Here and there, a song is played...
Within it, you can hear the echo of old souls.
From the whimsical to the troubling, Nika Harper’s debut collection of short stories imagines a world where death may not be the end. A family’s legacy can live on, an artist can continue painting his perfection, and local ghost stories may be more than tall tales. Harper weaves stories of love and loss, hopes and horrors, that question the true meaning of “forever.”
Anyone would have been jolted by the car accident.
Irma heard the screeching brakes and leapt around, it was close enough to fear for herself, close enough to see the headlights sweeping the sidewalk next to her, close enough to see the body stuck beneath that car. Everything went foggy and white, she lost her breath and sat on the pavement in shock. Her account of the accident was recorded to the police, she was given some coffee and cut loose, but she had awful dreams of headlights. In her dreams, she was the one under the car. A year passed of the same recurring dreams, and she fought to convince herself that she could never have been under that car, that it was her fear and regret plaguing her. The girl who died was of similar age and her life ended so quickly, Irma was still shaken by the realization of mortality. She would sometimes get flashes of another life, the life the girl might have had, and dismissed them as being nervous, stupid thoughts. It was just the guilt at not being able to have done more.
Until one day.
Irma was staring into a window of a store, and had been for an hour. Just standing, looking in at a display that caught her. It wasn’t that she liked it, or wanted it, but there was a strange familiarity. A few passersby asked her if she needed help with anything. She smiled and shook her head, but her eyes returned, glassy, to the display. It was too early for Christmas anyway, October was time for Halloween, but that wasn’t what glued her to the window. The ornaments twinkled on their window display, tiered platforms of heirloom ornaments showcased through the years and available for purchase once more, because when creativity falters, you just go with what you know. Hallmark had resurrected retired tree ornaments, and with it, resurrected a memory. It was a stupid, cute, little white mouse sitting in a tart cup. It made no sense. It wasn’t even Christmas-y. But she stared for fifty minutes straight, and then she understood why. She had to sit down. She had it before. It was her favorite.
Her family is Jewish.
But she put it on a tree. And she wouldn’t let it be packed away with the rest of the ornaments, so eventually her mother convinced her father to let her keep it out all year long.
Her mother and father were divorced.
She had hung it up on a post in the loft bedroom she had in the fourth grade, which made her like the house a lot better than the other one they had just moved from, on the mountain.
Irma had lived in the city all her life.