The Winter Mayfly
Disclaimer: This work is original by the author and copyright October 2013
Thanks to Steph and the Academy for the invitation to participate in this year’s Halloween Challenge.
Mail is welcomed and answered at Lariel_a@hotmail.com
How do they say it, these days?
‘Getting my shit together’.
Ah yes, that’s what they say nowadays. Well, that’s what I’m doing – getting my shit together.
I have to be quick: I don’t have long to get ready. Thanks be to God. I’m like a winter mayfly – a short burst of life, and I have to do everything in that small, unsatisfying time I have before the coming winter’s midnight snuffs me out again. It’s not fair really. It’s a bloody disgrace. Thanks be to God.
I suppose it was my own fault. For giving in to the temptation. For not being God-fearing enough; for not following all of the Commandments. That’s what the Church of my age would have had me believe. I believe that it is not my fault if I am born this way; I am still a child of God after all and so he must’ve made me this way. They said that was heretical nonsense. What do they know?
Let them try carving a life out on the streets and mills of this benighted town. If they could find God in the gutter, then good luck to them. I couldn’t. The Devil takes the destitute, and the Devil took this town long ago and strung his Satanic mills all along its rivers and waterways to complete his Hell.
Who am I to argue with the Devil?
If I am not in God’s image, then maybe I am a child of the Devil, and the Devil did the best he could in the face of my curse. I care little either way, although I suppose I should be grateful at the snatch of life I do have now. All I know is, I have a… what’s the other way they put it these days? ‘I have a time-limited window of opportunity…’ Yes.
It does rather focus the mind.
Those damn fool Churchmen should’ve known better. Burning me in the Halloween bonfires, thinking it would cleanse my corrupted soul. The purity of the flames? Only a fool could think that. I cursed them as I died, and be it known that I died in absolute agony. At least I had always made sure that my victims died in grace, and quickly. I never tortured them, as I myself was tortured in life and then at my death. The purity of the flames.
They prayed for my soul as they sent me to purgatory, but I don’t think they really meant it. No more prayers for me after that night. No souls prayed for me on All Souls night in the years that followed – prayers for my victims, yes. But not for me. So much for forgiveness.
My body turned to ashes and my soul to smoke. The Devil must’ve caught me – he also walks with the spirits on Halloween - and cast me back into the scene of my crimes where I now spin back to life once a decade, on All Hallows Eve. The Devil’s gift and curse. It must have been the Devil, for God can’t have wanted me back in the world, even in a mayfly’s timespan.
It takes me two full days to birth into full-blown life. From a wisp of shadows and smoke to flesh and blood in two days. Two days to watch and learn, to hunger and lust. Two days to hatch and plan. To feel the switchblade solidify in my palm, and to savour the slow build of anticipation.
I can sense the blade now in my smoke-grimed waistcoat pocket, the ivory hilt almost warm from my touch. I take it out of my pocket and enjoy the almost-feel of it on my palm. I am nearly there, nearly woven solid. Another twelve hours to go; come the early evening of All Hallows Eve and I will be whole again.
I unfurl the blade from its ivory handle and the barber’s razor gleams testament to the care and attention I have lavished on it this past day. I hold it to my face and I can see my reflection wavering and fading in the burnished surface. I smile, and the sight is grim. The Devil lingers in that smile.
The blade’s edge is too dull though, and nicked still from its last outing. I skim the edge with my thumb, the memories of each mark still fresh to me even though they are far from fresh in the world’s eyes. I allow myself another smile, but I’m not dwelling in the past – mayflies don’t have that luxury and why should I waste time on memories when there is the sweeter taste of tomorrow to savour?
A dull blade will not do though. I need to find my sharpener. I cast it into a dusty corner last Halloween – it should be still there. My home doesn’t change through the years even though I share the space with newcomers, if not the time.
This place has a dreadful history, not all of which is my making. Even in my time of life, it was old and its eyeless bricks and stones had seen much, and that mainly of poverty, suffering and misery. I knew it when alive as a doss house and even now when I walk through its spaces, I see rooms crammed with thin, maggoty mattresses and blankets for those who could afford the luxury of a flea-bitten night. And for those too poor to afford that, a bench and a ha’penny string across the room to slump over.
I spent many an evening slumped over a string, and it’s when I started to hate. Once I hated, it became easy to doubt. Once doubt set in, it became easy to question and to reject. So I did. I rejected everything that my society then said I should be. It was truly liberating.
The doss house was an awful, hopeless place but it’s where I became the person I am now, and where I first committed my crimes. It’s where I am now sentenced to live out my mayfly lives, and I have watched my old doss house change and grow along with society and the times it represents.
Oh, the workhouse though, that was the worst time; even I could see that. Worse than all the incarnations this building has had since my time. A workhouse, where all the lost souls of capitalism were locked away and punished for their poverty in the most cruel and creative ways. It felt almost like a mercy to do my work, so I didn’t. A hundred years a workhouse, alive once a decade and I didn’t kill once. Well, I didn’t kill my poor bedfellows – no, I slipped out and killed their rich masters. I might be a murderer, but I am a murderer with a strong sense of society’s rights and wrongs.
Ah – there’s my sharpener. Once I have it in my hand, I sit on a hard pallet and start to slowly and rhythmically sharpen my blade with great duty and care. It is one of the few pleasures left to me.
Newcomers. Their walls aren’t my walls, even though our building is the same. I still live in that doss house – they live in luxury apartments. They are confined though to space and time, whereas I am not – I can ghost wherever I please, and take much enjoyment in picking and choosing where and of whom my pleasure will come this decade.
I‘ve watched this one now for my two days, and she is fine. A fitting pleasure for me. Tall and very personable about the face and figure; rich, of course – I make that a point now. And a thoroughly malignant and selfish personality. I also make that a point. I don’t know from where her riches come, but she prides herself in her fine clothes and her fine wines and her fine foods and her fine jewels. But she does not treat well the people who serve her and those she employs – they displease her often and she shows her displeasure easily and with abandon, even over the two days I have watched her.
She is cruel, petty and small minded. It is most unbecoming.
I test my blade again. It is sharpening nicely. I take out an oiled rag from my grimy pocket and wipe the blade. Twelve hours; twelve hours only. Twelve hours until the veil between our spaces thins enough for me to slice a route through. I know she can sense me more now. She has pulled away slightly as I have sat next to her on her soft leather couch; she has caught a swirl of air out of the corner of her eye as I have passed and I know she has seen whispers of me in the mirror as I smile over her shoulder. It is tantalisingly delicious.
Twelve hours until I can walk in her time, a flesh and blood figure with my blade at her throat. I have a whole six hours of solid life ahead of me, until the witching hour calls me back to shade and slumber and my mayfly time is done. How shall I spend it? Shall I be kind, and leave her asleep? Shall I be cruel, and make it slow? Or could I be greedy, and gorge on more than only her? She has friends – I have seen them, and she is right now unpacking shopping bags seemingly filled with Halloween effects. A party? I may indeed be lucky and have them here tomorrow night. That would be sweet, for they are all as shallow and unworthy of living as her.
I better make up my mind, and start getting my shit together.
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