1. In afterlife the afterlives die. Some do it alone, others do it in -somes.
2. Afterlives do not end until they are beside themselves, at which point the scene falls apart, the Hot becomes a Body, the Body goes through motions, the Body dispossesses, the Body becomes a Hot…
3. This is called straining.
4. What slipped through your fingers in life is your afterlife brew.
One of Them Parts:
4. Bet and Durie magnetized in life, but they were obstructed. It was a pained attraction with remanence on the other side. They worked it out in a material sphere in afterlife.
3. Bet appeared in a fog of begrudgery, a glassy texture like resin. She wore impossible fabric in a style she’d never found for her form, and so declared herself dead. She drank cider from a coldless pot and went to the porch, expecting a glowing scroll or distant gates. Instead there were dirt, dirt paths and a stranded person she had to know.
Durie was already outside, splayed on the ground like a contented bush. Dread, Bet felt dread. She only approached Durie because they were dead.
Durie looked at Bet with concern, sat up and blinked as if cleaning her corneas. Her eyelashes fell under her eyes, around her nose and on her cheeks like fir needles. Bet waited for Durie to speak, or return to the ground as thousands of spindles.
2. ‘This world is a delay that started with me,’ Durie insisted. ‘I didn’t know I needed you. I thought I could predict it. I thought I could get you from someone else. You knew better though, and it twisted you. Now I’m the one who knows what to do, who has to be patient and generous as you were with me.’
If Durie wasn’t confident this could be pathetic. But Durie was confident. And kinder, and more learned, at odds with Bet’s earned spite.
Bet looked around Durie’s Delay and mapped it with little effort. There were no poisons that were too sweet to detect, or too sticky to spit out. It was true, this was their place.
‘I see that you mean what you say, D. Wait then. I’ll be back.’
Bet paused, and spoke again. ‘You think I was patient. I was rarely patient. When you’re forced to be alone, you tell yourself you’re patient because you have no choice but to wait. I wasn’t noble, I was furious with you. And I was tired. I suppose that makes me even more generous.’
Durie watched Bet run off. ‘Be careful out there, Bet. We’re perceptive, not invincible,’ she yelled. Bet didn’t respond, but she listened.
Durie stayed behind, foraged, made forage soup, kept the cabin and waited for what looked like days in the sky but passed like weeks in the body. The soup simmered restlessly in coldless bowls. Durie had a longing to end and begin. She gave anything for it: endless time, soring joints, repentant vanity. It took hundreds of succulents to shine the floors.
Bet returned after the sixth rainshower in a heavy, shaggy cloak, and sat across from Durie in the cabin’s dining corner. She had contended with reality by having adventures, and finding that she could be hurt and sickened even when she knew where the poison grew. Her favorite teacher’s favorite cliche taunted her: The only way out is through. Bet had paced footpaths into the soil as her ruminations surged and quieted.
‘Why do we still hunger?’ Bet asked, spoon on her tongue.
‘We’re supposed to make a life,’ Durie answered evenly.
‘Are there more rules than that?’
‘We’re supposed to like the life.’ Durie smiled reassuringly. Bet looked her over.
‘What do you feel toward me Durie? I trust your answer this time.’
‘I want you to deal with me, even if I lose, and I don’t think I can want anything else until you do.’
Bet touched Durie’s wrist, the radial artery that had frozen mid-swing. ‘So there’s surrender between us. I had no choice in circling back here. I ran out of escape, and into the front yard.’ Bet laughed at herself.
‘But the separation was necessary. You couldn’t deal with me yet.’
Bet nodded. ‘I always assumed what I’d missed out on with you was a shared bed. Or a family. And there isn’t even a full bed in this cabin. But when I was out, I walked into a clearing with skylight and a jammed radio. Do you know what I really wanted, what I couldn’t detach from?’
‘Yes. A dance. I wanted something very similar when I was too much of a coward, and I still want it. I used to imagine it to the point of distraction. And now I can do it.’
They cried. They stepped onto the slatted porch, and into the dirt. They walked through plummy shadow toward radio bass. From crunk to funk, they danced into aches and delirium.
1. ‘What’s left for us?’ Bet asked, as the last song finished, and they spun in silence. ‘Do we get eternity?’
Durie brushed the needles on Bet’s skin and their visions collapsed.
Liza Wemakor is a Black fem on Haudenosaunee land. She writes speculative romance.