The Cabinet of Curiosities
Jar of eyes

Chicken; Egg

See a city street!

See a yellow summer evening, oh see. See it in a city. A lovely, perfect heat: unless you are a man in a black wool suit, watching the flickering rectangle in your hand, as your shiny black shoes clip-clip against the concrete as sharp and quick as hooves.

See the man! He sweats in the heat, brooding of clients and contracts. Striding, striding, watching as words flicker in his hand.

See him look up.

Hear the sharp clip-clip of his shoes go silent.

Across the yellow evening he sees a woman, a strange woman (strange to him!). Strange, her dark blue dress, the darkest blue of a near-night sky. Strange the white patterns swirling across the skirt!

(But are the patterns strange, or are they so familiar? Think, sweating man!)

night sky with swimming stars

See her! Bright white hair stands out around her head. Daubs of color streak her face like shooting stars, white and midnight blue. Her feet are bare and dirty. Around the woman flow the city’s evening walkers, like river-water around a rock. Yet no one seems to see her but the man.

She does not see him. Up and down the street she looks, and bites her lip, as if she has lost her way. (A TRICK!)

Ah now, now! See what the man sees! See what the woman holds, in both hands, pressed tight against her belly, but showing just a little, just a little: just to be sure he sees.

It is an egg! A golden egg. A glittering golden egg, swirled with patterns of tiny jewels, sapphire and diamond, like the patterns on her skirt (oh think, sweating man! you know those patterns!).

Oh the man sees the egg! He sees it and sees it. His eyes blink twice, three times, four. The man is rich, or almost rich. But an egg like that, that is the riches of the moon and sun.

Now! The woman looks upon him, startled, her eyes shocked wide. (A TRICK! A clever trick!) One hand lifts her midnight-blue skirts; she turns.

She runs.

The man gives chase! (She meant him to!) His phone goes skipping across the cement, his abandoned briefcase offers paper to the winds. The man swings into an alley; sees blue skirts flip around a corner; follows.

He follows and follows! When he cannot see her, he listens for the swish of skirts. He chases her down narrow streets and broad ones, dodging cars and hot dog stands, calling Wait, wait, I only want to see the egg.

At first, he calls. But soon, he stops. Does he stop because he is out of breath? Does he stop because she does not respond? Or—oh worst thought of all the worst—does he stop calling because to see it is no longer all he wants?

Still: see how the woman leads him, as the sky darkens the city, how she waits when he tires, how she flies when he nears. To the alien edges of the city she leads him, over unfamiliar pavements in decaying districts, running lightly on her dirty bare feet.

Through narrower alleys, past wooden-board lean-tos, past rusting automobiles. . . .

The woman stops! She stops, she stands still, in a lightless, deserted street. Beside her sits a low box made of wires and rotten boards. They have arrived!

The man and the woman stand, panting. The sky is dark as the woman’s skirt.

And now it is darker!

And now, oh lovely now, in the dark sky, the tiny lights begin, so delicate at first! The beginning of a symphony, the whisper of lovely strings. The tiny lights come: one, two, three, six, eleven, more and more, winking like the jewels on the golden egg, and to my ear—I mean, to the woman’s ear—each jewel-light blinks on with a soft, pure voice, until the constellations are great choirs of harmony and counterpoint!

Are they stars, those tiny lights? Or are they bright fish, swimming in and out of constellations, singing their star-fish song?

Watching the tiny, swimming lights, the man’s face is open as a bell. He says, The sky, but the sky—is this what it always is?

With joy, such joy, the woman kneels! (Does he see, as her skirt billows out, that her dress is a pattern of milky galaxies and stars? He does, he must!) She kneels by the rough box and pulls a board aside. Inside, in the dark, the man can just see—what? What do you think? What do you guess?

The most wonderful thing: a chicken! Inside the box is a white chicken with a red comb, rather dirty, like the woman’s dirty feet, and seated on a dirty straw nest.

