She lies entombed at the heart of the umbral hulk,
drifting beyond the reach of solar bodies –
held fast in the cold dark between the stars,
from which we dare not take her;
the ship itself long gone to frost entire.
Buried under ice
her face is multifaceted. Kaleidoscopic.
As we, beneath her titan’s gaze,
breathe vapour into ancient air,
and tread softly in the ocean of her stillness.
There are no emotions to her features –
pale, caught in sleep
like living death;
rigid as though pulled from
arctic tides that danced in biting wind.
The groan of old metal reverberates
in the cathedral vault wherein she slumbers –
the only sound in the ghost ship
at the centre of which she waits,
living and not living.
Woman and not woman;
glimpsed ‘neath frosted blue –
her limbs that are not limbs.
Too long. Too lithe. Too many.
In whole a thing of unearthly beauty.
We, each of us, hold a collective breath
in that derelict place
where rime and hoarfrost
have made themselves to home.
Waiting in darkness lit by icy hue.
Her voice – unspoken, and beyond words –
shatters the stillness; burrows abyssal deep.
It called across the gap of distant worlds
and dying stars. Brought us here.
Begging for bodies and for warmth.
Brought us here in our own long sleep like death.
But we came with so few bodies; so little warmth.
We fall to our knees before her,
ashamed of our meagre offering.
As her voice scours through us. Hollows us out.
In the etheric light of that other world,
caught between dream and waking –
between flesh and what comes after –
we offer homage to a forgotten god
seeking sustenance at the cold heart of the universe.
There is no kiss. No waking ritual.
There is only the crying of old ghosts,
husks beyond measure and forms beyond count,
littering the dead metal of that encrusted place
long blue with the rime of ancient frost,
adrift in black seas.
Michael Matheson is a writer, editor, and book reviewer based in the urban wilds of Toronto. He also spends his time working as a submissions editor for Apex Magazine and a marketing/editorial assistant with ChiZine Publications. Sometimes he writes things. Sometimes they sell, including to publications like Ideomancer, and anthologies like Future Lovecraft, Fractured, Dead North, and Chilling Tales 2. Find out more at michaelmatheson.wordpress.com.
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Story illustration by Dave Felton.