PodCastle 167: Portage


by An Owomoyela

Read by Elizabeth Green Musselman

Originally published in Apex Magazine.

When it came time to carry her father’s soul down from the mountain, she had nothing to carry it in.  The bowl her mother had carved from heirloom ivory, fit together like a puzzle mosaic and watertight without needing glue, had been shattered just that morning in an argument with the father’s retainer.  No other bowl had been carved with the requisite love for him.  But her father’s soul couldn’t be left up at the temple on Mount Ossus, so she went with the pilgrims to claim him before the sun did.

She stood in rank with them as the soul-preparers poured distillations from the cleaned skulls of the dead. When they came to her, a girl whose name was soonafter forgotten, she set her jaw and cupped her hands out like a beggar.  “Give me my father,” she said.

They did.  She took him down the mountainside cupped in her hands, tightening her fingers until they ached against every drop, until the piercing blue sky gave her terrors because it, too, was the color of soul water and it had spilled across the horizon, out of her hands.

Rated R. Contains Adult Themes.