This is the fourth installment in a seven-episode serial. To read Part 1, click here.
To read Part 2, click here.
To read Part 3, click here.
I’m the reason the island grows. Until I was born, my shack barely had enough cabbage for two, and I was the seventh. Now every soul on the island eats from my garden. They say I’m magic. I’m the reason they’re all alive.
This used to be a colony for souls the mainland didn’t want. Saul says before I was born, Grandmamere couldn’t even stand up for more than ten minutes. Now she runs almost as fast as I do; I let her win sometimes. That’s what my garden does. Souls come from two islands over to beg for our leftovers, and even if it’s my suitor they say they’re visiting, it’s my food they eat, and they stay forever growing hardy, or they leave and never come back. I think that those who leave realize their mistakes and commit suicide. We might get a church next year, but I’ll only allow it if they make me a saint.
Saints have to commit miracles, and even if you don’t count my garden, I was dead for half a year before I was born. I don’t feel dead; sometimes I wonder how deadness feels. My mother was called names for conceiving me, because of how ill everybody was before my garden, and the weight got to her eventually, and she ran off, probably to Jerusalem. Saul says she was found floating in the sea, but I don’t believe it. No soul related to me could be dumb enough to run into the sea.
Grandmamere says I was born as still as a stone into her hands, and then I wriggled. I didn’t even cry. I’ve never cried. I don’t know how that feels, either.
Another saintly quality I have is that everyone loves me. I think more saints should be popular, so that we can remind the world that everything’s not about outcasts. You can’t build a church out of dying alone. It’s about community. Grandmamere loves me, and Grandgregor, and all the souls who used to be crazy, and the dock workers, and my suitor spends all day following me around. I don’t know if I’ll marry him. Maybe if we get a church, to commemorate it. He’s supposed to be rich. He gets gifts from the mainland all the time, heavy trunks and books that smell like I think a desert would. Arid tomes. People say they’re coming to see him, but they eat my food, the souls who aren’t afraid we’re contagious. Then again, maybe we are. Every mariner who comes selling things here dies. They should eat from my garden.
I don’t think I’ll marry my suitor because he’s too uncouth. He’s probably rich and always washes up, but he sleeps in the cemetery. He says it’s practice, and you have to be fairly uncouth for that to make sense. He doesn’t even bring a blanket, he just lies face down, fondling the earth. So I have to carry one for us, and a pillow. Grandmamere forces me to sleep out there with him. They like him better than me, which makes no sense, because it’s my garden that keeps the island alive. They say Grandgregor couldn’t even sit up straight for thirty years until I was born.
It’s like they’re afraid what will happen if we grow apart. Grandmamere and my suitor’s steward are always around making sure we’re together. It must be his money. They think he’ll love some other girl, which is silly, because he doesn’t think about girls. He doesn’t think about anything. Yesterday one of the souls who used to be crazy, who some nights wakes up screaming about angels in the walls, got into an argument with Saul and some mariners about predestiny and was stabbed four times in the flank. My suitor wouldn’t even look at him, even though I was trying to show him how eating from my garden had helped. Two days ago he’d eaten one leaf of a cabbage, and as soon as we walked in the crazy man got sane and didn’t bleed anywhere. My suitor went sullen, like he was unimpressed with my miracle, like he didn’t want to help.
The one saintly thing I need to do is endure a vision. I’ve never had one, even though I faint too often, and I think fainting is a great opportunity for God to give you a vision, maybe to let me know what crying or dying feels like. No luck so far. I only faint when I’m alone. My suitor finds me and wakes me up. He’s so attentive then, which is why I bring him a blanket at night.
Grandmamere says he loves me, but old souls’ brains rot up. I don’t think my suitor loves anyone. He doesn’t enjoy my cabbage, or Gregor’s singing, or reading, even though he’s reading all the time. Sometimes, when ships anchor off-shore and souls stare at us through spyglasses, he looks at them like he can see them right in the eye. He doesn’t even enjoy that. He doesn’t enjoy us being watched even though he’s always waiting for visitors. They go everywhere for him, which must mean he’s rich. I wonder what they’d have to bring back to impress him. Sometimes, I think, he might get fed up and go searching in the mainland himself. I might go with him. I don’t know. It depends if we get a church.
Part 5, "The Lie," coming Friday the 15th.