After his wife died, he tried to get her back. Of course. He’d loved her madly and he tasted her loss each morning with his coffee, settled in next to it each night in the king bed they used to share. Grief hollowed out his chest and nested there, laid eggs. He could not help but feel her in all of his day’s empty spaces- the hours between waking up and going to bed and the moments between inhale and exhale.

First, he tried therapy. He tried “getting back out there.” He even visited a psychic, but when she told him the tarot cards said that the best was yet to come for him he demanded his money back and left her a 1-star Yelp review.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.

He pored over websites with clipart inserts of grinning skulls and bought all the recommended books bound in sticky animal hides. He lit tall candles that glowed unnaturally bright and said all the incantations, quietly at first then louder, louder.

He even killed her cat, drew signs and symbols with its blood, burned its guts in a fire that produced foul black smoke and made him cough for days on days. God, she’d loved that cat. But he’d loved her more.

A vengeful message from beyond the grave was better than throwing rocks into the abyss and waiting for them to touch bottom.

But a man grows tired of waiting. Night after night he pleaded with the beyond to give her back to him, paced grooves into his hardwood floors until finally his voice took on a broken edge and he screamed an invitation that echoed through the halls of his empty house for anyone who was listening.

And then they all came in. And now he never goes to bed alone. And now he never wants for company.

On bad nights, they throw furniture and tear pictures off the walls. On bad nights he wakes up from dreams of agony and damnation with bruises circling his ankles, his wrists, his throat.

But there are good nights where they sing high keening songs and speak to him in buzzing cacophany and no one leaves cryptic messages in blood and no birds slam into the house mid-flight and shatter their necks and fall to the ground in quivering, feathery heaps.

He watched them take apart a possum once. It screamed like you wouldn’t believe, poor animal. They left it in piles on his floor (one for skin one for guts one for bones and all that blood) and he’d vomited for fifteen minutes before he could make it to his car, to the store, to pick up a bucket, a sponge, industrial-grade bleach. The hardware store clerk had looked at him funny and he’d thought you don’t know the half of it.

Sometimes he swears he hears her voice among the demanding multitudes or sees the shape of her behind him in a mirror. But it’s difficult to tell, really, with all the space in between them.

He worries purple half-moons under his eyes. He smokes cigarettes down to their filters. He watches them play around in the vapors, all grasping fingers and gaping mouths given brief form by his clinging exhalations.

He misses her so much, but he knows she’s got to be around here somewhere.