Band of Turquoise
a free short story by Kit Campbell
Alice pulled her sweater closer as she moved into the graveyard. Stray, dead leaves swirled at her feet, and a band of turquoise lay heavily on her wrist. She resisted the urge to play with it, in case that broke the limited protection it gave her. She did not know how much time she had before Amy would realize she had gone, before the turquoise would no longer hide Alice’s whereabouts.
Fear caused her to move faster than she would otherwise. Her goal was the center of the graveyard, a statue of Death standing over his prey. Rumor said the statue had been there since the very beginning of the cemetery, if not before.
In the twilight, the graveyard was empty of other people--living ones, at least. Gravestones rose out of the darkness only to be wrapped back in once Alice had passed. The statue was unmistakable when she found it. She only hoped the rumors were true. She would not get a chance to try again.
And something must be done.
Alice paused at the base, taking a deep breath to center herself. She pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. On it, she’d written a short incantation and her sister’s name. Out of another pocket came a lighter. Before she could lose her nerve, she stepped up onto the base, lit the paper on fire, and dropped it into the statue’s hand.
Behind her, there was sudden silence. Alice had become accustomed to it over the years. Even though she didn’t want to, she looked over her shoulder. Amy floated there, just a little way down the path, more transparent than she usually was.
“Alice,” she said, her voice on the wind, “what are you doing?”
“I’m helping you,” Alice said. “I’m helping us.”
There was a dry laugh behind her, and the scrape of bone on stone. “I have been summoned,” the statue--Death--said, “but I cannot complete the task.”
Alice’s blood—and hope—froze. “Why not?”
Death pointed a bony finger at Amy. “She is still tied to the living. I cannot take her while your bond still exists.”
Amy’s features--Alice’s own--contorted. “Trying to sell me to the underworld, sister? After all the good times we’ve had? After I’ve protected and loved you?”
Alice gave in and fiddled with the band of turquoise. Amy had always been there, aging with her, whispering to her in the dark. Her parents had been concerned about Alice’s obsession with her dead twin, but when they were younger, Alice had liked having someone always there, someone to share things with.
But Amy had gotten more possessive over the years. And now, she’d started taking matters into her own hands. Alice could still hear the squeal of the tires, see the blood, hear the cries and screams. She could still see Amy’s face, triumphant, floating just past it all.
Alice would let no one else get hurt.
“How do I break the bond?” she asked Death. Amy gave an incoherent cry of rage, but Alice forced herself to ignore her. She could not equate this angry spirit to the sister who had stood by her side as a child.
She needed peace. They both did.
Death shifted his grip on his scythe. Alice felt like he was watching her closely, though she could not be sure. “If you are resolved in this,” he said, finally, “it will not be easy. You may very well perish in the attempt.”
“Please, tell me.”
“Your life is what ties your twin to this world.”
He did not elaborate, but he did not need to. On some level, she had expected this. “I see,” she said.
Alice dug through her pockets, her hands feeling heavy. She had a number of ritual components with her, just in case, though she had hoped they would not be necessary. It took her a moment to find the pocketknife, and when she did, she wished she had sharpened it recently.
Amy slid behind her. She reached a hand out, but hissed when she made contact and withdrew. “Alice,” she said, all sugar, “dear sister. Please. Don’t do this.”
“I have no choice. You have driven me to this.” Alice steeled herself, then brought the blade down against her wrist, just above the turquoise. She had to press hard to get the knife to penetrate, but soon--thankfully soon, before she could think better of it--crimson started to run down her wrist and drip down at Death’s feet.
“Alice! Alice, no!” Amy made no attempt to touch her again. “Dearest, please! I don’t want to be separated from you!”
“We may find ourselves together very soon,” Alice murmured, mostly to herself, watching the pool at Death’s feet grow. “You must go, Amy. You do not belong here, have never belonged here. I love you, but you must go.”
“No, no.” Amy wailed. The sound raised the hair on Alice’s arms and neck, but she forced herself to dig the blade in deeper, to speed up the flow of blood.
Alice’s vision began to swim and she sank to her knees at Death’s feet. When the bond between her and her sister--or perhaps between her and the living world--snapped, there was sudden silence. Death had moved, though she had not seen him do it, and the silence Amy usually occupied was empty.
“It is done,” he said.
Alice blinked up, trying to see through the blur the world had become. “Do you stay for me?”
Death reached down, patting her on the head. “I do not stay. But I will come again, when the time is right. Whether that is soon, or distant, I cannot say.”
A breeze blew through Alice’s hair and she knew he had gone, though the statue remained. She managed to pull a handkerchief out of one of her pockets, scattering the rest of the contents as she did, and tie it around her wrist as best she could.
The band of turquoise still sat heavily against her wrist. Alice slid it off, left it at the statue’s feet. Then she rose, unsteadily, and staggered back toward the entrance of the cemetery.
For once, she was alone.