“Danse Macabre / Memento Vivere”
by Bernie Mojzes
You’d think we’d be beyond all this by now.
She bites her lip—not hard—and looks away, embarrassed. Tears? Yes. Just barely.
She pushes my hand away, pulls her dress up, covering her breasts. Covering her shame.
Evelyn. I mouth the name, nearly silently, no more than a whisper. Her name. I taste the shapes of the syllables on my dry lips, echoed in stone at her head where she lies. Evelyn. It’s okay. I promise. Kisses, on her forehead, still damp, on her cheek, at the edge of her eye.
Her tear tastes like salt.
“It’s not okay,” she says. “Oh God. “
“Don’t look at me,” she says. “I’m horrible.”
And I am not? I am older than she is. Too much older? I have learned not to look at my body, shriveled and cracked. Hollowed out. I wish she would not look at me either. Death is not the final indignity.
Close your eyes. Close your eyes.
What is it that drives us, beyond all reason, into each other’s arms? Between each other’s legs? Even now? What strange hunger? What savage, obscene compulsion?
Close your eyes.
When she does, with a soft exhale of useless breath as she lays her head back against the ravaged earth, I kiss her again. Another tear, so precious. So very, very precious. By All Hallow’s Eve next year, her tears will have turned to dust, as mine did. I kiss the tear, feel its residue of life absorb into my lips. I kiss her quivering chin. Her throat. Her breastbone. When I gently pull her dress down again, she shivers. But she does not ask me to stop, and she does not open her eyes.
One by one, I tease the worms, the hungry maggots, from the flesh of her once perfect breasts, crushing them between my fingers. The most intimate of seductions. I smooth the skin of her belly, pale and cold. I draw her dress past her hips and lay it on the ground next to us. There is nothing resident between her legs that might upset her, yet.
I kiss her there, and she gasps.
It’s better now. I mouth the words around my useless, rotten tongue. See?
Evelyn examines her breasts. Only the smallest of holes mark where the worms had twisted and waved. She manages a small smile.
I help her to her feet, help her brush the soil of her grave from her hair. I gesture toward the others, dancing amidst the gravestones under the full moon to the fiddler’s raucous tune.
Shall we dance, Evelyn? Shall we dance, my love?
She draws me close, presses against my body. There is a hunger in her eyes that echoes the throbbing within me. That which survives, beyond life, beyond death, beyond reason. Beyond will. Desire.
It is all we have left.
“Soon,” she says, and she reaches for my hand to guide me. “Soon.”
As dawn threatens the horizon, and the fiddler loosens his bow, I bring Evelyn to a place of rich soil, and of shattered, well-worn bones. Well loved. Grasses grow up around the yellowed fragments. A patch of crocuses. A dandelion, gone to seed.
I write the name in the dirt with a desiccated finger. There is a stone here, as well, though time has worn the inscription into illegibility.
She helped me from my grave. The breath dry on my lips. So long ago.
The wind rustles the grasses, and they yearn toward us. Not Anne any longer. Only desire. Only that maddening need that can never fully be sated, to live, to grow, to love. She is there, in the ground, and in all the things she nourishes. I stroke her dew-soaked leaves gently, run fingers through her soil, and she trembles beneath us, all around us.
Evelyn plucks the dandelion ball and holds it up, facing the impending sun. “She’s beautiful.”
A puff of air through cold, bruised lips, and we watch as she catches in the wind, swirls around us, and flies away.
Much to his embarrassment, Bernie Mojzes has outlived Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Janice Joplin and the Red Baron, without even once having been shot down over Morlancourt Ridge. Having failed to achieve a glorious martyrdom, he has instead pinned his paltry prospects to the penning of prose, in the pathetic hope that he shall here find the notoriety that has thus far proven elusive.