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     A lifter of veils. A concocter of remedies. A girl that used to look like me.
     My mother has no secrets, keeps none—not of flesh, not of blood, not of hands around her neck.

     The birth date on his papers does not match the day he was born. My father is fifty-five and four ghost days. He comes and goes like the tide. His greatest fear, that we don't love him enough.

     Gone. A womb, a wound, a tomb.

     I was born with no sisters. I made my own out of wax and rope and knife. She looks like a fox.
     My sister's ghost walks in my shoes every night, pacing around the room, leaving candledrip behind.

     The ghosts of my grandfathers are Russian tobacco merchants with pianist mothers called Alexandra. They speak Turkish and Russian and Pontic Greek. The ghosts are wrestlers, haunting the borderlands between knowing who you are and not.
     Grandfathers' ghosts have little balloons in their hearts. At night, they grasp my arm and try to speak, but can't.

     Neither man nor woman, and both. Ask me not what is a man, but when. Ask not what is a woman, but when, and how, and for whom.

     The first waterfall I saw was haunted by foxes. Their ghosts briefly abandoned the furriers' stalls lining the edges of the cliff from which the water fell, and joined me behind the curtain of water.
     There is this story about a great revolutionary in Greece who bid his comrades farewell with these words: "We will meet again at the furrier's stall."
     The revolutionary was referencing an old folk tale about a fox who, having raised her young so that they could take care of themselves, finally sent them away.
     "When shall we meet again?" the little ones asked their mother fox.
     "At the furrier's stall," the mother fox said.
     I stood behind the waterfall, watching the vulpine ghosts fade in and out of view. I thought I heard Father crying then—a dry sobbing, like a cough—saying over and over,
     "They don't love me. They don't love me."

     Words in your mouth don't mean what I thought they meant. I have compiled this dictionary of what little truth I could decipher:
     Good (adj.) morning (n.): I love you.
     Uncle, the (n.): Your menses.
     He (pron.): The man whose name I shall not speak.
     Wolf, the (n.): He.
     Then (adv.): When you were thirteen and old, so old already.

     Ghost rail tracks line my arms. On them, He comes and goes like the midnight train.

     I dance to the tune of three ghost organs that divide me into equal parts. One in the head, one in the chest, one between the legs.

     This is me, buried under swaths of flesh. Down here, I dance invisibly. Father taught me all the steps.
     Underneath my skin, I come and go.

     At midnight, the TV is blaring mystical truth, dubbed dreams about self-healing women and flying slugs. I find your ghost messages hidden in ads and infomercials, tucked away in the empty space between pixels. Behind broadcast mouths and eyes and wavy hair, I hear you say:
     "The wolves dance in purple moonlight. Will you haunt me? Will you? Will you haunt me will you haunt me now will you?"
     "Don't believe what the foxes say. Mother foxes are all liars. You may find me, but we will never meet again."
     "Good morning. Listen to the music."

Natalia Theodoridou is a media and cultural studies scholar, the winner of the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction, and a Clarion West graduate (class of 2018). Natalia's stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Uncanny, Nightmare, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and elsewhere. Rent-a-Vice, Natalia’s first interactive novel for Choice of Games, was a finalist for the inaugural Nebula Award for Game Writing. For more, visit Natalia's website or follow @natalia_theodor on Twitter.
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25 May 2020

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