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The Estranged Relative

by Autumnus Arbor-Domus

Chapter 1: The Changeling

“Hello there, I’m Doctor Coilean. I’m here to help,” A man dressed in blue scrubs and a white coat addressed a distressed woman laid out on a gurney. She was being rushed into a private room by several nurses, meanwhile Doctor Coilean strode alongside in the fashion of an alert overseer.

The lady on the gurney was hysterically sobbing and speaking in momentary gasps of pain and panic to the nurses. The patient and nurses both spoke Spanish fluently, however Coilean had only begun to understand the language’s popular phrases while working in this small South Florida medical clinic. The nurses informed Doctor Coilean that the woman was going into labor and could not afford to go to a maternity ward at an actual hospital. Coilean was accepting of such terms when these scenarios sprung up, but had to inform the patient that deliveries were not in his scope of practice and the whole situation would have to be off the books. Most of Coilean’s unofficial patients preferred this over going to a back alley doctor. 

This current patient agreed to Coilean’s terms, albeit through heavy pants and groans, while the nurses acted as translators between Doctor Coilean and the patient. The women also mentioned how the patient was not expecting the baby to survive. It was in Coilean’s opinion that it was bad luck to speak of tragedy before it happened, but he said nothing on this point, and went straight to work. Several hours into the labor, it was clear that she was having a stillbirth. This was not so unusual in 1965, but to Doctor Coilean, it was still heart-wrenching to watch.

The lifeless child came out discolored and deformed: gray and thin, crumpled in on itself, mummified. Its eyes and skull were sunk in, its mouth agape. At first, when Coilean was holding the fetus, he thought he felt a breath and a heartbeat, but there was no denying that it was dead. After some quick communication, Doctor Coilean quickly brought the fetus out of the makeshift delivery room. He covered it in a swaddle wrap and brought it to his back desk. He had to admit, he was fascinated by the fetus, and felt compelled to write down its conditions in a doctor’s report format, and made a mental note to directly ask the patient of what she might know, if the subject was not too emotionally taxing on the patient.

Doctor Coilean was writing down quick notes on the potential complications that caused the fetus’s stillborn nature and appearance: possible maternal pre-existing medical conditions, drug use, fetal infections, or birth defects. He added that the fetus likely had died in the womb much earlier than the delivery, around two weeks, and that the deoxygenated and mummified body attested to this. So enraptured by the notetaking that Doctor Coilean had hurriedly set the wrapped fetus beside his clipboard. Unbeknownst to the focused doctor, the fetus began to move and unravel from the wrap, seizing the doctor’s wrist with its gaping mouth and sinking teeth that should not exist into his skin.

Doctor Coilean, for once losing his professional cool, let out a yelp and retracted his hand in a frantic wave. The movement inadvertently lifted and threw the fetus behind Coilean, against a solid brick wall. The cleaning process was horrendous: Doctor Coilean shook all over as he wiped blood from the wall and floor. He decidedly placed the fetus, or rather what was left of it, in a specimen jar and filled it to the brim with ethanol alcohol. He did not trust the usual disposal process to put this creature to rest. He was not a religious man, unlike his parents, but he murmured prayers over the jar as he twisted the lid shut.

Chapter 2: Interlude

That night in the clinic, he stayed up late and researched stillborns in his old university textbooks. It was the early morning hours when he locked up and left his clinic, and briefly visited his fiance, who was more or less furious at him for keeping her worried.

“That damned clinic in the seediest part of town. Thought you got fucking shanked and bled out on the sidewalk,” She spat at me in between puffs of her cigarette smoke, grimacing and pulling me into her trailer. She was angry at me, that was obvious, between the curled lips of condemnation and throwing a variety of verbal insults onto me. It was something I could roll off of my shoulders, especially because she showed instances of care paired with her actions: shoving pizza on plastic plates in front of me and asking how I was, how much money I made that day.

