Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Tāne hoists himself over the wrought iron gate and as he falls heavily to the ground, he feels it. A deafening coldness as the old building strains and grins. It had been enticing him here for years.

Villa Mater had once been a home for the elderly. But for decades now it had laid empty, victim to a desire to expedite the process of dying, and not coddle those who had all but lived their lives to the end.

“Look at her shutters, hanging from hinges upon which once they swung. Now shedding the rot of their slats, scattering them as tears to the ground”

“Do you ever speak like a normal person?”, Meri prods as she pushes open the door.

“This place has haunted you well enough, personifying it gives it a face. Faces bite”

“Faces kiss too”, he smiles.

Upstairs they easily find the room. He knows the number from the records he’d searched – 92.

Tāne steps into the room and inhales as threadbare curtains roll in the slit breeze, agitating the black creeping rot of her bed.

“I’m here now, Nonna”

He sits on the beds sodden edge, but before the throb of his sad guilt can muster his next thought, he falls back. It’s like fainting, only it’s dying and down into the mattress he tumbles.

A tunnel formed from never known memories of an old woman and then…

… he awakens, an echo.

A phantom in a deserted hospital. The ghost of a great author, stashed away and hidden from the world, here where electrodes they bit and chewed at his temples.

A film crew readies for the night to arrive. An intern named Frances, steps into the exact spot where the author had screamed through his teeth and she sieves down into the floor. A sluice. A vein that pulsates amid fouled needles that ooze from its walls and…

… she’s barely conscious, as then, she melts into the bullet ridden body of a soldier. Just enough life to contract his fingers, as she grips up out from the mud.

She feels the tickling roots of poppies as they lace down and suckle her bones and the mud becomes hard and the sun ticks away at the years.

An archaeologist huddles in a trench. A hole pocked skull at the tip of his brush. His finger touches the soldier’s bones and he grabs at his chest. He snakes down into the earth and falls out into space and through and back into time…

… and he wakes. The first blink of a newborn child. And, in these first seconds, she remembers all that has past.

Then, nothing.

Nothing for years. Nothing until the ghosts they come.

As a teen, she will be diagnosed and plied with pills as she recalls the mind of a lonely boy.

She’ll sit in the street and piss in her veins as the author he hands her the needle.

She’ll lament a poor girl who lived for the horror in films. Her dreams and passions not lived.

And she will think about things she cannot fathom. Cold. Wet living things with feet that rot in the mud and she feels the ripping ache of her soldier.

The woman sits alone in the villa because her skin has furrowed and she can no longer count backwards from ten.

“Come to me, Tāne”, she chants to the air.

Hidden away behind shutters and doors, she waits for her end as she remembers again the lives that she’s lived.

And, though nobody will listen, she knows… she knows she’s back where she began.