The ghost manifests in front of her
As she stands in the cemetery in Pomuch
His body sheds water, phantasmagorical sweat
The drops melting away to nothing
Where spectral meets tangible
He carries an obsidian knife, a compass
And the tools of his trade: spades and brushes
To sweep dirt off the ruins he spent his life unearthing
Brushes not terribly different than those
Used by the descendants of the Maya
In this cemetery, on this Dia de Los Muertos
To clean the bones of their familial dead

He roars at her but there’s no sound
He reaches for her but can’t grip
She killed him and he can do nothing
Except follow her around

An old woman eases bones from a box
Removing dusty cloth, layering in a new white one
Embroidered with reds and greens, yellows and pinks
She picks a bone, inspecting it, her face
A study in reverence, her brush strokes smooth
This task doesn’t unnerve her
She’ll do it every year, for this
Celebration of Hanal Pixan
The Maya day of the dead because those
Who aren’t tended may walk, may…haunt
The way her father does her

He wanted to be obeyed, so she did what he told her
He wanted to keep the cache of codices they found a secret
Doling out the six dozen so his fame never died, but at what cost
To science, to those who studied the Maya — and to her?

So she pushed him into a cenote
She’ll never forget his yelp of surprise
His doormat of a daughter
Daring to put an end to his reign of terror?
He died slowly, loudly: drowning isn’t pretty
The guilt fresh even though it was five years ago
Because he won’t leave her alone
Although his rage seems to ease with each visit
To the codices — all of them, in the hands of epigraphers
Who daily add to the store of knowledge
Even dead, he cares about that

Does he haunt her or does she hold him to her?
She let him disappear without a trace
She got away with it because she was known
For her devotion — foul play was never in question

It didn’t hurt that she said he drank to excess
His bombastic temper was already known
Surly anddrunkenly clumsy — such a tragedy
The jungle swallowed any trace of him just as it had
The Maya cities — she re-discovered the codices once enough time passed
The ghost stabs at her, in one hand an obsidian dagger
His lucky stingray barb in the other: neither connect, of course
Does she wish they would? He never drank anything stronger than the local
Cacao, thick and bitter, much like him — but what’s one more lie?
Now she wanders the cemetery, where some graves sit untended
With room for him — she can dive the cenote, drag him up, hide his bones here

The residents of Pomuch wait three years before bringing
Bones out to be cleaned and she’s waited even longer
He could rest easy here among the Maya dead and
Maybe she’ll let them both finally find some peace

[Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle. In addition to being an avid reader, she’s passionate about horse racing, tea, whisky, ASMR vids, and creating weird tacos. She has work appearing in Nature, Escape PodDaily Science FictionCast of Wonders, and others. She’s edited several anthologies for independent presses, is finishing some longer projects, and is a member of SFWA and HWA. See more at http://www.gerrileen.com or tweet @GerriLeen.]