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Two Flash

by Anna Cabe

The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride is draped in white wisps as she prepares for her wedding. Her vanity is also froth, as is the brush going through her smoke-like hair. If you try to look at the Ghost Bride square in the face, you discover she flickers in and out of sight, like a firefly in the evening.

The Ghost Bride is not of this world, after all.

The Ghost Bride remembers nothing of her death, little of her life. She remembers blurred outlines of faces mostly: her parents, her brothers and sisters, perhaps a fiancé. Sometimes, she remembers a lake shimmering under the light of the moon, the rock of waves beneath a splintery boat, a feather-soft kiss on the lips, but if she strains to recall more, the memory slips out of her grasp.

She doesn’t know if the living man she is marrying is the same man she was affianced to in life.

Through the shadowy place she dwells in, she hears the faint tolling of a clock. One, two, three…she counts to eleven. One hour more, before they call her to the candlelit room where they first summoned and questioned her. (She only answers in Yes or No through a toss of a rusty coin.) Two women draped in silks, one in white, one in black. One the summoner, the other the mother of her now-betrothed.

She had flitted around the room, trying to recognize the woman in black but failed to elicit the least shard of memory from the woman’s chalk-pale face, which sweated droplets through her powder.

The Ghost Bride tries to comfort herself. She is not the first to marry someone she isn’t sure she ever knew. At any rate, getting married at all is not something she even expected once she became incorporeal.

You take what you can get, she says to herself.

The clock tolls twelve.

The Ghost Bride rises from her chair, begins to glide through the shadows of her dark, empty kingdom. One disappointment of being dead is the discovery that death is ultimately lonely, spent in silence and half-sleep.

At least married, she will have someone to see, someone to talk to, even if a Ouija board or bone dice or the rusty coin pales in comparison to a full-throated laugh.

You take what you can get.

The Ghost Bride sees the light ahead of her, hears the subdued chatter of the witnesses. Her wedding.

It is not the stuff of a child’s daydreams. There will be no smiling priest or judge. There will be no swell of triumphant music as she is escorted down the aisle. No sweetly frosted cake will touch her lips. No one will place a hand on her waist as she is spun dreamily across a wooden floor.

But her groom awaits. She can see him in the light ahead. The summoner will speak the words, and the Bride will say, Yes.

We the Unseen

The world woke up one day to discover no one could see each other.

When I found myself apparently alone in bed that morning, I screamed, thinking my boyfriend was gone. My shrieks were answered by his own from nowhere. “What’s happening?” he shouted, as the quilt was thrown about, and a pair of boxer shorts sat up on its own.

No one was quite sure.

My invisible boyfriend and I would sit on the couch, watching the news, trying to discern which empty suit was speaking. Invisible scientists were in their labs, faceless glasses bobbing in the air, explaining to us that there was no reason why humanity—all of humanity—had ceased to be visible to each other.

At first, we thought the Rapture had happened. That God (or whichever deity) had just thought, “Fuck it,” and instead of lifting the godly up as He was supposed to, had washed His hands of all us sinners. Then as a joke, He wiped our features out, akin to erasing penciled cartoons from crumpled paper.

The believers prayed in their churches, their synagogues, their mosques, their most mysterious forest clearings. My boyfriend and I were lapsed Catholics, but just in case, we started to pray the rosary each night, Hail Marys whispered sweetly into each bead. Hail Mary, full of Grace, please let us be seen again.

It was disconcerting to drive down the street, to slow at each stop sign and hope some naughty, au natural child taking advantage of the chaos would see us and not run impulsively in front of the car. Clothes were discarded first, after all, in large segments of the population. What was the point if you could no longer see an errant nipple, a flash of pubic hair? At most, people would put on a pair of sunglasses, some flashy earrings, or a loudly-colored hat, for politeness’s sake.

My boyfriend and I were among these newfound nudists. We had gone to Catholic high school, where we gagged at numbing lectures about respecting the sacred temples that were our bodies. “Let our sacred temples go free,” we’d giggle to each other, before stripping socks and underwear off and sitting on our balcony, savoring the unfamiliar feel of sun warming our most secret skin.

The months passed, and the world grew accustomed to seeing empty planes take off into the air, shopping bags floating unaccompanied in malls, balls slamming into baskets or goals of their own volition, photos posted on Facebook of beaches with some bikinis and speedos to let us know a crowd was there. My boyfriend and I came to know the most intimate nook and cranny of each other through touch and voice.

“Perhaps this invisibility thing isn’t so bad,” he said to me one morning, as we sat at our laptops at the kitchen counter clicking and scrolling through the latest hot-take, claiming that being invisible was feminist (#HeardButNotSeen) because we no longer could judge each other through appearances, that we now only could base our opinions on the soundness of our arguments, the productivity of our business plans and government proposals, the beauty of our painting, poems, and songs.

I nodded absently. “Maybe,” I answered, as I clicked through a photo album I had impulsively opened on my laptop, his last birthday, when we had gone to his favorite candlelit Italian restaurant and clinked crimson glasses of merlot over pasta puttanesca and ossobuco, and he had smiled this biggest, most radiant smile, and for a moment, a short, short moment, I wished I could see that smile once more.

Anna Cabe is an MFA candidate in fiction at Indiana University. Prior to coming to Indiana, she was a 2013-2014 Fulbright Fellow in Indonesia. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, The Toast, Racialicious, Mangrove, and tiny poetry: macropoetics, among others. She was a 2015 Kore Press Short Fiction Award semi-finalist.

Lead image: “Bride” (via Flickr user @J_Martu)