There was an old woman who lived in the house that stood, thin and forgotten, between the hospital grounds and the churchyard.
If, between the wedding and the birth, you wished, perhaps, for a girl, or wanted, maybe, a boy, the old woman would grant you this favour, for a price. Place your finger in her mouth, push it between her lips, let it rest on her tongue. Close your eyes, count to three. Wish, wish, wish. And try not to scream, try never to cry.
Be good, she said. Be good, as her dry tongue rasped away the blood, as her red lips kissed the wound better, as the burning wax she dripped from her fingers cauterised it closed. Be good now, my daughter, until the birth, and your favour shall be granted.
And so for three months, for six, for nine long months, you were good, you were good, you were so, so good. But were you good enough? Only your child would show, only you would know.
Later, if, between the morgue and the graveyard, you wanted to secure a place in heaven for some dear departed soul, she would grant you this wish, too, for a price. Always for a price. Place your hand in her mouth, push it between her wide red salivating lips, let it rest on that panting hungry tongue. Close your eyes, count to three. Wish wish, wish. And try not to fall, try never to faint.
Be good, she said. Be good, as the blood ran across her lips and dripped, dripped, dripped, from the bottom of her chin. Be good now, my daughter, and hope.
And so you stand by the graveside, handless, and hopeful. Close your eyes. Hope. Hope. Until death, hope.
1. Written on October 2nd, 2018__________patreon. Subscribers get not just early access to content and also the occasional gift, but also my eternal gratitude. Which I'm not sure is very useful, but is certainly very real. Thank you.