Soon we were talking casually like usual, then it shifted to joviality. Though I felt faint from mental exhaustion, it was as if I was exuding more charm and excitement than usual. My fiance had finished her cigarette and was holding onto me, as if I’d float away in the smoke. It did not take long to taste her tobacco on my own tongue and things escalated from there.

Chapter 3: Fever

The next day, Doctor Coilean awoke as if in a hangover. He crawled out of his lover’s blankets, unaware of the time. It was, in fact, only an hour after the excursion of lust and still before the sun would rise. In a semi-delirious state, internally burning up and with hazy vision, Coilean stumbled around the trailer and dressed himself for work, for he believed himself to be late to work and for the dusky light filtering through blinds to be indicative of night. The only thing he could think about, even in his sickly state, was how horrible it would have been if he did not show up for his patients. Who would open the doors? What if there was someone who came in with a medical emergency?

Coilean made his way to the clinic, more or less bedraggled and haggard. While walking in the early morning sunlight, he gained a pounding headache and more or less became aware of his health dwindling. While walking on the broken sidewalks and past brick buildings etched in dark green ivy, he started to see vibrantly colored shapes all about himself, as if the streets were filled with translucent abandoned newspapers, fluttering about on the ground and becoming stuck on physical objects like fire hydrants and the bottom of metal fire escapes, one newspaper layering itself upon another. It was hard to look at it directly without becoming overwhelmed.

Once Doctor Coilean unlocked the clinic, he eventually welcomed in the nurses and informed them of his sickly state. They recommended all the correct things, and Coilean mainly took a day off, napping from time to time in his office. The antibiotics in his system demanded food but he was unable to keep anything down. Eventually the work day ended and Coilean gave his most well-to-do nurse a copy of the clinic’s keys. Coilean was planning to go back home, as he had started to feel better once the sun set, but he did not make it to the front door. He went through several hours of fighting a cycle of feverish confusion and sleeping at his desk, ultimately alone in this battle.

There came a point when he had looked upon his desk clock, saw it was 2 am, and decided to stand, in retort to his malignant predicament. He had hidden his bitten wrist from the other nurses and had only remembered its importance until now. Taking a minor wound cleaning kit and the jarred fetus into the clinic’s bathroom, Coilean decided to examine everything all at once at the bathroom sink. At this instance, he increasingly grew faint and remembered the sensation of falling, whether he banged his head against the sink’s ceramic or not is something he could never recall. Regardless, he blacked out and awakened some time after, but it looked as if he had been doing things in his sleep.

When he awoke completely, he was standing, staring listlessly into the bathroom mirror, noticing blankly his eyes first: usually blue, but now they were white, as if drained of color, and his disheveled blond hair, then he noticed the striking red color flowing down his mouth and chin area. He numbly felt the areas, automatically checking for any apparent wounds and perplexed to find no cuts. His eyes scanned down and into the sink. There lay the fetus surrounded by broken glass, dismembered and scarcely resembling remnants of flesh and bone.

Coilean hyperventilated as he backed away from the sink and mirror, grabbing some bathroom paper towels and scrubbing his chin vigorously. He dropped the tissues mindlessly on the floor before stepping out of the bathroom. He was hoping what just transpired was a fever dream, but the lingering and oddly delicious, life-giving metallic taste in his mouth indicated otherwise.

He was still seeing strange shapes of colors, but his vision had changed in another way as well: he could not handle looking through his glasses any longer. He had to cast them off to the side, it felt like a muzzle on a ravenous fighting dog, as he could see perfectly well without them now. This being said, it took him a full minute to realize the clinic was populated by his nurses and fiance. They ran to check on him, but he pushed through the crowd: he realized at this point that the colors were made by people and the crowding only made these new visuals even worse. People had layers of colors coming from the core of their being, moving with the body’s movements, sometimes even extending past the bodies to interact with other people or the environment. It was terrifying, perhaps even more so than what had transpired in the bathroom. It was as if humans had become colorful writhing masses of eldritch terrors.

