Heatwave by H.V. Patterson

Such heat. Even the vultures roosted listlessly in the shade, waiting for the release of death or rain. The pavement burned my dog’s tender feet. He whined in betrayed pain and licked my sun-blistered knees.

Tempers run high in such heat, boil in sync with our dying oceans, sing sympathetic harmony with the melting of our plastic world.

Could I have said or done something different? Could I have been someone else, somewhere else? So many different questions to lay at the feet of the victim, so few answers to demand of the attacker. For me, there was little time for questions and less for answers.

When you killed me, I was staring into the merciless sky, begging for the dream of a cloud.


Such heat: dehydrated and salt-starved, you nearly fainted as you dug my grave.

I watched you grab my already-bloating feet and felt you drag me into the shallow pit, a doubled-experience. I was both body and ghost. Dirt covered my face, closing me off from the sky.

When you finished, it was midnight and still a hundred degrees. You hid your face from the pitiless stars and pretended your tears were the ghosts of rain drops.


I was such heat, such purity of rage.

I drifted, a gossamer soul, less substantial than dandelion fluff. For eight nights, I watched as you slept alone in the air-conditioned comfort of the house we’d shared. I watched my heart-broken dog waiting by the front door for me to come home.

In life, I’d been schooled in kindness and empathy. In death, I searched all the corners of my ghost for cooling sympathy, forgiveness, memories of love. I searched for grief, for thoughts outside myself: for the dead and dying children, the scorched and scorching world.

But I was nothing but such heat, such rage.

All ghosts are narcissists. We don’t care about the future, the world, anyone or anything. We are gardeners nourishing only one thing. One beautiful, choking weed.


Such heat. Not even the cicadas stirred in the heat-stroked woods concealing my corpse. The vultures were sluggish, their avian minds porous. On the ninth day, I slid my vengeful ghost against their hollow bones. They hissed and coughed, and let me in.

A kettle of vultures four-dozen strong, I boiled over you as you watered the wilted grass. I harried you deep into the woods until you collapsed on the ceiling of my grave.

The vultures were not used to such fresh, struggling meat, unseasoned by putrescence, but my rage reforged their instincts. You fought, but I was four-dozen pairs of wings and four-dozen beaks rupturing the scant protection of sweaty skin. I divided and devoured you, a last supper fit for our broken world. My ghost shrieked with four-dozen throats, delighting as blood seeped from tattering flesh and fed the thirsty earth.

As your ribcage buckled and I ripped the dubious prize of your heart in two, the heat finally broke.


It was raining when my ghost slid from the vultures and burrowed back into my body. I tasted my own bloat, felt the furtive foraging of insects reverberating through my decaying softness. Slowly, I creaked open dead jaws. Rain, mixed with grave dirt and your murderous blood, trickled past the ruin of my lips and down my desiccated throat.

My withered heart stuttered once, twice, more. My corpse quivered, and insects fled, plants retracted hungry roots, mushrooms recalled their branching filaments. Piloting my body once more, rebirthed by unknown alchemies, I crawled from my grave.

Rain splattered my unbruised face. I tipped back my head and opened my unruined lips.

The sweet rain carried an undercurrent of decay.

Greedily, I drank.


H.V. Patterson lives in Oklahoma and writes speculative fiction and poetry. She has work published or upcoming in Etherea Magazine, Star*Line, Haven Speculative, and Wyldblood Press, as well as anthologies from Sliced Up Press, Flame Tree Press, Eerie River, Creature Publishing, and Black Spot Books. She would love to (temporarily) possess a kettle of vultures. She’s a cofounder of Horns and Rattles Press, and you can find her on X @ScaryShelley and on Instagram @hvpattersonwriter