by Sam Moe
You stained the coffee mug with your lipstick, you walked hand-in-dangerous-hand across the navy-green lawn, October was an anxiety and it crawled across your skin. Later in the dorms, she suggests you light the candles for the séance. If you close your eyes, it’s like she’s no longer right in front of you, twisting your dreams up into a knot. She asks what’s wrong but even if you tried you’d never know where to begin explaining that the ache, deep to begin with, has begun to permeate your ribs. This isn’t an Adam thing, but it could be, she says, gesturing to a scar on her stomach where another tried to surgically remove some of her bones for a spell. Did it work? I ask. You’re here aren’t you—she says, barely able to finish the joke before her mouth opens wide in laughter.
You’re not sure if you’re sleepy or uncomfortable, if your heart is stopping every few seconds by your hand or hers, there is something rotten about being mortal and even this crush-love—the kind to swallow you whole, if you let it—won’t last beyond the first incision, kiss, stage, orange leaf crunch, then it’s going to be blizzard, I never loved you, someone else’s coat around your shoulders and your neck empty of hands but even in the absence you feel fingers tickling your hairline. Maybe there were ghosts all along, you should have known when you entered the library and the shadows draped their bodies across the walls like your grandmother’s coat room and you thought to yourself, for a split second, is she here right now, witnessing me? But you shake away the thought, like you always do, and there she is, this woman in a turtleneck with eyes like gemstones asking if you’d like a sip of her coffee. She pokes at the bruise on your hand (from the time you accidentally smacked into a machine in the science department—and who knew what purpose it served, all you knew was that it hurt) and she keeps squeezing each of your fingertips like might pop off at any second, doll-parts no longer girl-parts, and grief twisted into a storm outside stained-glass windows.
And anyways, what good are scars you can’t share, now she’s handing you the knife for the ritual and you take it, the heavy golden thing, cradling its hilt like a dangerous rabbit or a bar of sculpted butter, she says if you’re not up for the task she can hurt you, but you know from stories it has to be your hand against your own hand, who knows what kind of jaws might escape the floor if you forfeit the blade? You remember suddenly what you had to tell her that day, that you couldn’t figure out her eye color, first it was hurricane and then dew-coated lawn, sometimes you dreamed of fire and she was there with coals in her arms and whispers twisting around your head like a suffocation, I’m thinking about you, she’s saying over and over again until you wake up half-breathing only to find the comforter has gotten on your face again. Now, with the afterlife so close you can practically hear it knocking from floor one, you wonder who put the comforter over your eyes. Is your grandmother disappointed? Is the devil arriving, gently at first, then shudders and cacophony and beautiful lightning, bringing promises and pieces of cake full of pearl seeds? We could fix each other, you find yourself saying. We don’t need to call up the old gods for this task. What are you talking about? I don’t need you to fix me. And it becomes an echo in your head, not a soft blossom like you’d hoped, I don’t need you, I don’t need you, fix me-fix me, whose side are you on, just press the knife into your palm for goodness sake.
After you’re done, you know you’ll always remember this moment. The way the floor creaked open like a yawn, and hands were reaching out—for her, first, and then you—no wait, that’s not quite right. It was she who reached out for you, as if to say Come with me, and you did—you, reckless, you, grabbing onto her hand like she was a lifeline instead of a death sentence, you plunged depths both gorgeous and pressing, the air turned to velvet and smoke, when you collapsed on a muddy forest floor you were tangled in each other, laughing, and she took your face in her hands and kissed, smearing palm-blood on your cheek and laughing, We need some bandages, she said. All around stood demons whose forms you couldn’t even try to recount if you tried, perhaps they wouldn’t want you to explain yourself, even now as you trudge through the layers of Hell together, you feel the succession of longing that led to this precious moment, you’re alone but at what cost, she tasted like raspberries or was it blood, is she trying to get out of here or is she trying to get you out of here; it’s hard to speak.
When the false moon appears, months from now, only one of you will be able to return to the world of the humans, the other will get pushed further into hell. You wonder who will do the pushing, the tugging, the screaming. Let’s adjust that thought away. For now, the vampire deer are in the pastures, and she is so beautiful with earrings full of smacking flames and teeth getting sharper by the day. What a blessing, to know she’s strong enough to devour your heart in a single bite, and you’d still live but at what cost, but damn the cost, maybe she deserves the fire and you deserve nothing.
Sam Moe is the first-place winner of Invisible City’s Blurred Genres contest in 2022, and the 2021 recipient of an Author Fellowship from Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. Her first chapbook, “Heart Weeds,” is out from Alien Buddha Press and her second chapbook, “Grief Birds,” is forthcoming from Bullshit Lit in April 2023. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as @SamAnneMoe.