But I couldn’t help but ask myself what Miriam I would write. And I end up with a psychic Emily Dickinson, a woman trying to avoid the world not by moving through it too quickly to be touched, but by withdrawing from it entirely. A woman damned not to touch or be touched by anyone, ever. Not much of a story there, though, except the story in her own head. The thing is, done right, that’s a story I would read.
Turns out that’s not just a story I would read, it’s one I would write. Don’t worry, I checked with Chuck first, asked if it would bother him if I riffed on his Blackbirds’ theme a bit, and he thought it would be cool. So I did.
Had to ask myself why, first, though. Not like I don’t have my own stuff to do. I came up with a few reasons. First, I’ve been on a bit of a short fiction binge lately and I knew this was a short story. Second, I have my own idea for a horror/crime mashup novel that I’ve been struggling with, partly because I haven’t really writting in that genre before, so this was a way for me to mess around with it without oppressive novel stakes weighing down the process. Third, there’s just that thing that happens – where an idea, all on it’s lonesome, starts putting on weight. Story gravity I guess. The thought I had about a Miriam hiding from the world did that. And once an idea does that, if I don’t write it, then it’s just gonna bug me until I do.
Anyway, here’s what I came up with. Chuck, thanks for letting me play in your sandbox. I hope I remembered to bury all my turds.
Wax fruit. That’s what popped into my head.
When I was a kid, I remember one of my friends telling me how her little brother took a a bite out of a piece of wax fruit from her mother’s centerpiece. I remembered the centerpiece, an ornate brass bowel in the middle of their dining room table laden with fake apples, pears, weird rubbery grapes, silk leaves sticking out here and there. I remember wondering about her brother, if maybe the kid had some kind of problem. That centerpiece, it was fine as decoration, as an object d’art, but it didn’t look like food, like anything anybody would want to eat.
And my father didn’t look like anything I wanted to kiss.
He looked better than usual. Usually, unless you caught him first thing in the morning, his hair was a little unruly. It had a wave to it, and it’s not like he thought about it much, not like he was the mirror-checking type, the pocket comb type. Now his hair was in first-thing-in-the-morning shape, locked down for the duration. Locked down for all eternity.
Peaceful. That’s what everybody kept telling me. He looks so peaceful.
I thought he looked dead. Dead and not at all like anything I wanted to kiss.
But that was the deal, the societal expectation. That’s what this whole thing was about, expectations. Somebody dies, we dress their pickled corpse up in their good clothes, we stick them in an upholstered box, we park that up front in the rented facsimile of a living room and we tell each other they look peaceful because we’re hoping they are, hoping they’re traipsing lightly through some imagined Elysium when, in our hearts, each and every one of us knows they’re like cold cuts somebody left out of the fridge. That the bacteria that are going to turn them into worm fodder are already at work, no matter how much formaldehyde we pump into their veins. They are just bad meat.
I sound like a bad daughter calling him that. But I was a good daughter, the best daughter. Because he was the best father, and now he was gone and I wanted to be anywhere but here. I wanted to be alone somewhere. I wanted to weep and gnash my teeth and rend my garments. I wanted to read all the e-mails he’d sent me, look at our pictures, ride my bike out the trail to that spot by the old railroad bridge where we used to go, sit on the rock under that huge willow where I could talk to him without having to use my dumb filter, where he would talk to me like I was an actual human being, not like I was a kid or a pupil or a responsibility. Or a freak. Talk to me like my thoughts and feelings and wants were as real and deserving of consideration as his own.
Mostly, I just didn’t want him dead.
One-car accident, that was the official story, but there had been some whisperings that maybe he’d had a little to drink. I wanted to know. Accidents happen. Accidents are the stuff of life. Hell, every one of us is an improbable genetic accident at the end of a thousand-generation chromosomal crap shot, a billion-to-one shot (billions to one, actually, if you want me to do the math for you, and I can). Every day we’re tight-rope walking through a world of chaos and violence and disease where anything – some psycho stranger, a soccer mom on her smart phone behind the wheel of her minivan, a virus, some cell with bad programming that starts dividing into a cancer – where anything could pick us off at any time. Gets to where a girl doesn’t want to step outside.
So accident. I could live with accident. But if he was drunk, then he didn’t care, not about me, not as much as I thought he did. Because you don’t do that. When you win that billion-to-one crap shoot, when you get to walk in this world and feel the sun and eat cheeseburgers and watch Monty Python, you don’t just piss it all away. You don’t shove your chips into the middle of the table, go all in on some scotch and a ten-year-old Ford. You don’t do that. Not to your daughter. Not if you really love her.