The woman slips her egg beneath the chicken. Then, with great care, she lifts them all—nest, chicken, egg—and stands. She smiles now, at last the woman smiles at him! At last she can give him the glorious gift she has led him here to find!

I say—I mean, she says—oh, well, it is me—did you guess it was me? I am the woman! It has been me all along, telling this story!

I say: My dear, my dear boy, I have a gift for you, a glorious gift, all you’ve ever asked for and all your dearest heart desires.

With full heart, I offer him the chicken.

But oh, the worst happens!

For somehow, during the long and merry chase (it was merry! I thought it was merry), something has happened.

He began the chase with, Let me see it, let me see your egg. As I wished him to feel! So that he would follow me here!

But somehow, in the course of the chase that feeling became, My egg. It is my egg. Give me my egg.

So when I hand him the chicken, joyfully—oh the beautiful, dirty, clucking, odd-smelling chicken—he strikes it! He pushes it away! It falls, the chicken, it flaps wildly to the cement, squawking—and it hurries away.

Oh lost, the chicken lost!

And oh no, oh worst of all, oh ruin—the man seizes the egg in his hand!

NO! I cry, oh no, oh no! as I feel myself yanked into the night sky, as if pulled by a string from the stars: No! I cry, oh no, he didn’t mean it!

But it is too late. And for him, my cries fade fast. For him, soon, I am only another tiny silver fish in the dark, constellated sky.

From the sky, I watch through tears, as he looks at the egg, at that little golden planetarium and its jewel-constellations.

I watch through tears as the egg splinters in his hand—as it must! As all such eggs must splinter when grasped by human hand!

The golden egg shivers to dust at his feet. All that is left in his hand is what was once inside the egg: a tiny white chicken, curled in a ball, wet with egg juice.

Inside the egg, it was alive and growing. Now it is quite, quite dead. And dead is the tiny golden egg inside that tiny chicken; and the tinier white chicken inside that tinier egg, dead too; and the even tinier egg inside that tinier chicken—all dead, all dead, countless chickens, countless golden eggs, dead, dead, dead.

And yet the stars sing on around me!

For the rest of this man’s life, I will watch him from the sky, as he struggles and fights and wars the world to earn another golden egg. I will watch him battle, watch piles of green paper grow taller around him, watch the other black wool suits shake his hand.

But he will never be happy. I work so hard, I work so hard, he will think, all the rest of his life. Where is my egg?

From the night sky, I, the man’s own star-fish, I will weep, as I do tonight. What will it matter, how hard he works, when he works for the wrong thing? What does it matter how hard he works for the egg, when only the chicken would have made him happy? Only the chicken, the beautiful, odd-smelling, squawking chicken, that he was freely given by a star who came with dirty feet to answer his heart’s desire, his own swimming star-fish, who can never come again.

A Birthday Song

I wake up with that excited, awesome birthday feeling. Yeah yeah YEAH: it’s my birthday.

I wake up already dressed, actually, in my best and favorite clothes, lying on top of a made-up bed — I was so excited last night, I just wanted to be READY.

slice of birthday cake with candle


Everyone’s playing it pretty cool at breakfast. I grab a bowl of cereal and sit down next to Luke, and he doesn’t even look up from his Minecraft game. Thanks, bro!

Mom’s on the phone talking like mad. I try to catch her eye, get some happy birthday, honey! going, but she walks out the door still talking, holding her other ear closed, even though we aren’t EVEN talking. Dad’s already left for work. Luke’s still on Minecraft. Oooookay.

Then from the front door, Mom’s yelling, “Into the car, let’s GO, leave the dishes. Game turned OFF and left on the table, please!” I jump in the car behind Luke and we’re off.

And I’m feeling a little weird, because, hello, did everyone forget it’s my birthday? But just then, like she’s reading my mind from the front seat, Mom says “Hey, kiddo. Big day today. I haven’t forgotten. Don’t you worry about that, buddy. Me forgetting why today is special, that will never, ever happen. We’ll celebrate tonight, OK?”

