There’s no seeing the moon under two meters of peat.

Soon, she tells herself, soon, but that’s been the moss-cradled word in her mouth for over two thousand years. Her skin is leather, her organs shrunken, her bones dissolved—the bog, ever-faithful bed and jealous boyfriend, has taken those—but there’s no cure for longing.

It’s beautiful up there, she tells herself; it must be. Even with everyone she’s ever known gone, there must still be storks, uncombed mounds of golden grass, and willow-laden laggs. Surely the bell heather still blooms. The village that plaited her hair put nightshade in her stomach to secure that bounty. It can’t be gone.

There’s another down there with her, in the belly of the bog, but he’s more spagnum than man. A mummy unspooled into the wool that makes them all; a weft end that ought to be tucked into a loom warp rather than seen. He’s a half-meter below her. That may as well be a world. When she sinks, he does. They’ll never touch. They’ll never see each other. Since they died centuries apart, perhaps they were never meant to. They’re parted and united by peat. All they can offer each other are words.

The unwoven man has a noose about his neck. The offering knows he must’ve been a criminal. Maybe a thief, murderer, or adulterer. She hasn’t cared about such things since she died. Nor has he.

They are in love.

it    is beau tiful, the criminal says. I   ca  n feel it.

I’d like to see the snow, she replies. There must be snow. The peat is colder.

is it?


It’s been centuries since the offering was high enough to feel the peat’s warmth, or to even feel its changes. She can’t sense these things when she speaks to the criminal. This is not lying—it’s stretching truth to its finest fiber. Snow always comes; snow always goes. Flowers bloom, thicken, birth, and wane. The season, a mere matter of months, isn’t important. The comfort is.

the  re   must be geese, the criminal says. there mu   st be  sun. do you remem ber the sh   ape of it?

She doesn’t.

I’d like to hold hands, the offering says. I’d like to see the sky. That’s you-shaped.

i’d like tha   t too.

All the riches down there with them—the gold, the white stones, the butter, the pots, all plushly tucked in peat—yet they’ll never picnic together. They’ll never be any richer than when they died. Once, the offering found this an injustice. She’s forgotten the taste of that word. The criminal has forgotten it entirely. They’re both naked, the bog having long devoured their clothes, but this too means little. They’ve shed carnal hunger alongside all that can be hurt.

All there is bog. Bog and longing.

It will be beautiful, the offering tells herself, when my friend hits the bottom one day. Then I can catch up and sink into him. That’s companionship.

It isn’t as beautiful as a moon on a misty, salty night.

The criminal must feel her discontent sliding along what’s left of his sinew and pressure-crushed skull.

go   see it fo  r me, he tells her. The everyt   hing.

We’ll never meet then.

that’   s alright. i love you more than i need to mee t y  ou.

What they have, acid-forged by ages, compressed by peat, can outlast their existence. The offering’s longing is such that it overflows from her augury holes, pushing pickled slips of gut as it goes. They are beyond marriage; they are beyond blood. So much seemed essential when her village read their fate in her entrails, yet nothing has ended up more important than a stranger’s voice in the dark.

I’ll be back, the offering vows. We’ll reunite.

She’s never stretched the truth further.

Though the offering can’t push against the peat, now that she’s untethered, she can extend her will upwards—towards shapeless sun, mountains she’s tread, and stars she died beneath. It takes everything in her. The criminal murmurs comforts until he quiets, lost in his unspooling perception of time.

Though the offering doesn’t burst out or bloom, her hands are outstretched in spirit when a shovel digs into her shoulder. The offering weeps when they pry her out of the peat. She’s headed heavenward.

Surely, she thinks, they’ll dig a little deeper. They’ll take us both!

They don’t.

The peat harvesters that have claimed her aren’t interested in further investigation. She is bound for a case in a traveling tent. It’s dim and dry. The air will eat her; the sun won’t reach her. Boys will tear at her braids, bacteria at her flesh. She’ll unweave far less gracefully than the criminal. When she dies the biggest death, it will be in some Denmark ditch far from her bog. She’ll have gone from village hope to discarded debris. She and her love stay unmet.

But before all that, when the offering is laying in an open box of peat, carried shoreward by laborers barely older than her in life, she feels the mist, hears the owls, and senses the soft grass underfoot. Her skin glows beneath watching stars. She soaks in the world her kin killed her to feed. Though eyeless, she sees the moon: a fine, glowing sickle.

Which makes all the partings worthwhile.