He barely recognized the people shifting from voices of concern to shrieks of horror as they discovered the scene in the bathroom and started asking him frantic questions. Some of the nurses started throwing office supplies at him in their justifiable outrage and Coilean dodged these items with a strange feeling of euphoria rising up into person. A grin spread across his face after he caught a pen in midair, and started to recognize what people were discussing in the background: calling the authorities. A spike of fear drove through his chest and he looked toward his fiance for pity, and found none. Her expression was pure disgust and indignation.

Surely they were all misunderstanding the situation. He just found himself unable to communicate, everything from foreground shouts and background taps hummed in his ears, not to mention the seemingly indispensable colors (later he would discover the term auras) flying through the air, as if temporarily attached to the items. Soon he had pilfered his personal bag and rushed out of the clinic’s back door. He ran until he was into the next town, preferring to stay in the shadows of buildings as he went. The sun still gave him a headache.

Chapter 4: Fair is Fair

That day, Coilean traveled further upstate but did not get too far, he decided to stop at East Lake-Orient Park, which happened to be hosting the Florida State Fair. Coilean reasoned that such an abundant crowd was good cover from the authorities, though the massive amount of colors invading his vision made him freeze up like a deer in headlights every once and awhile, eyeing someone with a particularly new color he had not seen before, or someone who looked like their colors had been torn to ribbons and now dragged along behind them like flayed flesh or the loose linen of a dementor. He noticed the scents from food carts carried their own peculiar colors as well, and too often for comfort did these mix with the colors of bystanders.

Coilean was so awestruck by the fun of the fair that he forgot his own woes for a while. He had not been to one since he was small. There were carnival rides and games, like bumper cars and ring toss. 

At one point Coilean entered a funhouse, which had free admission, but it soon turned into a nightmare. Every mirror reminded Coilean of his dreadfully blank eyes and the forbidden flavors he had recently tasted. Every breath Coilean took became more and more heated as if his lungs were turning into hot coals. He soon became lost in a maze of reflections. In one corner of the maze, he slumped and crouched down on his haunches.

A few people passed by him as they were traversing the funhouse, laughter combining with crying children in its echoey chamber. A well-dressed man with a cane came along, the scent of warm boiled peanuts preceding him. He was holding a peanut box in his left hand and leaning onto his cane at his right side. The stranger’s limp indicated that the cane was necessary, however what shocked Doctor Coilean was the man’s strikingly pale complexion in direct comparison with his shoulder-length wavy black hair.

“Oh my, are we lost?” The pale man asked Doctor Coilean in a concerned tone, yet paired it with an utterly amused smile.

“Drunk,” Coilean decidedly answered, considering the embarrassment that would ensue from admitting to a mental breakdown.

“Right then, up you go,” The man gently tapped his left foot against Coilean’s leg and gave him a critical look as if Coilean was an unpleasant stray dog. After watching Coilean rise to his feet without unbalance or struggle, the man squinted at him with momentary suspicion before commenting something to the air and curling his fingers beckoningly. He led Coilean out of the funhouse just as easily as a trainer led a horse by its reins; the stranger knew the way out without error.

Once they were both out of the funhouse and trooping around the fairgrounds, the man paused at a food cart and turned to Coilean as they waited in line.

“Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re not drunk,” The man announced casually, watching Coilean’s expression. Coilean gave no indication of approval or reproach, but his silence was enough to confirm the lie. “Because you’re not, I don’t have to kick you out of the fair. Now, what do you want to eat? On me.”

Coilean had a blank expression as he processed the situation. “Now, that isn’t necessary. I’ll pay for myself. I suppose I could use some cotton candy,” Coilean ordered his choice and tried handing money to the food vendor, but the stranger clasped Coilean’s wrist and retracted it from the vendor. The stranger gave his own money to the vendor and Coilean was left recoiling from the instance. It took his skin a moment to recognize that the man’s hands were unusually cold.

