—THE WINDOW’S OPEN NOW, AND THE WINTER SETTLES IN
When the dead start to rise, she thinks it’s the end of everything.
Outside a skein of black geese smear the sky, their honking more like the sound of a buzz saw sparking on rock. The lake, covered in gray loam, hisses upon the flock’s disappearance.
Trees pull up their roots, spraying dirt and rocks as they make their stilted zombie walk toward her front door.
She’s ready to let them in this time. No need for shattered windows or breaking down doors.
Her husband finds her hand on the knob. “Please, Elle, don’t.”
“But they’re here again.”
Her husband’s face is a puck without expression. “Let’s just sit for a while, okay?” he says. “See what happens?”
“But they won’t leave,” Elle says, her voice a broken reed. “And if they do, they always come back.”
“Yes?” Elle’s eyes bloom with hope and frail desperation. “You see it too?”
He encircles her shoulder, and leads her to the living room where they sit on the sofa.
“Can you hear them?” Elle asks, but the only thing he can hear these last many months is their daughter’s bugle-sounding laughter.
He takes Elle’s hand, tracing her knuckles, noticing sadly how they resemble a mountain range. Now it’s his mind playing tricks, finding cruel coincidences.
The house seems to hum in the nervous silence, dinner plates in the cupboards chattering conspiratorially.
He swallows a stone of air. He knows to say nothing, to let Elle bring up their daughter and the accident if she must, even if her doing so crushes him as much as Elle.
She studies the doors, the night-black windows, her head flicking side to side like a paranoid crow.
He touches her cheek, trying to calm a twitch. He smooths her hair, which is damp at the roots.
She doesn’t seem to realize he’s there right beside her, their arms touching. Yet, he listens to Elle’s breathing, measuring the gaps between intake and release, waiting for it to level out, willing to wait as long as it takes.