On Monday, Ms. Julaha announced that we would be doing a science project in pairs. Then she put me with the weirdest girl in my class: Greta Geist. This girl was weirdest by a landslide. Like weirdest EVER weird. Greta had been in a coma for a whole year. Now, she never blinked. The teachers were scared of her, and never called on her in class. She had bald spots from twisting her hair. Her skin was see-through, so you could see all her veins and stuff. Probably her organs even. Greta herself could have been our science project.
Ms. Julaha instructed us to sit with our partners and come up with an idea. Greta stared at me, until I got up to go to her desk. Everyone snickered as I shuffled over to Greta’s desk. God, even her desk had a weird smell. It was probably her lunch. She ate dried prunes and bloody cold cuts every day.
I slumped into an empty chair and turned to look at Greta, who still locked me with her unblinking gaze. This was gonna be so much fun.
“Wanna do something about rocks?” I mumbled. That was my only idea. I hated science. I hated all classes actually, and slept through most of them. I was ready for retirement. Some of the kids even called me Old Man Pete. Stupid kids.
Greta, OF COURSE, SAID NO THINGS AT ALL FOR THE LONGEST TIME. I felt myself withering in her chilly stare-down. I didn’t know what to do, so I felt around in my pocket and pulled out a Butter Rum Life Saver candy. It was the only thing that was going to get me through this nightmare.
Greta extended her hand across her desk to me and wiggled her bony fingers. I couldn’t believe it, but she wanted a Life Saver. I popped one off the roll and placed it in her hand stealthily. If Ms. Julaha caught me, I would have to clean the frog tank again, and that frog did not like me. He always peed on my hand.
Greta put the Life Saver in her mouth and almost smiled. It was more like a twitch. We sat silently, and sucked on Life Savers.
Ms. Julaha came by our desk and asked what we were going to do.
I said “Rocks?” and Ms. Julaha thought that was a great idea, and that there were lots of local rock formations that dated back to like, dinosaur times, or something. I nodded and smiled. Greta said nothing. Ms. Julaha handed us worksheets to fill out for our project, then walked over to the next desk. Greta stuck out her tongue to show me she still had her candy. Then she wrote some notes on our worksheet. As the bell rang, she passed the worksheet to me. On it, for our Thesis Statement, she wrote: “We Shall Resurrect the Dead.”
My mouth opened in surprise and my Life Saver fell out. I looked up, but Greta had disappeared.
My mom made macaroni and cheese for dinner but just the package kind. My mom wasn’t into being a Supermom or even Cool Best Friend Mom. She was Basement Mom, in that she liked to read true crime books and smoke in the basement. That’s where she was when Greta showed up in the backyard. I was putting out the trash. I was throwing out the macaroni pot because my mom had burned the noodles, and I couldn’t scrape off the black gunk.
“Good Evening,” said Greta. I had never really heard her talk. Her voice sounded like it was being put through an old record player, all warbly and scratchy.
“Hey, Greta. Whatcha doing in my backyard?”
She held up a small paper bag and handed it to me. I thought it was food.
“I just had dinner, so...” Nervous, I backed away from Greta but tripped on a loose brick on our patio of all-loose bricks.
Greta came close, and opened up the bag. She pulled out a dead sparrow and held it up to my face. The little bird had its eyes closed. A little blood was spent on its head. Shocked, I searched Greta’s frozen blue eyes to see if she killed the poor bird.
“It hit my window this morning, Peter.”
She lay the bird on the grass and pulled out an eye dropper from a black leather bag. She dipped the eye dropper into a bottle of cloudy liquid. On the bottle, the sticker read: for Greta Geist, administer as needed, and then a long word with x’s and like, seven syllables.
“Open its beak,” ordered Greta and I obeyed. I had never opened a beak before. I’d never even touched a bird. I was afraid it would bite, but it was quite dead and the beak opened easily. Greta inserted the dropper and squeezed the bulb. Cloudy liquid shot into the bird.
Greta leaned over and whispered things to the dead bird; things I didn’t understand. She was talking in a different language that I feel like I’ve heard in a dream.
We waited. We sat there on our hands and knees over the bird. At first, I thought I saw its eyes twitch. Then the beak fell open wide, allowing a small “Chirp” to escape. More time passed. The bird spread its wings like an angel. Greta slid her hands under the bird, and lifted it above her head. She released the bird and it flew away, over my crummy house, over the trees, and gone.
Greta turned to look at me. I was crying. I felt so stupid, I buried my face in my hands.
