Sisters In Death 

Sisters In Death

At first there were three sweet sisters in childhood. Then one of them died of diphtheria -and the others, Alice and Esme, missed her deeply. For a time too, in their touching innocence, the pair of them pitied God needing to look after such a mischievous imp as their dear, dead sister.

Still, there was always a silver lining in their thoughts, if no silk edging to their rough blankets. In their really young days, all three had shared a double bed which became - with their femininity filling out - only fitting for two. Their mother scolded the two survivors when they ate too much, for she took reckon of the mattress springs, and money was spent all too easily on such creature comforts. It was not surprising, therefore, to learn that the lights were kept dim which - with grime building up on the nursery window - meant that Alice and Esme had to pore over their improvement books with reddening eyes. Their only affection, each other.

As compensation, their mother allowed a tiny light to flicker during the depths of night. Esme preferred it that way. But Alice thought it made everything more frightening, for the resultant shadows moved piecemeal across the cracked ceiling, the rocking horse travelled from child to child across the generations of its past, and Alice even imagined the ghosts of bodiless wings entangled in the butterfly net which leaned against the wall. In those days, hunger could act as a soporific so, before long, even Alice was snoring, with only dreams to fear.

As time waxed, the girls grew older, in spite - as well as because - of the meagreness of their condition. Esme eventually caught a cold from the years of suffering Alice’s nightly nervous tugging the bedcovers off her. It would be hard-hearted to blame Alice, but there was no doubt that her actions resulted in Esme incubating a sniffle, then influenza with, eventually, fevers building upon fevers - and at the peak of those body wrenching nights, Alice was moved from Esme’s heaving side to the mother’s room. Alice recalled listening to Esme’s rhythmic screeching lungs even a corridor away. Then Esme died, as the dead sibling had once done before her. The family doctor pronounced Esme gone, the faint heart having given up the ghost after finally fluttering for just a few breathtaking seconds amid the trammels of the butterfly net.

Mother shed a few tears, but then took businesslike control of affairs. She allowed Alice a short while with her dead sister, to say goodbye. That was the way things were done since even soft-heartedness must be recognized, if but briefly. The nursery had the usual night lamp beside the bed, making ripples down the rhyming walls. Esme, if one can call a corpse by her name, was resting in carved repose, no longer concerned about the scarcity of covers on her side of the bed. Her hands had been positioned in prayer, as she used to do as a child at the end of the school day, like a closed, fleshy moth. Her near womanly face was composed, peaceful, forgiving.

Alice was scared. She had been too young to appreciate the significance of death, when the earlier sister had become dead so young. Now, it was the shock of stillness. Abruptly, the corpse that had been Esme sat bolt upright in the bed, hands still poised, its shadow shuddering in the shape-shifting gloom. Even the rocking-horse ceased its light prance of pretence.

Esme’s words hissed out: “I can’t go away. God won’t let me. And I am so very tired. Help me, Alice, please help me. Help me go where I can truly rest.”

Alice replied as if to herself: “This must be a dream. I will wake up in a moment, as I always do from dreams...

Esme’s voice answered, bristling with irritation: “It may only be a dream to you, dearest Alice, but it’s oh so horribly real to me. Think on that!”

Alice smiled, before she calmed the corpse’s tongue with her own.

(Published *Darkside: Horror For The Next Millennium* Darkside Press 1996)

Return to Main Page


Add Comment

Search This Site

Syndicate this blog site

Powered by BlogEasy

Free Blog Hosting