An Anniversary

Our loved ones come to visit
For one raucous night each year
With creaking limbs to dance with us
And familiar smiles from ear to ear

They never do look quite right
Not quite what we remember
But we greet and embrace them all
Our long-lost, well-loved family members

Anne’s grandpa walked with a cane
But tonight he seems quite spry
Unfurling his crooked spine
She laughs as he lifts her to the sky

Roy’s wife had beautiful eyes
Shining, like a new penny
And as he meets her smiling gaze
He can’t recall her having so many

The barman was a large man
Muscled and barrel-chested
Now from his torso spouted beer
Twas superb, the drinkers attested

Mother sang sweet as a bird
Her voice now comes like a wave
Singing about next year’s crops
As I help her step out of her grave

For only one night each year
Never more but rarely less
We celebrate with the dead
Before we put them all back to rest

It is known by all who live
That death comes with morning light
So reunite with weapons close
They only recall us that first night


A dead man came to town today
to find a place to lie.
We told him that our graves were full
of those much too young to die.

We offered him a place to sit,
to wait his time in shade,
but his bones never stopped their pace,
unable to take aid

The breeze carried his arid words
from his uneven stride:
he would seek a way underground
to find sleep long denied.

A dead man passed through town today,
he found no place to stay.
A dead man passed through town today,
but he did not pass away.

Three Questions (Part 2)

Despite my success, my mother was still the target of my father’s anger. Every trip outside the house was scrutinised, every phone call monitored. On the rare occasions that he left the house, my father would often sneak back into our home quietly, trying to catch my mother in some act I didn’t yet understand. I know now that she stayed because she believed it was best for me. She couldn’t take me away until I knew fully how to use my power, and she couldn’t leave me alone with him.

I was eleven the night that I heard my parents’ arguing stop. Read More »

Three Questions (Part 1)

It took me decades to realise that my childhood wasn’t normal.

My father knew how to raise the dead. With words, wards and symbols he could cause the soul of any deceased person to appear before him. Rising from his spell, he could command the spirit to answer any three questions that he put to them, truthfully and completely. Answering the questions of the bereaved was his trade and he was paid richly for his services. A ceremony could only be carried out once with each spirit, and could only be asked by the person who summoned them, so the three answers were all that the client would ever receive  from the deceased in this life.

He never operated in front of a direct audience, instead summoning the spirit behind a curtain. It was certainly the more pleasant option for clients. Spirits are always recognisable, but something about them is wrong. It’s something in their eyes. They have no desire to hide the truth, and appear completely dispassionate towards the living. No matter how loving the relationship, they have no interest in their former loved on any more. Some spirits were even outright hostile to my father, but they were always carefully bound inside the summoning circle. They could not escape, and had to remain within it until they answered the three questions my father put to them. I would observe from the side of the room, to make sure that the client was paying attention, and that they did not approach the curtain. My mother waited outside the locked door, waiting to unlock it and usher out the client once it was all over.

Clients were always instructed to have three questions. It didn’t matter if only one was what they needed. A man once very rudely insisted that he only needed to know where his mother’s will was, and that he didn’t give a damn what else my father wanted to ask the old bitch. As I sat to observe that ceremony, I wondered why my father didn’t insist on getting two more questions. I soon found out.

Read More »

The Midnight Visit

There is a knock at my front door.

I know who it is without having to answer. The elderly woman next door used often to come by, always armed with some excuse to chat for hours. I know she lived alone well before I moved in, but I refuse to answer the door anymore.

I used to let her in and offer her tea and conversation on an almost daily basis. She stopped coming by about a month ago. It was around that time I happened to see someone visiting her. He went over every night for a week. I’m not normally one to pry, but it was hard to ignore him; you could hear him rap his knuckles on the door with a force that I thought would break it.

After he stopped going by, it was quiet for weeks. She resumed visiting me about two nights ago.

I can hear her frail voice calling my name. Last night she knocked at my door until dawn. I found dried blood on the wood and there were smudges on the frosted glass where she’d pressed against it.

I think she’ll stop after tonight. Her funeral is tomorrow morning.