I needed him to love me, and now he couldn’t.
I walked to the front of the room because that’s what they expected. I knelt on the red cushion on the brass kneeler because that’s what they expected. I made the sign of the cross as a pantomimed obeisance to a god I did not believe in because that’s what they expected. And then I bent forward to press my lips to a piece of wax fruit.
And I saw it all. Not just saw it, lived it. My father, my perfectly sober, loving father, starting into the curve out on Blackberry Road, wipers going, sluicing the rain off the windshield, NPR on the radio, the Ford right at the speed limit, an irritated glance into the rear-view as the brights hit it, an SUV of some kind coming up behind him, coming up way too fast, weaving a little, Dad tapping the brakes, slowing down, the SUV jinking left, going to pass him on the curve, just clipping the left rear of the Ford, just enough, the tires losing their grip, Dad panicking as the car starts to slide, the tires hydroplaning. Then it was just physics. The car gets sideways, the wheels stop being levers rotating around a central fulcrum to translate power into motion and instead become fulcrums themselves, points of resistance, and the car flips over. And over. And over.
Dad didn’t think much during the flipping, too much to process. Airbags going off, glass breaking, metal tearing and twisting and crunching, that last bounding flip where the car really went airborne, and then the crushing, violent halt as it hit the trunk of the oak roof-first, horseshoeing the frame. The airbags had shot their wad by then, and they don’t put airbags in the roof anyway. Dad was a little sideways in his seat at that point, so his head hit the roof at a slight angle.
You hear your neck break, it turns out. And it’s pretty loud.
Instantaneous, that’s what they’d told me. He didn’t suffer. That’s what they’d said. I know better now. He suffered. Everybody suffers.
Not pain, not in his case, and not long, not by the minutes and hours and days and weeks calibrations we use to govern our lives. But death has its own clock, and that bastard runs slow.
The car stopped on its side wrapped around the tree, the driver’s side pointed up, the rain coming in through the broken window, falling on my father’s face. One drop fell right by the top of his nose, right at the edge of the eyebrow and trickled slowly down. It itched. He wanted to wipe it away, but couldn’t, of course. More than anything, he wanted to wipe that drop of water away. He thought of so many things, and for those brief seconds, I was able to feel his life from the inside, all the things he never told me, never wanted me to know, his secrets, his shames, and it made me so sad, sad that he thought he couldn’t tell me, that I wouldn’t understand, that I wouldn’t forgive, sad because seeing him in that moment, seeing him entire in his flaws and weaknesses and regrets, that just made him more human, more decent, more perfect.
And then I felt him do what he always did. He pulled himself together, focused, decided that he would go out on his own terms. That, even if he couldn’t wipe that damn drop of water off of his cheek (and it truly was driving him mad, as if his brain, no longer receiving any signals from anywhere else, had focused all its sensory processing power on this one fucking drop of water, turning the itch into a screaming torture), that even if he couldn’t do that, he wasn’t going to die with his brain just racing randomly through its inventory. He was going to think about what he wanted to think about. As his vision grayed and narrowed and then blinked out entirely, he thought about me. And his last thought was this: I’m sorry baby. I’m so sorry.
His last conscious thought anyway. After that was the fear. It’s always the fear. Don’t ask me to explain it. Because there aren’t words for it. Why would there be? I’m the only person who has ever felt it and lived.
He wasn’t thinking about what he saw, not anymore. But I was. The SUV had stopped, brake lights on. A black Cadillac Escalade. The driver never got out. Just before my father’s eyes dimmed entirely, the brake lights went off and the truck pulled away.
Vanity plates. DLLRBILL.
I guess I screamed. I guess I fainted. I don’t remember that part. This vision business was new to me, first time it had happened. I remember coming to. I was on my back, all these feet around me, a couple different people saying to step back, give her some air, all the while they joined the crowd pressing in. Then my Aunt Julie knelt down next to me, asked me if I was OK, stroked my face.
I’ll spare you the gory details – cancer, tubes coming out of every orifice, a fine and caring mind reduced to raw animal madness by inexorable pain. And the fear again. Always the fear. But Aunt Julie touching me was just the beginning. More hands touching me, grabbing my arms, trying to help me up. A heart attack; an old man who had no business trying to clean his own gutters falling from a ladder; a friend of my father’s who never had the nerve to come out of the closet dying from AIDS, his wife, also infected now, watching with hateful eyes from the chair next to the bed. Deaths and dates – fifty- two years next Friday, this October 22nd, six years from now on a rainy Tuesday in April. And the fear, the eviscerating, soul-ripping fear.
