Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 9

McKenzie Hightower | 9

No. The madness began to leave the village, but there was still a need for blood to water the hands and feet. Everyone knew it was for the good of the village and everyone accepted this fact and no one complained when their children were taken late at night, tiny arms and tiny legs shaking in rough burlap bags. If it weren’t for the bells and the moans of the ghosts, quiet screams would be heard from the butcher’s shop before daybreak—desperate pleading from desperate creatures. It was this way until another child disappeared from the village, a dark haired and dark eyed boy that reached in between the wall of hands and feet and came away with gentle waxy flower petals in his bleeding palms. His name was Alex.

Like St. Alexander of Jerusalem?

Perhaps. I do not know.

He traveled into the forest with no shoes and no hat and he laughed as his feet began to bleed. He laughed because he would rather die in the forest than inside the village, because he could not believe the sky of the forest and the sky of the village were one, and because, most of all, no matter where he went, there was the sound of bells.

He followed the sound along twisting paths, deeper and deeper, until he arrived in the heart of the forest. The branches there had grown together, tree connected to tree, a great roof that shaded its heart. It was there he saw a child. She sat on a carpet of palm leaves laid flat against the ground. Her hands rested still on her thighs while bells rose in the air around her like stars against the thick green canopy. Each tiny bell was rung by a ball of fire swinging back and forth inside the transparent wisps of glass. They were suspended by magic just as the air was suspended by magic. The trees were so thick here that the moon was cut out of the sky and the sky was cut out of sight. The light from the bells was faint, but it shone against the girl’s flowered veil, revealing sparkles of silk holding the delicate petals against her face.