I've been working on another short story for the past week or so, and I wrapped it up earlier today. I like it, I hope you do, too.
(Though I'm probably going to work on fleshing out the ending. Damn those endings!)
Busted, bloody knuckles.
I always have busted, bloody knuckles.
Little rubies, little rivers of lava embedded with small flesh platelets. They only hurt when I touch them on certain spots, at least. Otherwise, it feels like a badge; a reminder of protection.
I went to visit my grandparents' grave site, as I do every Sunday. I find cemeteries to be peaceful places as a whole, and frequent them often to clear my thoughts and be still for a moment. Theirs is my favorite, both for sentimental and aesthetic value.
The gravel road gives way to fine dirt, a few precocious pebbles scattered throughout. Small grassy mounds give way to vast, rolling hills of the dead. For the dead. A variety of wooden, rotting crosses, some barely together still, paired next to areas of awful beauty; a marbled Christ resting his weary head upon the cross, and a stained Mary weeping at chiseled feet. Standard headstones broken in half, one only reading 'MY MOTHER,' rest next to grandiose mausoleums in the privy lots for the privy few. A beautiful ivory woman sits contemplatively atop a checker-topped sarcophagus in a flowing dress, hand resting on her chin, staring down at the pattern before her.
The day was dark, and the wind was strong. It howled through the passageways throughout the cemetery as I clung onto my overcoat, trying to keep warm. It was menacing, that Sunday. It seemed to loom overhead, whatever the impression was, and its presence was felt with every passing step.
Even the statues seemed to gain sensation.
Even the beatific angels seemed to be screaming.
I sat down on the grass cross-legged, next to their grave. I lit up a cigarette and took a slow drag--I've managed to cut down and it was my first one in two weeks at the time.
The name stared back at me. A small anchor designed onto his side, a delicate rose etched onto hers. They didn't live more than three years without each other.
The sky was gray, ominous clouds rolling over me. I heard a slight rumble of thunder in the distance. Rain was on the way, so I made the decision to leave a bit earlier than planned. I kissed a finger and laid it on the stone.
"'Night, guys," I sighed to myself before trudging off.
A heaviness seemed to sink on my chest. I could even feel it resting on my shoulders. Something dark wanted to grasp my attention. I kept walking at a steady pace along the dirt road, feeling the condensation rise in the air, occasional drags off my rapidly dwindling cigarette. A few mist droplets landed near its pointed ember.
Won't be long now, I thought to myself.
A few drags more, and I flicked the end of the smoke a few feet in front of me, and squished it underneath my boot's sole.
The statues almost seemed to have a mind of their own. I passed a display of life and death--a woman dancing with the shrouded figure of a skeleton, forever dipped in a mournful embrace. She seemed weary, and her fingers curled upright uncomfortably, as though she was enormously fatigued by her struggle.
When they gained distance behind me, I swore I could hear a piano tinkling an eerie tango near their plot.
As I walked long, weary strides along the path, some part of the sensation looming throughout the cemetery started to come over me. My thoughts began racing, blurry images in my mind playing with my actual eye sight, things seeming strained in front of me. I felt something crawling inside me, writhing underneath my skin. I felt it creep along my spine, causing my whole body to shudder. I felt my muscles tense up. Suddenly, for no reason, I felt a burning within my very core, and I lashed around, screaming and striking the closest thing to me. My fist hit the delicate features of a granite statue, a man in a cloaked hood standing guard at one of the mausoleums, half his face hidden--only a sullen mouth and stern chin to be seen; a moss-ridden bible in his hands. My hand, now completely dulled with pain and stuck in a tight grip, came back to me. A new, shiny, perfectly straight slit appeared on my thoroughly calloused middle knuckle, while two bright new red dots on the opposing sides stared back at me. Powder from the stone breaking against my skin coated the open wounds. I looked back at the statue.
My blood made perfect little imprints into the slight indentation I made on its gray skin, along the chin. And as I stared at it, the statue seemed to raise its head, as if raising its gaze toward me, its mouth straightening into a tight grimace. I froze, startled.
The statue...shook its head very, very slowly at me. As if it were saying 'No, no, no...
I took a step back, gasping in surprise.
'Time to go. It's time to go,' I decided to myself.
'Noooooo, don't LEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAVVVE usssss!' they rasped.
As the wind picked up, lightning struck nearby, almost lighting one of the dead trees aflame. Indistinct moaning seemed to be rising from nowhere. The heaviness on my shoulders became almost unbearable, and I felt the adrenaline surge through my body as I spun around and ran down the hill, desperate to get back to my car.
There was a deafening choir of groans, cries and howling winds in my sprint back to safety. Dirt and debris kicked up into my eyes, blinding me for an instant and causing me to trip over myself just as I reached the bottom of the hill, the cemetery gates not more than 20 feet in front of me. I landed on my chest and a bit of my face, slightly winded for an instant, but rolled over and hobbled over to my parked car, thankful for the enclosure.
I could still hear them faintly moaning as I took in deep breaths and tried to steady myself, sweat beading all along my brow. I dipped my head into the inside of my shirt to wipe it off, and gave a bit of a chuckle to myself as I reached inside my coat pocket to get my keys and take off out of there, back to the comfort of a steadying drink in the privacy of my home.
They weren't in the pocket I normally place them in.
As I checked the other pockets, it became painfully aware to me that they fell out at some point during my mad dash back to the automobile. I felt my heart sink to the very center of the earth. I had to go back and look for them. The day was only getting bleaker, making the possibility of walking to the nearest establishment null. Even then, it was at least 10 miles up the road. I didn't have a cell phone on me. There was no other way.
Slowly, I stepped outside of my car, and turned to face the cemetery again.
'Cooooommmme baaaaaaaaaaaccccck!' they cried, as eerie laughter followed.
I took a deep breath and adjusted my coat, and strode through the iron gates.
I looked only on the ground, desperate to see something silver and not let the terrifying noises and movements out the corner of my eye throw me off. They seemed to only get louder, having a competition with the roaring wind, chanting and crying from all sides around me.
However, as I began to ascend back up the hill, just at the base of it, one noise in particular seemed to stand out from the rest. A beautiful, soothing, calming voice rose above the cacophony, and said to me a simple, 'Wait..'
I turned to the voice, over to my left, and noticed a placid angel resting underneath a wreath of orange and brown leaves from a dying blackberry bush, weaving themselves above her head and all over the body. Her outstretched wings covered in brown, thorny, veins. Her hand was outstretched toward the heavens contemplatively, and on one of those very vines entwined around her index finger hung my misplaced keys. After a bit of struggling and maneuvering, and a few more cuts on my hands, I retrieved them and stared at the angel for a moment.
She raised her blank eyes to the sky, and commanded me to go.
A booming groan went off behind me, breaking my fascination, and I darted past the gates and back into my car.
I switched on the lights, started the engine, and peeled off onto the gravel entryway. I smoked a cigarette when I reached the freeway. Even the clouds let up when I reached the main road.
I do still visit every Sunday, to this day.
But only when the weather's good.