I guess I screamed again, passed out again. Because the next time I woke up I was in the hospital.
Fluorescent lights, the white ceiling, that antiseptic smell, not being sure where I was. Tried to move my arms, couldn’t. I looked down. The sleeve of a hospital gown, an IV, restraints. I’m a bright girl, I put two-and-two together. I’m actually pretty good at math.
Voices, talking about me. I kept my eyes closed. I figured it was best if I just held still and listened.
“It was just too much for her, Doctor Meyers, I’m sure.” My Aunt Julie. “She and her father were very close.”
Doctor Meyers. My shrink. Convenient, I guess, that I already had one. You see, I’m weird. Ask anybody.
Objectively, anybody is right, if you go with the secondary definition anyway. The secondary definition of weird is odd or unusual. Every year, 300,000 or so kids take the SAT; 0.0003 percent of them get a perfect score. Out of that handful, I’m betting most of them are wondering if they were perfect, have to wait for their score to see. Now, if they got a perfect score, then they knew they kicked ass, but one or two questions had to be gnawing at them, had to have them guessing. I wasn’t guessing. I knew my score was perfect. Hell, I knew it would be when I sat down to take the damn thing.
That puts me dead center in odd or unusual territory. Come to think of it, now that I am communing with the dying, I guess I fit the primary definition, too: involving or suggesting the supernatural, unearthly or uncanny. Swell.
I know. You’re thinking gee, that’s tough. You’re a genius. Boo hoo for you. I don’t expect you to get it. Frankly, I don’t expect most people to get much. But you try being a genius some time, a genius and a teen-aged girl that would still like to have friends, maybe date a boy, that has to pretend to give a shit when the lunch table starts in on American Idol, that has to pass half of her thoughts through a dumb-filter before she utters them just to fit in, you try that for a few years and see if you don’t end up blabbing to a shrink.
Doctor Meyers talking. “This is a pretty extreme episode. A psychotic break would be the popular term. I haven’t seen her since she left for school. Have you seen any evidence of drug use?”
“Heather? Oh heavens no. She’s been such a good girl. I mean she’s at Yale.”
“Kids use drugs, even at Yale.”
“Has she said anything about hallucinations?”
“No, no. Nothing like that.”
“She kept screaming not to touch her. We had to put her in restraints. She’s sedated now, but she should be awake any time. She was saying some pretty strange things.”
“What sort of strange things?”
“Hard to make sense of most of it. She kept telling me to stop taking the stairs.”
“Six floors here. It’s hard for me to get in much exercise, so I take the stairs when I can. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it to her.” A rustling noise, the two of them moving toward the door. “OK, I have to check on a few other patients, but I’ll be back in a bit.”
The stairs. I remembered now. I saw a middle-aged woman, white coat, reading a clipboard. She was hungry, thinking about lunch, missed a step. April 6, 2007, 11:17 am.
That was today, unless I’d been out longer than I thought.
I opened my eyes, turned my head. Aunt Julie saw me, walked to the edge of the bed, went to take my hand. I tried to jerk it away, remembering the horrid vortex of her pain-maddened brain. Restraints. I forgot. She wrapped her hand around my clenched fist and I braced myself for the vision. Nothing. I relaxed my hand, took hers. So whatever it was, it was over. And whatever it was, it wasn’t magic, I wasn’t seeing visions. I missed my Dad was all, probably missed him more than I should because, let’s face it, I depended on him more than most people. By 18, most people have friends. I just had him. And with people whispering about him maybe being drunk, I guess I needed an explanation bad enough that I invented one. Brains were funny things. I knew that. I’ve done the reading. And mine was funnier than most. So psychotic break, ok, I can live with that. Beats the hell out of suddenly being forced to experience the death of any human that I touched.
“You gave us a good scare,” she said.
“I guess. What happened?”
“You passed out honey. You were a little agitated, so they just want to check you out, make sure you’re OK.”
“The restraints seem a tad over the top.”
“I’m sure they’ll take those off right away.”
A voice over the PA, an alarmed voice. “Code Blue. We need a crash cart and trauma team to the east stairwell stat.”
I closed my eyes a moment, then opened them.
