The Re’em Song | Julie C. Day

the-reem-song-001

 
 
“Save me from the lion’s mouth; for thou hast heard me from the horns of the re’em.” Psalms 22:21

 
 

 

Of course, leaving was easy.

“The same damned people, the same damn trees, even the same damn work, all our God-fearing lives. Do you really think we would have married if there’d been even a handful to choose from?”

Jaw bones and sections of vertebrae hung from the rafters of their house. Ribs and phalanges contained in carefully sewn skins were piled outside, waiting to be shipped off. And always there were the horns calling from somewhere deep in the woods.

Harvesting unicorn bones wasn’t easy work. With death, re’em bones condensed God’s blessing inside their hollows, little bone-trapped bolts of His holy spirit just waiting for an opportunity to jab through a digger’s flesh and find the living bone underneath. The entire Kerill Valley was charged with ghosts.

Sunnifa stood in the kitchen, while her husband, Orri, remained by the hearth in the second room of their small home. “Vulture.” Sunnifa glared at her Orri’s back. “Orri the bone picker,” Sunnifa tried again. Orri didn’t respond. He almost seemed not to hear her. Sunnifa reached up and grabbed the jar of honey from a nearby shelf, rubbing some across both hands. The honey helped hold off the scar-bent fingers, at least for a time.

Centuries ago Sunnifa’s ancestors had crossed the Athlant Ocean in their longboats, carrying their Bibles and their shiny new faith, determined to track down Daniel’s iron-toothed monster and the rest of God’s magical beasts. Fools, every single one of them.

Sunnifa reached for a second bottle, then grimaced. They were out of lavender oil. Again. “Who’d you lend the oil to this time?”

“One of Dora’s crew hit an old cache while he was still ungloved.”

“Who the hell trenches ungloved?” Sunnifa pressed her thumb deep into her left palm, trying to ease the aching burn. “How bad was it?”

“Cut marks reached as far as his chest.” Orri finally turned and looked at Sunnifa. The dark skin of his arms and face was splattered with mud from the day’s excavations. “It was one of those Sturluson kids. Dora only took him on because of what happened last winter.”

“Orri.” The word was almost a sigh.

“I’ll track some oil down tomorrow, all right?”

Sunnifa felt her anger spiking. “God’s earthly paradise, my scarred ass.”

Orri took two steps toward Sunnifa and the kitchen, then stopped. He looked sad—and angry. “What do you want me to say? I like it here? I don’t want to leave?”

“I don’t care what you say.” The words were out almost before she realized she’d thought them.

“I know.” And then Orri was walking to the hearth, pulling on his now-warmed boots. A few steps later and he stood next to the door.

It wasn’t just Sunnifa. Orri was leaving, as well. Leaving Sunnifa anyway, if not the Kerill Valley.

*

The people might call it God’s magic, but re’em skeletons were also central to the nation of Norumbega’s economy. New farm land, stone bridges and walls did best with a few skeletal remains buried beneath them. Man-formed items, like bricks and clay pots, preferred actual blood.

More than fifty years ago, the knifemen of the northern Kerill Valley had culled the wild re’em herds into oblivion. Farmers further south now provided the necessary bone-and-blood wares. Didn’t matter. Valley children still learned “The Knifeman’s Song” along with their first nursery rhymes.

Nine screaming horns cry out beneath the hunter’s moon,

Calling for our devil blood.

Nine to call the live ones home. We’ll drain them dry. Render the flesh.

We’ll cover the world in magic.

*

The city of Burne was a good two week’s journey. Sunnifa paid the wagon driver an entire basketful of ribs. No horns, though. Sunnifa didn’t want her sprint to freedom accompanied by the wail of a Valley ghost, following its disinterred horn south.

“Don’t find too many of your kind heading south,” the driver said, nodding toward the bone burns that ran along Sunnifa’s hands and arms. Similar scars on Sunnifa’s neck were hidden by her high-collared shirt, the result of a

childhood dare gone wrong and a tumble into an open grave.

“Aren’t that many of us left,” Sunnifa said noncommittally as she clambered up onto the running board. More than the man, it was the two horses that held her interest. The valley’s remaining re’em—the dead ones—didn’t take to their un-horned brethren. Horses weren’t allowed in Kerill. Instead, valley families carried their goods in shoulder baskets over the South Lancing Trail and into the nearby town of Gherl.