“OK!” I say, feeling Yes, yes, yes. “I knew you remembered, anyway. I knew you wouldn’t forget.” I smile hugely at her eyes in the rearview mirror. But she’s all eyes on the road, as usual.

Luke just kind of slides down in his seat, staring out the window. Doesn’t look too happy. Um, jealous much? Your birthday’s next month, today is mine-all-mine.

School! Which I slightly hate but it has its good points, and one of them is home room, which is also music class, which I love. I sit at the table in my place by Brandon. As usual he doesn’t even look up from his thing he’s drawing, maybe it’s a dinosaur this time, or I can’t even tell.

Ms. Revis is my favorite teacher. She has short black hair and giant brown eyes like a manga drawing, and she’s super cheerful. “We’re singing today,” she says. “We’re going to apply some of those principles of harmony we’ve been learning.”

I do not remember a single thing about harmonies—guess I need to pay more attention in this class. We’re singing some extremely ancient folk song called “Sweet William’s Ghost,” about a dead guy who comes back to bother some lady he was supposed to marry or something. This was supposed to be their wedding, or their anniversary, or some big-deal date like that. Anyway, so he shows up, a ghost, and then she wants to get into the coffin with him or something. It’s pretty weird.

Is there room at your head, Willie,
Or room here at your feet?
Or room here at your side, Willie,
Wherein that I may sleep?

The class is singing it with these pretty harmonies, that sort of weave together in and out. I stand right behind Dylan and sing along with what he’s doing, because he’s pretty good. Twice he looks back though and gives me the weirdest look, like I am making him nervous. Everyone is in a VERY weird mood today.

There’s no room at my head, Margaret
There’s no room at my feet
There’s no room at my side Margaret
My coffin is so neat.

Kaylee, I’ve known her since kindergarten and she cannot sing AT all, is playing the recorder. It actually sounds really pretty, this sort of sad whistling sound, like wind in bare trees, under the singing.

The whole thing is really pretty beautiful.

And it makes me sad, for some reason.

But no good being sad on your BIRTHDAY. I shake it off. I’m fine in math. I try to make Jessica crack up in biology, but she keeps a straight face.

Before lunch I think: maybe this is it—maybe Mom and Dad sent a surprise cake. Or maybe one of them will come themselves, holding a gigantic cake with a zillion candles, and the whole cafeteria will sing for me.

But: nope. Most exciting thing that happens is the cafeteria lady lets me slide through without paying, which if that’s the best birthday present I get, I’m going to be pretty depressed. I sit by myself, making lots of room for someone to come talk, but, whatever. No one does.

At home after school, it’s also weirdly quiet. No big hanging HAPPY BIRTHDAY sign or even a balloon. I guess maybe they figure I’m getting too old for that? Which kind of sucks, actually.

And I don’t get why everyone is so sad and quiet at dinner. Dad makes one of his dopey jokes, and it’s pretty funny, so I laugh. No one else does, not even Dad.

But then finally — finally—it happens. We clear our plates, and Dad turns down the lights, and Mom brings out a cake, a German chocolate cake, my favorite kind. And the candles are lit, and she sets it down in front of me, and I feel so happy. I feel so happy that I don’t even care about presents any more, I’m just so glad someone remembered. I’m just so glad my birthday finally came.

Happy birthday to you, my mom sings, really soft. Dad and Luke don’t sing, which is weird. Happy birthday to you. Her voice is soft and shaking, and tears are coming out of her eyes, why? Happy birthday my darling, happy birthday to you. 

“We miss you, baby,” she says, in the quiet after. She blows her nose in a napkin. “We miss you so much, we miss you every day, and we love you forever and ever and ever.”

She sits down, crying really hard now. Luke is crying, Dad is crying, everyone is crying.  I stand up so suddenly I knock my chair over, and they all shout and jump up.

“What the hell,” says my dad.