“What time is it?”
Aunt Julie looked at her watch. “11:18.”
Let’s skip ahead a few years. I hate it when people don’t get to the point. They ramble on, they think you’re interested, and most of the time you can already tell what they’re going to say and you wouldn’t have wanted to hear their bullshit to begin with, even if they kept it short. And here I am weighing you down with navel gazing.
You can’t stop it. Death, I mean. That’s point number one. Trust me, after Doctor Meyers, I tried. You can tell people all you want. You can tell them when and where and how, but it’s all going to happen anyway. And you’re going to end up staying in the hospital for almost six months because people are pretty sure you are out of your fucking mind. They are also starting to think you’re a witch because people are dying, just like you said. But they can’t explain it, so it can’t be real. So they can’t call you a witch. They can’t take you out and burn you.
They get real careful about touching you, though.
And I got real careful about touching them. Because I don’t want to know, that’s one thing. I’m not going to get into a whole philosophical discourse here, but trust me when I tell you that it takes a little something out of life when everyone you know is walking around with an expiration date stamped on their forehead.
And I don’t like dying. Dying sucks. That’s point number two. You’re going to have to trust me on this, too. Take the worst experience you’ve ever been through, I don’t care what it is. Say that compound complex fracture you got in seventh grade when you and your idiot friends had watched a little too much of the X Games and you tried to jump your bike off the garage roof. Take that experience, make that the largest whole number you can think of, multiply that using scientific notation with the same number as the exponent, and you aren’t even half way there.
Dying sucks, and every time I touch somebody, I die. I just live through it. Everybody else, they just have to do that shit once. And they don’t have to live knowing what ‘s coming.
So touching people? That was out. I adjusted.
I don’t leave the house. I’m the Emily Dickinson of Sugar Grove, Illinois. Got everything I need right here.
God bless the internet. That’s where we geniuses hang out, turn off our dumb filters, have our little pre-frontal orgies. I know, the dumb shits are out there, too. I mean, Jesus, have you seen Twitter? But we’ve got our own little secret clubs, bulletin boards you can only hack your way into if you spend your spare time beating Mensa members at Scrabble in your third language. I can order my groceries, take out, Netflix, whatever.
But what about human contact, you ask.
OK, I can touch a few people. Because the dying thing only happens the first time. So if I’ve touched you already, then, if I like you, come on over. I spend a lot of time with Aunt Julie. But she’s only got seven years, two months, four days, seven hours and twenty six seconds left on the clock, and the last couple of months aren’t going to be any fun for anybody.
There was a guy from my high school, nice enough guy, decent looking, bright enough that I can leave the dumb filter most of the way off. Already touched me. He was the heart attack guy at Dad’s wake – fifty-two years off at the time, forty-seven and change now. I saw him for a while. Lost my virginity to him. But it’s kind of hard to have a relationship with someone who won’t leave the house, I get that. He’s moved on, pretty much. I guess we’re fuck buddies. That’s the term right? I’m a little behind on my slang, seeing as how I don’t commune with anything like a broad spectrum of humanity anymore. And he’s the last real live lover I’m ever going to have. But you know what else you can order on the web? A vibrator.
You can also make a damn good living.
See, my fuck buddy may be the last lover I’m going to have, but he was not the first. The first was math. Numbers, they can touch me in happy places he couldn’t reach if he had the prick off of a blue whale.
That part about me being weird? I guess my parents figured that out pretty early on, but the whole thing came to a head in third grade. Teacher kept assigning story problems for math homework, you know the kind. If a car travels for 13 minutes at 60 miles an hour, how far does it go, that sort of thing. Seemed to me, the way we were taught to solve these was wasteful, having to do the same calculations over and over again, so I came up with my own system – a set of equations with placeholders for the values so that I could solve for any missing value just by plugging in the data that was given. Turns out that was algebra, turns out we weren’t going to get to that for a few years, turns out most kids don’t come up with it on their own. I guess most kids avoid it like the plague even when someone else shows it to them,
The weird part didn’t sit with mom very well. She wanted me to sew and cook and shit. But then, a lot of things didn’t sit well with her. She took off when I was 11.
But numbers, numbers hold the secrets to the universe. The world is full of patterns, once you translate the varied sensory input into measureable systems. Things that seem random and chaotic are revealed as elegant and predictable.
Even things like financial markets.
