Magpie in August (an excerpt)

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(Bleeding Hearts)

Suddenly she’s dumb, glassy eyed and slack jawed. Reminds me of that vacant look she gets whenever she’s had enough to drink. She’s fixed on the flowerbed, but I know it’s you she’s watching, and not my Bleeding Hearts. She sees you out past the buoys, thrashing and splashing, crying for help between fatal gulps of Lake Huron. It isn’t a real memory, just a fabrication; it’s a violent scene sprung from a mother’s grief. I used to hear her screaming in the middle of the night. After Dad left, I would have to shout at her and shake her awake, and then we would both be up until dawn. She would cry and tell me about this nightmare, her memory of seeing you drown. She wasn’t even on the beach that afternoon. I was. And I have relived that moment thousands of times over—that moment when you’ll die thousands of times more.

The sun was full that day, a disc fierce yellow against a perfect blue sky. The beach was crowded at the swash, the dry sand too hot to be tolerated, and the lake was absolutely heaving. There were so many bodies, too many bodies, and no-body noticed you were sinking. Nobody, but me.

You’re dead, Renny. And it’s my fault.

© Kindra M. Austin

For You, Rowena (an excerpt)

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Herald Saw Her Ending  

11 June, 2017—Saturday

Herald was lounging in the grand bay window that overlooked the flower garden when the end came calling. Curled up on the yellow seat cushions amongst a few magazines, he’d been surveying the backyard through drowsy eyes. He was a keen hunter once, ages ago in his youth. Still, olden as he’d grown, Herald could sometimes sense a warm-blooded body stirring someplace it oughtn’t be, or catch the glimpse of something flitting, and his heart would beat with familiar eagerness.

On this day, it was a peculiar scent drifting into the kitchen that perked his attention; he squinted in aversion, and noticed the glint of sunbeams bouncing off serrated steel. Herald maneuvered his arthritic body into a crouch, and stared wildly through the window screen. The woman he loved was outside in the garden barely three feet away from him, and she smelled like the earth she’d been digging. Down upon her hands and knees, she was overshadowed by someone Herald had not long forgotten.

He couldn’t comprehend what it was that he was watching; his woman and the caller struggled against one another for just a moment. Then the tang of her escaping blood filled Herald’s nostrils, provoking a rumble that emerged from the pit of his chest. His growling went unnoticed, and all was still in the garden for an immeasurable space of time. He remained in the window seat, round-eyed, and vibrating with tension. When at last the backyard   darkened, and the bats began to fly, the killer rose up from the rose bed, and kicked the face that had been made silent. Herald cussed through the window screen like a sentry willing to defend his castle. But when the sound of frenetic footfall entered the house, grey Herald fled from the window seat, and took refuge inside a kitchen cupboard—the one that stored his food.

Click, clack! Click, clack! Click, clack! Herald recognized the sound. Click, clack! Click, clack!

“I can never unknow you,” the intruder mocked.

Those hollow words were the last human noises that Herald would hear for two desolate days. And then, the screaming would begin.

© Kindra M. Austin