I wrote yesterday, but had to go to a wedding and never got around to posting. Mayhap’s I’ll post that in a little while. In the meantime, I wrote something today. It’s a continuation of a story and it seems there’s a lot more story to tell. Yay! In any event, thanks for reading!
Ida Wayward Ravenstar didn’t speak to anyone. That wasn’t her job. Millie-Marie greeted the mourners. Her smile and lilting voice comforted those who walked in the door. Of course, Millie-Marie had recently received the news and her days at Mortar and Crow Funeral Home were about to end. The Illness came to everyone eventually if accidents or crime didn’t claim them first.
Ida watched her coworker console a young a man. They sat on a velvet bench under an archway of white lights. Ida couldn’t see the Illness yet, but surely that would change. Soon her skin would thin to paper and peel. Her lungs would begin to fail and her thoughts would cloud. Ah, there it was. The clue. Even though Millie-Marie kept her hands clasped tightly together as if in prayer, Ida spotted the tremor in her left hand. It always started in the left hand.
In the early days, a few people resorted to amputating their left hand as a preemptive measure. How could the Illness begin without that vein going straight to the heart?
But the Illness was too clever for that.
It was so clever, no one could discover where the Illness came from or what could stop it.
Ida sometimes dreamed the Illness was laughing at them, especially after it took her mother. Her father was saved from the cruelties that came at the end of the disease. He’d been stricken, but he’d gotten only to stage four when he was shot. Ida had taken the bullet as a blessing. It worked faster than the Illness.
It was a shame about Millie-Marie. She wasn’t really as kind as she pretended to be for her job, but she was interesting and brave, two qualities Ida greatly admired.
Ida shook the thoughts from her mind. She had work to do. Going outside to take her place behind the hearse, she kept her eyes down. Her hair fell forward and covered her face. That was how mourners liked her best.
She stood silently until the trumpet sounded. The procession moved forward and she followed walking behind the slow moving hearse. Hired mourners mixed in with a few authentic ones watched her go by. The hearse, a wagon pulled by one of the few horses left alive, thudded on the rutted, potholed road. The casket shifted and bounced with the turn of the wheels.
Ida didn’t spend much time wondering about the corpse. What was the point when she had enough of the living to worry about. It was only a matter of time before they each took this final journey, and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be the last to go. Maybe a cure for the Illness would be discovered soon, but there’s be no good news in so long, she couldn’t imagine what good news might be.
But the procession reached the funeral home’s main gate, and it was time for her to sing the lament.
Your form carries on your heart
but all is silent and unmoving.
Nothing more to ask.
What more now needs proving?
Ida spoke in perfect rhythm. She never missed a step or faltered in the words, and her tears flowed freely. Her constant tears had long been a source of awkwardness and stares. Now people stared but in respect and she got paid. It discomfited her, sometimes to realize she needed death to feed her family. No funeral, no cash. But people were going to die anyway, and she had to eat.
The procession had almost reached the graveyard when she felt a strange sensation in her left hand, and tried to pretend she felt nothing. She managed, barely, to keep singing. Her pinky twitched. The Illness had come.
Moments ago she’d been worried about being the last of her siblings to die, but unless her brother killed himself with his addictions, she’d be the first. The Illness didn’t taken that long. not really. A month perhaps. Six weeks if she were lucky. Or not so lucky. The end was a painful, ugly process.
They reached the gravesite and the pallbearers rushed forward to removed the casket from the hearse. She stilled her voice and thought of Millie-Marie back at the funeral home. No, they were too young to die. It was unfair. They hadn’t done the damage to the world that unleashed the Illness. The injustice burned furious within.
Ida stepped away from the hearse. She watched the handful of mourners grieve. Who was a real mourner and who was not? usually she could tell, but not at the moment. Her emotions rocked too far one way and then the other.
No, she wasn’t going to die in this scrub of a town, singing for coins, and begging her siblings to behave. No. She was going to die out in the world, collapsing in the middle of a cause. She would not go gently. She had much left to prove.
Without waiting for the funeral home director, Crick Mortar, who stood nearby overseeing the proceedings, to signal it was time for her to depart, she began the walk back. She’d stop at the funeral home and talk to Millie-Marie. She’d make the girl see they could live a lifetime in a month. They run out into the world and trample everything if they had to. They would live, or die trying.
Until next time, best wishes.