Dust and rot fill her mouth as she eats. The food is cloying. It does not sit well. She is mostly alone but for the sycophantic phantasma who surround her, constantly back-combing her nerves.
In her palace of filthy black, her bony fingers strain the muck, searching for someone who will not cower when she smiles. Her hands bring back nothing but detritus and her heart remains parched and un-whole.
“It has to be a prince,” she tells the fades as they clown and cartwheel around her.
And so they go in search of a prince who will break the spell. Their mistress is all bone and cannot weep for lack of wet. Her need is their greed so they hunt with teeth and lungs that scream down the night.
They find a lowly man sat in an ordinary place, weeping over some poem. He cannot understand the noise that the wind makes as it blows through his mouth and his mind but he knows that he must search for her.
He reaches her palace, dreaming of madness and art, and he begins to weep again, for the ground is hard and the air spikes his throat.
As she smells his tears, her shrunken heart rejoices. Her skeletal hands lift her robes and she clicks and clacks through the murk, searching for his light. Her body quickens, for a thousand years of dust have made her desire unfathomable.
He sees her through the gloom; her eyes are the sea and he sails and he sails. He takes her bones and he holds them and he sings her flesh back and he sings her heart full.
First published in Occulum Magazine in October 2017.
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