This short story was accepted for publication in the most recent issue of the online magazine the-were-traveler: “The Shadows Only Hide the Monsters—A Tribute to Edgar Allan Poe & H. P. Lovecraft” and has been graciously shared with readers at WARP Place.


There’s blood flowing down the river, winding its way through the rocky banks of Kentucky wooded knobs and hills—like the satin ribbons he once braided into my windswept hair. The blood is staining silted dirt along the edges, rust of the life left behind—life left lingering there in the lines of my palms.

His voice singing—still singing! I can hear it in the crimson flush of slow moving water around my ankles. I made of my hands a chalice and drank the water that held his song, his blood, I drank it—as much as I could hold before my body began to tremor and shake violently. I wanted that song inside me, around me, interwoven into my own blood—my own veins! I wanted to hear that voice pulsating in my mind, my organs, till it blocked out even the sound of the damned crows that had followed me here—tormenting me with their ceaseless cawing. Yellow eyes in the trees watching, stalking my every bare footed step!

And oh how the blood flowed! Patterns of beauty in that river—lace and flowers, clouds of blood billowing out from his stilled body. Karminrot, the old word came to me. Yes, his blood was the color karminrot—no mere red would work here. Karminrot—spoken in the smoky German of his voice, tickling the delicate places of my inner ear. “Karminrot” the crows cawed to me. “Karminrot” the wind whispered in disapproval. “Karminrot” trickled the cold water.“Karminrot” sang his voice inside me, inside the river, inside the earth—everywhere “Karminrot!”

And I wept! I wept! Screaming into the sky, screaming at those damned crows! I wept and I screamed and I wanted to vomit—expel the blood I’d swallowed in madness, expel it back into the river but nothing would come. It would stay there, corrupting my insides like a parasite. My knees gave out and I fell upon his prostrate body, that horrid blood still flowing.

I wept bitter tears and in delusion I tried to put the blood back in—Yes! Put it back in! But it only snaked through crazed fingers, seeking a home away from a body growing too cold. I laid my head upon his chest—listen! Listen! But there was no beating, no drumming to be heard. Oh, that sound! How it had been my most precious lullaby! Now stilled, silent, it would play for me no more.

I wept through the morning and into the warmth of noon. I wept until the blood no longer flowed from that beautiful body. The body I had memorized into my fingertips, into the curve of my tongue. I sang to him the night song he would sing to me laying beneath flannel sheets, legs and arms entwined while the candles burned low and mingled sweat dried upon our bare skin. I sang it into his chest, his beard, his dead lips.

Had he not loved me? Had he not held me? Had he not set aside the most sacred place in his heart for me? Oh yes, he had loved me. Loved me too much perhaps. Loved me too tightly. His soft music fingers at times had become iron cages, locking me away. Shielding me—had they shielded me? Had they kept me safe? Oh gods could it be true? That he had not locked me away but had only ever protected me? I didn’t know anymore. “Remember the roses.” I heard his voice speak—“Remember the roses. Karminrot roses.”

My eyes searched, scanned, devoured every detail of his face, but it hadn’t moved—still dead—but I swear to you I heard him speak! My mind was shattered, fractured, yes—but I say to you he spoke! The roses, yes, I remembered the roses. A bouquet of scarlet for every time I stood on that old wooden stage. Everyone came to watch. Seats filled with people who came from all across Kentucky to watch us standing there together. We had been quite the spectacle, he and I. Him with the same old guitar his own father had played, and me with the violin he had given me the first night I met him.

He’d only been “passing through” when we met. Stopped here for the night, carrying his guitar he was playing for tip money to buy his dinner. I fell in love with him immediately—sat at that dirty little bar beside him, enchanted with his stories and flashing eyes. When the night was wearing thin and our voices growing tired, he led me upstairs to the room he rented for the night and gave to me that violin. He never left our town after that night, nor me. He spent his afternoons teaching me to play and to sing, guarding me like a jealous dog. And I was a bewitched child in his arms. But no one would come to hear our music now. It was gone, gone, washed down the river with the scarlet ribbons of blood.

Remember the roses.”

“I remember the roses, love.” I wept to his dead body. Every single bouquet was hanging, dried, on the walls of our tiny home.

“Karminrot” he gasped.

“No more love! No more! The karminrot is gone, all gone!”


“It is gone my love! Gone into the river, I can’t get it back!”


I sighed into his chest—the dead know nothing. The crows still screamed at me from the trees, the water still wound around our bodies. They would never stop—those damned crows. They would never stop following me. I knew this like I knew the sun would rebelliously rise again tomorrow—not knowing that the world had stopped turning at 9:32 this morning. Those damned crows! “Karminrot” he gasped.

Karminrot … I could see the word written on the side of the pigmented wax stick he had placed in front of me, that morning at the table. It had come in a tin of other colors, a trinket he had brought with him from over the ocean. Standing behind me he had whispered, “Karminrot. This color is for you, the color of life. You are my life.” Karminrot. He wrote for me then a song on a piece of paper—every line, every note, every word written with that red crayon.

The crows screeched from earth bound trees, leaves in the midst of change. The fresh green of summer fading into the flame of autumn—and oh how the thought of those leaves in their full crimson splendor made my stomach churn!

“Karminrot” he gasped.

“I will make more, beloved” I whispered.

He had been jealous, yes—but then, so had I. Held so tightly against him, and yet even the stranglehold he kept me grasped in could not keep away the hordes of admiring women come to flirt and ogle him at our shows. And how the girls did love him! And he loved the admiration, as much as they offered he would consume. I think it must have turned me bitter, all those women. But gods I loved him! I really did! I’d never wanted him dead—but jealousy…that beast. The rock had fallen from my hand before he had fallen from his feet. My beloved. Beloved.

“Karminrot” he gasped.

“Yes, darling,” I whispered to the corpse, reaching my hand into the pocket of his pants. My fingers found the cold metal of the pocket knife my father had given to him on the eve of our wedding. All these years and he still carried it. I slid it from his pocket, my head still on his cold chest, and pulled open the blade.

Kentucky always held such beauty in its forests and fields and hills and rivers. Home. Not home anymore. Home was with him and he was gone—washed down the river to the sound of the crows.

“Karminrot” he gasped.

In one silk move I sliced open my tender throat, making sure to drag the blade all the way across before letting my hand drop. I settled my gaze on his dead lips as the blood flowed out of me, over him, into the river—sailing downstream like the satin ribbons he’d once braided into my windswept hair.

“Karminrot” he gasped.

“Karminrot” sang the crows.

“Karminrot” whispered the trees.

“Karminrot” sang the bloody river.

Copyright © Tia Kessler 2014