a poem from Issue 34.1

The Design

by Eric Burger

We treated the ghost like a member of the family—fed her cookies and left the video game console on for her at night—but still she proceeded to haunt us. Not with chains and moans but with small, disturbing things. Two of Molly’s socks grew rat heads. A speck on a carrot stick, on inspection, turned out to be a nearly microscopic severed finger. All my unemployment forms were filled out in Dutch. And, as if she had thrown some kind of filter over the whole property, stars were no longer visible from our yard at night. Then nothing was visible from our yard. Just black nothing. That was it. I was fed up. I went upstairs to the attic and sat on the old chest. The ghost appeared in a Victorian-era dress and a pair of stylish, contemporary sandals. Her eyes seemed greyer than before. She sat on a box. “What I want,” she said, “you can’t give me. No one can.” “Then why all the haunting?” I fired at her. “It isn’t haunting,” she explained. “I’m a ghost, a rupture, a non-thing. Everywhere I go I destabilize the material world.” I blinked and was suddenly looking out of her eyes. It wasn’t scary, just a shock. A double-take moment. There was a cheap oil painting on the floor by the chest that I hadn’t thought of in ages. A palm tree in a purple and pink sunset. We couldn’t take our eyes off that sunset and felt an airy sadness in our chest, a fidelity.

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