Mrs Buckley died today.
The weirdest thing; a deep black cloud settled over her ramshackle house and descended to shroud it in mourning.
The house of Mrs Buckley.
The house where Mrs Buckley had died.
It had a strange aloneness to it.
Like the child in the playground away from it all staring up into worlds beyond dreams, above the painful taunts and punches.
Nature had invaded the bricks and mortar with creepers and the shingles were weathered to splintered wafers.
The picket fence was a few sparse sticks that had not been claimed for firewood through the harsh winter and her black path to the deep green front door, a spattering moss clumps and snotty algae.
Inside the unremarkable home, her body hummed like electric wires in her chair by the fire. The last expression on her face was as though she had been kissed goodnight by a long line of life’s regrets. But it was the last regret, the one with horns and a tail and a story to tell, that left her a screaming skull, her eyes bleached and smashed with black threads.
In her bed, under her sheets, curled up in neat balls were the skewered tongues of her imperfect children.
Their bones and flesh were all ground and purged in mummy’s guts.
All except Delia, who lived in the cage with the words ‘saint inside’ carved above the door. She had been born a mute so never made the mistake of asking a question. She saw all her brothers and sisters fed the silence scone and chopped up into the boiling pot. She had to pretend that they were pigs from the woods and chew the meat from their bones.
She had to pretend that they had never spoken to her from the bars of the cage.
She had to pretend that she couldn’t taste the soap on the meat and the cries of pain in its juices.
Tap, tap, tap…claw, claw, claw…
Hour by hour her raw little fingertips and shredded nails picked at the bindings of the cage.
“I know where they live. The Tormenters and their kind. What I know is how to turn agony into fear like an alchemist. That is my gift to you my little caged saint.” Each time her mother spoke, more black threads invaded her dead eyes and Mrs Buckley walked further into the blackness of the far-flung horrors.
“I will travel with you my little caged saint. I will creep with you into their safety boxes and, once inside, you shall pick apart their bindings. I made this cage for you to find a way out. I took all the unworthy and fed you their nourished flesh. Know this, the worthless are there to feed upon.
Under this house, under its boards and into the stones are the Departers. They are the things that make the sperm so that we can find saints in our bellies. All of the worthless ones that talked as the Departers talked, before flying the nest and leaving us with their share of burden, ended more than bones but less than them.
As their part ended, so they ended and were put under the boards to stink then return to their fires under the soil.”
Days turned to electric night shine and Delia, with dulled nerve endings and a ravening for freedom, loosened the fastenings. The last day was quiet as her mother was lost in the blackness or so she assumed.
The bars of the cage fell away and clattered onto the cold tiles of the kitchen. They came to rest next to discarded bones, gnawed into the marrow by a hungry child and tied together to make the signs of saints.
Delia crawled slowly from her confinement and stood for the first time an equal to world. She wandered into the front room and sat at her mother’s feet staring at the vermin-chewed, stinking remnants of her body.
“My freed saint, you are ready to exact vengeance for your mother. My body is in ruin but my spirit is like our black cloud that has settled over the house. I will be above you in a cloud of shadows and we even the score. They were the wolves that every day blew at the piggy’s house. The Departers only want to rid their seed, everything before is seduction and everything after is reduction. Now go to the kitchen and open the cupboard with the red hand print and bring it all here.”
Delia shivered as a cold draught whistled in through the open window and curled an icy claw round her long gown. The post mountain at the front door had collapsed to a snow drift of white envelopes across the hall floor.
As she entered the kitchen, she swore her siblings ran through her screaming like bats emerging from the attic of a haunted house.
The large cooking pot was upturned and a dozen sharp knives lay around it. In the bottom, in the slurry of the last meal, were two jaw bones and one green eyeball. She reached in, plucked the eyeball out and slipped it into her mouth to swallow like a raw egg. The red hand print cupboard door was stiff but she pulled it open and pulled out a black bag which she dutifully took to her mother.
“Thank you my freed saint. Open the bag and take out all that is held within.”
The rain began to pound the roof and water poured in through the holes in the window. Delia opened the bag and tipped the contents on the floor at her mother’s feet.
“My last will and testament to you my child. This is what you must become to punish the vile creatures that tormented us and who stopped my heart with fright. Take off your saints robes and put on the skin of retribution.”
Delia put her feet into a black suit and rolled it up her body to the neck and over her shaved head.
On her feet, black ballet shoes and her hands black surgeon’s gloves. What was left on the floorboards was several tufts of hair, a paring knife and a syringe with a long needle. Inside the syringe a thick liquid writhed with parasites.
“On your body is the cover of night, as your weapon the infestation of squirm and the blade to take a trophy. On floor are my trophies. Tonight you will better them and scalp six. Remember my avenging angel, I’m at your shoulder. You shall deliver the poison and I will show them the red hand door to hell. We must go and do this before the dawn and I am drawn up into the cloud. Tomorrow you must build a life here and rid this home of all the skeletons and then me. It is then that you can unfold your wings and the up draught shall drive the blackness and spirits from here.
Come, follow me child and we will begin. The first stop is the house on the corner.”
Delia pushed the door, climbed the stairs as if she was thistle-down on the breeze and made her way into the room of the first of the six. She strode to his bedside and climbed under his sheets. Crawling slowly up his legs, across his belly and to his chest, her black shadow mother appeared at her shoulder and the fiercest grimace from the abyss blanched the boy’s eyes and froze him stiff. The needle slid with ease into his jugular and the twisting parasites flooded into his brain along with the whispered horrors of hell’s obscenities. He jolted and spasmed, snapping sinew and tendon then a sickening crack ended it all.
Each of the six visits played out the same and the morning broke with the last white-eyed corpse.
As she discarded her clothes and weapons, the cloud dissipated like ink in water and was gone.
Delia stood in front of her mother and drew a breath,
“I am free to speak as an angel and as a Departer. This world needs both. The angel to live a life with love and a Departer to destroy those who would stand against it.”
Delia rebuilt her home. It stood on the bones of father’s, brother’s and in the centre, Mrs Buckley.
Original written work by Richard Bell
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