This story, inspired by the Gaslight Anthem’s song “Halloween,” was originally published in Severine Literary & Art Journal.

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He’s wearing his best suit. He slicked back his dark hair. He’s drinking a whiskey ginger with trembling hands. He never used to drink, but things change, she thinks. She wonders if it roughens his throat the way the words “I love you” used to; he didn’t say the words often, but when he did she could feel them resonate inside of her. She wonders if he starting drinking again because he doesn’t say “I love you” anymore.

She likes the suit. She picked it out for him. It used to make him look like a Golden Age movie star, but now he looks more like the movie star’s rotting corpse. His face is pale; his cheeks are hollow. The hand holding the drink is almost skeletal.

He flickers, like a hologram, blinking out of existence for a moment and then popping back in. She shakes her head. She can’t see straight anymore.

She stays in the corner of the room. She dressed up for this party—red lipstick, pearls, her favorite polka-dotted dress—but it’s best for her to stay out of the middle of things. It’s best for her to just watch.

She’s watching him, but all of a sudden he’s everywhere. He’s talking to a woman with golden hair. He’s across the room, swaying to the slow piano music. He’s standing by the window, in the pool of moonlight collecting on the floor. Every single person in the party has his soft blue eyes, his long nose, his tattooed knuckles. A hundred copies of him, swarming around her but never getting too close.

She blinks, and everyone has the right face, the right body, and they chatter around her without noticing that she’s there. She finds him—the right him. She meets his gaze. He must be able to see her—his eyes widen, his thin lips part, he steps back a few feet. People move between them and the spell is broken, but she knows that that moment was real.

He downs his drink and retreats back to the open bar. She wishes she could do something to erase that broken look from his face, but she has done all she can. She doesn’t know if it made things better or worse.

She catches a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror and she can see her bones, x-ray like, through her gray skin. Uncomfortable feelings collide somewhere in her stomach. She wants to keep watching him—she wants to know that he’s okay—but perhaps it’s time to move on. Perhaps he doesn’t want the ghost of his wife hanging around anymore. Perhaps she has to let go.

She wants to find his eyes one more time, but her fragile body is already fading.