Like a drop of blood submersing and spreading itself through a dark, lifeless pool, the tall, crimsoned figure streamed on in silence.
It had been a cruel winter and the frost had lingered; small icy fingers clawed at the dead in large pits on the outskirts of the city, dug by grieving hands and filled with dread in the autumn.
The hands, and cheeks, and arms of slight bodies pushed up and supported the corpulent ones sagging from above. Strangers misaligned with strangers in a mass of decaying limbs that wrapped and rewrapped around each other finding unwanted, eternal intimacy.
Each year the illness came in waves beginning in spring; each year death awoke as life began.
He rested by a grave where winter’s incessant rain had disturbed the earth, and like pieces of black vegetation rising from diseased tubers, an odd decomposed toe jutted out to meet a bony finger that pointed skyward (as if indicating its last desired destination), or else a nose — suffocating beneath the earthy stench of death — peaked out to take in some spring air.
He crouched and grabbed clumps of hardened earth, breaking them with his slight fingers before letting the dirt fall and scatter over the exposed parts, shielding their shame from the fearful eyes of the living.
The anguish swelled like a dull ache at his side. It wasn’t the first time he found himself questioning the futility of life. A single death, he thought, had poignancy, a backstory; in their last dying sighs, it was possible to see and smell the hopes and dreams that had consumed them.
Dreams smelled like crushed cassis and lavender, hopes were sweet and spicy like cinnamon and was most potent in those who had lived their lives encased in the promise of both.