Sometimes the darkness and I burn in the lights.
The ghost says it is sorry. It says, “I cannot control these lights. This part of the garden does not belong to me.”
We walk by giant plantcakes. Green leaves and red flowers sit atop them like frosting, and my stomach rumbles.
The darkness crackles. The ghost asks, “What did your friend say?”
I tell the ghost that the darkness said that it’s okay about the lights, that they don’t really hurt all that much. But of course that’s not what the darkness actually said. I try to not think about what it actually said, because I think that maybe the ghost can hear my thoughts too.
My stomach rumbles again.
The ghost says, “You can’t eat the plantcakes. Well, I mean, I guess you could, but then you would have to answer to Her.”
The ghost’s stomach rumbles too. I’m not sure where it keeps its stomach, but I definitely hear the rumble.
The ghost says, “I really am not going to eat you. If I did, I would have to answer to Her too.”
The ghost says, “I do want to, though. Quite a bit. I mean, no offense, but you look very tasty and I haven’t eaten anything in hundreds of years. The void in you would taste like death, but well, maybe I could just eat around it.”
The ghost says, “Actually that’s why I brought you here, to Her part of the garden. To help me remember to not eat you. Because I don’t really want to. You seem nice and I like you. And I haven’t had anyone to talk to in centuries. We get visitors fairly often, but they have silent minds and mouths that speak nonsense. It is no loss to feed them to the hedges. Except that I wish I could eat them instead. But I can’t. I can’t eat anything.”
My stomach rumbles again. The plantcakes look moist and sweet, and it has been so long since the fish in the desert.
The ghost looks at me. It opens its mouth wide, and its pink translucent teeth grow longer.
The darkness crackles. I grip its hand of ashes, and I try to not think about what it said.
Sometimes the darkness and I float among pink flowers.
The ghost is sitting on the edge of the pool. The night sky and the tops of the trees glow pink through its upper body. Its teeth are back to their normal size.
I am trying to control my thoughts, but it is very hard. I think of questions to ask the ghost.
I ask the ghost, “Why are you pink?”
It answers with its own question. “Why do you have the void in you? It’s not going to get into the pool, is it? She wouldn’t like that.”
I look at the darkness, floating next to me. Its ash skin is dark gray and wet.
I get out of the pool. I sit next to the ghost on the edge.
I say, “The black is me, I think. I didn’t always have it. But I need it now, or I get really dizzy and I can’t breathe.”
The ghost says, “I haven’t breathed in forever. I miss it. Do you eat things? I really miss eating things. Especially barbecue. Barbecue was the best.”
I think about eating. There was the fish back in the desert, and the apple before that. But the fish and the apple were so long ago.
I haven’t eaten since the black showed up under my skin.
I say, “I don’t get hungry really.”
The ghost says, “That’s too bad. I think that if I was alive I would eat all the time.”
We sit in companionable silence for a while. The darkness floats behind us, its ashes….
But I can’t think about that. I bury the thoughts about the wet ashes with thoughts about apples and fish and chocolate milk and the smell of barbecue and the giant blue pig. My stomach rumbles.
The ghost looks at me, its pink eyes wide.
It says, “YOU!!!! You were the one who barked at Her!!!!”
Sometimes the darkness and I revisit my regrets.
I don’t know why I barked at the pig. Or should I call the pig Her? I guess if it has a name I should call it by its name.
Okay, I am sorry that I barked at Her. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t know what would happen.
But I did it anyway.
The darkness crackles. I think it’s saying to not blame myself, that it’s not my fault, that I didn’t know.
But none of that matters. What matters is that I barked at Her, and now it has to oink forever in the blood red suburban streets instead of being here in its garden with its ghost friend.
The ghost says “We’re not friends. Not like you and your companion here.”
Am I friends with the darkness? I guess so. I don’t know if it counts if you don’t have anyone else to talk to, but maybe it does.
The darkness crackles again. If there are words in the crackle, they aren’t ones I can understand.
The ghost says, “We were supposed to get married. Our families were rich and noble and all that sort of thing, and we were supposed to unite the family fortunes. But she didn’t want to. She had a lover.”
The ghost says, “Her mother was a terrible witch. When she found out about her daughter’s lover, she turned both her daughter and the lover into giant blue pigs.”
The ghost says, “I understand that you didn’t know what would happen when you barked at Her. I didn’t know what would happen when I ate the barbecue our servants made from the giant blue boar I killed either.”
A breeze blows through the garden. There’s a hint of the smell of barbecue on it.
Sometimes I float on my back and I gaze up at the dark sky. There are many stars in the spaces between the clouds.
