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Cyclical Miracle

Piniglat was not the first to ask for miracles, but she was the most persistent. I'd turned her away last time, and the time before, and every other time after the first. As easy to count grains of sand on the beach as count the times I've been begged to open my book of miracles. Piniglat was persistent, but so was I. When she arrived, I put on water for tea (black for me, chamomile for Piniglat), and prepared to say no. We only get one miracle.
Beneath her layers of faded cloth, Piniglat was pallid and shivering, her long brown hair disheveled. She looked years older, somehow, though I knew with utter certainty she hadn't aged a day. My miracles are no parlor trick.
"I want to die." Piniglat said, pushing her cup of tea away while I pulled at a bottle of starfish brandy.
"You keep saying that." I said. "But you don't want to die. You want to be dead. There's a difference."
"Just do it. Reverse the miracle."
I shrugged helplessly. "I can't reverse a miracle."
"I know you can do it."
"Listen, Piniglat," I said. ""Do you believe in God?"
She sneered. "No."
"Not with all the baggage, then. Do you believe in the possibility of an omnipotent being?"
She pursed her lips. I knew she was thinking on the many miracles I'd written in my book. Creating mud out of nothing. Creating life out of mud. Creating life out of death. That sort of thing.
Finally she nodded. "Maybe. Maybe I could imagine an all-powerful being."
"Could your all-powerful being create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it?"
She shrugged. "Of course. He can do anything."
"Right. Mostly. Thing is, he wouldn't create that stone. Now that you've been wished alive, I can't let you die. It's not a proper miracle."
"But someone else could. Another omnipotent being."
I shrugged and took a long drink of starfish brandy, handed the bottle to Piniglat, and went to bed. Even miracle workers need to sleep.
I woke before the sun, and Piniglat was still sitting at the table, all the candles burnt down to puddles of wax around her, tea spilled into eldritch spirals on the table, staring bloodshot into my book of miracles. She closed the book and collapsed backward into the arms of her chair as I walked in.
"I'm finished." She said. "I've said the words. I've reversed the miracle. I can die now."
I shook my head sadly and repeated my refrain: "You can't reverse a miracle."
Nevertheless, I sat with Piniglat until sunrise. She'd performed the miracle well enough. The decay ate her slowly, minute by minute. Her skin dried and tightened, every part of her body pulling away from itself, until finally there was nothing left of Piniglat but component parts and dust. I swept the dust into a funerary urn.
I buried what was left of Piniglat on the beach. Even her bones looked old, yellow and cracked in odd places. I stared at the grave for a long while, the sand mounded up like a tumor, the churned earth dark brown atop the beach. People say that funerals are an important part of the relationship. Burial offers finality, and closure. True for some, maybe, but it's never been that way for me. There's no closure in the miracle business.
I left the grave for a full week before I went back to dig up the body. It wasn't enough time for all the flesh to slough off, but it wasn't a problem. Her new body would only be stronger for it. As I bled ichor from the limbs of the starfish and made a paste of the corpse-dirt and remaining flesh, I wondered if this time would be different. As I swabbed the paste over yellowed bones, I wondered if Piniglat would choose to stay, this time. As I filled the bellows with my own hot breath, I wondered if Piniglat would stay with me. Probably not.
We only get one miracle. It can never be reversed.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, February 4th, 2020
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