Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 6

6 | Psychopomp Magazine

McKenzie Hightower

The Village of Hands and Feet

There was a bell below the Bastion du’Leon citadel. It was rung by a peasant girl who was covered in flowers. The waxy petals were bright red and bright purple, rubbing against her neck and making the child fidget. She was to stay there through the night and ring the bell until God came down and kissed her forehead and made the flowers into a crown upon her head. Foreigners would see the girl and think ‘How strange that such a small child would be left to pull such a heavy rope,’ but they were just foreigners. The child was a natural part of the square, of the scenery, and if the bell weren’t ringing the night would feel empty and lost to the ghosts that moaned like the wind and invaded houses like a plague.

—Wait . . . Mademoiselle. She . . . she has to stay out all night? By herself?

—Yes. All night. Every night.

The girl would fall asleep during the day in the shade of the citadel’s overhang and people would come by, pat her head, and lay long sheaves of thick green palms in her bleeding hands. They called her Mona, after St. Monica. She was a very polite child and didn’t say much, because it was a good system. The bell kept the spirits away, and the child had a purpose in the town. It was even said, as she grew older, that the ghosts taught the child magic during the night. A desperate attempt by desperate creatures to gain access to the houses of the villagers. The child was a good child though, as the villagers were good villagers, so she never stopped ringing and everyone was safe.

—It seems awfully unfair, Mademoiselle. Couldn’t she trade off for at least one night?

—That wasn’t the way of things, child.