by Miriam H. Harrison
Let me tell you something about the human body: it’s dark in there. And when you take that body and throw it into a makeshift hole and add some dirt, it gets even darker.
That surprised me a bit. I’m not sure what I expected of death, but the bone-deep darkness wasn’t part of it. Neither were the sounds. They started faintly at first, muffled through the earth and distance, but as they came closer, I could hear them more clearly. Singing.
It was only a matter of time before the voices found me. The first few squirmed and scuttled through the earth around me, pushing against my skin, testing its resistance, searching for spaces where they could press in more deeply. Nose, ears, mouth—now only portals for my many-legged visitors. And all the while, the voices sang.
Their song enchanted me. They sang of cycles, seasons I had never learned but couldn’t escape. They sang of need and provision, solitude and family, coming together and falling apart. On and on, song and song.
Before long, I not only heard the song but felt it: pressing deeper, feeding, giving life. Every bone hummed with its music, and as I felt my body swell and stretch, it seemed as though the sound itself was filling the emptiness. I could feel the stirrings of new life as eggs hatched and maggots navigated this new world of song and food. They fumbled about, feeding, growing, learning. Bringing life to a body long-dead. It was a thing of wonder. I gave myself over to feed them, to be a part of their song.
In this space of giving and being, there was no separation, no them apart from me, no death apart from life. What was once my life now fed them, and they would go on to feed another, and we all fed the rhythm and timbre of the song. It was a deeper, richer sound than any I had ever heard, but it had always been there, if only I would have listened: the near and distant beatings of feet, wings, hearts; the calls and whispers of mating, killing, feeding; laughter and crying, first and last breaths. It was all these things and more. It was life. It was death. It was all that was left of me.
I understood now that a new season had come. My once-body had been reduced to slop and scraps that even the maggots no longer needed. It was their turn to go out into the earth and soil, to pupate and grow, to sing a new verse. I felt the fear and wonder of change, of the unknown towards which they traveled with such certainty. I was carried along on their breath, in the flesh I had fed. I was with them in life as they had been with me in death.
They went, and I was the song they sang.