Flicker

I swore that I would never do this. I promised myself. I was never a man noted for his self control, however, and she hadn't been dead very long, anyway.

In fact, she looked nearly fresh. Her skin was an odd color now, not the pale creamy complexion I had grown to love those many years we had spent together. I could still see her freckles, scattered across her petite nose, and her rounded cheeks. They had begun to sink a little, though... her whole face looked, in some way, smaller... less full, as it were. The makeup they had put on her at the funeral was still bright and gaudy, and took away from her beauty, I thought, even in death.

I wiped a few crumbles of dirt from her face, and parted her dull red hair to the side. She was cold, colder than the night air somehow, and I felt the disappointment well up inside me. When I had come to Raise her, I suppose I was expecting a perfectly preserved Sophie, but the tactile shock of finally touching her again was a cold realization. She was very dead.

I sighed heavily, letting the reality of the situation sink in; I had a very long night ahead of me.

Carefully, so very carefully, I moved her. She was stiff and unyielding, and it was some effort to maneuver her up and out of her grave without damaging her further. I slipped a few times in the moist soil, but managed to get up and out, laying her gently on the wet grass near her own headstone.

My hands were filthy, dirt caked so far under my nails I wasn't sure I'd ever get them out. As if sensing my discomfort, the dark night sky overhead rumbled with quiet thunder, and a soft mist began to fall. Not enough to wash my hands, of course, but it comforted me some how.

I sat down next to her, contemplating how to begin this. I wasn't even sure I wanted to. I had promised myself not to use my particular set of abilities in this way, but... this was important. I had to know. She had to tell me. I'd had my suspiciouns, seen him at the funeral, but I had to know.

Mustering up the last bit of myself, I stood, wiping my pants off, though the purpose was a bit defeated with dirt covered hands.

I just stood there, for several seconds, staring down at her lifeless shell while the misting grew to a drizzle. This was always the hard part. I called it 'ignition', because I could think of no better word for it. I closed my eyes, and counted my heart beats.

It was like opening something physical inside of me, as though I had some internal door. I only needed a few quick seconds of complete concentration, and then 'it' came out. I could suddenly smell everything with so much intensity - the rich tang of wet earth, the dry, almost uncomfortable scent of long buried bones, the grass, the trees... even the exhaust from cars on the road about a mile away. I could feel every tiny droplet of water on my skin, rather than a constant soft cascade. I could feel the very slightest vibration of life around me - birds settling in for the night, the miniscule buzz of insect wings.

I could also feel every single grave. It was a sudden cacophony of noise no one could hear but me, like I had suddenly turned the volume off mute on a very loud song. I heard thier voices, echoes of thier lives, thier children's laughter, spouses tears, buried in the memory of thier own bones. I heard thier sorrow too, sadness that they had passed so early, so late, passed at all. I felt thier want of life, the will to life even in the dust of thier coffins.

I did not want to open my eyes, because I knew what I would see. It had always happened like this, but I had never Raised in a graveyard before; I knew that I would see much more this time.

But I thought of Sophie, and recentered myself, reminding myself why I was here. Slowly, as though waking up, I opened my eyes, and felt my breath catch in my throat.

So many fragments, of so many lives, all crowding around me. They were all so eager to show me thier lives and thier deaths, calling for me to chose them, pick them, raise them. I watched for a moment, only because I could not look away.

Countless lives fluttered around me in blurry fragments, like damaged film filtering past a dim light. A woman in Victorian dress, a man in a modern suit, a little girl holding her infant brother, both dressed in rags. A man argued with his father. A woman crying as a man bent on knee to present her with a box. The cry of a baby being soothed by a grandfather. Laughter from parties, even the faint echo of pleasured sighs.

It was nearly overwhelming, and I felt myself begin to slip. My legs were losing feeling, and I nearly collapsed. It was hard, standing so deep in this place between the living and the dead, but again, I thought of her, and pulled myself just a bit farther out.