Greta stood next to me and whispered her secret. “I used to be dead, Peter. It’s not so strange. Dead is just over there.” Greta pointed up at the sky, or maybe at the maple tree? I studied both and tried to understand. Greta patted my shoulder. Her hand was ice cold. I looked at her and she slipped her hand into her coat pocket.
“Friday is a full moon. Be ready.” And with that, Greta walked to the end of my yard and disappeared through the bushes.
The next day at school, an announcement came on, interrupting roll call. The whole school was informed that Mrs. Homes, the beloved librarian, had died. Kids cried out, and looked at each other, tears plopping out of their eyes. Our homeroom teacher, Mr. Kong, beat his desk with his fist. That librarian lady was awesome. And now, dead? It was too sad for everyone.
All I could feel were Greta’s eyes boring a hole in the back of my head. I didn’t want to look at her. I refused to look at her.
“The funeral will be held Friday,” said the Principal over the PA.
Friday, Friday, Friday. I gulped.
I left class and went to the water fountain. I was so thirsty. I stood there drinking for the longest time. And when I finally stopped, Greta was waiting for me, her eyes shining.
“Destiny!” she exhaled.
It did seem pretty destiny-ish.
Mrs. Homes was so the best. She stocked our library with comic books and fantasy novels. She knew scary stories and would freak us out every Halloween when she turned the library into a haunted house. She’d pop out from behind a shelf, her face all bloody, an eye hanging out of her head, and chase us to the check-out counter.
Resurrecting Mrs. Homes seemed like the right thing to do. That’s why I did it. Everyone was so sad with her gone. But it wasn’t even that. I guess, if I had to admit, I had a lot of faith in Greta. I felt kinda cool that she wanted me to help, that she trusted me. Ugh, stupid kid, right?
On Friday, it was only a half day of classes. Then we all went to the funeral. We watched them put Mrs. Homes into the ground that afternoon.
We dug her out of the ground that night.
I thought I’d have to do the majority of the digging because I’m a dude, but Greta took the lead. She didn’t want Mrs. Homes to “putrefy” any further, and that we’d have to work fast. She pulled out a shiny silver shovel with a collapsible handle. I brought a smelly rusty shovel that the neighbors used for their pit bull’s poop.
“Where’d you get a neat shovel like that?” I asked.
“It’s my father’s,” said Greta, frowning. “I stole it from his kit.”
We dug for a long time. It was a pretty big job for a couple of twelve year olds. I’m not exactly athletic, and I didn’t bring my inhaler, so I’m ashamed to admit that Greta did the bulk of the work. Her wiry arms flew, lit by moonlight, dirt cascading overhead. It looked like a ballet. Finally, I heard the sound of the silver shovel hitting wood.
Did you know they lock coffins? I didn’t. But of course, Greta did. She pulled out a crowbar and popped the lid.
The moon oversaw our dark deeds that night. When we propped up Mrs. Homes’s head and opened her mouth. When Greta released a whole vial of the cloudy mixture into Mrs. Homes’s mouth, then massaged her cold white throat so the fluid would find its way down. When Greta whispered her strange words into the bitter night air. When we waited for signs of life. When we heard someone coming. When Mrs. Homes eyes popped open, wild with anger. When Mrs. Homes lunged at Greta, and Greta went limp in those gnarled, strangling hands. When I hit Mrs. Homes with the shovel so hard she bounced in her coffin. When I dragged Greta out of the grave. When we ran away from the flashlight beam, and the “Hey, who’s there?”
“What is your project thesis?” asked Ms. Julaha.
“How rocks are different?” I managed. Greta said nothing, but she crunched down on her Life Saver so hard, it made my teeth hurt.
“Are you eating candy in my class, Greta?” asked Ms. Julaha. Greta looked up and you could see the darkened pits under her eyes, the veins beating so hard in her temples, blood rushing around desperately to keep her alive.
Ms. Julaha hands trembled as she slowly turned away from us.
They found Mrs. Homes’s grave had been tampered with. “Desecrated” was the word the Mapletown Reporter used. And the worst thing, Mrs. Homes wasn’t inside her coffin anymore.
We’ve been wondering where she might be...
Issue #6 CONTENTS
MAKE DO AND MAKE MEND
STORM CLOUD RAIN, GRAVEYARD DIRT
THE BLUE BOY
MURDER AND CRUELTY FREE
S Van Sickel
A PROPER FOUNDATION