Shade Bride is a 400-word, flash fiction allegory of personified death.
Content Warnings: Blood and death.
As we die beneath a winter branch staring at its solitary leaf, she comes to us. Her phantasmal whispers cast under the leaf’s false shade that caps one of our dead but open eyes. Our vows are gasps and aimless reachings toward sudden and distant darkness insurmountable. She emerges from the dark like a solar wisp wrapped in gauze bandages collected from the victims of ancient genocide, stained with the prism of human disease. The garments are loose-fitting. Her arthritic hands curve away from our grasping, built by a sovereign evolution apart from her body, and they are tired from carrying man’s weight. They feign as bloated sunflowers to the sun—we are the moon. She hovers like a bewitched tree trunk, lissome and unsmiling. Ephemeral movements cast dust from her stone face. Her cheeks are chiseled with tributaries of bygone tears from eyes vacuous black.
Grief is eulogized a thousand times by her familiar birthmother scent reminding us that we lived before we died. Her veil is never doffed and is spun of the wound hair of stillborn infants conditioned by womb water—her own hair is dread in pestilence and fragrant of stillwater leaves of seasons passed, when leaves bedizened the branch above us. We admire the contrast and grasp at her rotten toes, ballerina boney and alien, crowned with fungal refuse, and weep upon them. We think she can save us, but she’s wiser to our end.
She drips blood both uterine and breach, of life and death, and she is pockmarked with bullet holes because she exists in the crossfire and within the fragile shade. Her belt is lined with the corrupt ornamentation of the war medals of dead zeroes, each ass-slapped and sent on their way under enormous helmets that outweigh the brains beneath them. When she bends to us, a ring of blasted nickel falls from her finger and lands upon our grassy laps, and we feel the gravity of her divorce and her widowing before our marriage. We cry We do to her willow silence, and she turns away shyly as our breath colors an alabaster mist and our frigid lips quiver. Her typhoid chin tips up, and she stands between us and the leaf. She plucks it away and delivers us unto light and full deadness, and we are hers eternal. In sickness. For worse. With death do us part, and she’s widowed again.