Another of my pieces. This one was published in Hotel Amerika, the TransGenre issue, 2010.
Copyright reverted to me after first publication. I’m not sure how many people read it the first time, which is why I’m re-publishing here. ALL THANKS TO HOTEL AMERIKA for giving this piece a home.
by Marianne Villanueva
I dreamt about my sister, dead these many years. It seemed she was in a place of ghosts. In my dream, I put my face up to hers and kissed her cheek and said, “I’ll always be your sister.” But she turned her face away and closed her eyes. Her cheek was cold.
I said, “Do you want me to take you away, dear? Come, come! Let us go!” But she only looked sad and didn’t speak.
My son was with me but in my dream he was a young boy. I mean, my son at seven, not the way he is now. He was impatient with my sighs and tears and wanted to get away from that place. He was bored.
I gave him a pencil and told him, “Draw!” He took the pencil obediently. He drew. But it seemed to cost him great effort.
Now and then I would peep at what he was drawing: a series of empty rectangles. I asked him, “Why don’t you put people in your drawings? See, here, and here, and here. They’re all around us!”
He looked up and slowly I saw understanding dawn on his face. He filled his drawings with the outlines of people. I understood then that he, too, could see them, these ghosts.
I told my sister: You are under a spell. You should never have gotten married. She nodded, but she didn’t seem to want to do anything about it. Eventually I left, I left my sister there in that cold white house in the middle of a barren plain. The landscape looked like that of a northern country, all bare brown fields as if struck by winter. All white trees.
In the back seat of my car was a white box. It made an angry buzz. I wanted to throw it away but I couldn’t because I knew somehow that there was something in that box that belonged to my sister.
When I got to my own house, after a journey of some distance, I took the box out but now I felt it contained something evil, I wanted to get away from the box but I felt some sense of loyalty, too, because in that box, possibly, were pictures of my sister.
Eventually I forced myself to open it. Inside was a collection of photographs. My sister was in all of them, but around her were people I didn’t recognize. They were on either side of her, staring straight at the camera. My legs felt numb. There was a terrible ache in my chest and my cheeks were cold.
A leaf had turned. A leaf had fallen. It was a Thursday in September, I saw from the calendar on my desk. The 23rd of September.