by Kayley Boddy
Her name was Lilith Rune and her soul dripped down her arms. They’d always told us that, years ago, our souls dripped down our arms like paint, until we learned to contain them. She was the story. We feared Lilith Rune.
But as a child who hardly believed the unseen and desired proof for everything, I believed neither of these things. Lilith Rune was and never will be a monster because our souls were never paint and they never dripped down our arms.
So on the day I set out to find Lilith Rune, my mother and father kicked me from the home reasoning that if I died, it wouldn’t be their responsibility. Thus was the day I discovered the absolute brainwork wonder of Lilith Rune and the soul that actually dripped down her arms and puddled like an oil spill at her feet.
Our conversation on her back porch in the Appalachian Mountains went as follows.
“I’ve heard wonders of you.”
“Honorary of your folk, that is. Have you come to hide me again?”
“Hide you? Miss Lilith, why would I desire the hiding away of you?”
Her paint slipped off the first step of the porch and twisted around the cherry blossom trunks, inching ever so slightly up the trees, speckling the bark with bright shades of the color spectrum. She only ignored it.
“What are you named?”
“Nothing that matters.”
“A name matters more than a life, lasts longer than a life, speaks louder than a life,” she said, and at this she stepped to me and placed both of her painted hands in my own. “I? Myself, I am a ghostly, monstrous secret. Tell me about yourself.”
“I am Auden Caelan.”
“Knowledgeable guardians you possess, Auden Caelan. An old friend to the people of victory. How long has your friendship been withheld?”
She spoke with a misty haze, blinding my teachings, but yet I was no stranger to her words, and I responded as any I expected would. “I am of fourteen years.”
“And an old friend, an old soul, as named?”
“Old, yes, in my friendship.”
Her hands leaped out of mine and held each other. The way Lilith Rune spoke was unfamiliar now, detached, cautionary. “You have come to expose my being.”
“Only if you oblige,” I said.
At this, she paused, hesitantly weighing my offer. Paint seemed to cover every inch of her backyard the longer we spoke; it trickled farther from her home. It nearly reached the limbs of the cherry blossom trees. She hardly disrupted our peaceful meeting however, not even to acknowledge the colors of the mountains. I took the silence as a request for me to step away from the paint on her arms and to give the monster room to thrash, room to disrupt.
But Lilith Rune did not thrash. For she was not a monster.
“I suppose the people of victory will ally me.”
“As best my friends are able.”
“And my paint?”
“Your soul cannot be taken, I suppose, as the city does not have room for it to expand and flow from your arms. The paint will flood the street.”
“Will you leave your paint with mine?”
“I cannot discard it. I am a containment.”
She smiled at me ever so slightly, and looked up at the colors of the cherry blossom trees, and washed her paint into the mountain, placing her palm against the skin of my arm.
“You are not a containment,” she whispered. “Your soul has always been in your veins.”
And from this conversation I led Miss Lilith Rune into the city. I led the monster home to show what the monsters do. But Lilith Rune was not a monster. She taught us how to paint our arms.