When the chaos begins, the corridors of punishment and justice filled to the brim with entropy and discord, it is only a ghost in a nightgown and a scarf that stands in between me and my freedom.
“It always did look better on you,” I tell her.
“Where will you go?” she says. “You belong here.”
“Nobody belongs here,” I say. “This is merely where we are kept. Like Doris in her marriage and you in your big top.”
“I was no slave to the circus,” she says, going pink. She wrinkles her forehead in concentration, going for red—gives me a big scowl, too—but pink is the best she can do.
“Of course not,” I say, mocking. “You’re no slave. Not to the circus. Not to me. Not to life.”
“Nothing is keeping me here!” she screams.
A nearby guard is broken from his reverie. The scream has stolen his focus from the kindly old woman serving him blueberry scones and he is staring now at us.
“Hey,” he says, rubbing at his eyes and sidestepping the spirit before him. “Hey!” he shouts, pointing at me. “Back to your cell!”
I turn toward my ghost again, my first ghost, and I see she is grinning.
“Nothing is keeping me,” she says. “But everyone here is keeping you.”
The guard whips his sap out of his back pocket as he draws closer. “Back to your cell,” he says again. “Back to your cell, or you’ll regret it.”
“You want to hit me?” I say, walking toward him. “Then hit me.”
“What are you doing?” says my ghost, a hint of concern in her voice as she drifts closer to me, hovering at my shoulder.
“Last chance,” says the guard.
“Go back to your cell,” says my ghost, panicked now. “Why do you have to be better than us? Huh? What is so wrong with being kept?”
I grab her by the scarf and whip her into the guard. He goes white as she flies into him. Then he drops dead and she screams again.
“Why did you do that?” she says. “Why did you make me do that?”
”Being kept,” I say, “is for bitches. And I ain’t no bitch.”
Then I walk out.
I live now where nothing can get me but the clouds, where nothing can touch me but the breeze and the sunset. The ghosts don’t come anymore, having heard how I’ll use them if the mood strikes me.
Except for Roxanne, of course, who sits on the lowest branch of the only tree I've left standing here on the edge of the world. She keeps her distance, braiding the hair on her severed head, waiting until I am done with life, hoping maybe it will soon be done with me.
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