Sunnifa paid the driver enough bone money to take her all the way to Burne. Beyond that she had no idea. A city near the sea sounded like the opposite of everything she had left behind. It sounded like Heaven.

*

Tapestries hung on either side of the city’s open gates. Embroidered unicorns, ghost-white, sat inside carefully sewn corals. Their heads rested on the laps of golden-haired girls wearing long blue-green dresses.

“You ain’t that different, eh?” the wagon driver called back, nodding his head toward the embroidery. It was the first thing he’d said to Sunnifa in hours. Almost two weeks travel hadn’t made them friends.

Sunnifa knew the wagon driver wasn’t comparing her to the girls. Sunnifa’s hair was imaginary-unicorn-white, not blonde. Her pale skin was sliced by bone-burns. Even if that hadn’t been true, her winter-sky eyes were nothing like those of the untroubled, tapestry virgins.

“Your people live in the Warrens, up toward the knackeryards,” the driver said, tossing Sunnifa’s carpetbag to the ground. He’d stopped his horses at the edge of a large square not far from the city gates.

“Knackeryards?”

“The slaughterhouses where they slice up all that magic flesh.”

“Ah.”

The noise of the market was like nothing Sunnifa had ever heard before. There were more people in this one square than in the entire Kerill Valley. Stalls were piled high with carrots and turnips, grown in bone-laced soil, of course. Hooks hung with legs of mutton and half-carcasses of pig. Really, the square wasn’t that different from smaller town markets. If you didn’t look too closely. Brickmakers’ apprentices stood next to stacks of red-tinged bricks while potters’ boys hovered nearby ready to sell their own reddish-clay jugs and bowls. Fresh unicorn blood. Burne’s crowded market was soaked in it.

“You need to head back to the Warrens,” the driver repeated, more slowly, as though unsure Sunnifa had understood him the first time. He had brown hair and brown eyes, no smile. He nodded his head toward a cobbled street that led off the square, one of the few not made of those reddish bricks. “Oreste Street.”

Sunnifa could see fresh bones hanging from the street’s archway. Some of the bones still had dried bits of cartilage clinging to them.

“Right,” Sunnifa said. “The Warrens.”

“Welcome to Burne,” the driver said, already turning back to his horses.

Sunnifa held tight to her bag as the shoppers and the stall workers swirled around her. Honey-blond hair. Brown hair. Reddish-ginger hair. Freckles. She’d seen freckles before, but never in such profusion. Hair kinked like Orri’s but longer, braided down the back. People tall and short and everything in between. Broad-chested men with over-sized bellies. Little women with honey-colored skin.

So many of them. And there seemed to be a pattern to their groupings. That she hadn’t expected. The petite, honey women wore wrapped headcloths that covered all their hair. They stirred steaming kettles, their faces flushed from the heat as they offered “laced tea” to passersby. Blood-laced tea.

Orri’s granny used to talk about the strange infections that could spread across un-blooded land. The dead were always trying to claim back a world over-filled with humanity. God’s bones and blood protected both the land and the people of Norumbega. And the city’s domesticated re’em were at the center of all that commerce.

Sunnifa took a slow breath and started toward a handful of men standing at the edge of Oreste Street. Her people. Was that who these pale strangers were?

One of the men nodded his head in Sunnifa’s direction. “Little sister,” he called out.

“Hello.” The knackerman smiled as he bent his head to look Sunnifa in the eyes. He reminded Sunnifa of her father: tall, with the same pale eyes and fish-belly skin Mama used to joke about. But it was the tilt of the man’s lips, something about the line of his jaw and those creases along his eyelids that did it. No bone burns of course. That was one difference.

Sunnifa’s unicorn-white hair and the smiling man were enough to get her an apprenticeship in one of Burne’s slaughterhouses. The man was like Sunnifa’s father in that way as well, sharing the family trade.

*

When Sunnifa and Orri were still too young to work the crews, Orri’s granny placated them with stories.

“A wild re’em is a vengeful creature,” she would start, settling back into her wooden chair. “That’s what the knifemen counted on.”

Like most children back then, Orri’s granny had been a Beater. During the hunt, her stick smashed through the forest undergrowth, driving the re’em herds toward the nine singing horns.

“Nine threaded trees and nine dead re’em horns,” Granny explained, stroking Sunnifa’s white-blond hair. “It’s important to get these things right.”

A re’em hunt was a valley-wide affair. The Blooded Lure, a knifeman with at least one kill, ran just ahead of the herd, making sure the re’em knew their killers were close at hand.

