THE CORPSE-TAKER by Gabrielle S. Awe

She walks down from her hidden citadel
to where the corpses call to her,
the dead who want to tell their tales...
She hums to herself as she carefully winds the shroud around her body, over her hips and the breasts and everything everyone covets, up and over her hair, hiding everything but her face and her eyes. They seem shrouded too, but this is a seeming of her creation, not one of fabric.

Encased in gauzy white she finishes preparing for her trip into the village. Sooty shadows under her eyes; marks on her arms for every corpse she’s taken. She plucks a sweet white flower from a bush that grows inside, its heady scent a reminder of things best forgotten. Sometimes those things are the hardest to put away.

Her feet are caked in blood and mud, none of it hers, but she doesn’t notice. Her eyes are glazed with the wanting as her bare feet step daintily over rocks and dirt and twigs on her well-worn but rarely used path down to the village, down from her mountain, down from her hidden citadel to where the corpses call to her, the dead who want to tell their tales.

And so. The ends of her shroud trail on the ground behind her as she walks the path between bushes and trees that lean far away from her, for if they don’t they will wither and die. She does not notice, because this is the way of things, the way things have always been. The way of mortality.

Her bare and dirty feet carry her onwards and down, down, down the winding path to where the dead are calling to her, calling for her to come get them. The restless dead are the ones who know to call for her; somehow they always know she is out there and will come for them.
The village is still and silent under the light of the three moons as she enters through the gates. Is the evil outside or in? Perspective determines the answer; the gates are meaningless.
It is always like this for her; a sleeping village, a restless corpse, the call. She walks into the stone building with the colorful glass windows, their church, the place where they worship and try to hide their secrets from her. But you cannot hide the dead from the corpse-taker.
The aisle in the church is soft under her feet, softer than rocks and trees, soft as knives as she walks between the pews, the gleaming wooden benches polished through the ages with their guilt and their false confessions.
The girl is up on the dais at the end of the aisle; she is dressed in a white gown and her bruises show through, bruises on her arms and neck and thighs, shouting their guilt, clamoring for someone to help the girl. It is too late to help her in the way of mortals and the corpse-taker sighs as she walks around the girl on the cold stone slab raised up in the heart of their church. She trails her fingers along the small waxy body, for no one looks real in death, they all look like hollowed wax figures of themselves.
The corpse-taker hums now and she circles the girl three times, making sure she is the right one for what she needs. At the end of the third circle she closes her eyes and bends and bends down to kiss the girl on the forehead, on the nose, on the mouth. Three and three it is and must be.
As she straightens up, satisfied in her work, she sees another girl huddled in the corner of the church, arms around her knees, eyes shining in the moonlit darkness. She is not sleeping, she is not under the spell of the corpse-taker, she is keeping watch over her older sister. The sleeves of her gown have fallen and show the corpse-seeker her secrets, the bruises and cuts and a recent history of fear.
The corpse-taker and the girl stare at each other, frozen in this moment of mutual discovery, eyes that are full of knowing and sadness meeting eyes that hold fear and - what is this - a gleam of curiosity.
The corpse-taker tilts her head one way and then the other, seeing this girl who is the younger sister of the corpse on the slab, seeing the girl’s future written out for her, with an ending that matches her sister’s.
She gathers the corpse to her chest and holds her tenderly, like a mother with her own child; she sets the white flower on the slab and she holds out her hand for the younger sister, who wipes her nose on her arm and stands as tall as she can for being as young as she is, and they hold hands and they both hum as they walk out of the village, carrying the dead girl and the secrets of this sleeping village.
 
Gabrielle S. Awe is a consultant by day, writer by night who enjoys writing fairy tales, dark stories, and young adult fantasy novels. Gabrielle grew up reading every sci-fi and fantasy book she could get her hands on and wants to pass on that same joy of discovering new worlds between the covers of a good book. You can follow her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/authorgabrielleawe

Cover: Amanda Bergloff
Thanks for reading, and please share your thoughts about Gabrielle's story in the comments section below. She'd love to hear from you!
Follow her on Twitter @karenleestreet
and
Check out Karen's book
Edgar Allan Poe and the Jewel of Peru HERE


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Comments

  1. So wonderfully surreal and evocative, the imagery created in these words are both chilling and beautiful.

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