“I say! I can pay for myself!” Coilean exclaimed with offense.

“My treat. I can tell you’re out of a job,” The stranger reassured with a wave of his hand.

Coilean reluctantly accepted the cotton candy and ate it as if he was a ravenous wolf, though he did not feel full afterwards. At this point he had tried basically all of the food at the fair and none of it was satisfying his hunger. Perhaps to get his mind off the hunger, he decided to find out the reason for the man’s cold hands in such a humid environment. He leaned over the small fair table and took a hold of the man’s hand, attempting to place two fingers over the radial artery. Filled with a hunger that could not be satiated and desperate to distract himself, Coilean had forgotten to ask for permission to check the man’s pulse.

“Hey, now,” The man withdrew his hand and gave an entertained grin, “Consider me something behind glass because I like to be seen but not touched. Touches must be paid for…but not in money.”

Doctor Coilean cringed in response to this statement and retracted himself hastily, straightening up before explaining, “I was trying to check your pulse, sir. Your hands seem awfully cold. I’m worried you might be suffering from poor circulation or dehydration. Have you drank enough water today?” Coilean scanned the man’s sleeves, checking to see if there was any restrictive clothing or accessories that may be the culprit behind potential circulatory issues. The man was wearing a rather loose fitting black tuxedo tailcoat and leaning against a wooden cane on his right hand side. He was eyeing Coilean with a more serious, penetrative gaze now.

“I suppose it’s just something hereditary. I’ve always had cold hands. Are you something of a wandering physician?” The man asked Coilean in a casual tone and relaxed his shoulders.

“I suppose so. I was a doctor, and until recently I’ve had my own clinic. And are you sure you’re quite all right? You’re wearing all black and multiple layers in this heat. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were close to fainting from heat exhaustion. Coldness and a lack of sweating is a sign of that, you know.”

The man gave a short hearty laugh. “Thank you, Doctor, but I’m quite fine. The night feels nice, though I may be in trouble during the day, if I dressed like this.” Coilean gave a nod and the man continued the conversation in a sarcastic tone, “Now, am I to pay you for this check-up or was this free of charge?”

Coilean wilted at this statement, both in stance and tone, “No, that’s very unnecessary. I’m sorry for the intrusion upon your person. Health and safety concerns are something ingrained in me.”

“Well, yes. I suppose I’ve been shown enough evidence to believe that,” The man dryly replied, “Are we not at liberty to let go of things and move past them? Let us not fret over the matter. What is your name, Doctor?”

The two exchanged names and then hesitant handshakes, as Coilean was unsure if the touching was permissible in this instance, but apparently so.

The man’s name was Friesian and his hands were as cold and firm as sculpted glaciers. Coilean retrieved his hand after the amiable gesture with a lingering sense of numbness, as if Friesian’s hand had really been ice. 

“I see you’re done eating. The crowds make my head swim after a while. Let’s go to a less populated place, shall we?” Friesian suggested, standing from his seat in a swift motion and walking off in the direction of the fair’s main exit. Coilean followed along but both stopped before the exits, eyeing a tent with a flashing sign: “Geek Show”.

Chapter 5: Geek Show

It was made clear to them that women and children were not allowed inside this tent. This detail only made some all the more curious. Murmurs of bloodshed were spread about the small group of men waiting to be admitted. All at once they were granted access to the tent, welcomed in, along with Friesian and Coilean.

It was dim within the tent, but a spotlight landed upon the scene of a man behind bars. He was half-naked, his torso fully exposed and shining with white scales and red skin. At least, white scales were how other audience members saw the man’s condition, but not Coilean. Coilean recognized it as a skin condition, a severe case of psoriasis.

“This man needs an oatmeal bath!” Coilean shouted with worry to his new companion.

“Yes, he certainly needs something like that,” Friesian admitted softly, keeping his eyes locked on the scene of the scaly man.