“I’d hate to be that guy,” Orri said, his dark eyes solemn.

“But he was the most important person of all. He kept the re’em focused.”

The unicorns all looked the same as they thundered forward: red eyes and dun-colored hair. Their black cloven hooves matched the darkness of their spiraling horns. Their rage: they were the same in that way as well, each one of them just about bursting with it.

Once the herd of wild re’em reached the clearing, the trip lines brought them down and the knifemen descended.

*

Change takes time. Her husband’s name, Orri, was no more than a ghost breath, a whisper Sunnifa chose to ignore.

For six seasons Sunnifa lived far from the Kerill Valley’s white pines and hemlocks, far from the bone-notes that rose from beneath its tamped-down earth. In that sixth season, though, the city’s silence finally drove her home. Burne had not a single ghost.

Sunnifa rode a wagon north to Gherl, walking the last few miles along the South Lancing Trail. A chill wind seemed to follow her to the clearing where their little house still stood, the door closed, smoke rising from the chimney.

“Orri?” Sunnifa called.

“What—” Orri opened the door, but got no further.

The broad curve of his lips hadn’t changed, though his hair was much shorter than Sunnifa remembered; she could see the contours of his skull beneath the thin layer of fuzz. Dark lashes so unlike Sunnifa’s own.

“Hi. Orri—I—”

He stood aside, silently gesturing her into the house.

Their table still rested next to the stove. Jars of honey and lavender oil sat on the kitchen shelf. There were new things as well: open bottles and a collection of yellowed teeth, artifacts of some dig, strewn across the table’s surface. Beer and not much else seemed to be on the menu.

“Don’t worry,” Orri said. He stood a little closer than Sunnifa would have liked. “You can stay.”

And that seemed to be it.

When Sunnifa left, Orri had held tight to his silence, hurt, it seemed to her, but nothing more. Now the silence felt more like its own creature, sharp and feral.

*

Three weeks of close-to-silence.

“Why don’t you come out and say hello to Robert and Isibel?” Orri said.

“It’s dark in here. Can’t you at least keep the fire going?” Orri said.

“Varr is looking for some help down at the mill.” Orri said.

While Orri and the crew worked yet another re’em grave, Sunnifa sat in their house and worked on not moving. Eventually some other plan would occur to her.

Each night Sunnifa slept in their old loft bed, while Orri sat at the kitchen table with his bits of dead re’em. Touching—that tangle of legs and glide of sweat against flesh—wasn’t part of this new world. Other night-sounds emerged instead.

A clatter of teeth scattering across a table, a quick scuffing of enamel on wood. Instead of sleep, Orri spent his nights tossing re’em teeth. From the loft, Sunnifa could hear the chink of glass as yet another empty beer bottle was set against the floor.

The memory of their old life was like a ghost, haunting both of them into silence.

*

Just a finger of moonlight slipped through the living room’s eastern window. Sunnifa could hear the clatter of the gate opening, followed by the sound of voices.

“Make sure you check the stitching on that one.”

“Haul’s about ready to go over the mountain. Can we at least get Sunnifa to help carry the baskets?”

“What the hell does she do all day anyway?” That last voice was Cousin Isibel. Isibel might be only five years older than Sunnifa, but with that spider web of bone-burns across both cheeks and her shock of coarse white hair, it seemed more like decades.

“Gone over a year and now she just sits in that house eating your food,” Isibel continued in her low, gravelly tones. “Bet you’re not even fucking her.”

“Enough!” Orri snapped.

“Isibel, just leave it,” someone else said.

After that there were minutes of blessed silence before the yard filled with the sounds of the crew calling their goodbyes.

Now came the moment when Orri would open the door and find her still sitting in the wooden chair.

“I need your help,” shadow Orri said from the doorway.

“Help?” Sunnifa pressed her back more firmly into the wooden chair.

“Robert forgot the horns. We just finished the inventory. They aren’t here.”

“Ah.”

“I told him the two of us would take care of it.” Orri started across the room toward Sunnifa.

“Why? Tell him you changed your mind.”

“Too late. He’s already left.” Orri’s voice seemed calm, but then there was that set of his eyes, his lips—something.

“Can’t we just go to bed and deal with it tomorrow?” Sunnifa said, wishing almost immediately she’d left the words unspoken. The smile on Orri’s face wasn’t pretty.

“I didn’t think we did that anymore.”

