by anita marie moscoso
inspired by The Soul Food Cafe Prompt:
We sat side by side at the abandoned railway station looking out onto the dead tracks.
” I don’t sing, I don’t dance and I don’t do poetry ” I told my companion ” but I do know stories. Lots of them. ”
The woman next to me settled back against the rotting wooden bench and stretched her arms in front of herself and I could see her fingernails were long and polished and curled slightly at the tips.
I admired her nails for awhile and then I began:
” There once was a woman, who lived on the Bluffs above Deadwood and her name was Cecelia Marrow. ”
I heard my companion draw a long deep breath and I could feel her staring at the side of my head and I knew she wasn’t smiling. ” Marrow, as in…” she began.
” Marrow of your bones ” I said ” which is how she affected people. To the Marrow of their bones. She wasn’t a pleasant woman. She was the Pharmacists wife and everyone thought she married him just so she could be near all those…potions. ”
” They flirted with her, those pretty things in the jars ” I heard my companion say.
” Yes they did, ” I said ” It was an infatuation at first. She’d hold those little bottles up to the sunlight and admire them the same way other women would admire jewelry or fine fabrics or even flowers. She’d hold them up and nothing else was more real to her then what was inside of those bottles.”
” She looked very pretty, soft, and sweet when she was behind the counter standing among those jars and bottles with their hand written labels. Then someone would walk into the shop and her face would harden into a mask, a grimace and she would stand between you and those medicines and dare you to reach out and touch them. She was jealous, even then. ”
” She was obsessed ” was whispered right into my ear and I had to clench my hands together so that I wouldn’t reach out and slap my companion away.
” Oh she was, she would walk into the shop in the morning after dreaming of her lovers all night and she would stand there with flushed cheeks and a racing heart. Then those powders and liquids and roots and herbs would whisper to her, whisper things that they could do for her, gladly, blindly and with pleasure…for her just for her. ”
” What did they give her? ”
” Lives, they gave her lives the same way a young man gives flowers or chocolates to his sweetheart. They would escape the shop at night and find their way into the food stored in kitchens and the water in the wells. They found their way onto fruits and vegetables still growing on vines and in the trees and fields, they would hide themselves in clothing, blankets toothpaste and perfumes. There was wasn’t a place her love wouldn’t go to find tokens of it’s affection ”
” When it was done, most of Marrow Falls was dead. All that was left was Cecelia, her husband Ben and a handful of families. But they were not well people, Cecelia’s Lovers hadn’t been able to kill them but they ruined them all the same. Sickened them for the rest of their short tortured lives. ”
” She was caught, ” my companion said.
” Do you know the people of Marrow Falls were once simply called the River People and they knew this; the River was alive. Its full of ghosts. They buried their dead there you see. That River” I said pointing beyond the fence where we could hear rushing water “ is a cemetery.”
I continued, “ she tried to escape on a Barge down the River to Duwamish and it was more then the Sprits could bear, her walking on those graves like that, so they reached up out of the water and pulled her over the side and held her down and then they took her face. ”
” Didn’t they? ” I asked my companion.
” She wears a mask now ” my companion told me but no matter what she puts on her ruined face it turns to stone and each stone face is a cursed face”
” You’re from the River, you’re from the Falls, aren’t you? ” my Companion asked.
” Yes. ”
” Will you let me go? Will you ask the River People to let me leave? ”
I looked straight into that stone face, the face that froze hearts in terror…not for it’s ugliness but because the true curse of the River People was this; my Companions face would always mirror the Sins of the person looking into it. That was the terror, to look into this creatures face and see your own monster carved in marble staring back at you.
I put my face close to hers and said, ” Never. ”
Then I got up and walked up over the little hill and into the waters and all the time I could hear my Companion…weeping.
Or maybe she was laughing.
It all sounds the same from down here.