I used the openess inside of me to will them to silence. The images flickered and faded into fog, and I felt thier voices quiet. I sent a silent apology that I could not help them all, and I felt them answer with a collective sigh. Perhaps another night, I thought.

I knelt down, knees sinking in the mud from the rain I had failed to notice pick up. My clothes were soaked now, my hands muddy, and my shoes so deep I could feel the mud in my socks.

"Sophie..." I called quietly, hearing the hesitation in my own voice. "Sophie." A bit more solid that time.

"Sophie. Sophie." I almost chanted it, and with every breath it grew more solid, more commanding.

"Sophia Marie Clark." Her whole name now. I felt an inaudible pop and looked down at her. It was starting.

"Sophia Marie Clark. Sophia Marie Clark." Over and over again, I don't know for how long I repeated her name. I started to remember little things about her now. She liked her eggs scrambled with salsa. She loved persian cats. She tried knitting me a sweater for Christmas once, and had ended up with sleeves on the same side, somehow. She liked her digital clocks in 24-hour time. She kept her coffee mugs in the second cabinet, not the first. She braided her hair in the summer to keep her cool.

All of these details came flooding back to me, and I felt ashamed that I had not remembered them before. I had not seen her for a few years before she died, but I felt that I should have remembered those things regardless.

It may have been the low light, or I may have been imagining it, but her face looked a bit fuller now. Her limbs suddenly slumped, as if her stiff muscles had finally relaxed. It was time.

I searched around for the little, door-like hole inside of me, and from it drew out... I don't even know what to call it. Whatever it was, I willed it from myself to her, and in doing so, it became nearly tangible.

If I turned my head, I could see it in my peripheral vision: thin, blueish smoke that was there and then not there, there and then gone again. It writhed and twisted in the space between us, and suddenly, as though it had sentience, shot straight down into her still chest.

She gasped suddenly, taking in the first breath since she had died, but no more than that. She made noises, quiet hums, and murmurs. I willed that essence through her, willed her to animate.

Finally, she moved. Her head lulled toward me and her eyes opened, except they werent her eyes. I had remembered them green and vibrant; these were grey and clouded like a snowy sky.

"B..brother..." Her voice was crackily and distant.

I nodded fervently, taking her cold hand in mine, squeezing gently.

"Sophie, it's me, it's Darin." I spoke to her as though it were really Sophie, even though I knew it was just a complex amalgamation of her memories and the echo of what had made her human. There was no real Sophie here. The thought saddened me, but I also knew that her Risen self would still be able to tell me what I needed to know.

I moved a lock of moist hair from her too-pale face. "Sophia, listen to me, pay attention. I need to know how."

She made some noise, and turned her head away and then back to me, as though she were struggling somehow.

"Tell me how." I said, my voice firm.

"No.. He... He took..." The words came out of her so quiet I could barely hear them over the rain.

"Tell me how you died." I said again, willing her shell to speak it.

She began to writhe slowly, like someone who's having a nightmare would in thier sleep, and then very abruptly, let out a scream so shrill I had to drop her hand to cover my ears.

She just screamed, a constant sound because she did not need to draw breath. It was louder than I would have thought her decaying shell capable of. Her frail hands beat against the mud, and her legs dug in as she kicked, and she just screamed. I tried to focus, tried to think of some way to silence her, when I saw it.

Another of those blurry images filtered above her, tinted blue; her last memory. I saw him yelling at her, saw her yelling back. She went to grab her keys, and didn't see him come from behind her. I felt the crack of her skull, felt the pain, saw through her eyes as everything darkened.

I felt my sister die.

My head rung with the vibrant, too-real memory of her death. It was so real and jarring that I didn't even feel it when I slumped over and landed in the mud. I couldn't draw breath into my lungs, couldn't move. All I could feel was the pressure in my head, a faint mimick of what surely must have been her last sensation.

My sister was murdered. My sister was murdered.

I was eventually able to draw myself together, and sat up, looking bleerily over to the body of my sister. She was lifeless again, stiff and without any hint of movement.

Atleast I had gotten my answer.