This didn’t turn out quite like I intended, but here it is.
He heard steps and turned. A woman’s light yellow scarf fluttered outside his window and vanished.
Just a passing woman, he thought. No one was inside.
He turned back to his sketch. His wife had long black hair, large, lively eyes and a faint smile. Her laughter was a balm to his heart, like cut roses floating on water. Pretty, delicate and, he thought now, dead.
He squeezed his eyes shut at the thought. His last sight of her floated into his head. Wrapped in a white sheet, eyes closed, she was very still on the wooden pyre. The warmth licked up his face. His tears dried from the heat of the fire even as the flames consumed her.
The sound of light footfalls and the tinkle of silver ankle bells filled the air. He looked around. A light yellow scarf flickered, but this time kitchen window. That was his wife’s garden.
Frowning, he set the sketch aside and rose. How dare a strange woman enter his wife’s space?
He walked out the kitchen door and – stopped. There was his wife, smiling, standing next to the basil, skin glowing like black pearls. Too much time gardening, he thought dimly. She’d spend months gardening. How had he missed it?
He strode forward, arms wide open. She rushed to him, laughing, rubbing her rounded belly.
The pungent smell of crushed basil leaves teased his nose. No . . . that wasn’t . . . it couldn’t . . . He blinked. Why had he thought he smelled basil? His wife grew roses here. She liked to use the blossoms to decorate glass bowls.
Later that night, he rose above her. She opened her mouth. He gaped at her thick, black tongue. She grinned – and kissed him.
The townspeople found him in bed. The sheets twisted about his body. His eyes stared and he yelled strange things. Black snakes curled up in his lap; he cuddled them like they were his own.
They sent a message to his family and left him be.