Author: Robert Beech

Edward Soul-Keeper, seventh of that name (or Corpse-Eater as he was called outside of what people thought was his range of hearing), sat at the head of the long table, surrounded by his seventeen living children and grandchildren. It was an intimate family gathering. The servants had all been given the day off and only the Soul-Keepers were invited. His ancestors (including the six previous Edwards), floated inside him, peering out occasionally from the tiny gold flecks in his pupils.
At the other end of the table, surrounded by his aunts, uncles, and cousins, sat Timothy. He wore a white shirt with a stiff collar, a black suit that was slightly too large for him, and a black bow tie that his Uncle George had helped him to tie on. He kept his eyes down, avoiding his grandfather’s gaze.

Today was Timmy’s First Communion. He would partake of the body and the blood and become a true Soul-Keeper, one-in-being with the Soul-Keepers who had gone before him. Well, at least one of them anyway. Today was the Feast Day of his sister Lucy. Timmy didn’t like Lucy very much. Hadn’t like her very much, he corrected himself. She always wanted to boss him, telling him to pick up his toys or go and play somewhere else when she was playing with the girls from the village. Still, he was sorry she was gone. Gone from the living that is. Very soon, she would be back with him, communing with his soul, whatever that meant.

At the head of the table, Grandfather Corpse-Eater finished whatever speech he had been making (Timmy hadn’t been listening very closely) and picked up the large decanter with a black enamel butterfly and splashed some of the liquid onto the meat on the large silver tray in front of him (Timmy didn’t want to think about what that “meat” was). Timmy sat there, feeling slightly sick, and watched as his grandfather took a slice of the meat and cut it into tiny pieces on a second, smaller silver platter. He took one of the pieces and held it up on his fork. “I welcome you, my grand-daughter Lucinda, to the company of the Soul-Keepers. We are one in body, now.” He ate the tiny bite of meat and passed the tray to Aunt Edith.

“Welcome, Lucy,” she said. “We are one in body now,” and passed the tray to the person on her right.

Timmy watched with apprehension as the tray made its way down the table towards him. He thought about being joined, soul-to-soul, with his sister. It was bad enough having her as a sister. He didn’t need her inside his head, or his soul or whatever, bossing him all day long. When the tray came to him, he picked up a tiny piece of the meat with his fingers, held it up to his mouth and pretended to eat it. A minute later, he very quietly slipped the meat to the little black terrier, Rex, who was sitting at his feet.

Lucinda Soul-Keeper, thirteenth of that name, although she did not know it, opened her eyes and looked around. At first, all she could see was a jumble of enormous shoes and the legs of the table towering over her. Then her perspective shifted and she realized that she was looking up at her brother Timmy, from beneath the table, which meant that she had somehow grown very small. She wagged her tail. It was going to be a good life.