Mikaela waited, sitting in the window of her solitary little cottage as the village lights went out, one window at a time, until all lay dark. A full moon threw silver lights on the cobblestones of the road that wound through the valley. Smoke rose from chimneys to shade the stars. Dry leaves scraped the stones, though many still clung to rattle together in the night wind. All Hallow’s night, when the veil between the worlds was thin, and no one would dare leave their house after dark. Except her.
When the priest put the lights out in front of the church, she gave him a few minutes to retire to his rectory, before she unlocked the small box with her Book of Shadows in it and stroked the cover. She’d carefully marked the page she needed with a silk ribbon, though she’d memorized the list. She opened it one more time, “To Bring Back a Lover”, read the list of herbs, and tucked the book into the pocket of her cloak. Her tinder box went in as well. She shrugged into the cloak, pulled the hood over her face, and slipped out the back door into the night.
The herbs were easy enough to gather, most at the edge of the woods that surrounded the village, a few, deeper into the green shadows of trees where creeping things lingered with bright eyes. She snatched a handful of leaves from the scraping claws of a small creature with shining teeth, and it skittered into the darkness. She settled the collection of leaves and twigs into her pocket and raised her eyes to the sky above the church. Stars splattered the sky, silver, blue, red. The moon punched a bright hole in the sky, glowing in the mist surrounding the cemetery. One last ingredient. She slid along the treeline, taking deep, quiet breaths of damp. She approached the tilted iron gate, and the air turned thick with decay.
‘…a handful of dirt of the grave’
She wound through the leaning stones to the darkest shadows of the cemetery, behind the hill that lay between the greening stones and the rectory. She would not be seen here, except for the small beasts that lingered, liking rotten things. She did not want to be seen.
She approached the grave, and scooped up the rank soil. She piled the herbs and dirt together and struck the flint on the oil cloth. The spark brightened the hillside, chasing shadows. It did not catch, and she grumbled, and tried again. It caught. Fire climbed, bright yellow, and burned into the herbs. Pink rose in the heart of the flame, reaching up and consuming the yellow. Blood red smoke rose to glow burgundy in the circle of the moon. She knelt beside her fire, and pictured him, as it said, sweet Simon, with his broad shoulders, and finely muscled hands. If she held her breath, she could feel them still.
Something moved beside her, a crumbling sound, moist earth tumbling on itself. Fingertips reached upward through the soil, patting the ground, seeking a place to hold. Slowly, she lay her hand beneath the seeking fingers. They were spongy, rank, but they gripped her small hand tightly, and he clung, dragging himself up and out of the grave, and stood before her.
The hand in hers was moist and green, flesh loosed from the bone, but she knew his grip. His burial suit was tattered and thin, but familiar, as she had helped to lay his cooling body in it before they laid him to rest. The stitches that held his eyes remained, but she knew his eyes were blue, they must still be blue beneath.
“I’ve missed you,” she said, smiling up into the gaunt, drooping face, that somehow still retained its well-loved shapes, the broad oval face and sharp cheekbones, though his nose and lips had fallen in. He said nothing, but bent his head toward her, in the familiar tilt, so she laid his cold hand on her waist, and he led her in the dance they both knew, there in the grass. Beneath the haunted and yellowing moon, the grey-green mist thickened to hide their steps. The fire out, she forgot the world one more time, in the softened flesh of his arms. Grave scent clung, so perhaps she only imagined the long lost scent of his warm skin in the sun. It didn’t matter. Time stopped, he was hers again. She didn’t notice that morning was upon them until the day birds began to sing. He stopped, cast his closed eyes toward the eastern light, and she wondered if the blue beneath the lids was meeting the blue above the ground. He scraped his hands down her arms, leaving a damp trail. He held her hands for one moment, then lay, quietly supine, on the earth that must necessarily swallow him again. He sank downward out of sight. The sky turned pink, and fresh wind blew away the reek of death that lingered.
Church bells rang for All Saint’s Day. She spread the ash from her fire over the grave, and kissed the stone.
“Until next year, my love,” she said, and walked toward the sunrise.
Erin O’Shea is a writer living in a quiet, cow laden valley of Appalachia. She loves fairy tales, the old stories written in the way they were intended to be read, complete with ancient symbols and superstitions, devouring beasts, and witchy old women.