ghost stories for october, pt. 6

I grew up in a desert of rock and sage, with ghosts haunting the windswept canyons--the ghosts of everyone who died having ever called this place a home. When my lady died, I knew her ghost would find her way back there, and I knew that I'd have to walk through the desolate floodplains to find her. I fancied myself an Orpheus, wandering the desert with a song--her song, our song. I thought perhaps I could bring her back.

I walked the canyon and sang for her until I could sing no more, my throat parched from the unnatural dryness of the desert. I remembered reading long ago that it hadn't always been a desert here. Once it had been green and fertile, but the ghosts filled the wild, and even ghosts get thirsty. They drank until there was no more water to be found, until only the faintest echo of the memory of water remained. I remembered coming here with my lover and telling her that the spot where I now stood was once a grand waterfall. It seemed so implausible.

I found some shade and opened my bottle of water for the first time, and I drank. And that's when the ghosts came. They came at a distance and watched, as if expecting something. I took my time. I was determined not to let them frighten me. I had come here to win back my lover's lost soul. Then, when my throat seemed less parched, I began to sing again, except this time my voice refused to work. The words stuck in my throat. The tune cracked and faltered. And the ghosts, one by one, began to leave.

To this day I tell myself that the last one to leave was not my lady, that I was imagining it. But those eyes--I'd swear I would know those eyes anywhere. But leave she did, and I knew that my quest had failed. I returned from the desert with no water and no voice. And I smiled and told myself that Orpheus also returned home empty-handed.

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