Sunday, July 22, 2012
Jack and Jill: Lily's Story
And you know who you are, don't you?
It began, for me, with a walk in the woods, on the day our mother died, only I hadn't known she would die. It was winter. I saw the two dead children at an old well. Their velvet clothes looked motheaten and old. They were so white, it was like they hadn't any blood. When they looked at me, their eyes were like polished silver. And they were barefoot, in the snow. They were so serious about the dolls they were playing with. The dolls were just sticks wrapped in gauze, with small, porcelain faces glued on top. I don't know what made me recite the nursery rhyme. It wasn't anything dad had taught us, though you'd think, with him being an expert in folklore, he'd have known about Them and warned us.
"Jack and Jill went up a hill, to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill--"
One of the kids stood up and looked at me. He was my age -- I was thirteen -- and he wore a red velvet suit patched with mold. He was holding an old Halloween mask, a plastic rabbit face. His skin wasn't an albino's white...it was like snow. I wanted to run when he said, "You shouldn't talk about them like that."
I said, rude, because I was scared, "Talk about who?"
"Jacks and Jills." The girl frowned. She wore green velvet and a necklace of beetles made of tarnished pewter. "Dead people stuffed with flowers."
The sun faded then, and their eyes glowed. I could see the veins in their skin -- it was like looking at our mom's creepy, ball-jointed dolls come to life. And it suddenly got colder than winter, a chill you find in basements, in stone places. I backed away, whispered, "What are you?"
"We could have been Jacks and Jills. We're only dead things now."
And I heard you calling me. And I ran. I ran away from them. I ran out of that dark place.
And a couple of years later, in a different city, I stumbled back into it.
Do you remember Leander? The boy I loved? He isn't what we thought he was...
(Illustration: Arthur Rackham)