The lyrics were lost decades ago. The tune lasted longer. It was a slight, charming melody, one she’d written as a child, and all she wanted was to keep it. But every time she heard new music, it ate away at the memory of her song.
She let go of everything else to hold onto it. If all she had left was her soul (not that she’d ever believed in such things while alive) then she twisted that soul into quavers and rests.
Eventually all that was heard of her was a quiet, three-note hum. It still stuck like a splinter, though. Men and women carried it home, and it helped fill the silence.
He liked to enter men once their blood was already boiling. He’d watch until an argument spiked, then he’d ride their breath inside and coil himself around their thudding hearts.
He wouldn’t stop until the target of his rage was cowering before him, whimpering like a beaten dog. Afterwards, once he’d been breathed out again, the men he possessed would break down and cry. I don’t know what came over me, they’d say.
He’d hum with adrenaline for hours afterwards. He was doing them a favour, anyway. After his visit at least they knew they were alive. They had blood and broken bones as proof. He only wished he’d been able keep his scars.
The watch hasn’t been wound in fifty years but it keeps perfect time. That’s because she lives inside it. She sliced away long, tattered pieces of herself until she’d fit – memories, mostly, gone – and she curled herself between the gears and springs.
All she wants is time to keep moving. Her life hadn’t been a happy one (she still remembers that at least) and now she’s obsessed with eternity. She swings her hands around the dial, counting each second as it falls away into the past.
It’s all that keeps her sane. If she feels her face tilted up towards someone’s gaze, she wants to whisper that one day, soon, this will all be over. Whatever she has instead of a mouth just says tick tick tick.
When the house was closed to the public, the only one there was the cat. He’d make her jump, chase her from room to room. It made the nights less lonely.
During the day, though, he held his breath. He was careful not to creak floorboards or drum his fingers on a windowpane. The tourists shuffling through were desperate for him, and the more they wanted a haunting, the less he wanted to give it to them. He still had his pride.
Some arrived with expensive cameras, babbling about “infrared” or “ultraviolet”. Sometimes they claimed to know his name. His real name. It would make him so happy to hear it again, spoken by wet tongues and warm lips, but they were always wrong.
At least the cat knows.
Hospitals provide too much temptation. All those newborns, clustered together, crying and wide open? How could she resist? She picked one – a boy with a thatch of dark hair – and nestled herself inside.
That was thirteen years ago.
Thirteen years of hearing that boy’s voice mumbling to itself in the dark. It took great focus to keep him locked away at first, but his spirit must’ve since been broken. She doesn’t think about him, most days. She’s too busy living his life.
At night, however, his jealousy seethes like hot oil. He claws at whatever he sees in her dreams, and he screams the screams of one who never learned to speak. She promises herself she’ll let him go free, one day. Whatever’s left of him.
He died painlessly and surrounded by family. He doesn’t quite know what he expected after that – rushing tunnel, bright light? – but whatever it was, it never came.
His brother and sisters are dead now, too, as are their children. He died young, and later so did they; he wondered if his presence induced bad luck but couldn’t make himself stay away. Family meant everything to him.
He sat vigil beneath the earth, watching them rot away. No ghosts appeared.
The last of his family to die was his nephew’s daughter. She was sixteen, bright, again unlucky. He felt her last breath on his face, and followed her all the way to the crematorium, sitting with her in the flames until nothing was left.