Saturday, October 31, 2009
A Not So Brave Soul
A thick fog drifting over the ground and a full moon hanging overhead--who could think of anything better to stir fear in such a spooky place? Maybe it was the passing of the dark shape I thought I saw. I may not believe in all things paranormal, so explain my racing pulse and tell me why my mouth feels like I swallowed cottonballs.
Dropping behind a headstone, I hold my breath lest someone hear me. Blast the dewy grass that dampens my pant leg and turns the October air even colder. I should have worn a heavier jacket.
What had I been thinking, coming to the cemetery in the middle of the night? If I don't breathe, I'm going to explode, so I release pent up air and embrace myself against a shiver. It has to be my mind playing tricks. I don’t believe in ghosts or I wouldn’t be here.
So, explain that eerie shadow, I chide myself. A little brave voice somewhere in my gut tells me it’s probably something simple and explainable. Still, my plan to visit a graveyard didn't include me encountering someone's dead relative. Evidently, I’m not as brave as I profess.
I cock my head and listen but I don’t hear anything more because my thudding heart masks any other sounds. Some valiant soul I turned out be.
Still hunkering, memories take hold and I recall my mission. The past week has been the worst in my life. I haven’t cried, but maybe I need to curl into a ball and release all these emotions gnawing at me. Dad is gone and I’m still in disbelief. I came here to say one last goodbye and let him know how I feel. Leaving him for burial today was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The idea of him being all alone here is unbearable,and more than that, I’m not ready to be the man of the family even if I am almost eighteen. Emotions make me uncomfortable and I want to get this over and done. I peer over the hunk of granite and see the weird outline disappear. But whatever it is makes a crunching sound on Fall's carpet as it departs.
Ghosts don’t make rustling noises do they? I duck back in my hiding place. Wait! Didn’t I say I don’t believe in spirits? Keeping low, I brave another glance. I see nothing except rows and rows of other headstones. Some are shrouded by tall grass and lean haphazardly. I’m saddened by the disrepair, but I’ll make sure my father’s final resting place is maintained.
“Budget, smudgets… there are just some things that shouldn’t be eliminated, and cutting staff in a cemetery is just plain wrong,” I mutter. I’ve really lost my sanity. Now, I’m talking to myself. And why am I still crouched like a coward?
Feeling foolish, I stand and brush the leaves and grass from my clothing and check my bearings. Under the biggest tree was where we had Dad’s funeral. He’d purchased the plot years before, in preparation for this day. Mom’s resting place will be next to him when her time comes. I shudder to think of losing her too, but the reality is, we all die.
I hone in on the right tree, wait and listen. All is silent except for a slight hum of the wind that blows the fog along the ground. That must be what stirred my imagination. I chuckle at my silly fear, but places like this create weird thoughts. I square my shoulders and wonder why I’m trying to convince myself the dead don’t creep about in the darkness. I know they don’t. The supposed apparition was probably only something caused by the breeze and fallen leaves.
After a deep breath, I shuffle across the fall-colored quilt that blankets the ground. I can’t see the colors now, but they were vivid during the day, and brought consolation to an otherwise dreary time. Dad died so suddenly. A heart attack that none of us expected stole him from me and Mom. I didn’t get to share all the things I wanted to say—to tell him one last time how much I loved him. Does he think I didn’t? I have to make sure. I’ve given him such grief in the last few months. Even the full orb overhead doesn't provide enough light to find his grave.
Finally finding the familiar spot where he's buried, I pause. Again, I hear crunching noises, and my heart leaps into my throat. I risked squeezing between the iron gates at the entrance, and I can’t imagine anyone else would be here. Too coincidental. I know it’s not my imagination this time. The noise is too real. Not the wind.
I flatten myself against the ground, too frightened to move. The fresh smell of newly-disturbed dirt fills my nose, but I feel safe because I’m with my father. His courage and strength drift up to me.
As the footsteps draw closer, I see that same eerie shadow stretching across the ground in front of me. Fear roots me to the spot and I need to do what I’ve come to do before… Before what?
“Daddy,” I whisper. “It’s me, Nick. I didn’t want to leave you here alone but Mom said it was time to go. Are you scared? I wonder what it’s like to die, but that’s not why I came.”
The approaching footsteps stop and I wonder again if I’m reacting to my environment. Still prone, I try to picture that I’m giving my father one last hug. “Dad, I want to apologize for being such a screw-up since I got into high school. I know I should work harder on my grades, and I realize you restricted me for good reason. You want me to be responsible and have a good future, and I will. I promise, Dad. I’ll make you proud of me.”
“Nick?” I hear my mother’s voice. What are you doing here?”
Okay, that was my spooky offering for Halloween. Now you can go trick but before you I have a special treat for all of you. The publisher of Damnation Books is going to be my special guest on December 1, their launch day. Kim Richards has authorized me to make available a free download of Beauty Is. Here's the directions on how to get your copy:
Beauty Is, a Mary Kay lady vs a zombie, is a short story written by Kim. It sounds very appropriate for the moment. :)
Go to www.damnationbooks.com, click on Beauty Is. Then during the check out, input the promo code: 61beautyis
Thank you, Kim, and I look forward to hosting you and some of your new authors in December.