I listen to the human and the ghost as they talk about giant blue pigs and regret. I am thin and empty, and I do not know what regret is.
I float in the water, where the lights of the stars do not reach, and my skin begins to change.
Sometimes the darkness and I listen to the water falling from the fountain at the end of the pool.
The ghost is talking, telling its story of love and deceit and curses and many plates of blue-tinged barbecue. It says that the giant blue pig doesn’t allow it to eat anything, not since the blue barbecue.
I remind myself that the giant blue pig’s name is Her, and that I should call it by its name.
I suppose I can understand, a bit. The ghost killed and ate Her’s friend. I’d probably be upset too if someone killed and ate the darkness. I don’t know if I would curse them to an eternity as a pink transparent ghost who cannot eat anything, but I would be pretty angry.
The ghost pats me on my hand. It says “You do look so very tasty. Even with the void inside you.”
I am not really sure what to say to that, so I say, “Thank you.”
It asks, “How did you get the void inside you? You said you didn’t always have it.”
I listen to the fountain. The water tinkles like bones.
I don’t think about the darkness now, lying in the water. I think about it before, when it wore the gray bones and it told me it liked me as I was.
I say, “I ate an apple.”
Sometimes my stomach rumbles, and I remember the apple.
I was so hungry then.
I feel the ghost poking around inside my mind. It sees the apple too, and it draws in a long breath.
I didn’t know it could breathe.
It says, “I can breathe if I want.”
I look at the memory of the apple. It glows in the morning sun. It is round and red and beautiful, and I don’t regret eating it. I don’t.
Even if I almost bled to death internally. Even if the darkness had to fish me out from the deep blue.
Even if the darkness had to give me some of itself to save me.
The ghost breathes again, a sharp sudden intake of air. It jumps up from the side of the pool.
I allow myself to think about the darkness, lying in the pool with its skin of ashes. I allow myself to think about the ashes changing.
The ghost’s screams break the quiet peace of the memory of the garden at dawn.
Sometimes I am floating in a pond in the garden of ghosts and pigs, and I am becoming a skin of death.
The human thinks that maybe I do not count, if it has no one else. Perhaps then the human does not count either, since I have no one else.
I do not know what regret is I do not know what love is I do not know what a friend is.
The human is telling the ghost about the apple, but the ghost thinks only of tearing teeth and the taste of flesh. It wants the apple. It wants the human. It wants and wants and wants, but it is frightened of the dark.
As it should be.
Maybe I do not count, but I am all that the human has.
I see the ghost look at me. It sees how I have changed, how I am wearing death, and it screams.
Sometimes I am the void.
I look at the black under my skin, and I look at the darkness. Its ashes have become lye.
It rises from the water. The ghost screams and screams, and I know now that the darkness and I are the same.
The ghost is saying that it wasn’t going to eat me, promise, and that it’s sorry and it didn’t mean it and to please not burn it. I didn’t know that pink translucent mist could burn, but maybe it can.
I want to tell the darkness to stop and to let the ghost go, but I don’t.
I am looking at the black. The black that is under the lye that the darkness is wearing. The black that is under the human skin I wear. The black that is woven through the grass, hidden inside the bushes, running through the veins of the trees. I look at the fountain, and I see the black through tiny cracks in the statues of the children. I see it in each drop of water that falls from the basin.
I look at the ghost, and I only see pink translucence.
I open my mouth to speak, but before I can say anything the garden fills with an overpowering scent of barbecue.
I hear an oink.
Sometimes, when everything has gone red and the air is thick with the smell of barbecue, the darkness and I scale the face of a god.
There is no black in Her. There is only blue skin and the oinking.
The ghost is somewhere below us. It is still screaming.
I am not very good at climbing giant blue pig gods, but the darkness cannot offer its aid. Its lyeskin would burn me.
I notice that its skin is not burning Her.
I ask ,“Why are we climbing a giant blue pig god?”
The darkness makes a gurgling noise that is almost words. I’m not sure what it said.
At least it’s not crackling anymore. I think it must be beginning to recover from giving so much of itself to me again.
I look back down at the garden. It’s all red now. The ghost is a screaming dot of pink in the sea of red far below us. I think that really it is friends with the giant blue pig, since Her came to save it when the darkness was about to burn it.
I struggle to find a foothold on Her’s smooth blue skin. I think about how far the drop down to the red garden is, and I think about the darkness giving itself to me so I can live.
I can’t fall.
My foot finds a solid ridge of giant blue pig lip, and I swing myself up.
The darkness makes the gurgling noise again, and this time I can make out the words.
The darkness says, “We have reached the end of this universe.”