Everyone in the audience howled and hooped as they watched the scaly person chase after live chickens in his enclosure. They just as immediately became more rowdy and repulsed as they watched the man bite the heads off these live chickens. Most members of the audience laughed and hollered their way out while denouncing the strange act.

“I wonder if the cage is part of the act,” Friesian mused aloud to his companion. Coilean had no time to reply before Friesian was talking to the barker of the geek show. Apparently the performer, labeled the Alligator-Man, had been given over by relatives when he was young, and was as close to feral as possible. He had not been taught his humanities or much of any language, and acted quite aggressive to people.

Coilean felt some wrath rising up within himself as he listened to the barker tell the story. Friesian quelled it by asking the barker if the Alligator-Man had a price tag. The barker titled his head this way and that before retrieving the overseer of the exhibit.

“Now, I’m sure this man causes you a lot of trouble, and less and less money every year. Not even a full house this time,” Friesian reasoned out with an impeccably placating tone, “Why not sell him off? I’m in the business for a curiosity shop and I need workers. The more unique, the better.”

The ringleader had a difficult time being obstinate toward this idea, and soon enough he was shaking hands with Friesian and accepting a wad of cash. The Alligator-Man was brought out of the cage by the barker on something like that of a leash.

“Now, you be good, be on your best behavior,” The barker instructed the Alligator-Man, who only snorted and hissed in a very reptilian pitch. Friesian received the end of the leash and smiled nervously, perhaps only now realizing how troublesome the man might be.

“Ever been to a farm, my friend?” Friesian asked the Alligator-Man considerately.

The scaly man only tried parsing out the word “farm” like a parrot, shaking his shoulders in a way that resembled shrugging.

Friesian smiled politely and led the Alligator-Man out of the tent and fair with Coilean lingering behind.

“I’m going upstate to a friend’s residence. Care to join me?” Friesian casually inquired of Coilean, observing how the Alligator-Man lifted his head and sniffed that way and that and gazed back at curious spectators. Coilean agreed to the adventure, admitting that he had no other duties to attend to and a place of rest would be more than helpful.

The three of them walked for a while on dirt paths in the wilderness without complications. It seems Friesian got into Alligator-Man’s good graces by giving him the rest of his boiled peanuts. The scaly man had the tendency to eat the peanuts whole, but it at least seemed to distract him from going after the wildlife beside the trails they walked on.

“Would you look at that, Mr. Coilean? I’ve gotten two traveling companions in one night,” Friesian good-naturedly smiled at the two of them.

Chapter 6: The Farm Upstate

Soon enough the three wanderers came upon a homestead in the middle of the woods, where some cattle grazed behind fences and a few horses rushed up to greet Friesian at the gate. Friesian patted their faces appreciatively before carefully unlocking the gate and allowing his companions to go before him. It was strange for the group to walk amongst the horses for a time, they seemed to readily follow Friesian and watch him curiously. They followed the group all the way to a porch, flicking their tails and parting afterwards.

There was a young man at the side of the house, practicing some woodworking by fixing a chicken coop roof. Friesian came up to the young man and greeted him. The two discussed something quietly and the man nodded, going back to his work right after. The reaction came off as rude to Coilean, but then again the man looked busy and they were interrupting his work.

They turned around and entered the farmer’s house freely, Friesian let Alligator-Man explore the house to his liking and Coilean felt it imperative to look after the man. Friesian seemed caught up in examining the ceramic antiques pushed into every corner of the house.

Alligator-Man gained the kitchen after ten minutes of sniffing around. He found fresh milk in thick glass bottles. He hummed to himself happily as he clinked them together and drank one after another. After about four glasses of milk, he started pointing to himself and repeating the word “milkman” until Coilean repeated the word. Apparently it was a new name he had given to himself and he wanted everyone to know it.