They call us quants. Math geeks who can take look at a few zillion bits of data concerning stocks, commodities, futures, derivatives, look at all that information and translate that chaos into patterns. And then we can look at those patterns and give you odds on which ones are predictive. It’s not a perfect science, of course, but some of us are pretty good at it. I’m real good.
The $500,000 in life insurance from my dad? It’s been five years now, and I’ve turned that in to almost $10 million. Bullshit, you’re saying. That’s better than an 80 percent rate of return. Nobody gets that. But you can. You can if you’re trading your own money and you don’t have to follow any of the rules that banks and brokers and hedge funds have to follow. You can if you’re willing to leverage the shit out of your bets when you think you have a good one. Of course, that means you’re going all in, putting everything on the line. Who cares? The house is paid off, it’s worth a little better than $300 grand. If I lose it all and have to start over, I take a mortgage and play it careful until I’ve got the stakes to get back in the game. What else am I going to do? Go dancing?
Get those kinds of results, though, and you’re going to attract some attention. Even if you’re just trading your own money.
Around here, that attention is going to belong to F. William Forest.
It started with e-mails. Mr. Forest would like to take you to lunch blah blah blah. I ignored them. Then phone calls – I checked him out, I knew his numbers, all of them. I didn’t answer. Then letters. Then certified letters.
Then one day the door bell rang. I only answered because I was expecting lunch – delivery from the Thai place I liked – and there he stood, F. William Forest, Chicago’s billionaire investment genius in all his Armanied glory, all by his lonesome, all the way out in East Bumblefuck to see little ol’ me. I think I was supposed to be stunned into submission.
High wattage smile. “Heather Wells,” he said. It was not a question.
“Yeah,” I answered.
I cut him off. “I know who you are.”
The big smile again, a little of-course-you-do shrug.
“I do hope you’ll forgive my persistence.”
“Persistence, stupidity. Po-ta-to, po-tah-to.”
He laughed. “My God, it is refreshing to meet somebody who doesn’t want to kiss my ass.” He put out his hand. “My friends call me Bill. I’m hoping to make you one of them.”
I just looked at his hand. I didn’t say anything. He left it outstretched.
“I’ve checked you out, Heather. At first just about the trading, but when I check someone out, I’m thorough. So I’ve heard about this other nonsense, and I’m not afraid to touch you.”
I was looking around, looking at anything but him. You’re supposed to look people in the eyes when they are talking to you, I know, but that’s always been uncomfortable for me, even before this whole death thing, and now, now it’s a little too much like touching someone. I can feel that connection trying to happen. I don’t know if it actually will if I hold someone’s eyes, but I know I’m not going to find out. So I was looking around. It’s a nice yard, trees and shit, saw a squirrel run across the lawn, saw Forest’s car, gray Audi A8. I guess Forest had traded up. Of course he had, guy like him doesn’t keep an Escalade for six years. He kept the vanity plate, though. DLLRBILL.
So I took his hand. I had to watch this bastard die, even if that meant I had to die again to see it.
My kitchen, my hand, my knife, my face right there, my body right up against his. His blood, his $2,000 dollar suit, his yellow tie. The same suit and tie he’d worn to my door. A ripping feeling in his chest, a tearing feeling, the flood of secrets – a big flood, a long flood, one unmitigated by any regret or shame or conscience, but my father’s death was in there. Not a headline, not above the fold, not even front page news, but in there. Back with the cheated on wives and cheated on mistresses and cheated on business partners. And the kiddie porn. Lots of kiddie porn. He pulls a trigger, a gun barks. Then the fear. Always the fear.
And the time. Seven minutes from now.
He was here to kill me. He was going to die, and I was going to die with him. I could live with that.
I came out the other side. I didn’t scream or pass out. I didn’t do that anymore.
He watched my face. I may not pass out anymore, but when you are coming back from the dead, a poker face is a bit much to ask.
“So you do know about your father,” he said. “When I started checking you out, it was just about your trading, but then I heard the name. Rang a bell. And I heard the stories, all this psychic stuff. So I was afraid you might know. And that is not the sort of risk I’m in the habit of leaving unmitigated. Let’s step inside, shall we? Some business should not be conducted out of doors.”
He was holding a pistol, must have pulled it while I was in the vision. A small, flat silvery automatic of some kind.
“We could go to the kitchen I guess,” I said. “I was going to make some tea.”
“Tea would be nice.”
Some number tricks are easy. Take counting. Seven minutes is 420 seconds. And if you count like this – 1 tick, 2 tick, 3 tick – you stay right on track. I could do that. I could do that in my head, do that and carry on a conversation, no problem.
