I sat within our families conjoined courtyard, hunched over my studies, accompanied by nothing more than the hushed rustling of withering leaves and the crackling from the fire-pit. My eyes trailed lazily over the text in front of me, my mind fixated on the pin-prickling feeling that accompanied the silence whenever I lingered there. That and the echoes, like whispers, that trailed on the wind.
It had always just been the voices, a low, slow chorus – a cacophony or tones incoherent yet persistent…
Shuffling in the grass caught my ear. I looked up and the flames went out. The trees seemed to bend forth to encroach around me and I looked on into moon brushed darkness, ethereal shapes breaking through the pluming smoke before me. The voices enclosed from all around speaking in broken tones and meandering speech.
“Flee…this place…you must…must be forever rended.”
Ebon hands reached out from the darkness toward me; disembodied eyes hovered ever closer. I strained yet no voice left my throat; my body was frozen, quivering but uncontrollable.
A smoky haze forced its way forward, the scent of tobacco, theine and mint, and the ebon hands recoiled rapidly. A singular voice reached me, distant yet grounded in reality.
“You always sit out here in the dark like a creep?”
I recognized the voice and the mixed aroma that accompanied: Olivia, the Locquinn family’s eldest. My eyes shot open to see the embers of the cigarillo hanging from her mouth, as she knelt by the pit-fire, working to reignite it. I scoured the darkness for the shapes I had seen before, but all was still and silent except for rustling leaves and the efforts of Olivia’s work.
A small spark took hold and the fire slowly grew, pushing back the hazy darkness around us.
“Nichelle, yeah?” She broke the silence, meandering her way over and picking up the book I had been studying. She offered the hefty text back to me.
I simply nodded in response and took the book back. The smoke rolling from her cigarillo lingered in my nostrils and proved to snap me awake. Had I just been dozing off before?
“So, what’ve they got you pegged for?” She plopped down next to me and I could feel her gaze lingering over me – she was motioning towards my studies.
“Social work and substance counselling.”
The chuckle that followed was hindered by a cough. I raised a brow as she collected herself, taking another puff before speaking once more, “so, you’re supposed to be like the model citizen of the Commonality, eh”
I twisted my mouth and furrowed my brow, “I guess so.” It was easy enough to see she was mocking me, but I was not sure if it was personal or not.
“So,” I offered back, “what’s your vocation?”
“Cremation mostly. Coroner, when something interesting happens. My mentor is a hag – always talking aloud, supposedly, to the dead. She goes on about spirits and what-not.” She shrugged but turned her eyes on me with a wry grin as if expecting. “You wanna meat her?”
I could do little else but nod my head. Her grin only grew before she took another long drag and then snuffed her cig and began to stand.
“Fair warning,” she turned a sidelong glance on me, “she doesn’t get along with the living, much.”
I have posted the piece on Prose as well, for feedback. If you’re ever looking for more writing sites to get involved in, I recommend this. They have weekly challenges as well as many challenges through the week for those just itching to write.