by Justin J. Brouckaert
She comes out at night to dance with skeletons and eat with crows. She just bends down, knees to that cool earth, and tongues the crumbling rims of wormholes, slurping up slugs like an all-you-can-eat-pasta buffet. Picks the maggots off tombstones with her teeth like grapes off the vine. Legend has it, she’s quite the connoisseur of graveyard cuisine. A real flirt with those old bones.
John says the legends are shit, but only to impress Katie, who is much more interested in the risk of danger than in his macho-skeptic act. He only comes because he knows he can sneak away with her when he thinks no one’s watching. At school she is proud and dismissive, pretends not to notice the boys’ eyes on her hips, the sliver of moonlight at her waist. But here, when her parents think she’s sleeping, a sort of passive courage takes over. She keeps to the back of the group, wide-eyed and daring, and never says “no” when John grabs her hand, leads her under some graveyard tree with ominous branches. She lifts her shirt for him in those crooked shadows, lets him traces her nascent curves with his lips and fingers. He has made progress in these last few weeks. We’re not supposed to know it, but we do.
Katie and John are the reason no one else sees the woman who lives in the graveyard. When Katie screams, the whole group rushes off to save her. Chuck knocks the flashlight from my arm as he runs past and I’m left fumbling for it in a patch of weeds, cursing those pricks for leaving me behind. And yeah, it’s true, I start to panic. Maybe I’m just worried about Katie or maybe it’s my own imagination that’s got me spooked, but hear me out: It is darker in this graveyard than anywhere in the fucking cosmos. The kind of dark that makes you think twice about the ground you walk on, if you know what I mean.
So here I am, on my knees slinging mud and scratching my hands in the brush while everyone’s voices are getting blown away and rained on. I finally graze plastic, twitch the flashlight to life, and that’s when I see her. Everything is grainy and windy and wet, but sure as shit, there she is. I don’t even tell the group later, they’re all making such a big deal about the noise Katie heard.
They never ask me about it, what I saw, but listen: That girl can shake it. She tangoes like a boss, swings life into those moldy cadavers, loose flesh flapping like it’s something she’s proud of. When my light moves to her face, she pushes her man to the ground and starts on her solo, and let me tell you, ol’ girl puts on a show. Bones rattle, hips sway. She touches her hands above her head, reaches for the moon and spins, spins, spins, until everything blurs together, a damp wind, the faint, sweet smell of rotting flesh, that squirming soil beneath my feet, hot breath in my mouth and the feeling that everything in and around me is beginning to rise.