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Her body could not have been more than a few weeks old, yet she still was rotting at an unprecedented rate. I knew this because she was wearing the same Hello Kitty T shirt I saw in her missing poster.

Black hair, once a shining blanket, was now matted down in strings against her pale greenish forehead. Her sallow skin hung clumsily from her limbs as if it fell asleep in the process of climbing back into its rightful place. Her left arm, gnawed straight through to the bone by malevolent rats and other blind things of the dark. And her eyes - while devoid of any membrane or organ - held the faintest glimpse of the scraps of life.

It was love at first sight.

I first saw her while canoeing along the North Park river. 90°F weather where simply standing on that metal canoe was enough to scorch your soles. So, I took shelter under the many bridges lining the estuary, where years of graffiti began to show themselves. Under the second bridge was a sewer tunnel which undoubtedly came from the warehouse next door.

As I paddled my way to safety under the shade, I saw something moving in the darker shadows of the mouth of the tunnel. Curious, I paddled closer. And that is when I saw her.

At first I assumed the rats had been swarming for a feast, once I figured out that the figure lying at the mouth was indeed a corpse. But then I realized She was the one who had been rattling against the rails of the sewer mouth, clinging to it with one distended hand.

No sound came from what remained of her waterlogged lips but I could tell that they altogether held secrets I would never know of. Who loved you in life? And who holds you here in death? She did not answer, but shakily stood, turned and walked back into the tunnel with the gait of a newborn. She turned her head slowly and our gazes met briefly before she vanished again.

‘Twas not an invitation but a gesture of acknowledgement. I resolved to see her again once night set.

Under the cloak of darkness, I managed to climb my way along the muddy embankment back to the sewer entrance. I almost fell several times into the river, but no serious ailment befell me. I paused at the sewer mouth, holding myself up by the bars with heels planted firmly against the sloping rocks.

I dared not make a peep and instead waited for an hour at the entrance, in fear of perhaps scaring Her away. Waiting, I listened intently to the sounds of dripping water and sleepy crickets beneath my boots. I felt giddy like a teenager asking someone to prom. And then She appeared in shadow gradient, staggering towards the mouth of the tunnel. As She came close, I could see in morbid detail the further state of decay by which I was enraptured.

Her bones shone in the moonlight with unearthly contrast. Against the muddy red walls of the pipe, She glowed in ghastly blues. Breasts not quite vanished and retaining some semblance of traditional femininity, but nonetheless deflated in passive defeat. Hips pivoting as if on a shallow axis, threatening to come apart at any moment. Shards of glass, steel, and other unfriendly bits clung to what remained of her flesh; clearly She made her ways around this old system. Her eyes were alive with a rippling wave of white maggots, causing me to hold my breath. If indeed there was an equivalent to this in her life, She must have had shining starry eyes.

I asked her, “May I come to know you?”

Her answer, while not obvious to the passing eye, was made clear in the way She swayed by the breeze of the night. Whether or not She was looking directly at me or past me, deep into my soul, was irrelevant. She could indeed feel me.

As if on cue, She let out a wail that could only be perceived by myself. There was something missing from this lady’s unlife, a hollowness reminiscent of a lost child or a room emptied of its contents.  I wanted to reach out and stroke her missing cheek to provide some sense of comfort but stood back in awe, instead choosing to admire this haunting scene.

I stayed at the foot of the tunnel until I fell asleep. She was gone by morning.

That was the last I ever saw of Her. No singular day, or week, or year ever let Her otherwordly form grace my eyes again. There are times where I dream of Her hands rattling their cage apart, dashing out across the river, under the overpass, past the deathly yellow streetlamps, into my backyard and into my home. She storms her way into my room, and after a briefly heart-pounding moment of ecstatic lust and longing, She merges her face with mine. They say drowning is one of the best ways to go, and in this dream, I cannot agree more.

Written by William See
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