by Sheila M. Merritt

Melissa Mia Hall passed away suddenly. She was a wonderful writer. Her short story “The Brush of Soft Wings” is a sensitive and discerning look at confronting death. The protagonist is an elderly lady who is critical of contemporary life. The world has altered: She is uncomfortable with the cultural and demographic changes in the neighborhood. And feels quite unhappy about the way her generation is perceived: “Women of certain ages still needed certain things. It always made her mad to see how the media tried to turn old women into old children, with brittle voices and stupid outfits, like those dumb nets over tightly curled hair.”

Glorifying the past, she acknowledges the tricks that memory can play: “Time could blur things, make things softer and better than maybe they had been in reality, but if that’s all you had…”

Though defiant and in denial, she accepts the friendship of a mysterious little girl. Affectionately called “Leonie,” the youth personifies both the vitality of existence and the allure of death. Hungry and haunting, the kid possesses a morbid and insatiable appetite for life. She assaults the woman with the inevitable: “She tried to beat Leonie off, but the child had enormous strength. The little hands held her closer, tight, the smell of her like clinging honeysuckle and trailing geranium.” The fight is there, but the succumbing is sweet.

This elegiac allegory embraces the fears inherent in aging: of feeling like a relic; of time passing one by. First published in Post Mortem: New Tales of Ghostly Horror, “The Brush of Soft Wings” is ultimately a tender tale. It’s an ode to the final acquiescence.

Melissa Mia Hall is gone. Her eloquent words, however, remain vibrantly and touchingly alive.

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