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The Sangreal
These things without nature, proper nature that is, of a terrestrial kind. Devoid of the essential forepart. But with wings. And a brow, to stare into. The way she was. A little mound of ash on the table between us. We sit at opposite ends. Her eyes. The snow at the windows. The little cabin. Her hand trembling over a crust of bread. A tendril of steam drifts from the teapot’s spout. Two black wings where her shoulder blades used to be. Look to the sink that stands in the corner, then to the little glass cabinet that holds what’s left of my clothes. Her oblong eyes inset with almond-shaped fissures of black. She raises the hem of her gown. I lean forward, across the table. It could be as it was before: I rest my cheek against her chest, look down into her lap. Her wings flutter. See that ablated place between her thighs. A little sound escapes my throat. She disappears. I think, what if we would have gone from this place? Lick the ash from my hand. Snow huddled against the windowpanes. My cot in the corner. The single, spindly faggot behind the grate. Walk to the mirror over the sink and part my hair, look down into the drain. Old black hole. I press my ear to it: There’s no sound in there. Gaze up over the rim, at the door. A bit of snow has got in under it, white against the dull brown of the floorboards. Look back up into the mirror. Its surface ripples. A wavery sound emanates from within. I press my eye to it. Glance back over my shoulder: the little mound of ash on the table. With the lengths of my forefingers, I massage my gums. Nothing but silence now. Walk to the door and crouch low and cup my hands, raise a drink of snow to my mouth. If only she’d come back to me. The thin blue shift she wore in bed. My tiny cot. A proper fire is what we had then. Paraffin. An abundance of wood. Now bend near to the grate and touch that spindly length so frail I’m afraid it’ll crumble under the weight of my hand. I turn away. Go to the table and right the stool. Sit. Look to the ash. Wet my fingers with my tongue and press them into the mound. She appears. Her eyes. We sit at opposite ends. The snow at the windows. I lean across the table to try and kiss her, but she only pulls away. Folds her hands over her belly. I reach out to touch her there, remember the time we shared a fag in bed. A fire raged in the hearth. Dark smoke up through the chimney and the snow-caked windows. We had a whole store of wood. She filled a cauldron with snow and hung it over the flame to draw us a bath. The claw-footed tub in the corner. A furrow of smoke moved along the length of the ceiling. Her waxen face as she stooped in the firelight. A rustling sound seemingly outside the cabin. My bowler hat in the glass cabinet, and the hand-pistol. She pinned to the far wall by some unnatural force, her arms and legs spread wide. I started out of bed, naked, fumbling for the key. The hem of her shift crept up round her waist of its own volition. For there was nothing outside our door, nor with us there in the room, but for that furrow of smoke. The rustling sound heard again, though more within my inner ear. So that that furrow arced down, funneled itself into her between the thighs. Now a wisp of grey seeps from her mouth, my fingertips barely touching her folded hands. A little sound escapes my throat. She disappears. I think, what if we would have gone from this place? Lick the ash from my hand. Curl on my cot in the corner, arms folded behind my head. Wonder if the snow has passed. Shift about in bed and pull the blanket up around me. Cover my eyes with my arm. If I am patient, she’ll reappear. This blonde-haired girl without underthings under her auburn-colored gown. Her bare little feet stained with ash, and the scar at her throat. The sound of wind in the flue. That evening she undressed for me, arranged her gown on the table, her flesh the color of paste and pale blue eyes. Kinked blonde hair wound in black silks down the center of her back. She stood at the foot of the bed, palms flat against her belly. My bowler hat was tipped forward over my brow. The blizzard, she said, The path through the wood. I reached out to quiet her mouth with my hand, but she was no longer herself, crouched low to the floor, her head tilted. I shied back in bed. She pointed back behind her, to the far wall, then faded out before me. Her auburn-colored gown still lay on the table. When finally I mustered courage enough to go fetch it up, I caught sight of what she had meant: a human form huddled in the shadows of the wall. He said little, and I said even less, though there was something between us, and that for days. Then he dressed in my clothes and headed out into the blizzard. I rest my forearm against my brow and blink my eyes. Stare up at the ceiling. Sit up in bed. Press my hand to my chest and think again of lighting the fire. Walk about the cabin with the blanket wrapped around me. Snow has got in under the door. I cup my hands against the window, to stare through the glass. If only I had not lent him my thick trousers. Go to the mirror over the sink and part my hair, look down into the drain. No sound in there now, nor even wet. Push my finger in up to the knuckle. Then out, then in again. Walk to the far wall and sink down on my haunches. Pass my hand before my eyes. A dark triangle impressed in the bark of a pine. An oblong of grey. Two furrows of smoke moving down through the wood. He right on up past the old granary to Oro, to question its folk. Spend a night at the inn. Start early into the mountains. Get a bear gun, hire a guide. But tell him nothing. The cunt found in Kala Dunne. A certain stillness to the trees. The blood in the snow. An oval eclipsed by another of its own kind. A square of light. Wake huddled near to the wall. Think, how is it that the shadows in the cabin have shifted when there is no sun? Walk to the window and cup my hands around my eyes, to stare through the pane. All still a slur of white. Then what appear to be two children standing hand in hand at the edge of the wood. I look back over my shoulder: It crouches near to the hearth, wings gathered close to its back. I drape the blanket over the stool, stand naked in the cabin. The table is bare, but for the burnt residue of ash, which I blot at with my thumb. Then walk to the hearth, touch its cheek with my hand; it nuzzles my palm. Thin, opaque eyelids slide over oblongated eyes. The way it works its jaw, the lips barely part, but produce this strange and guttural sound. I cannot quite comprehend it, but lean close to listen. The far wall of the cabin dissolves. See in the distance a copse of pines glazed over with ice. The flatlands. A frozen lake. Look from this to it, as it rises up on its haunches and spreads its wings. Behind their dim expanse, the hearth, the brickwork and mantle, the whole of the wall, becomes a thick black curtain embroidered with pale images of wheat. And its body sways as the curtain sways, its head nodding slow. Though my skin does not prickle, nor flesh up, because there is no wind, nor even the sense of winter. A figure moving in the landscape, beyond where the wall once was. She raises the hem of her gown. Stands on tiptoe below an ice-spangled tree, makes a flute of her lips, to suck at an icicle. The way she bends, slightly, at the knees, up and down, and up and down, the way her hips and bottom move, it is like a gestation, and I am entranced. She presses her palms to her belly. Her gown is soaked through there with blood. That being hovers just above the floorboards, wings beating silently against the air. In its outstretched hands, it holds a wide-mouthed cup made of mottled flesh, rim callused. That ablated place between the thighs. She stands beside me in the cabin. Together, we gaze up into its brow, see a grey tetrahedron the height of a man, a dark triangle impressed in its surface; hear the sound of fire sunken deep within the sky.