How am I supposed to know what is real? Does it matter? Does time exist, or is there a place in the mind where all things converge, past, present, and future? In that place, can you see both your start and your end?
I feel they must be hidden from us deliberately. Our deaths. I do not know how we could bear it if we could behold the seam in the circle of our lives.
So mine is to be violent and bloody. An axe, I thought. A murder, it seems. I am to be murdered, and my ending does not look much different or any older than I am now. So it is approaching fast.
I hope I know who does it. I hope I take him with me.
I shall finish my unlikely account of what happened at my sister’s funeral. No one is to read this, which is just as well, because no one would ever believe it. But I feel I must leave some fossil of myself behind. I refuse to be one of those little mouse people who fade softly away. If I must go, I will go with a scream the whole world will hear.
I followed Castile to my sister’s room, enraged that he would dare to trespass upon her space. I always thought he was a horrid little skink of a man, and yet Hazel had given him her friendship for years and years. I thought I knew Hazel as well as anyone, but there was always a wall between us. I had a suspicion Castile had managed to breach that wall, had done what her own sister could not, and I hated him for it.
I felt a distant thud. A heavy strike. Then another. It was the sound of my father chopping wood for the fireplace, but it was coming from Hazel’s room. Each blow was accompanied by a soft human noise, a sob or a cough, I could not tell which.
The door to my sister’s room was ajar. I flung it wide, half-ready to meet my own demise. If Castile was to be my murderer, my father’s axe the killing weapon, well, I almost found that fitting.
Instead I found that my sister’s room had become a thicket of ghostly branches, thick, thin, knotted, twisting over and around themselves and each ending in a bright, white, stabbing point. They had invaded her wardrobe and torn her clothes to ribbons. They had split her headboard in two. And Castile stood among it all, in his funeral clothes, his overcoat discarded upon the floor, a frenzied blur of motion in his black waistcoat and untucked shirt as he swung my father’s axe again and again into the invading woods.
In an instant I went from wanting to kill him to wanting to join him. Something was trying to claim my sister that had no right to her, and I would not let it.
Then my gaze drifted past Castile to the figure standing beneath the window. I do not think he noticed it. It was a facsimile of Hazel, shaped from contorted branches, her white, sharp-fingered hand reaching out to me, and though the mannikin had no face, I thought I could feel her gaze.
All this in an instant, before Castile twisted and the swing of my father’s axe shattered Hazel’s wooden ghost to splinters.