From the kitchen doorway, John watched her. Longing sliced painfully through him, like heated iron. He had come so far, so very, very far to find her. From the black warmth of the grave where she had lain him, the roses, fed by her tears, had reached down to find him in the darkness, plunging their roots into his chest, coaxing him awake, calling out to him to follow their upward path. Lured by the scent of her tears in their stems, he’d been drawn ever upwards, climbing higher and higher as the decades had marched slowly through the skies above him.
At long last, John emerged into the sunlight once more, finally brought forth at the end of the long journey by the sound of her voice whispering his name just inches from the graveside. Released at last from the deep sleep, he then followed the familiar path towards home. There he’d watched her; unable to keep from reaching out for her, just as he had when they had lived there so many years ago. He had hovered by her for weeks now, unsure of what to do, watching as she went about her life without him, just barely beyond his reach.
Then the day had come when he had instinctively reached for something without thinking about it and the faintest shadow of his hand had begun to materialize. It was only there for an instant, before it vanished again into nothingness. He hadn’t seen his hands in nearly a hundred years and seeing one of them again absolutely delighted him! Encouraged by this transformation, he tried in vain to make it reappear, but it stubbornly refused. It was only when he once again reached impulsively that his hand began to take shape once more. John knew then that he could learn to control this. He soon realized that he could reach outward with his soul, and that in turn, his hands would follow. Soon he discovered that he could bump things in this way, and make them move ever so slightly. He worked hard at shifting things for days on end, going round and round the house looking for anything that he could move, rattle or even knock over. John was getting stronger.
His flesh and blood had long since become a part of the earth of his farm. That part of him was long gone. But what remained of him was now growing in strength. He kept working, reaching for things in the house or interfering with the electrical currents, anything that would let her know that he was there. John didn’t know where all this jostling and flickering was leading him, or how he would take his Sarah home again, but he sensed that anything that brought him into her world was a step in the right direction. He had made a promise to her on his deathbed that he would find her and bring her back. Although he didn’t know how he would do this, he had every intention of keeping his word to his beloved wife. He had come this far and he knew that somehow he must find a way. He would take her home and she would make him whole again and all would once again be just as it had been.
So here they were, together again, but she was whole and in the old world, and he ethereal and in the next. She was walking toward him now, looking right through him. The basket of apples was on her hip and she looked just as she had on that first night when he had found her. Couldn’t she sense him? Couldn’t she feel how he loved her? He poured his soul into his hands and reached out for her, but succeed only in knocking an apple from her basket. She thought that she had dropped it herself and stooped to pick it up again. John wanted to wail with frustration.
Behind her, the gray sky tumbled over the farm and threatened to scream out her name. He could feel the earth trembling beneath her feet with every step she took, and he could hear the soft whisper of her breathing. Where his heart had been, John bled with yearning.
Sarah entered the kitchen, setting down the basket of apples on the drainboard. She transferred them into a bowl and returned the basket to its place on top of the refrigerator for use another day. Preparing to make the pie crust, she pulled a pale blue 1950’s era mixing bowl down from an upper shelf and arranged the flour, salt and shortening on the drainboard, within easy reach. Unexpectedly, the BlackBerry began to buzz beside the sink, startling her as it rattled against the worn wooden channels of the drainboard. She picked it up.
“This is Sarah…“ She waited, but there was no answer. “Hello?... Hello?” Again there was nothing. She hit the disconnect button and set it back down on the counter. Immediately it began to buzz again. She answered it and this time she heard a female voice-
“This is Sarah… Hello?... Hello?” It was her own voice she was hearing, as if it had been recorded and played back to her. Unnerved, she turned the BlackBerry completely off and stuffed it into the back pocket of her jeans, zipping the pocket closed. It was just a glitch in the system, she told herself, probably a computer reboot by the wireless service. Satisfied with the explanation, she reached into the flour bag for a handful of flour, and dusted it over the surface of the cutting board. She began to kneed the dough on the floured surface, remembering a little sadly what it had been like to knead a man’s shoulders in much the same kind of way. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine that it was true.
Outside the kitchen window, a low thunderclap rumbled in the distance. Sarah raised her eyes to the sound, responding to the call of something ancient that still lived in her DNA from the days of her ancestors. She felt the air in the kitchen being sucked out through the doorways, making it feel like it was harder to breathe. The air in the room had become unbearably heavy, the weight of it was bearing oppressively down upon her. She stood stock-still, staring out the window at the tormented sky, her hands hovering motionless above the dough on the cutting board. A wave of chills began in the small of her back as she felt him come nearer, her skin recognizing John Tisdale before any of her other senses did.
He was advancing very slowly and cautiously, just as he would have with a green-broke horse, afraid that any sudden movement would startle her and send her dashing off like a frightened filly. He circled slowly around her, and her head began to turn ever so slightly to follow him, following not with her eyes, but with some deeper sense. Finally! He was reaching her at last!
Every tiny hair on Sarah’s flesh began standing on end, forming a wave that was spreading up her spine, through her hair and across her cheekbones. He was so close, she could feel him just behind her-
Sarah gasped, lurching unexpectedly as light shot into her brain. Between the sharp flashes of light, she caught glimpses of John Tisdale’s life passing like shadows- The farm, the roses by the house, the smell of rain in the high grass, the sound of her own laughter and the cool feel of linen in summer. Her breathing grew shallow, coming in short gasps through her parted lips. She could feel the weight of John’s hand as he gently rested his palm on her shoulder.
The visions of his life were coming on in rapid flashes across her mind now, clearer and with more intensity- The worn wood of an old plow handle, then smell of freshly oiled harness, the warmth of her own body up against his back in the darkness. Sarah could feel him so intensely now, she thought she could almost see him with her soul as his callused hand gripped her shoulder more tightly. He was bending his head against her neck and she could feel the softness of his hair against her cheek. His lips brushed softly against the flesh of her throat, back and forth, interspersed with gentle kisses as he tasted the salt of her skin, drawing her ever more deeply into the trance-like world where he existed. It felt so right, as if she had known the gentle pressure of his lips for a thousand years. She could feel them against her flesh and they were as real and as human as she was. Next to her ear, she heard a the softest of whispers, breathing her name like a gently exhaled sigh- “Saraaah…”
Sarah screamed aloud and whirled around to face him, knocking the bag of flour onto the floor. The bag burst open as it struck the old linoleum, sending a white cloud erupting up into the empty air where she knew he was, but her eyes saw only emptiness.
“I am not Sarah!” she screamed through the gently falling dust storm of flour. “I am NOT her! I am NOT! I am NOT! I am not your wife!” The sound of her own screams was piercing to her ears and she felt John recoiling. Then her eyes fell to the coating of flour on the floor where slowly and with tremendous effort, letters had begun to form in the spilled flour, as if traced by an unseen finger-
Sarah screamed again and again, her screams reverberating through every timber of the old house, spreading upwards like fire through the rafters. She turned and bolted out the door, running for the safety of her car. The first droplets of rain had begun to seep from the clouds, spattering her face. Frantically, she yanked at the locked car door handle and struggled with it with both hands, before realizing she’d left her keys behind in the kitchen...
Copyright © Claire Britton-Warren, 2009