After an hour or so, the farmer came back inside and greeted all of them rather tiredly, but there was an undercurrent of excitement he exuded. After the man ate some food from the fridge, he and Friesian talked to each other again and Milkman, as that was his new name, was put outside to explore the farmyard.

“It’s all right if he runs away,” Friesian shrugged when Coilean gave him a concerned look, “If he wants to enjoy the wild, then why not?”

Things escalated from there. The farmer and Friesian led Coilean upstairs to a bedroom. Friesian insisted for Coilean to wait and watch, even after a new razor blade was brandished in Friesian’s hand and the farmer was positioned to sit on the bed, facing the wall and away from his guests. Friesian poured some alcohol onto a clean rag and washed the farmer’s shoulder area. Friesian dragged the razor blade across the soft skin and drank from the issuing spout of blood directly. The donor gave a little shudder and an exhale carrying a note of appreciation.

Coilean wavered from his spot, the hunger rising up and burning his insides, inflaming his thoughts. Friesian glanced back at Coilean after about a minute and patted the spot beside himself on the bed. Coilean refused to approach the bed, despite how Friesian cut upon a parallel secondary wound and hurriedly gestured for Coilean to come closer.

Coilean crowded himself in the farthest corner of the room, watching as what he craved was put on a show in front of himself.

“Well, if you’re not going to take it…” Friesian pressed his lips below the newest wound and drank the red flowing liquid. Coilean hissed loudly and ran out of the room, down the stairs, and out of the house entirely. He inhaled large gulps of the night air and stumbled around the side of the porch, trying to regain his bearings. 

One might say the next image that Coilean found himself in was incendiary, fate, or an otherwise unavoidable event of nature. Coilean came upon the chicken coop, its roof fixed, but the fence torn open. Milkman was tearing the heads off chickens, as was his old habit. Squawking and fluttering feathers filled the atmosphere as Coilean approached Milkman, feeling more and more restless by the scene of chicken blood flooding the ground. All wasted. A blind rage overcame Coilean, unlike anything he ever experienced before, and he pushed Milkman to the ground and tore apart the side of the Alligator-Man’s neck in a frenzy of need and anger. Coilean had managed to rip open the jugular and was enjoying the copious amount of blood pouring into his mouth as a man would enjoy an energizing cup of tea at lunchtime. He sat there with Milkman as his body struggled and became limp. He pulled away once the blood stopped freely flowing into his mouth.

His adrenaline subsided and found himself startled and surrounded by a few coyotes, who had been attracted by the chicken deaths and were dragging off a few fowl. They ran to the tree line when Coilean stood up. Friesian was on the porch, approaching the chicken coop. Coilean panicked and thought about running away as the coyotes did. He pulled himself through the torn fence and looked disappointedly at the ground, avoiding Friesian’s gaze like a disobedient dog.

“Chickens aren’t that appetizing, are they?” Friesian light-heartedly teased, freezing as he glimpsed the image of Milkman, face-down and unmoving.

“I’m a coward, and now I’m a murderer,” Coilean admitted, his voice empty and as hollow as his gaze.

“That’s a real shame. Poor man had a whole new life ahead of himself,” Friesian looked over the corpse with open disapproval, “Well, there’s swamplands not far from here. I suppose he’ll have to go there.”

Morose as he was, Coilean agreed and helped carry the body to the west, where swamp stretched out for miles. They settled into the farmer’s small wooden rowboat and set off for deeper swamp after Coilean had pushed the vessel knee-deep into the murky water. They upon a towering cypress tree that threatened to darken out the starry night sky and  paused here. Alligators swam about, their dark scales gleaming in the moonlight and their eyes flashing red occasionally as they circled the boat.

“Here lies Milkman, dearly departed. May he swim in the waters of eternity with man and animal alike, for men always saw him as only an animal, when they should have treated him as a man,” Friesian announced the short eulogy, bringing Milkman’s body halfway over the boat and fully pushing it into the water with Coilean’s help. 

