Friday, 11 November 2011


She found the letter in a hatbox in the attic:
My dearest Annie,
  I hate writing these words, but as I look at the calendar and see that it is November already I realise that it is almost another year and yet Kirstie is no better.  She languishes in her bed, stirring from it perhaps once a week, and then only to shuffle to the bathroom.  Her nurse says that she eats and drinks but little, and that she sometimes sings to herself in a low voice that is sing-song.  I have not heard this myself, but the nurse seems trustworthy and does not drink more than two bottles of gin a week.  Father suggested to her on Sunday that we should take her out for a constitutional and she swooned!  She did not recover from that for four days and I have politely asked Father to consider her health before making further suggestions.
    She is not strong any more, Annie.  Somehow lying in bed all day and doing nothing has robbed her of her strength as surely as daily calisthenics, twenty-mile forced marches, or perhaps that interminable quilting that your mother has you participate in!  I fear she is not long for this earth, my dear, and I wonder what she will say to the angels when she meets them.
The letter was undated, but on the back was a handwritten note: Kirstie died 17 December.
"Who was Kirstie?" he asked, looking over her shoulder as he carried recipe folders past her and stacked them on the floor in front of the bookcase.  He knew that she wouldn't be happy unless she'd sorted them into the right order on the shelves herself.
"I don't know," she replied, lying.  Kirstie had been her great-aunt, but somehow that seemed like something that didn't need to be said right now.


The second letter was on the floorboards, just slipped under the bookcase.  She wondered what it had fallen out of, but forgot that as she started reading.
My dearest Annie,
  Oh the horror!  I know that Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, and I've even read James's ridiculous little book, The Golden Bough, so I know about all the superstitious little rituals that heathens and savages perpetrate because they haven't learned to see the world for what it is.  But I never expected this!  As the croci came up this year, both purple and yellow and truly lovely to look at, so did Kirstie.  I cannot think what possessed her to return from the dead and re-inhabit that rotting revenant that even now is sitting in the Sitting Room and attempting to drink tea.  She lurches around the house and never sleeps.  When she cannot manage something – and even doorknobs are beyond her as her fingers rot away – she simply bangs herself against it as though hoping to eventually wear down the obstacle and be able to continue on her way.  Father wants to burn her, but I've forbidden it.  Conflagrations, even of zombie relatives, would cause the neighbour's tongues to wag.
   The terrifying thing, Annie, is that she brought the pillowcase back with her.  I'd wondered where it had gone after she died, and someone must have buried it with her: a malicious thing to do, surely.  But now it is back and she uses it as a handkerchief, though it often covers her face in macabre re-enactment.  Annie, I do not know what to do.
  On a lighter note however, your quilt is now on the master-bed and looks absolutely wonderful.  I do admire your handiwork, it has real quality.
"Did we find a quilt up here?" she called, finding nothing on the back of the letter.
"Umm... yes.  It's here.  There was a pillowcase wrapped up inside it."
She turned, and saw that he was holding a yellowed pillowcase aloft for her to look at.  She sighed, very softly, and they both heard the heavy tread on the stair.
"Who could that be?" he said, looking puzzled.  "We're the only ones in the house!"
"That'll be Kirstie," she said.

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