Alethe's Account

GERMINATION VII

It begins with an itching.

It is that terrible knowledge, the secret of your own ending; it infects you, takes root, poisons you down to your bones. It comes up from the soil and burrows through your feet. It wraps its fingers around your heart.

Where they itch, they grow.

I am spitting branches and pulling them from my nostrils and ears. I feel them behind my eyes, pressing. The woods have gotten into me, and no fire or smoke will eradicate them.

I pull twigs from under my fingernails. Blood and soil they come out. Flesh and keratin they grow back. I must keep moving. I cannot stop moving. If I stay in one place too long the roots will grow out from my feet and bind me where I stand.

Am I afraid? No. I know this is not how I die. A part of me is only waiting for the axe.

It is that knowledge and desperation that drives me toward the estate, the Madigan house, towards him. For all my dragging journey there is only one thought which drives me.

I will not go quietly.

I will not go quietly.

I will not go quietly.

Castile answers the door. Not a bruise or a broken bone. He sees the question in my eyes.

“I am not myself anymore,” he tells me. “Come in.”

He leads me inside, through the foyer and the parlor and down the long stairs to the basement corridors. There is no one here.

“Where is your father?” I ask. “Your family? The servants?”

He does not answer.

Castile bends double and coughs out twigs and branches. I notice they are creeping up through his fingernails.

“What is happening to us?” I ask him.

“Does it matter?” he replies. Hazel is stretched on the floor, covered in earth and soil, shriveled and corpsey and wrong.

“They didn’t bury her right,” he says. “So I dug her up again.”

“You were in love with her,” I say.

“No,” he says. “But I knew her. And she knew me.” And he looks at me with his black and piercing eyes. “Do you want to know her, too?”

I saw her in her bedroom, I saw her echo in the woods. Is she trapped there now?

Castile is looking at her sadly. He brushes her hair from her face.

“She deserved better than this,” he says.

“She deserved better than you,” I say.

“No one deserves anything,” he replies. “Shall we get to work?”

The banging has stopped.

I can't stop coughing.