“But I’m right here,” I say. I guess I’m crying too. “I’m right here, look at me, you don’t have to miss me, I’m right here.” They are staring at the stupid chair on the floor, holding each other, like they don’t see me, like I’m not even here.

And then, all of a sudden, I know. All of a sudden, I see.

I run into my bedroom and throw myself on the bed.

I remember my Mom in the car. Hey, kiddo. Big day today. I haven’t forgotten, don’t you worry about that, buddy. She wasn’t talking to me, oh now I see.

She was talking to Luke.

And now I know why Luke looked so sad in the car.

Now I know why Dylan kept looking over his shoulder when I sang.

Now I know why I woke up wearing my best clothes, my favorite clothes today.

It’s because they buried me in these clothes. Of course they did, I remember now, somehow I forgot, how could I forget?

I died. I died six months ago.

I forgot, the way you forget a bad dream. And then suddenly, it all comes back to you.

I lay back down on my made-up bed, in my favorite clothes. But it isn’t my bed anymore, in my own nice house, with my pale blue walls.

It’s my coffin I’m lying in, now.

It’s my coffin I’ll always lie in, now.

In my coffin, in the dark, on my birthday, all alone, I start to sing. I sing really softly, the saddest birthday song.

There’s no room at my head, Margaret
There’s no room at my feet
There’s no more birthdays for me any more
My coffin is so neat.

I hope I can fall asleep.

I hope when I wake up, it’s my birthday.

January: And The Year Comes ‘Round Again

It was a year ago this very week–said the wrinkled hag, pulling her threadbare cloak closer against the freezing wind, and somehow simultaneously pointing a crooked cane at you in warning–

–(figuratively, of course: in reality, I am wearing a rather chic wool raspberry-colored coat, and pointing at you with one long, elegant finger and shiny, plum-painted nail)–

–anyway:  it was a year ago THIS VERY WEEK that we four Cabinet curators first began to share our delicious and horrifying story collections on this website.

Much has happened in that year: we have fought with bad luck, poison flowers, lizard people, rightly furious whales–oh, the list goes on. Why in the past year, nigh-on to fifty terrifying tales have scrolled down and down these death-blue pages! cried the wrinkled hag, etc etc.

This year we have also begun preparations for a book of our adventures, including a number of new tales too dreadful to have been included here in public. That book will assume physical form in your trembling hands on May 27 of this year.

In honor of this anniversary, and that significant day, this month our stories will focus on calendars, and anniversaries, and other important dates.

So happy anniversary to us. Put on your party hats, boys and girls.

But be very, very, careful when, quite suddenly, all of the lights go out.


Diamonds and Dimes

The boy had waited over an hour. First he sat alone in the December dark, watching as the other orchestra students were swept into parental cars: a car door opening, a whoosh of warmth, and a slam as the car spun back into the darkness.

The woman in the last car popped her head out the window. “Is someone coming for you? Can I call, or help, or—?” Her nose was red, and she looked cold, and like she was hoping he would say no. So he said no. Thanks anyway.

Snow began falling, large delicate flakes, seesaw-swinging down. He tried once more to call his father, got voice mail again. He held his violin case in front of him as the snow piled up in silent drifts.

Since he lost his job, his father had been getting less reliable, less predictable. Anything made him angry, some days; other days he laughed too loud and hard. Once, when the boy got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, he had found his father sitting in a chair with a can of beer in his hand, head thrown back, asleep. His mother worked late most nights, now, and had developed a tendency to slam doors.

The boy stood up for his long walk. Which way? The field was a shorter walk, but scarier, with no lights to guide you and greater possibility of getting lost. But the road was scary, too, especially in the snow and darkness—trucks roaring past too close on the narrow shoulder, cars skidding on black ice.

So the field, then. The boy heaved up his violin, heading into a wind that slipped like a sharp knife under his coat and skin. Snow crunched under his boots.

