Never Blood

I took the knife and raised it to my hand. Kiera's hand snapped out, slapping me before I could cut.

    "Never blood," the children's librarian said. "This place has too much and always wants more. A bit of your shirt will do."

    Obeying, I untucked my shirt and cut a small strip from the bottom. I put it down next to the strip of Keira's dress and handed her the knife. She clicked it shut and stored it in her boot.

    "Okay, bossman. Let's go back."

    I said okay but felt off. My head began to swim. The edges of my vision turned grey and dark. "I don't feel so good," I said. I felt myself drop and the soft wet earth met my knees.

    "It's okay. Just keep walking," Kiera said.

    Inside I felt a tugging. Not a stomach spasm. A tug and push, as if something were trying to make room. I gripped the slimy grass with my hands and felt pressure behind my eyes. My ears popped and everything swam. Now my vision went sideways, my stomach following. I dry heaved.

    Kiera stood over me. Her shadow felt cold in this chilly place. From far away, I heard her say, "No, he's not ready."

    Her hands came under my arms. I tried to rise. I tried to go with her. My stomach wretched and a green yellow bile of breakfast came up. How long had it been since I sat down with Amy and Brenda?

    "Not now. Not now. We have to prepare," Kiera's voice came from the darkness as it took me over.

    When the light came back, I stood on the second floor of the library. I was in the stacks, right around the books on baking. I reached out to steady myself and found no support.

     A small giggling child rounded the corner and ran through me.

To Be Continued...

The Wild Branch

Forgotten things have a life of their own. They grow and fester out of sight, relics of memory. In a perfect world, they would decay and rot and be eaten and grow something new. Perfect worlds do not exist.

    The old branch library had its own graveyard. I stood next to the children's librarian over a freshly dug hole containing the body of the reference librarian's father. The man had tried to kill me earlier this morning. As the sun dipped behind the trees, I wondered about his reasons and this place.

    "Who dug the grave?" I said.

    Kiera smiled. "I'm sure he's around here."


    "Let's work, bossman," Kiera said. She pulled her hair tie from a secret pocket on her dress. Her unruly main under control, she picked up the shovel. Taking a breath, she shifted some of the fresh earth into the hole.

    "Where are we?" I said.

    "Shhh." She continued to fill the grave.

    A few minutes later, she stopped and handed me the shovel. I began to move the earth. The loose dirt went easy, the soil black and shot through with pale red clay. Night soil, graveyard dirt. Different and yet the same as the soil in every other part of the county. Richer, though. Made to eat flesh.

    We switched off every ten minutes or so. I did not feel tired when I handed over the shovel. It just felt right to give the work up. To share it. Trading back and forth, we piled the earth on the body until no more could be moved and the pale grass was exposed to the afternoon light.

    A chill filled the air. I gazed at the woods around me, the dark greens and browns fading to an inky black. My own breath filled my ears, my heartbeat in my chest a thick heavy constant. Kiera leaned the shovel on the old live oak and brushed her hands.

    Again, I asked, "Where are we?"

    "The branch library. Rural number three, I think it says in the old books. Home of the things we lost and stored." Kiera walked a lazy path around the tree until she was out of sight.

    I followed. The children's librarian lay a hand on the tree. Her fingers fit the grooves of the old bark. Above, wind shook the leaves in a shuddered reply. I noted no birds, no squirrels, no life of any kind around us.

    "Who dug the hole? Why don't I know about this place?"

    "Why would you?"

    "I'm the director of the library," I said.

    She laughed. "If that were true, you would not have to ask, bossman. But don't worry. Your mother did well and you've done okay so far."

    "Thanks," I said, feeling off put.

    "Now we just need to give thanks." Kierra reached down to her Doc Martins and pulled a small folding knife from the boot. The blade clicked into place. With a quick movement, she cut from her dress a small swatch and lay it among the roots of the tree. "Now you," she said, holding the knife out to me.

To be continued...