“And you, Coilean, should consider yourself lucky that I don’t leave you here to swim with the alligators as well. I quite liked that Milkman fellow,” Friesian consulted coldly like a morally-righteous parent.

“I deserve worse, perhaps,” Coilean added, his tone hollowed out as before.

“Perhaps, and perhaps it’s up to each individual to forgive themselves of their own mistakes,” Friesian sighed heavily before rowing them back to the edge of the swamp. With that statement, Friesian openly forgave Coilean and left the rest up to the Doctor.

Chapter 7: Reckoning

After a few days of wandering on foot and hitchhiking farther and farther upstate, they crossed state lines and entered Georgia. Friesian had reverted back to his old self, easily distracted by little details and anything that seemed remotely whimsical while on their journey. They had come upon a town, as Friesian described it: “not too big or too small, just right for a curiosity shop to drive the locals mad”. He was making all the arrangements of buying an old building with a basement and filling it with oddities from all over. He was almost constantly on calls, chained to the gentle spinning and clicking of rotary dialed numbers.

Meanwhile, Coilean found existence dreadful. Even while looking upon the most exquisite oddities that Friesian imported, like golden bejeweled chalices, taxidermied hybrid animals along the vein of jackalopes and equine with human faces, and supposedly cursed items ranging from weapons of war to everyday household trinkets, Coilean felt no joy. It felt like he had died several times within the month, but with Milkman’s death his spirit felt truly crushed.

“My friend, I should no longer exist,” Coilean addressed Friesian during a break from the phone calls, “I’m a menace to all things human. I used to be a Doctor, but now I’ve damned my Hippocratic Oath. I cannot handle myself like this, and as you know, I’m a coward and I can’t bring myself to put an end to it all. What should I do?”

“You should rest. Give yourself time to think about it and your place in this world. Those who deny themselves what they need decay. Doctors can draw blood through venipuncture practices, I think you have the potential for grace and control with this new you,” Friesian attempted to advise, but Coilean was half-listening and caught up in his own world of regret.

Some days passed and Coilean would barely get out of bed. He refused to eat or drink anything. One night, Friesian found him as if asleep and tried to awaken him through several means but nothing availed. Coilean’s heart did not beat and his eyes would not open. Friesian arranged a private burial for his friend. He boxed up Coilean in a lacquered casket and lowered it into a six feet deep grave. Coilean was buried at the local cemetery closest to Friesian’s curiosity shop.

In the following days, Friesian often lingered around the outskirts of the cemetery where Coilean was laid to rest. Weeks went by and he stood on the streets and in his shop, looking towards the direction of the cemetery with tired wistful eyes. He was hoping one day Coilean would show back up on his doorstep, covered in mud, exultant and frightened all at once, like a child who felt sickly and came to their parents in the middle of the night. Years went by and Coilean never came back. Friesian visited the grave itself some nights, checking to see if he could hear anything at all, or see the slightest disruption of soil around the burial site. 

After awhile he convinced himself that he murdered poor Coilean, and that such a greivous error could never be admitted to anyone else. Coilean’s existence and burial became Friesian’s secret. Friesian moved on, emotionally, but never physically. He perpetually lived near the cemetery, a part of himself still hoping to see the Doctor rise again. New obsessions would take Friesian’s mind off Coilean, so that even 80 years later, he was no longer ruminating or passing the time by watching his shop door. He would even take trips out of town.

Friesian still runs his curiosity shop, much expanded since the 1960’s. His mind no longer perpetuates around Coilean, though seemingly random things would trigger memories and silently place him into a sullen mood. No others of his ilk became his companions, nor did he seek them out. He found it sufficed to watch and entertain the comings and goings of mortals. A little smile here, a laugh there, made someone’s night memorable and fun, and those experiences were what Friesian strove to share throughout eternity.

Written by Autumnus Arbor-Domus and submitted for Black Rose Society’s Creative Contest October 2022.

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