He walked for some time. The wind swept the snow into a veil that swirled around and around him. The lights of school and road were long gone. He was walking lost, maybe not even in the right direction. His boots plunged on through the thickening drifts. He tried not to be afraid.

Then, as happens, his right boot plunged straight through a snow crust and down. He stumbled, trying to straighten up. But it was too late—his foot could not find solid earth. And now neither foot could. He had broken through the crust of snow, and was falling impossibly, falling and falling and falling.

He landed, hitting hard on his back, violin in his arms. He lay on the snow. Stars glittered above him.

Wait, no: not stars. A man was standing over him, smiling, tossing tiny glittering objects from hand to hand, objects made of silver and light. That was the stars.

I must have hit my head quite hard, the boy thought.

The man was snowy pale, with hair as black as trees in snow, and silvery-cool eyes. His suit was as black as his hair.

“I’ll pay you,” said the man, dreamily. “I’ll pay you to play, in dimes. No, that’s not right—I mean, in diamonds. One of those two. Oh yes, that’s it: I’ll pay you to play in diamonds or dimes, your choice. You choose. But choose carefully.”

Now the boy saw: it was diamonds and dimes the snow-pale man was tossing from hand to hand: thin silver dimes, and diamonds like tiny shards of ice. He tossed them in a slow arc like playing cards, back and forth, back and forth.

The boy’s head hurt badly, but he thought: diamonds. If their money troubles were over, wouldn’t his parents . . . ? His father . . .?

“I choose to play for diamonds,” said the boy.

“Ah: for diamonds, then, you must play for the lady,” said the snow-pale, tree-black man. He turned and strode off, thrusting hands in his pockets jauntily, letting the diamonds and dimes drop to the ground.

And yet they did not drop to the ground. They hung in the spot where the man had been standing, like snow in a photograph, like stars come back to earth. Diamonds and dimes, slowly twirling in the air.

Carefully, the boy plucked starry diamonds from the air around him, until he had fistfuls, until he filled his pockets. The dimes he carefully avoided. That was the agreement.

Then he ran across the dim snowy space to find the man.

The pale man stood now beside a single black tree. The tree bent over an ice-covered lake, as if it were leaning down to look within. The man walked a few steps out onto the snow-crusted ice and bent over, just like the tree.

The boy with the diamond-stuffed pockets joined him.

Beneath the ice lay a frozen woman. Long white hair flowed from her head, mingling with the white ice. Her ice-colored eyes were wide open. She stared up at the man, the boy, the tree.

“Play for her,” said the white-and-black man.

The boy warmed his fingers under his arms for a moment. Then he lifted his violin from its case and played. It was a simple melody, threaded with yearning and tenderness, a melody that folded back into itself over and over, each passage reflecting the one before, like a hall of mirrors.

The boy didn’t see, because he looked only into the woman’s icy, frozen eyes. But as he played, each note became a snowflake twisting up and away in the cold wind. Snow poured out of his violin into the black sky.

The song ended. The boy looked up at the man; but the man’s eyes remained upon the woman in the ice. The boy looked back down.

Slowly, very slowly, the woman smiled.

And when she smiled, just to the left of her mouth, a tiny crack appeared in the ice.

Within seconds, the crack had spread beneath the boy’s feet. And before the thought had time to cross his mind, I’d better go— the ice beneath his feet groaned, and cracked, and collapsed.

So cold, the water. Gasping, the boy felt his heart had surely stopped. He knew his breath had stopped. For a moment, everything held frozen.

Then, in a split second, icy water, raging with its new freedom, dragged him under the ice.

Underwater, the current handled him roughly, turning him upside down, backwards, and around again, as if it were searching for something. Then the water found what it was looking for. Helplessly, dragged backwards, his hands outstretched, the boy watched as his pockets were turned inside out and the diamonds poured away from him like a school of wild, translucent fish, into the vast and icy lake.

“I didn’t say you could keep them,” said a silvery voice, far away.

