Word of the Day: Incunabula

Word of the Day: Incunabula

In this series, I will take the Word of the Day from Dictionary.com and craft a short piece of creative writing around it.  My goal is to embrace the meaning of the word in some unique way, all the while trying out different styles, rhythms and characterizations.  It is as much an exercise in creativity as it is an exploration of grammar. Enjoy!

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By Alex Seise

Suddenly, the clock struck ten. It was an odd time; not quite late enough to conjure up thoughts of the witching hour, yet, far past the common time for supper. Several petals of the single white rose on the mantelpiece fell as silently as an overnight mid-winter snow.

“You hear that chiming, m’boy?”

“Yes, ma’am.” The man was nearly twenty-four (he still had three days until his proper birthday, though he acted more like a twenty-four year-old than a twenty-three year-old; tuberculosis epidemics had a way of subtly aging folks), yet, he still referred to his overbearing mother as ‘ma’am,’ wincing a bit inside as he took in the frizzled strands of salt and pepper that descended from her crown. She was old, to be frank, and he himself was mature. Surely, he’d need to grow up one of these years and do what needed to be done, though things were not looking terribly promising for twenty-three.

There was always twenty-five, assuming the consumption did not bury him beneath a weary granite tombstone like it had his sister, wretched little Mary Beth. The last time he laid eyes on her sickeningly pale pallor was three months hence as her coffin was sealed in preparation for the longest of rests.

Rest was what the fitful girl had needed ever since the day she fell wrong-side up from her mother’s womb.

His mother coughed in that queer way she favored, sputtering up bits of spit and phlegm into the air. The physician cautioned her to cover her mouth; she just hacked in his face in retort. “It won’t be long, now. Qa’zika assured me that much when I spoke with her this morning over at the corner of Gramercy Boulevard and Immaculata Avenue.” The cemetery, thought the boy. She met the Arab at his sister’s grave. “That ringing, m’boy, is the restorative incunabula taking hold. It’s just as Qa’zika said, what with the chimes and the tumbling of the rose and all. Ten shall fall, and one shall rise, she said.”

“The what?” He struggled over the incunabula reference, desperately trying to fit the word into context.

“The start of Mary Beth’s return.” She laughed maniacally. “Your sister, my dearest daughter; she never truly died. She merely…” Her words trailed as her wild eyes scanned the shelves of the study. “She merely entered a cocoon, like any caterpillar praying to emerge one day a butterfly. Mary Beth shall return in full regalia, a woman of grace and elegance once thought impossible for a girl of her affliction.”

“Mother…” The inside of her eyes were always graced with a faint glow of madness, though this was extreme even for her. Anthony vowed to slam the book closed on this ridiculous episode, here and now.

A scratchy knock at the door, however, set his head twisting and his mind racing.

Could she be…?

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