Lingering Souls

by Caitlin Leong
Art by Sharlene Chen
Issue: Scintilla (Spring 2019)

The candles light your path. You wander between rows of gravestones, searching for the one that has my name etched in stone. In the ghostly light you clutch flowers, wilted peace lilies and orchids that droop from your touch.

When you find my gravestone, you set the flowers down and whisper prayers to the dirt. Even from here, where I can only see your lips move, it sends a chill down my spine. You ask—no—you beg for a signal, a sign that I’ve heard you.

But you know I’ve heard you. In my waking world, your prayers float through the windows of my apartment. The flowers that you leave for me bloom on my windowsill, reborn again. Their scent drifts through the room.

The smell reminds me of the way you stood there, as if you were helpless.

Your eyes reflected the flames, your whole body illuminated in the glow of the firelight. For a moment, our eyes locked and it looked as if you were going to say something—your lips formed words I couldn’t understand—but in the end, nothing came out.

And then she appeared, a hand on your shoulder, and you turned to her. You went without protest, running as fast as you could, never turning back once.

Don’t tell me why.

And I’d stood there, the heat of the flames a tingling sensation on my neck, on my back, until it was unbearable. The tight frame of the window wouldn’t give way and screech open like it always did. My nails were bloody, and every molecule in my body was being torn apart, melting. Every instinct screamed to survive but there are things you don’t learn as an immortal. We never had to worry about fire. And as I opened my mouth, I’m not screaming your name—I’m yelling for Leader.

There was nothing but smoke in my lungs and dust in my eyes as I screamed until my throat was hoarse and I could no longer hear myself.

Your dreams for us haunt me still. But dreams are meaningless in this world. You should have made me feel that way when I was still alive, still there, still human.

Now, you ask for blessings you can’t have: a second chance, a few words with me. Leader tells me that I must see you again. So I do. For the first time since last December, I return to you full-flesh. It’s the first time my toes have touched the ground and sunk into the dirt. When you see me, I know you see the orange sundress first: your gaze follows the length of it down to my bare feet.

Your smile brings me back to when we were lovers. You reach for my hand, but at our touch, you pull back, telling me my hands are too cold. Instead, you wrap your arms around me, and for a moment, my breath catches in my throat. But it’s been too long, and I’ve learned. How not to let your magnetic charm to pull me in. How to forgive and forget.

So as we pull closer, I push away, because I cannot bear to fall in love with a mortal anymore.

A standing figure holds a rose in front of a gravestone.