She walked among the dead with soft footsteps. The moon shone bright, half swollen, with white petals blown from dogwoods fluttering in the breeze like her white gown. She reached up to unpin her hair.
Death watched her soft steps along dew wet grass and resisted the urge to touch the black strands falling loose over her shoulders.
The dead souls parted, invisible hands reaching to touch her as she passed, singing with delight in her wake. Her eyes, soft focused, reveled in the dancing lights surrounding her, her ears pricking with a song coming from an other-worldly realm. When she began humming the tune, the dead smiled.
She reached the top of a small hill, under an old, gnarled crab apple tree, and lowered slowly to her knees. She placed the palms of her hands flat against the earth to feel its pulse. Her senses filled with the smells of flowers, and wet grass, and distant rain; she felt the earth pulse with death’s footsteps; she heard the voices of the dead; she saw the stars bright and muted colors illuminated by the swollen half-moon. Her tongue expected to taste the saltiness of tears.
“Owl.” She felt his breath whisper her name against the back of her neck.
She turned to face him, his hooded robe still covering his face, as he dropped his scythe. It clattered to the ground when he reached out to touch her dark hair and a raven called from a tree branch above. In the moonlight his bony fingers filled with muscle and flesh before entwining her hair. She lowered his hood to look into his blue eyes and kissed the salty tears streaking his cheeks.
“Don’t cry Cillian, I’m here.”
“Only for tonight.”
“Always,” she whispered. The dead began fading, stepping into shadows, falling silent among the grass petals, and the raven flew up towards the moon. Wherever her hands reached, his flesh filled out, so all she felt was warmth. His arms enveloped her, pulling her close, pressing her warm body against his.
She leaned back long enough to pull her dress over her head. He kissed her collar-bone, kneading her breasts, and pushed her down on the grass. Under the crab apple tree and moon they made love. Slow as if time wasn’t counting the seconds before his flesh vanished and the dead returned. As the moon arced the sky, edging closer to the horizon, she felt the familiar itch of pin feathers along her arms.
Cillian held her tighter, “Please.” His pleas useless, knowing once the moon dropped, Owl would fly to the tree branches above. His only solace was her cries in the night, signaling another death, until their next dalliance. Until the next night when the curse separating them lifted, he would collect the souls and teach them to sing love songs to her from beyond the grave.