The psychic is tired of tarot and seances. She needs the visceral certainty that only comes with physical means, so she ignores her nausea as she leans over the first body. He wears a tattered vest and trousers, his feet are bare, and everywhere his skin is covered with smallpox blisters. The smell, worse than any sewer, doesn’t come from him only. It’s the smell of disease, of too many dead competing for space, and it hovers around the graveyard like a cloud from underground. In a motion opposite to the usual sign of respect, the woman brushes her hand over his eyelids to open them. She does so with unease, but epidemics won over propriety and respect a long time ago.
The grave diggers certainly don’t care: behind the white statue of an angel, they are playing with bones and a skull, tossing them like in a game of skittles. After stuffing her gloves into her corset to keep them safe from blood stains, she plucks out the eyes, body after body, until she holds a dozen in her embroidered pocket. She puts her gloves back on.
At home, she strings the eyes into a necklace, sews through the slick matter with the same needle she uses to mend dresses. Pressed together, the eyes come alive. They twist and turn, uncomfortable around the string, while the irises move around to take in the new space. They can’t see it, because they were never alive and here at the same time. All they can hold are memories. The psychic can feel them twitching as she settles the necklace around her delicate neck.
She dreads the suspicious looks that will be pointed her way, but to truly look for her daughter she needs more than her own two eyes and her own limited present. It has already been a full week, and the missing child announcement in the newspaper [STRAYED, half past two o’ clock, Sunday afternoon, LITTLE GIRL, 5 years old, dressed in blue silk dress, brown hair, wore boots. Information to be given at…] got buried among all the other lost and found of silver lockets, and watches, and overcoats, and sheep, and pigeons.
When she roams the streets among the fog of soot and smoke, the necklace lets her see into different crowds. A woman walks into a shop, while the shopkeeper is having an argument with someone in front of that same entrance; a crow picks at an abandoned bone in the empty street; a silent carriage hurries past her from a few days earlier. With every corner she turns, she looks for the glimpse of a ribbon in curly hair, of small feet tripping over each other.
Giulia Moriconi is from Foligno, Italy, and graduated with a Creative Writing degree from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Artwork: Laura Makabresku