“Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig” by Tonya Liburd
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Tonya Liburd shows us what it’s like to be dead.
You had terminal, aggressive cancer this time, and today was the day you died from it at home.
And now, you’re not sure if you’re dead dead, or some weird state of being . . .
Your deaths were not like what people say; no going towards the light, no meeting your maker. Instead, this particular one was as if your essence withdrew into itself, and, muffled from the sensory input of the world, took residence somewhere inside your skull.
And there you stayed. Until.
You always knew this slumlord of yours in Cabo San Lucas was scum, but you didn’t think he’d dare do what he did; you couldn’t quite make out who he was talking to inside your apartment, but they turned it upside down. All you heard was his talk of selling all your stuff for money as they stuffed you into a 3’x3′ suitcase. You were certain you weren’t dreaming when they manhandled you, and the act of touch seemed to pull you into a wider awareness. But it didn’t last long enough. You were not sure where they took you, but you felt yourself being tossed into the sea.
You bloated. Your corpse broke out of the suitcase, became food for sea life. You couldn’t do anything; you were still trapped in your body.
You would finally be able to get to some resolution when your pale, half-rotted, fish-eaten corpse washed ashore, still on the Pacific Coast. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
A child found you. A child too young to know what they had found; and they played with you.
And something began to work. Every touch to what’s left of your body, a hungry cold lapped heat from little hands. Your awareness widened and widened, freeing you from this death until . . .
A scream heralded your return to the mortal world. You thought. The scream was shocking after being cut off from your senses for so long. The mother found the unharmed child. Your eyes were still there; you opened them. Straining, you sat up, naked, hands clenched in wet sand to keep yourself upright.
The mother’s screams became impossibly shriller. She ran away in a tangle of blonde hair and sandals, her child clutched tightly in her arms.
As your body healed, you contemplated that this was your fifth death in seven months. And in those months you had explored all the possibilities as to why this was happening to you—save one. The family you left behind. Specifically your children, your daughters. Your wife wouldn’t be able to do this. What unique Gifts had since manifested for your girls? They’d be past puberty now. You’d have to account for your absence if you went back . . .
You managed to stand.
You’d better find them before your death count rises to six.
From the US, to Mexico, back to Toronto. Back to family.
They weren’t hard to find; for the most part, they’d stayed put, unlike yourself. You’d asked around and visited one or two family members you could still approach, and saw that your eldest, Janet, was on Facebook. They’d moved from Parkdale to Forest Hill; quite a step up. Wait’ll they find you on their doorstep.
After dealing with a silently hostile maid at the door, and a somewhat less hostile estranged wife, you get to see your oldest. And that’s when your heart fails you, and you seriously begin to regret being absent. You two go to her room upstairs.
Your daughter . . . her Gift . . . it manifested at puberty, like yours did—yours was the ability to disappear into the crowd without a trace—was that anything she wrote, came to be. She’d had a list of twelve—twelve!—ways she’d wanted you to die. You and her talked. You warned her about the risks of having, of showcasing, a Gift such as hers . . . and you two burned the list.
You went downstairs, and the heartache wouldn’t go away.
The might-as-well-be-ex-wife asked you what you’re going to do now. You stopped at the door. You turned back, looked at her, took her in. Just for a moment—a moment—you decide to say you’d like to stay.
“Do what I do best,” you told her, and with that you walked out of their lives, out the door, that ache in your chest getting greater with each departing step.
TONYA LIBURD’s story, “The Ace of Knives”, based in the same world as “Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig”, is in the anthology Postscripts to Darkness 6 (http://pstdarkness.com/buying-pstd-5/), and is used in Nisi Shawl’s workshops as an example of ‘code switching.’ Her fiction has been longlisted for the 2015 Carter V. Cooper/Exile Short Fiction Competition. She is the Associate Editor of Abyss & Apex magazine. You can find her blogging at http://Spiderlilly.com or on Twitter at @somesillywowzer.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Feb 6, 2016
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