I filled the kettle, put it on the stove, stood next to it. The knife rack was on the other side of the counter, but the knife I’d used that morning on the cantaloupe, it was big enough, and it was still next to the stove, on the counting board, the dish towel over it. I’d meant to stick it in the dishwasher. Sometimes it pays to be a slob.
223 tick, 224 tick, 225 tick . . .
“I don’t suppose you’d like to talk trading for a bit. You’re results really are, well, breath taking.”
“Seems pretty easy to me. I can’t help it if you’re a dumb fuck.”
He laughed again. “You really aren’t much of an ass kisser, are you?”
“No,” I said. “I don’t like to touch people.”
275 tick, 276 tick, 277 tick . . .
I leaned back, putting my hands on the edge of the counter behind me, the knife just an inch or two out of my reach.
“Pity, would have given us a topic of conversation, given me a reason to wait for tea. You’re sure you won’t reconsider?”
301 tick, 302 tick, 303 tick . . .
“Since you put it like that, what do you want to know?”
“You have some IT here, of course.”
“Am I going to find what I need on it?”
“No kiddie porn, if that’s what you mean.” His face reddened, he took a step toward me.
“When I see someone die, I see a lot,” I said.
“Kiddie porn is not what I mean.”
368 tick, 369 tick, 370 tick . . .
“I mean trading algorithms and such. Do you have any security that’s going to give me trouble?”
“The security is mostly web-facing. But it won’t matter.”
“Because I do it all in my head. I only use the software to execute trades.”
“Like I said, I can’t help it if you’re a dumb fuck.”
391 tick, 392 tick, 393 tick . . .
The tea kettle whistled, seemed to startle him a little, another half step toward me, his eyes turning to the stove.
And then the doorbell rang.
My hand flashed to the knife as he half turned to the door. I clamped my left hand down on his right wrist, tried to push the gun aside as I drove the knife up just under his ribs and started yanking it back and forth. His arm gave a little. I could just feel a tremulous vibration in the knife handle as the ruined chambers of his heart fluttered against the blade.
A gunshot, a burning pain in my left thigh, the fear in his eyes.
418 tick, 419 tick . . .
“420, mother fucker,” I said. I don’t think he understood. We both collapsed.
The front door flew open, the guy that delivered for the Thai place rushed into the kitchen.
He knelt down, felt for a pulse on Forest’s neck, got nothing, then grabbed the dish towel I had knocked to the floor and went for my thigh.
“Don’t,” I said. I reached up to stop him, going for the shirt sleeve that was folded halfway up his forearm. I touched skin, just a sliver, but still, skin. That’s all it took.
Nothing. Not a thing.
One data point. Hard to call that a predictive pattern, but here’s hoping.
I get out now, not a lot, but out. I’ve got a new fuck buddy – one of my genius friends from the ‘Net, physics professor in at the U of C. It’s nice. After we fuck, we talk, make math jokes. You know, like what does a quant wear for New Year’s Eve? Fibonacci Sequins. Yeah, I know, cheap pun. Cracks me up every time, though. Sometimes he stays over. Sometimes he’ll come out for the weekend and we don’t even fuck at all. I have no idea when he’s going to die and that scares me a little. The only person I can say for sure that I’ve ever loved was my father, but I think maybe I love this guy. I’m taking that as a good thing.
I’m still a little twitchy about touching people. I’ve got 213 data points now, 213 touches. You’d be surprised how many times you touch people, even when you try not to. Anyway, we’re way beyond a predictive pattern, pretty much in dead solid lock territory. But I’ve died 18 times and I don’t like touching people. So sue me.
I don’t have visions anymore. Well, maybe one.
I was cleaning out the attic, hadn’t been up there in forever, found a box of old books. I can’t remember not being able to read, but I still liked it when my Dad read to me. Especially Black Beauty. I remember sitting in his lap, in the big leather chair next to the fireplace, the wood floor reflecting the wavering orange glow, just the one light on over the chair, his soft deep voice telling me the story, my head resting on his chest, hearing his heart, feeling safe and warm and normal and like somebody’s little girl.
When I pulled Black Beauty out of the box, I lived my father’s death again, but just the good part, just him holding my image in his mind. I think he was saying goodbye.
So maybe this is a ghost story. Maybe it’s a love story, I don’t know. I don’t how it ends anymore, and I can live with that.