*

The world outside is a strange and unbalanced place; that’s what Sunnifa should have told Orri when she walked back over the mountain, bone-weary from the hike home. Instead, she and Orri barely spoke. Sure she’d flown away, but she’d also returned to Orri and the valley and all those burial mounds. Returned to their valley of ghosts. Somehow, that felt like it should count for something.

“I’m not going,” Sunnifa said while Orri slipped on the pack he’d set near the door.

“I mean it, Orri,” she said as he filled one of the smaller lanterns with kerosene.

“No choice. Hunter’s moon tonight.” Orri stood over Sunnifa, hands at her elbows, pulling her up and out of the chair. “The crew and I have been working the area near the Eslot River.”

“An old horn site? God damn it, Orri.” Older remains were the worst, overflowing with holy magic. They also paid the most cash.

“I needed the money.” Orri turned and opened the blanket chest next to Granny’s chair, pulling the top blanket aside. A leather sheath, hand-sewn with rough stitches. A handle worn smooth with use. A knifeman’s blade. Orri’s great grandfather had used that knife during the last of the re’em hunts—Orri was bringing it with him.

“Orri.”

“Horns and moonlight, dearest. We might actually get lucky. You’ll have to carry this,” he added, handing Sunnifa the knife. “Not exactly my skill.”

Sunnifa wasn’t sure how it happened, but she somehow found herself following Orri through the front door and out into the night, the weight of the knifeman’s blade hanging from her waist.

*

Buried, the forest’s horns sounded like a muted prayer. Tonight though, the horns left out by Orri’s crew laid bare the lie. Loud, frenzied cries filled the wood.

“Exactly how many horns are we talking about?” Sunnifa asked as she ducked under yet another tree branch.

“Nine.”

“Nine—”

Nine screaming horns cry out beneath the hunter’s moon,” Orri recited. He tilted his head up to toward the sky and laughed. “Don’t worry, Sunnifa. You know there’s not many wild re’em left, none in this valley. We’ll probably just prick ourselves with the sewing needles.”

Sunnifa trusted Orri. At least she’d trusted him enough to come back home after more than a year in the city. Maybe Orri hadn’t meant to mix the horns with moonlight. The last few weeks had been—difficult.

Still, she didn’t quite dare reach for Orri’s hand. “I’m cold,” she said instead.

Orri paused, pulled a woolen scarf from one of his pockets, and reached for Sunnifa.

She couldn’t help herself. She flinched.

“Since when don’t you like to be touched,” Orri muttered, tightening the edges of the scarf so that no gaps remained. “Sunnifa.” He paused. “I want you to stay.”

Orri’s dark skin and hair stood out against an even darker sky. His face, though, was still hidden in shadow. Didn’t matter. Sunnifa knew exactly what he looked like. She used to get high on the smell of him. The tang of salt she’d find along his collarbone. The bitter green that filled the space between his thumb and palm.

Sometimes she’d drag him atop one of those rough-grassed mounds with its hidden bones.

“I like the feel of all those eyes watching,” she’d whisper as he slipped his hands beneath the band of her skirt, fingers searching lower. Of course, she was already wet.

The clothes didn’t last long. Neither did the standing, at least on Sunnifa’s part. Her lips ran along the inner muscles of his thighs, biting just enough to make him flinch. Her tongue moved as well, waiting for that long inhalation before she lowered herself into the dark hairs between his legs. Untainted and earthy, that was another scent she remembered. The taste that followed was just the same.

“The city was warmer,” Sunnifa said, feeling the rough wool against her neck, the heat of Orri’s body. “Something about those ocean currents.” She paused. “It’s dark, Orri.”

“Don’t really need much light to see what I’ve got to show you.”

Did he really want to screw while those nine horns listened in?

Orri sighed. “I brought the lamp, Sunnifa. It was a joke.”

“Orri?”

“Um.”

“Light the damn lantern.”

“Fine. Right.” He pulled the pack off, unearthed the lantern, carefully lit the wick.

“We had to hack through one of the old, overgrown trails to find this site. Robert’s idea,” Orri said as he started forward, holding the lantern in one hand.

“Robert is full of stupid ideas. You know that.”

“He’s not the only one.”

Orri took the lead. Somewhere close by, Sunnifa heard a splash as a rock or stick fell into a puddle. Then another cascade of dirt and rocks as she and Orri stumbled down a slight incline. It almost felt like something was following them.

Up ahead, Sunnifa could see Orri’s hand gripping the lantern. Those hands used to raise Sunnifa up and onto him, hold her still, his eyes daring her to move first.

