CEMETERY STROLL

horned god  michael ivan

The leaves rustle in the cemetery winds. The air is still and I am alone. Caught in the fingers of some unseen autumn phantom, I turn to survey the necropolis surrounding me. Some find it odd that I come here, but I do not care what they think. They are nothing to me–people who know nothing of me, see nothing of me. I’d rather walk among the dead than subject myself to their opinions. So, here I am.

My boots–stained with pale, dried mud from the dreary grounds turned to marsh by the intermittent rain–crunch the fallen leaves, obliterating their husks, erasing the remnants of summer life.

Sometimes I hate when the sun shines. The breeze rustles the grass, it sounds like the day whines, crying towards the onset of twilight, unwilling to give way to the moon, like a child angry at bedtime.

“Oh, don’t kick and scream,” I say, gazing up at the darkening skyline. “There’s always tomorrow.”

The paths in this graveyard are hardly discernible; years of neglect in the form of bramble and debris clutter the walkways. Weeds overlap decaying, eroded tombstones, stained with enough moss and lichen to obscure the words. Nameless now are the corpses, ensconced in the dirt of the world. Earthen beds below the footsteps of life, cradled in the arms of forever. How peaceful it must be.

I am just a ghost in the world, but a visible one. These souls may still wander, but unseen. How secure the obscurity. Often times I wish I couldn’t even talk, then I’d have an unwavering excuse not to interact. I could hang back in the shades, hide in the corners, and pretend to be a carcass in a coffin, unnoticed by the passing crowd.

Ugh…sometimes I make myself sick with all this self-absorbed brooding. I feel like an emo kid’s diary, or his notebook of poems. Sickening. I’m too old for that. But, isn’t every person allowed introspection? I mean, I’m not sitting around burdening people with this sudden bout of narcissism; I’m not sitting in front of a mirror with a razor blade to my forearm. I’m just out peacefully strolling along this ruined resting place, overgrown by time. I find solace in the silence here when the world gets too loud.

A rustle in a large mound of decaying branches interrupts my reverie. At first, I imagine a bird or a rat, or some woodland creature scouring this wasteland for dinner, or perhaps nestling into their home. But, when I hear louder cracks ring out, I can’t help but to try and take a closer look.

As I draw nearer, the movement becomes louder, more pronounced. Several of the branches then sail into the air, landing far away on the other side of the hill of shrubbery and tree limbs, beyond my range of vision. I stop in my tracks, realizing that my company is not of the established denizen of a place like this.

I hear the branches begin to shatter as the massive lump of decomposing forestry starts to quiver, sending pieces sliding off the sides. Snorting grumbles cough out from the other side, followed by a garbled rumble that sounds like noises from cracked, distorted vocal chords.

My body tingles from feet to head, numbing all senses beyond fright. I start to back away, but cannot turn. My morbid nature dies to see what it is. A man? A monster? A beast? Entwined with that dread are exhilaration, excitement, and adventure. I have no idea what is actually about to emerge from the other side.

When I see a large black shape rise above the pile–which stands at least ten feet high–I freeze. I can make out a large, black cranium, jagged horns, and shaggy dark hair. The head looks from side to side and I see a prominent bottom jaw with an extremely long nose, curving downwards into a point. From the top lips hang a set of teeth as big as human bones.

“What the hell?” I whisper.

There is an unintelligible series of grunts just before I watch the head start to rise higher above the dead branches. Beneath the head is a broad, beastly, dark-brown body, rippling with muscles. The smell of death permeates the air. I don’t wait any longer to turn and flee.

I don’t make it far before I step on a bunch of twigs. A deafening, ground-shaking roar then sounds out behind me as I hear the pile of branches begin to be crushed and scattered beneath an immense amount of weight. Methodical, angry vibrations rattle my feet as I run. Heavy, rattling breath drags the wind behind me as whatever ungodly titan arose from the trees begins to lumber in pursuit.

The roar rings out again, almost tossing me to the ground. It is so much nearer, now. All the reserve within me is accessed and I set flight as fast as I can, praying that I don’t lose my footing. But, I don’t know where I’m going to go or how long I’ll have to run. How long can this monster endure? Does it have boundaries?

I’ll run until I’m dead.

The rotten aroma of putrefaction begins to swallow me. The abomination is right behind me. I can see its shadow steal the evening on the ground in front of me. My shadow is gone–erased–just like I fear I am about to be.

The unofficial entrance to the graveyard lies ahead: a small opening in the thin woods blocking the grounds from the highway. I see the gray, dying sunlight beyond it. Maybe if I can make it there, this otherworldly beast will not be able to pass through.

Guess I’m about to find out. I cross my fingers because I am almost all out breath.

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