The lake tumbled and turned the boy for a long time. It threw him up to catch his breath only just often enough, then pulled him back into its freezing depths.

Eventually, it spit the boy up onto a snowy bank. He stumbled toward a road, where a car swerved, horn blaring, and stopped.

In the hospital, in his fever, he kept saying, “My diamonds, my diamonds.”

“Darling, you’re dreaming,” said his parents, worried by the slivers of ice that flashed in his fevered eyes (slivers that would always flash there, afterwards, for the rest of his life).

Just before dawn, when the fever broke, the boy ran his hands through hair matted with sweat and lake water. Caught within its tangles, he found two small diamonds.

He gave one diamond to his astonished parents, who sold it. The money did solve some problems, but none of the important ones.

The boy kept the second diamond and used it to pay his tuition at a famous music school. He grew up to become a renowned violinist, who toured around the world.

But he never accepted concert offers in December, no matter how much they paid. During that long, dark month, he played only for himself, alone in his apartment high above the shimmering city. As he played his December music, snow poured out of his violin, a single delicate white flake for every note.

Someone glancing up from the street below would have seen, sitting in a lighted window, a man with a violin,  snow swirled around him like a veil.

And for every December of his life, as he played alone, the famous violinist, who was once a cold and abandoned boy, would wonder what would have happened, if he had chosen to play for the dimes.

The Bone-Fire

bonfire at night


Tonight is the night of the bone-fire.

When the days shorten and sharpen, and the nights go long and hard, we slaughter our cows and pigs and sheep, and salt the meat to dry, and tan the hides to wear.

But the animal bones we burn in a bone-fire, to feed our fields so that next year’s crops grow tall.

That’s how we did when I were a walker-baby. That bone-fire were a happy time, save for the one or two foolish childs all sad for the pig or lamb he named and loved.

I were that child, once.

But now I have nine years, so that counts six years since the Death has been on our people, since God has grown to hate and murder us. He hates the most the poorest ones, for we have the most suffered, and the most died. But in every house lies one or two or more whose flesh is turning in on itself and sprouting fiery wounds.

In every house or hut or hole, are piles of the dead.

In our hut, I have my own dear pile. My pa who went first, who is now stretched straight and rigid on his straw, and the rats run over him. My baby sister, who on the last day no longer looked a human creature, her flesh twisted by the swollen sores.

Now she lies still in the arms of my ma, who died the day after, holding her close.

The smell of our hut, now, the smell of it. I have slept with the cow three nights now, in the cold shed, on the dirty straw.

I am not dead. I think I am not dead.

Maybe I am part dead; maybe have caught some of the deadness from my pile.

I wait in the road until the men with the dead-cart come. I point to our house. They toss my small pile onto their huge one, three more purple bodies bloated and broken. My ma, my pa, the baby.

And I walk behind the groaning cart and the staggering horses. We wind through the village, doubling like a snake, twisting and turning, to confuse the spirits of the dead, so that they won’t come back.

We know the dead are angry to be dead, and we do not want them to find their way home.

On the other side of the village, just away from the houses, is the bone-fire.

I saw my pa die with eyes and mouth open in pain. I saw my ma die in madness, singing to my dead sister in her arms. I saw my pile of dead turn to fearful colors and sick smells.

But even for my eyes, this new kind of bone-fire, this towering blaze of hair and curling fingers and wide eyes, is a terrible thing to see.

But I stay, for the fire is warm, and I have not felt warm since my pa died and our fire went out. And the village is here, and men are drunk and singing, and women are shouting and weeping, and someone may drop a crust or bit of cheese or meat. They might.

And too I stay for to say goodbye to my dear pile of dead. I sit on the ground, my cold feet pulled up under some sacking, and watch them throw the bodies on the wild and roaring flames.

A little ways from me stands a girl who is not not shouting, not weeping. Not drunk.