*

The dig site. Star chips clung overhead along with that orange-yellow hunter’s moon, while the shadows of wild grasses wavered atop the old burial mound. None of it unexpected. Still, the re’em bones lying open to the air made Sunnifa shiver. She hadn’t seen earth-cleansed skeletons in over a year.

The lantern sat on a flat stretch of ground next to the discarded backpack. Orri’s hands held a coil of rope. He’d brought trip lines. Of course he had. The sound that had followed them all the way to the site was like hooves, not branches.

“It was strange without you here. Bad strange,” Orri said. He dragged one end of the rope to a nearby hemlock and tied it a foot above the ground. After securing the line, he moved on, passing a number of young evergreens before finally knotting the rope to an older white pine.

Sunnifa heard a branch crack somewhere off to their left. “You really think trip lines and bone magic are going to solve all this?” Sunnifa gestured between the two of them.

“Something has to.”

Sunnifa watched silently as Orri picked his way between seven more trees. In the end, the clearing was bisected by a nine-sided figure made entirely of rope, a knifeman’s line. Sunnifa’s line. She was the one carrying the blade.

“Orri, there aren’t any wild re’em left in the valley.”

“Maybe. How did you manage anyway? In the city?” Orri asked just as though he hadn’t been carrying that question for the last three weeks. “You didn’t leave with much.”

“A friend found me a job.”

“Friend?”

The nine unearthed horns kicked up then; their frenzied screams charging even higher.

*

“A lost little sister,” the knackermen called Sunnifa when she first appeared in their midst.

Her re’em-burned arms made her an oddity. Re’em teeth are like a wolf’s, meant for tearing. Burne’s knackermen had different marks. Sunnifa’s knackerman, Jakob had a line of angry flesh, pointed scars that ran from his neck down below the cut of his shirt.

The re’ems bled red. That’s what Sunnifa didn’t tell Orri. That first re’em’s blood sprayed out from his throat and against his brown hair while strangers stood and watched.

Even with the ropes, the re’em pulled back as she pressed the knife down. His eyes rolled upward and his lips stretched black against his teeth.

“Watch where you’re cutting,” the foreman called out. “Trust the ropes.” He stood just a few feet away on the other side of the stall. Jakob stood next to him. One of Jacob’s boots pressed against the side of the pen, while his belly strained against his canvas apron.

Jakob had taught Sunnifa well. After the herd was led up Oreste Street and into the pens, Sunnifa tied the re’em’s halter rope to the metal pins. She ignored the looks of the meat tenders who waited nearby. She knew what she was getting into. Flesh couldn’t be any worse than a seemingly endless dirge of ghosts.

Before coming to the city, Sunnifa had collected ghost bones and wrapped them tight. She’d laid the skeletons out as though the flesh still held the frame together, then sewn the packages with dried gut.

Blood terror, though, had never entered into it. Sunnifa, it turned out, hadn’t understood at all.

After she finished with the knife, she stepped back from the animal’s fallen body and with shaking hands held the collecting bowl beneath the gaping wound. The blood of the re’em pooled dark red against the wood while a couple of apprentices, younger than her, shifted the corpse, making sure the animal didn’t bleed onto the slaughteryard’s cobblestones. Animals, they called the re’em. Nothing but bits of slaughtered flesh to soak the floorboards of newly built homes.

It took Sunnifa six seasons to figure it out. Six seasons before she started her journey home. Family requires sacrifice. Family requires ghosts.

*

Sunnifa felt Orri’s hand twining with hers as they faced the forest. The dig site’s nine horns no longer screamed. Instead, they made a soft moaning sound, each one adjusting its pitch to fit with the others.

“Malcolm’s got a line on a collector down the coast who likes the older stuff,” Orri said. He glanced at Sunnifa. “Just north of where you were. Perhaps you can help negotiate the price.”

“I didn’t really make it much past the city.”

“Mm.” Orri sounded distracted. “You really should unsheath the knife.”

Sunnifa could feel his body tense as he tracked the sound of the cracking branches moving closer.

The nine horns’ song shifted again, close to melancholy.

In the city, the knackers punched holes through the fresh horns: one or two ragged holes for the whistles, more precise cuts for the reed-and-pipe musicians. On Sundays, when she wasn’t at work, Sunnifa would listen to a man on at the edge of Caprin Square play two aulos flutes. Both of his hands moved along the dark horns as he adjusted his fingering. Those flutes always put her in mind of the newly dead re’em she’d left back in the knackeryard.

