be careful: I don’t want it to suspect anything. It is stronger than I thought, but it’s too late to stop now.

*

Mike is helping with it. Too much for me and maybe him too. Sam wants to try on Saturday. I’m so weak, I can’t wait that long. Drained.

*

The horror on her face was almost more than I could stand; it was beyond anything I could imagine …eternity floating on a river of worms… I made it say to her. She screamed. Her eyes didn’t leave mine the whole time it struck her over and over with its bones; not until it pushed a thumb into each of her sockets. A doctor told me she died from strangulation, not the beating (it has a strong, bony grip like the devil’s). A doctor asked me if the spirit returned to the ground; I said yes. I don’t trust him.

I miss Sam; I wish she was here.

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