“Akhil…”

The more the night wind buzzes in his ears, the faster he speeds up as if to overcome the memory of that sweet voice that continues to haunt him. Strange. He hadn’t thought about her in sixty years.

His long black tunic flaps like the wings of a great heron as he flies over the Gabarre bridge, empty of all traffic. The Salt River sings under his hand, which he leaves in the water for a few seconds before rising again. In the distance, lightning illuminates a bar of black clouds.

Hovering above the forest, he catches his breath. His long hair of flames tickles his heels. His tense muscles vibrate under the flow of energy circulating between the two worlds. To regain the power of his young vetala years would almost make him regret his choice to live among humans.

The heart of the mangrove beats in slow motion, to the rhythm of Nature exhausting itself to repair the damage caused by pollution. Every year, his nightly aerial tour on November 1st allows him to spot the island’s transformation. Since the cyclone of 1928, he witnesses the frantic race toward modernity. Always more buildings, roads, advertising signs, commercial areas… Always more open dumps, always more leaks in the water network, always more abandoned cultural spaces. In truth, he could have already moved elsewhere. He should have already moved to avoid the chronicle of this announced agony. With each change of body, he thought about it but no other place in the world gave him the feeling of having found his roots.

“Akhil…”

He turns abruptly to Lapwent, whose lights are flickering like candles on a birthday cake. Is it an illusion? With his eyes closed, he tries to locate the origin of the voice, but the current of energy destabilizes him. His powers are not strong enough to control the interference of the spirits gallivanting tonight. He pulls himself together. No, it can’t be her. He would have felt her aura from the moment she set foot in Guadeloupe.

“Ahkil…”

Unless she had passed into the spirit world. The possibility would anesthetize his heart if he had one. He slowly spins around, not knowing which way to fly. The door between the two worlds will close in a few hours and he won’t have a chance to find her again. 

The forest shudders. A green light rises from the treetops and envelops him like a blanket. Isolated in the cocoon of energy of the mangrove, Akhil closes his eyes and slowly inhales this breath of life. The fire of his long hair spreads to the rest of his body. It will take him at least a week to recover from this extreme transformation.

“Akhil…”

Found her.

***

The “for sale” sign on the rusty gate is almost erased. The mango trees lining the gravel path to the villa are bending under the weight of ghostly fruits. No one has ever ventured within 500 meters of this house, abandoned after Cyclone Hugo.

The wild grass barely moves when the fireball passes. Akhil didn’t have time to feed tonight but never mind. The flash of a small light illuminates briefly a silhouette.

It is She. Sitting on a stone step of the veranda, headphones in her ears, smartphone in her hand, she is waiting.

Keeping his original shape, he flies closer to her face. Fine wrinkles testify to the time which separated them. Her locks are now strewn with long grey streaks. But her gaze hasn’t changed. Her smile either.

“Took you long enough,” she states, standing up. Her long white dress underlines her voluptuous body. She holds out her hand as if to touch him, the gesture much slower than in his memories.

She knows he won’t burn her, but he can’t stand her seeing him as this human-like torch.

“I’ll be right back.”

In a second, he takes on the size of a flame and flies into the villa.

***

She waits for him. She stands with her back to him as he descends the small stone steps.

“Man or woman,” she asks without turning around.

“Man.”

“Age?”

“Thirty-five. I’ve had it for five years.”

“I feel even older.”

He guesses her smile. Maybe he chose this healthy, desirable body in anticipation of that dreaded moment.

“You’re still gorgeous.”

“You’re always flattering.”

“Look at me.”

“Do you know why I’m here?” she insists as she continues to give him her back.

For the bitter-tasting reunion she’d offered him. He wraps his arms around her and closes his eyes as she lets herself go against him.

I love you…

I’m sorry…

Stay with me.

I will end my life with you.

Memories of their goodbyes and that promise swirl between them as thunder rumbles.

“…I don’t know if I’m ready,” he admits.

“I am.”

“Are you really sure?”

“I’m here to end my life with you.”

She’s the only one who knows his true nature. The only one who has accepted him as he is. She faces him. The thunder rumbles again.

***

We regret to announce the death of Mrs. Naoma Charbon known as Féfé. Retired nurse. Passed away at the age of 68. This notice is requested by her children Raphaël and Iliana. The funeral will take place at the church of Le Moule tomorrow at 3 pm. The raising of the body…


This was a special All Saints Day mini-writing challenge. I did it in 6 hours from an old oneshot. I actually wrote two more scenes but they are too incomplete to publish. Maybe next year? I hope you enjoyed it nevertheless.


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