Cult Illustration #36, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"


    This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Ms. X refused to water the St. Augustine grass outside the cabin she was renting. The landlord had asked her to maintain the lawn, providing her with jugs of weed and bug killer, but she wouldn’t dare put a drop of poison on the earth. She invited the chinch bugs to eat the grass from the roots and the lawn moths resting on the tips, also ravenous, were a welcome sight.

The grass was fading fast but Ms. X knew that that would not get rid of the ghost. The landlord had not mentioned the young man who had perished in the bedroom. He was one of death’s failures and he clung to the place, disturbing Ms. X who felt him more often than she saw him.

Ms. X bought a dove from a pet shop that specialized in birds. She promised the proprietor that she was not going to release the bird at a wedding, nor would she use it in a magic show. Ms. X took the pretty white dove home in a cardboard box.

She started with the bedroom. Holding the bird up she called to the ghost, asking him to come into the white dove. She felt the hair all over her body prick up. She passed into each of the rooms, holding the bird up calling the man, beckoning him to come into the bird. Then Ms. X walked outdoors and threw the bird up into the sky, yelling “Go away!” She watched the poor creature as it caught wing and soared up and then back down, perching on the roof.

Ms. X stared directly into the bird’s unblinking eye, yellow round with a black dot, and the bird seemed to be staring back at Ms. X as if to say, what did you just do?

Ms. X checked from time to time throughout the day, to see if it had left but it stayed exactly where it had landed on the roof. Dusk approached. Ms. X sat outside and stared at the white apparition, as it began to take on an eerie glow. Just then a Barred Owl stole across the teal sky, its wings flapping furiously but silently, and it snagged the dove with a jerk and continued off into the dark shapes of the trees that blackened the horizon.

The next morning, on her way to sub at high school, Ms. X pedaled her bike out the sinewy driveway onto the road only to see a row of long velvety striped feathers poking up, perpendicular from the pavement, splayed as if reaching for one last flight. It was a Barred Owl lying broken and lifeless just in front of the mailbox, hit by a car or a truck, she supposed. It made sense to Ms. X. Anything that touched that dove was bound to die.


© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved