Our Last Communion

I’m clawing at the empty space in the pew beside me. Chestnut varnish is gathering under my fingernails and my heart is a frantic blackbird between my clavicles. Your mama’s sitting across the aisle. I can feel her eyes like a needle in the side of my head. 

The communion wafer rests on my tongue, but all I feel is the memory of your lips parting from mine as the front door swings open. Your mama came home from book club early. She saw your hand high up under my blouse, then nothing but red. You told me to run. I left that house without you, the sound of a lamp shattering against the wall behind me. Now the corners of your mama’s lips are stained with communion wine and I’m praying your eye isn’t the same purple. Aromas of the after-service potluck begin wafting through the doors. Ma and Daddy breathe deep to savor the scent of chicken pot pie and brown Betty. The Blood of Christ curdles in my stomach.

We say our last Amen and your mama starts striding over to mine. That was your mama’s ultimatum after all. We had one last chance to repent at church this morning before our sins burned on all the ears in Erwin. Her finger is pointing at me, her mouth is starting to open in a shout, but I’m not fool enough to stick around and listen. I start hauling ass to the river.

On blue velvet nights, when I would race to meet you before your mama came home from whatever club let her avoid your daddy in the evening, the cicadas would cheer me along. They’re not here to sing to me in the daylight. I don’t think I care for running to you in silence. 

When I arrive at the river, you wrap your arms around me and laugh like you’ve been filled with soda fizz. You’ve taken off your top, every freckle I’ve memorized in the dark now bare to the June sun. Beside you is a duffle bag full of whatever shiny things you stole from our houses while I was sweating in church. There’s also a shirt and shorts you swiped from your brother’s closet. I strip my blouse and skirt from my sweat damp skin. You’re kind enough to watch and tell me I’m beautiful. We toss both our blouses and my skirt in the river. Let our parents think we drowned; they’ll never find our bodies anyway.

Belted kingfishers and wood ducks chatter as we make our way down the Nolichucky. Ma always warned me about this river. She said if I didn’t watch my step, I’d either stumble into the river or a fairy ring. If I asked her what the fairies would do, she never knew. But it must be bad. Anything that Erwin didn’t understand Must Be Bad. 

You’re adorned with all your mama’s jewelry. Silver chains, diamonds, and anniversary emeralds shiver in the sunlight against your sternum. We pass a bottle of Daddy’s whisky between us. Cherry and woodsmoke burn on my tongue as I swallow a spirit we’ll never be old enough to buy. In less than an hour, we arrive at the fairy ring.

Standing outside the circle of mushrooms, I begin pulling our offerings out of the bag. I toss my family’s crystal stemware, Ma’s hand mirror, and the shattered remnants of your mama’s lamp into the circle. With fingers made lithe from years of piano playing, you unclasp the jewelry from your neck. Darling, I can’t imagine how much you love me to lose the piano. I clasp those fragile fingers in mine hard enough I worry I’ll shatter you. With a courage born from love and whisky, we step into the fairy ring.

There is no flash of light or puff of smoke. One moment we are standing in a fairy ring together, the next we are standing in the ring with a fairy. I expected it to look like a beautiful woman, something built to tempt us into its world the way sirens tempt sailors to the rocks. What meets us instead seems to have been formed from the riverbed itself.

It is the size of a well-fed Bloodhound with skin just as wrinkled. As it cocks its head to view us, its grey skin stretches so thin I can see green muscle flexing underneath. Blinking its wet, clouded eyes, it asks what business we have treading into a fairy ring. We tell it we want a picnic. It smiles.

The fairy’s teeth are a collection of uneven stones, smooth and gleaming from years of river rapids. It reaches its webbed fingers deep into its pouch and produces two hickory nuts. Dropping them into our waiting palms, it begins to laugh, a bright gurgling noise like the creek newly thawed in spring. It tells us the changeling children will be so excited to see us. They’ve wanted to travel to the human world for so long now. Sunlight filters through the leaves, making the fairy’s milky eyes gleam like oyster pearls.

You are looking at me and I remember your hushed voice through my window this morning. Once you eat fairy food, you’re bound to their world forever. We can love each other there.

Maybe the fairies will eat us in the end. Maybe our lips will meet for just a moment under the golden sun of their world before they feast on our bodies and blood. Maybe our eyes will cloud, our fingers will web, and I will build a new piano for your fair hands. 

But now your eyes are brown, your hair is gold, and you are holding a hickory nut to my lips. I mirror you, and you smile as I lay this last communion on your tongue. 



We enter its kingdom together, leaving behind the echo of hickory nuts cracking between our teeth.

Taylor Reed is a young writer from rural Pennsylvania who remains fascinated by the natural world and the stories it holds. Taylor can be found on Instagram @worldoftreed.

Our Last Communion is the winner of the Apparition Literary Magazine June Flash Fiction Challenge.

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

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