Her face and dress are dirt-caked, her brown hair wild as a madwoman’s, but I know her. It’s Alice Button. Her father keeps pigs and her mother sells remedies. She’s 13, almost grown, and she was to marry apple-cheeked Oliver Molehouse at Christmas.

Oh: but it’s Oliver Molehouse they’re unloading from the cart right now.

Alice walks straight up to the fire, where Oliver lies, upside down, right up to his hanging face and its still-dripping sores. Her face is pale and strange in the wild orange light, and her eyes as mad as her hair.

Still Alice does not weep or shout.

She reaches under her apron and pulls out a little cloth remedy bag. She opens the bag, takes out a handful of something.

What are you doing, Alice Button?

She throws her handful — powders, I think, and dried herbs, and maybe some worse things, things that seem still half-alive and writhing—she throws them onto Oliver’s body.

At least, I think, I think she meant to throw the remedy on Oliver. But the wind is hot and wild around a bone-fire, hotter and wilder the bigger the fire, and this is the biggest of all.

So the powders and herbs and writhers are caught in an updraft, and blown high up into the air above the bone-fire.

Ah now she screams, now she is wild, as the powders and herbs and worse are held in night above the bone-fire for three moments, four, five.

Then Alice’s remedy falls, falls, falls, scattering all across the bone-fire.

For a moment, it’s as if the flames pause, hold just still, but for scattered sparks.

Then the roaring flames, taller than two men—somehow, in the next moment, the flames disappear. It’s as if some great breath below has sucked the fire into itself.

And then I see. It is the bodies themselves have sucked in the flames. Instead of devouring the bones, the flames now live inside the bones, and give them life, and make them move.

For now the great pile stirs. The bodies are moving.

Oliver is among the first to free himself. He slips down and staggers to his feet. His flesh is burnt and bubbling, and one eye is hanging down, but he sees Alice, where she stands shaking, and from his peeling lips comes a terrible hoarse sound.

The dead are angry, so angry.

He reaches for her, and she should run, why does she not run? But she sees what she loved, not what he is, and the sight holds her fast until he snaps her neck with one blow.

The whole pile seethes like a nest of maggots. An arm thrusts out, and reaches, and grabs. A leg kicks towards me.

And the sound, the sound of rage from the torn and burnt and diseased throats, from every throat, as they come for their revenge.

All is havoc around me, a few running away, but most like fools running toward their angry dead with their fire-for-bones.

And now I see my pa, the fire has loosened his limbs, but his eyes and mouth are still wide open in pain, he staggers toward me.

I am not a fool. And I am no more than part dead.

I run.

Running, I see Oliver walking past, dragging Alice by her broken neck, his bones glowing with fire from within.

Running, I see other bright-boned dead staggering, limping, leaping toward the ones they loved and lived with in this life.

Running, I hear my pa’s feet behind me, and hear the baby’s tiny hoarse cry of rage.

Now the villagers are fighting back. They run at their dead with hatchets or burning brands, but these don’t help, I could have said they would not work, for fire does not put out fire, and the anger of the dead is the bone-fire’s endless fuel.

So I run, I run, to the center of the village, in the black night lit only by the fiery bones of our raging dead.
But even in the dark, I find it. I stagger in, knee deep, waist deep. The icy water of the village pond freezes my thin and living bones.

Are they coming?

I open my mouth for the softest call, a whisper-call, which is all the breath I have. Ma, I call. Mama. Pa.

I must have got some water on my face, for my face is wet now, and my voice shakes, but that must be with the cold.

They heard. At the edge of the pond, I hear that tiny, raging cry. They are here.

Now they stagger in, splashing. I can smell their terrible, ruined flesh. My pile, my dear dead pile, my family.

Their hoarse cries change, become high and keening. Their bone-fires are going out.

They stagger. They sink. They sink deep beneath the black water.

My sister’s tiny arms reaching for me.

My mother’s wet face.

They are gone. The water has put out the fire that gave them life.

I stand alone in the black and freezing water, listening to the distant screams of the angry dead.