“Why can’t you valley folk leave the old things buried?” Jakob had asked, just as though unearthed bones weren’t spread across his precious city, holding up the city’s outer walls.

“It’s the work,” she replied, not revealing a newly discovered thought: ripened in her forest at least the bones learned to sing their own melodies.

The hunter’s moon shone down into the clearing as Orri’s hand gripped Sunnifa’s. There was a gust of wind, and then the song of the nine horns was echoed by something nearby, just on the other side of the tree line.

Leaves rustled and a few branches snapped against each other. Sunnifa could see Orri’s face clearly in the lamplight. He was watching her. “Sunnifa, it’s time.”

There were many things Sunnifa didn’t tell Orri about the city. The early morning echo of hooves on cobblestones. The cries of her knackerman as they made love on his thin, straw-filled mattress. The look in the visitors’ eyes as they watched the slaughter.

One more fact she didn’t share: the men who looked like Orri were tired, their faces like masks as they pushed those handcarts about town.

Without ghosts, the city was a lonely place.

Sunnifa heard the creaking of tree limbs as something large pushed its way through the branches and on toward the dig site. Then a snorting breath.

“Orri, did you hear that?”

“Yes.”

“I’m not cutting anything, Orri Flom.” Even to herself, her voice sounded weak. “I’m serious,” Sunnifa continued when Orri didn’t respond.

She bent down, placing the old knifeman’s blade next to the interwoven trip lines, then took a deep breath. “Do you hear me?” she yelled out toward the trees. “It’s enough already.” Her voice barely quavered. Her hands didn’t shake at all. She’d returned from the city. There was no way she was going to recreate it here in these woods.

“Sunnifa—”

“No,” Sunnifa repeated, not giving Orri a chance to finish. “Just no.”

From beyond the old white pine and its line of rope, a horn appeared, spiraling and black. The creature that followed was covered in brown hair. His red-rimmed eyes glanced from Sunnifa to the knife now lying on the ground, and then he snorted, a sharp blast of air, and started to pick his way over the first of Orri’s newly strung lines.

Sunnifa could feel Orri’s hand tightening as the re’em bent his horn to a pile of unearthed skins. The re’em tossed his head up, pawed at the hides with his front hooves. The edges of his teeth were now less than two feet away.

Sunnifa smelled the re’em’s fetid breath, felt a spray of saliva as the re’em’s hooves crashed down against Orri’s trip lines. And then a scream rose from the re’em’s throat, and still he didn’t touch her. And she did not move. Did not move, and did not let go of Orri at her side.

“We could—” Orri started to say. The lantern lay on its side, the burning wick knocked out sometime during the re’em’s frenzy. The re’em’s attention had moved to the wood-handled knife resting less than a foot in front of them.

“Shh, Orri. I trust you.” And then there was a sharp inhalation, her only sign of fear, as the re’em rose up on its hind legs. She should push Orri aside, behind her, do something. But the re’em’s legs were already crashing down before the thought was even complete. Once. Twice. Crack. Hoof against metal and wood. And still the re’em didn’t touch them. Instead, the shattered knife lay in pieces, now nothing more than a ghost knife.

And the nine horns, they had stopped their singing.

“Please,” Sunnifa whispered. “I am so, so sorry.” Broken. Afraid. Unable to say any of it.

“Sunnifa,” Orri said, thinking other unknowable words. Whatever this was, it wasn’t as simple as gentle forgiveness.

The re’em showed his teeth one last time before he backed away from the clearing.

And then Orri and Sunnifa were alone, hands still intertwined as they listened to the moan of the wind moving through the trees.

Burne, Orri used to say, was nothing like their valley.

In the Kerill Valley the trees spread wider than any town and the mountains rise high enough to obscure everything to the south. The people have no need of jellied blood and freshly-redded bricks. They no longer need to bury anything beneath the ground. In the Kerill Valley they welcome the ghosts as family.

 

Originally published in Interzone #258 (May – June 2015)

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Julie C. Day’s fiction has appeared in such venues as Resurrection House’s anthology XIII, Interzone, and Podcastle. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from USM’s Stonecoast program and a M.S. in Microbiology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Some of her favorite things include nighttime glasses of ginger libation, rewatching Silver Linings Playbook, and books, oh-so-many books. You can find Julie on Twitter @thisjulieday or through her website: www.stillwingingit.com.p

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