Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Short Story: Be Quiet

Today is my friend's birthday and I guess I wanted to give them nightmares. Or maybe not. I don't think this is too creepy of a story.
I wrote it from a randomly generated prompt...this one actually "A graveyard is the location, hatred is the theme. A coat is an object that plays a part in the story."

"Be Quiet"
J. Lannan

Hate isn’t something that I usually deal with, but here it is right around that corner of the mausoleum. It’s not something I can easily understand as to why I happen to offend someone else by just being me. That’s their hang-up, so why am I supposed to pay for their discomfort?
Behind me is a grey marble wall. The smooth stone chills my sweat between it and my skin with my t-shirt caught in between the two. I breathe slowly and hope that somehow time will stop. That I’ll no longer be obvious to my pursuers. That they’ll just give up.
In. Did they even see me come in here? Out. How can I leave? In. I can’t possibly be making any noise. Out. Did they hear that?
I heard it. A shuffle of leaves and a bitten-off scream. An impact. Two impacts. It was nearly unison.
It is dark in the cemetery. Twilight has passed and the sun has set. I cannot tell if they are afraid, but did they care that I was scared? I relax against the wall and run a finger over the seam between the blocks. The noise still creeps away as a shuffle and I feel a bit more protected. Perhaps the two tripped. My brain pours over what I should do, what I could say, and that debate as to whether I am a bigger person. Or not.
The commotion has increased to thrashing. Wouldn’t it be funny if they tripped into an open grave? My head swam with the images of their pleading faces upturned and begging. I could give them a hand. Knowing my luck they’d probably pull me down with them. Or I could throw dirt at them and then skip all the way home. “See you at school, you miserable wretches.” I imagine myself the victor of their stupidity.

I came in here because it is like a maze. A maze that I know well. At least, I thought I knew it well enough. There were always additions, and mourners and grave blankets or flowers that changed with the seasons. Some forgotten graves with decorations from Christmases long past. A stray wooden rabbit. Dear little infants with stone lambs sleeping upon the top edges of their monuments. Couples that would one day meet again in the earth. The lonely stones of long-dead spouses who had reserved a plot for their husband or wife to rest beside them, but the spouse moved on and never joined them. Oh, the stories that a grave could tell.
This grave told a story as well.
After deciding to offer assistance I step out from behind the mausoleum and see an open grave. Of course I prepare to gloat, but there is a distinct lack of motion from the two who lay in the bottom of the neat fracture in the dirt. Faces that upturn at broken twisted angles. The school uniform-clad bodies look somewhere between clinging to each other and cowering away from something unseen. Under the lamppost the shadows play upon their faces exhibiting silent frozen screams and open eyes.
“Hey,” I call to them, but know it is pointless. I am even colder than before and the nightfall has absolutely nothing to do with it. “Hey!”
My shoulder is caught in a grip. An embrace as I twist to fight it. It tightens around me, but cannot hold. I fall back onto the ground to find a filthy-looking man standing over me. His jeans are caked in mud and the shirt under his stained brown coat may have been white at some point in time.
“The cemetery closes at dusk.” His smile did little to put me at ease, but there was something about his eyes that did help.
“What are you doing out here?”
“I’m a gravedigger. The uh... politically correct term is probably something like caretaker, but there’s not much to take care of. I just dig the holes.”
I nod, but don’t move further than that.
“You can go now. Go home.” His voice sought to move me anywhere.
“What about them?” I point to the open slice and immediately feel as though I should just get up and leave without another word.
“What about them?”
“They’re... dead?”
“Really...” He sighs and looks over the situation before turning back to me. “I guess there’s just one thing to do about that.”
Call the police. Call their parents. Get a news reporter out here. A camera crew. Paranormal investigators. I keep cycling through my thoughts.
“Help me burry ‘em.”
I glance at the filthy man and my eyes advertise my fear like a neon sign right across my face.
“Now, kid, I deal with bodies all the time. It’s not like they’re going to come back and do anything to you.” He tosses a shovel at the ground before me. “Now, the real thing you got to worry about is when they start talkin’.”
“Talking?” I use the shovel to steady myself as I stand up.
“Yep. When anything starts talkin’ you gotta’ bash ‘em in the head with the shovel ‘til they get quiet again.”
“How do we make sure they don’t talk?”
He starts to shovel dirt to fill the hole. “Talkin’ makes more talkin’. So, I keep quiet an’ you keep quiet, and they not likely to start anything. As soon as we’re talkin’ about them though...” He nods again.
“So, if anything talks?” I whisper.
He raises an eyebrow at my question after his next couple shovels of dirt and I get the idea. We silently fill in the grave. He looks over our work and takes off his coat. Placing the dusty coat on my shoulders he gives me a slight squeeze and bows his head slightly before sending me off into the night. The coat should protect me from the night air, but instead it hangs on me as though shepherding my silence.
I don’t turn back. I don’t speak. Days pass before I do, but I never speak of them. They are not worth my words.

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