276. Night Falls

The densely layered dark,
A shifting gauze, absorbed
The lantern light that
Brushed their faces weakly,
Shading off.

Riah lay, eyes
Shut, hands crossed on
Waist. On the floor
Beside her, bent
To Riah’s chest,
Her ear cocked,
Sat Louise.

She was straining
For a reed of air, the slender
Stake that pierced and anchored
Riah’s body, that
The pale limbs fell
Away from, but were
Held, that the flesh might
Shudder over,
But be stayed.

That breath–
Hand at Riah’s
Lips, she found it,
Breath must now be
Watched, attended to,
And tended, like
A skittish flame.
Must, as–Louise,
Frowning, leaned in
Closer still–it had begun
To fail.

Licked the tips of Riah’s
Fingers. It pooled
Within the hollows of
Her face. It lapped against
Her skirts, and eddied off
To the far reaches
Of the room.

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