A Graveyard Spell
by Deana Luchia
He moves slowly through the graveyard, his bloodied fingers trailing over the headstones, muttering as he goes.
He is dressed, as always, in a too large black suit. He is a tall, angular man and the jacket hangs loose and heavy from his shoulders. She can hear the worn fabric flapping against those thin thighs, nothing more than bones now. In place of the clerical dog collar, there’s a long V-shaped flash of white between the jacket’s lapels. It might be his skin or a shirt; she can’t be sure from where she sits. But the feet she can see better. The feet are worth a proper look. They are long and narrow. They are bare, milk-white and bruised; treading a silent route along the path formed by fallen headstones, their tender soles touching the faint names of the long forgotten. She bristles at the thought.
She turns her gaze to the man’s hair. The shock of black has gone. He’d never turned grey. The hair went from black to white in the space of months, twelve years ago. She had stroked that hair when it was jet black. She had pulled and twisted on that hair.
She can’t see his face. Which is disappointing. She enjoys looking at his red-rimmed, tormented blue eyes; his bleeding, drooling lips; the mess of scabs and tears that have ravaged a face she once held between her palms. Now, her eyes move to his fingers, skeletal, with filthy dagger-like nails, fingers that she had once entwined with her own, that someone else had then placed a ring upon, inside this very church.
As he passes in front of the wooden door, a thin black cat arches its back then recoils from him; a bat flutters by his face before screeching away. He doesn’t see them, doesn’t waver from his path. As he turns towards the back of the graveyard, where the more recent dead reside, she can make out the sore rawness of his soles, a feint limp, and an always pleasing weariness to his gait. And she can hear some of the words he is muttering. Power, loss, end of time. A prayer, she supposes. She has yet to take that away from him.
Strange, she thinks, that he doesn’t feel the fragments of glass under his feet. A mourner broke a vase of flowers today. Loud enough to wake the dead. There are splinter-thin shards of it around several graves. She’d made sure to spread more around the tomb that he sits on now. Dropped glass amongst the weeds that have grown in the cracks where the stone has shifted slightly. But although the glass is surely embedded in his skin, he doesn’t notice or perhaps it is that he is too far beyond such token torments as this. No. He doesn’t flinch, he doesn’t look down, he just sits, hunched over, muttering his endless prayers atop the tomb belonging to Elizabeth Ransome, his Elizabeth. Although she is long gone from her tomb, her devotion not as keen as her own, he comes here sometimes to seek a strange solace from her grave, other times to beseech her, to beg her, to plead with her to stop.
Still muttering and chanting he traces and retraces the shape of her name in the stone, as though the mason hadn’t worked it deeply enough, hadn’t been accurate enough with his mark, couldn’t shape this name as well as he. Where once she had been incensed with jealousy – ‘Who,’ she had once screamed across the graveyard, ‘who deserves your gentle caress more than me? Why her?’ – now she writhes with anticipation, because it is always at this point, this point, that things become interesting.
‘Elizabeth, Elizabeth,’ she whispers. ‘Look at the way your fingers move across Elizabeth. Look how you can’t catch her.’
As the words drift across the row of graves between them, she smiles, waiting for the man to look up, to look behind, above, as the words buzz and twitch around his face, like flies drawn to decaying flesh. She whispers more words in his direction, words that land and crawl across his skin and he finally succumbs and reaches out and around, arms flaying, before scratching and clawing at his face.
This is what she waits for. This is everything she promised them both. She sends word after word over to him. Whispers that only he can ever hear. Words that will have him heaving and twitching in agony before this night is over. She delights in the sight of him, ruined like this. On some nights, rare and strange, when she cannot be satisfied, when her fury outweighs the pleasure of tormenting him, one part of her longs to go to him, to wrap her cold arms around his thin body. To push them up through the black folds of that ridiculous jacket and place them on his heart. The feeble barely beating heart that he had so often liked to talk about. ‘My heart. My heart. How my heart loves you,’ he would say, to her and then Elizabeth. Well, she could rip out that heart. She could put an end to this. She could take him by the hand and lead him to the grave over by the yew tree, the grave that is freshly dug, the one that waits for tomorrow’s tears and wailing, the clenched fists and regrets, the damp sods of earth. She could rip out that heart, push him into the waiting grave and he would be gone, forever.
But she doesn’t want that tonight. Maybe she won’t ever do it. Because this is too much of a spectacle. This misery, this shattered life. It is, more often than not, simply joyous. It is what he deserves. It is just. She laughs. And the sound of it reverberates around the graveyard, bouncing off the bell tower and he stops scratching at his face and reaches out into the darkness. She laughs again, watches as his arms push through the air as though trying to feel for her. To hold her. To make her stop.
‘I will haunt you,’ she had promised him, as she had held onto Elizabeth. ‘I will haunt you every day. I will be the creak in your attic, the footsteps across the floorboards, the unexplained flapping of a curtain when there is no wind. The whisper in your ear. I will do this and more.’ And then she had jumped, had taken the screaming Elizabeth with her. Out of the bell tower. Falling through air, never letting go of Elizabeth, even when they hit the ground.
And now. And now she has reduced him. To a slither of the man he was. To a bloodied shattered sleep-deprived corpse who knows now that she was nothing if not true to her word.
She needs to take a closer look at her work. She needs him to look at her with horror in his eyes. She gathers up her skirt and glides across the graves to stand behind him. Behind Elizabeth Ransome’s bones. She can hear his mutterings, not prayers, no, she doesn’t recognise the words. They are strange incantations. The words of a mad man. She takes a step closer and breathes in his misery, his grief. And then, and then something else, a stink of something she can’t name, something pungent, something that sticks at the back of her throat. She draws one step closer, holding onto his arms, tracing her tongue along his neck, smoothing a finger across his scabbed cheeks. He keeps up his monologue, words that fall into each other, words, she thinks, that she has created, words out of the madness that she has brought him to.
‘You should never have left me,’ she whispers, ‘you should have kept your promise to be always mine.’
She climbs up on the tomb, kneeling in front of him, her lips brushing against his eyelids, wanting them to open, needing to see what it is she can inflict. But they remain closed to her.
‘I won’t ever stop,’ she whispers. ‘I will be with you forever.’
‘No. No you will not,’ he whispers back as his hands wrap round her wrists, to pull her tight against him, their foreheads touching. His hands grip tighter on her wrists. His lips repeat the chant of before. Rhymes about power and loss and promises. Of forever and ever. And then she recognises it, that stink. It is the smell of a potion, a spell. A concoction similar to the one she had prepared so many years ago to make him love her above all others, above Elizabeth. A spell that she ought to have made stronger. And now, twelve years later, he has made his own. She can smell the Calamus root, the Hyssop herb, the odour of a rare rhododendron that has grown in the vicarage garden for years. He has exchanged his faith for a spell.
She tries to pull back, but his fingers won’t set her free. His bleeding lips open wide and she hears his spell. Clearly now. Words that cast her aside, that keep her dead and buried for eternity. She can’t help but breathe in the rotten smell of the potion that tightens her throat. The air is heavy with the reek of it. The air that she can no longer move through. And then he opens his eyes. And instead of tears and rawness, there is a determination, a fury that she has never seen before. It is the last he will ever look at her or she at him.
© Deana Luchia 2016