“Anywhere but nowhere.”
A melodious whisper, her voice trickled through the semi-darkness with rather more authority than she herself.
She drifted in her attempt to sit, like a jellyfish in the abyssal depths. Her luminescent figure, all loose skirts swirling, stole the eye. The place where her feet ought to have been was nothing less than empty. It didn’t matter.
My eyes followed up her long, slender legs to a torso the same. The curves of womanhood were still evident despite her deceased state. Cresting the summit of her breasts was as difficult for me in her departure as it would have been in life. Still, one always moves forward, for to do otherwise is to stagnate.
“Anywhere but nowhere.” A rustling leaf in an autumn tree.
Her words snapped me from my reverie, and on impulse I permitted my gaze to lift to that which, in truth, I feared. This fear, however, proved unfounded.
I once was gifted the opportunity to turn my eye to heaven in the form of an amateur astronomer’s telescope. “Just twist and point,” he’d said matter-of-factly. When he left, I set to doing as he said to a constant blurring of slate grey and charcoal; there wasn’t a star in sight.
Here, this almost-night, that same feeling of disappointment, of being robbed of something special reoccurred.
She wore a hood, or cowl of sorts, not unlike that of the jellyfish stylings I’ve already alluded to. But whereas those ethereal creatures of the deep glowed from beneath, like the dawn sun prior to it rising above the horizon, she radiated only darkness. So deep was this absolute black I imagined having touched it would have been akin to pressing my hands in a tar pit or laying one’s face upon a black, velvet pillow. All the softness of the world resided there, yet with nothing to show for it.
“Anywhere but nowhere,” she repeated.
My heart melted.
The ghost, spirit, though never spectre nor apparition, appeared seated in the same chair, legs crossed and face covered every evening from that point onward. She never moved. She never once threatened or scared. The tantalising figure became as much a part of my life as food or water, which perhaps explained why I stopped taking both.
She became an obsession. I wanted her to say something, anything. In this, she failed to comply. No matter how I prompted her with words of my own, even dared to stroke her leading leg once, she remained intransigent. Not that she came across as stubborn, or argumentative even, rather, incapable of expressing herself in any other way.
Anywhere but nowhere became our thing, like lovers with a favourite song. She never failed to utter it at least once an evening, and I always but always listened.
And so, the days departed as twitched flickers of gold, and the night took a hold of my person. I became as a bat with her my point of echo. If she wasn’t there, my radar failed, and I might have stepped straight into eternity.
I grew so weak as to never leave my bed, not that anyone would have known. The mansion was mine and mine alone, my siblings and parents long since dead. The fire had taken most of everything except the mouldering East Wing, my wing. Even the Devil himself would have had a job incinerating something so damp. The rest of them were less fortunate. Or more so, dependent on your view. My hair grew long, my nails, too. A strange torpor took me. Time dragged. Until…
I was so shocked I almost fell onto the decrepit floorboards. Had she forgotten the rest? My head cocked to one side with a sickening crunch of vertebra on vertebra, like a rusty robin. There was no pain. I was long past such things.
“Anywhere,” she repeated.
“But Nowhere?” A place, rather than not one.
Three little letters in a nondescript word, but one which meant so much.
“Anywhere it is then.”
She lifted from the seat like a dandelion seed in the wind, her cowl falling to reveal hair like sheeted silk. Two sparkles for eyes pulsed from the void. An arm extended. And even though there was no hand to take, I grasped on to something, somewhere, anywhere, but never nowhere. And I smiled for the first time since it happened.
It didn’t matter who she was, or where we were going, only that we did. Nowhere was the place we left behind. Anywhere was just the next step.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
I find it reassuring to believe someone nonjudgemental will be there for us at the end. I hope you do too.
Richard M. Ankers is the English author of The Eternals Series and Britannia Unleashed. Richard has featured in Expanded Field Journal, Love Letters To Poe, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, and feels privileged to have appeared in many more. Richard lives to write.