Preview for Plague Fingers (Ghosts VI)

Here’s a preview for Plague Fingers (Ghosts VI), which will be out in a few days.

Dear Lord.

She’s dead.

Thank you.

I look up to the roof of our little shack, and I listen to the silence of the room.

Pure, blissful silence.

Dear Lord, do you know many months she spent on this bed, gasping for air, gurgling as blood filled her lungs? Did you count her final hours, Dear Lord? And now she’s dead. Silent. Still. Although in truth, in the last days, I felt as if she had already departed; as if her soul had left, and all that was left on the bed was a mindless body. That’s certainly what made it easiest for me to deal with the ordeal of watching her die. I just told myself that my poor, dear Isobel was no longer in the pain ravaged body that writhed in agony on the bed.

And now even the body is finished, though I’m still worried about whether it’s safe to untie the chains that kept her down. Maybe I’ll just bury her like she is now, bed and all.

It’s a dried-up, run-down husk. Even after I bury it, there ain’t gonna be much for the worms to feed on.

And where is Isobel now?

Is she with you in Heaven, Lord?

I watched her die, and you watched me as I watched her die. All morning, she grasped out at me in pain, trying to wrap her withered, thin fingers around me. I held back, knowing that she would not be able to reach me so long as I kept a safe distance. She kept her hollow, dead eyes fixed on me, and I told myself over and over that it was not really Isobel looking at me through those eyes. It was just her body, just a mass of bones and muscle, its neurons continuing to fire. And slowly, as the afternoon sun reached its highest point and began to dip once again, I noticed that the body was starting to move more slowly. It was so gradual, but over the space of a few hours she almost stopped moving entirely. Finally, by sunset, she was almost completely still. And then the sun went down, and I switched on the light, and I sat and watched her some more, and eventually I realised that she hadn’t moved at all for more than an hour.

Dear Lord, forgive me for wishing death on this wonderful woman. But Lord, you know the condition in which she found herself in her dying days. You know the pain that began in her abdomen and crept throughout her entire body. Lord, you probably know better than I know. And you saw the strength she showed as she fought the cancer. She didn’t give up, Lord, not until her body could no longer support her mind. She fought, even though it quickly became clear that there was no way she could survive.

“Ain’t gonna beat me,” she said when she first got sick. But it did beat her. It beat her down until there wasn’t nothing left of her. I still remember the day, about two weeks ago, when she said a few words about being cold and then she howled like she was in the most excruciating pain. I reckon, Lord, that’s the moment her soul left her body. What was left after that was just a ruined corpse, struggling against the pain. There was no more Isobel left in her.

Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.

But if I may ask one question, Lord, it’s this: Why her? Why did you strike my poor Isobel down, yet I remain healthy? Why have you taken some and left others? Some of those you took were good, honest people, while others were scoundrels and robbers. So why did you make the choices that you made? Dear Lord, if you could just show me, if you could just help me to understand…

Silence.

Where are you, Lord?

I leave Isobel’s body and I go outside into the scorching sun. Lately I’ve been feeling that something is different in the heavens. Something has stirred, and it ain’t right. It’s as if God ain’t up there any more; he’s down here. It’s as if the whole universe has lost its focus. I don’t know what that means, in the long run, but for now it seems like bad things and good things are just happening with no moral guidance. If God was in his rightful place, he would surely have either saved Isobel, or stepped in to make sure she didn’t hurt for as long as she did.

Grabbing a shovel, I start digging a grave. Ain’t no point doing nothing fancy. I don’t know what was wrong with Isobel, but it seemed to blow in on the wind and get down on her lungs like some kind of plague. So I reckon the best thing is just to get her body underground and hope that no-one else ever has to suffer such a thing.

And that’s what I do. I dig a big, big grave. It takes me all day. Eventually I go back inside and I grab hold of Isobel’s bed, and I haul it out into the sun, with her still chained to it. I know this seems strange, Lord, but the truth is I ain’t sure it’s wise to untie those chains.

I push the bed into the grave. It’s an unseemly, unnatural act that leaves the bed on its side, with Isobel still strapped down. And then I shovel dirt onto her until the grave is filled up, and I take a deep breath and go back inside. I’ve still got half a bottle of beer saved from last Thanksgiving, so I open that up and drink it in about thirty seconds, even though it’s warm as a prairie dog’s piss. And then, I swear, as I sit there, I hear a sound from outside, and I look out the window and I hear something moving deep beneath the soil, and the muffled sound of chains clinking, and I see the freshly dug grave start to churn a little.

She won’t be able to escape. Hopefully she’ll just die. Finally.

Give me that, Lord.

And promise me there won’t be no more like Isobel.

So I guess what I’m saying, Lord, is that you and me, we ain’t got nothing to say to each other no more. We’re done. If you want to show me some sign of your mercy, some sign that you’re still up in your Heaven, then I’ll listen. But barring that, I’m finished. I will pray no more to you.

I wish that it weren’t so.

I wish that I believed you were still there.

But this is me, signing off.

Goodbye.

Plague Fingers (Ghosts VI) will be released at the end of May 2012.

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