Crawling in from the twentieth carapace and tickled by real thoughts.
The man with the rifle sat with his head between his knees. Something had happened while he and the girl in the argyle socks were a cross-stitched pattern of limbs and exhalations. The mind that he had found to be so clear and filled only with information required to make decisions and take action on immediate necessities was suddenly stroked by faces and places…memories. His memories of a life that seemed locked in a distant land.
He remembered being ten years-old, following his father around like a curious fox. He remembered eating wild mushrooms for the first time and spitting it out. He remembered Alexandra, his best friend, his only friend. The girl in the argyle socks had found a copy of the letter he’d written and left to her the day he left his home in search of his destiny. Alexandra had wandered onto his family’s land several years back when he was just a boy. She didn’t speak their language at first, but she learned. After half a year passed and nobody had come their way looking for a missing girl, they’d adopted her.
The man with the rifle started to rub his neck as more memories of her filled his head. She was a few years older than he and spent much of the following years with his mother. learning how to sew, cook, and garden. When he grew tall enough to look her in the eye, she had asked his father if he could teach the two of them how to hunt. His father had obliged.
The girl in the argyle socks approached the man with the rifle softly, so softly that he almost didn’t hear her take a seat next to him on the boulder.
“What did you do to me?” he asked as he turned to look at her.
“I opened up your memories,” the girl in the argyle socks replied, keeping her eyes on the horizon. “I didn’t do it on purpose; it’s a side-effect of…”
“Of?” the man with the rifle barked.
“Of what I had to do in order to discover the truth about you.”
The man with the rifle stared at her.
The man with the rifle continued to stare at her.
“Your body died a long time ago and instead of performing the necessary burial rituals to ensure your body and spirit would no longer come back together, someone likely preserved your vital organs, and your heart is in a jar buried in a cool, dark place.”
Alexandra. The man with the rifle stammered as he tried to find words to convey disbelief, anger, and confusion.
“Someone who loved you very, very much must have believed that you would return,” the girl in the argyle socks explained. “That’s kind of how this sort of thing works from what I know.”
The man with the rifle dropped to his knees. The girl in the argyle socks knelt down beside him and placed her left hand in the middle of his back. She pressed her fingertips down, sending a steady wave of coolness through his body. He turned towards her after several moments and gripped the sides of her arms. He put a hand to her heart and then placed one on his own, or where it was supposed to be — and nothing. Truly, there was no heartbeat.
“What happens now? What do I do now? How am I still talking? Still breathing?!”
The honey suckle scent seeped out from his breath. The girl in the argyle socks knew what needed to happen. She convinced her uncle to tell her everything she would have to do in order to lift the animation and death-delay spell. And, though she knew perfectly well that the sooner his body could decay and his spirit could continue on to find a new life the better, she wasn’t willing to let him go like he were any other human she’d come across. As though the time they’d spent together was just a way to make the days go by faster. Plus, she wanted to do it right and do it well. She owed it to him.
“We need to find your heart and the person who wouldn’t let you die completely.”
The man with the rifle got to his feet and embraced the girl in the argyle socks. He asked her if he would get more memories back if their bodies were to entwine again. He knew what home looked like but couldn’t remember how to get there.
“Maybe Alexandra can help us with that; I have a feeling she’s the one who did this to you.”
The girl in the argyle socks pulled away, took his hand, and led him back to the caverns. The man with the rifle lost all sense of time as he watched her pack clothes, supplies, and sent someone to bring the man his belongings.
“I need to talk to my uncle; we’ll leave at first light.
The girl in the argyle socks tamped down tears as she folded as many socks as could fit into her satchel. She didn’t know why it felt as though a million needles were slicing her from the inside out or that the ground beneath her was no longer reliably solid. Maybe when she woke up in the morning, she would be (un)dead instead.