Loni found them at the edge of the wood, pressed up against the trees, looking far away and lost. Asher’s appearance gave her pause - they were covered in dirt from the knees down, and a shovel still jutted from the fresh earth. Fear found her, even in the dark. “What are you doing?”
A cigarette appeared between Asher’s fingers. The lighter sputtered in the evening breeze, illuminating Asher’s tired features for scarce moments. They glanced up at the house, tilting their head to one side in question.
“Kaleo is in bed. It’s a school night.” Loni crossed her arms over her chest, feet planted firmly. “Did you just bury a dead body in my backyard?”
Asher almost dropped the cigarette, fumbling with it, clamping it between their teeth. It would have been funny if not for what was obviously a fresh grave between the birch trees. Scowling, Asher gestured wildly at her - and then again, slower. The frustration worked into every curve of their fingers. It didn’t help that Loni’s grasp of sign language was minimum, and that Asher kept making up words.
“Asher, there’s a shovel. In the dirt.” Loni gaped, exasperated. “You show up in my driveway, and on top of it, Kal swears you were dead - I don’t know what I think, Asher!”
They sighed without sound, body concaving, legs sagging.
Loni jabbed a finger into their chest. “I know I trust my kid more than I trust some dumb - I don’t know what you are.”
Swatting her away, Asher tried to step around and head back for the house. Instead, Loni caught them by the shirt, yanking Asher towards her. Touching them made her skin crawl.
“Uh uh, no. I’ll call the cops.” Loni held one hand up to her ear, imitating. Unnecessary - Asher was completely capable of hearing, but it was hard not to mimic them sometimes. Asher stared. “You don’t believe me? Try it. What’s in the hole, Asher? I know it’s not a hole you know what I mean.”
Asher’s shoulders shook with silent laughter, but it faded, quickly. To nothing. She hated that. How they went from a person to … whatever they were. The creature had shown up face down on Loni’s drive way the week before. Kaleo came to stand on the porch, too quiet, strained, talking about a dead thing.
When the laughter died and Asher’s light slipped away, Loni could believe it.
“What. Is in. The hole.”
inktober 2018. prompt ‘bury the meaning’ from tehartmonkey. photo by matthias heil.