Last week I had so much fun with mr. Wendig’s flash fiction challenge, I decided to try and participate as often as possible.
This weeks challenge was to pick a title from the list on the blog, and write a story with that title.
As you can see below, I chose the title ‘Future graveyard’. Happy reading!
It was a very odd job indeed. Well, the placing of tombstones was an ordinary job, for as far you can call working at a graveyard a normal job, but in my case it was a strange job. I place tombstones of people that aren’t dead yet.
I work closely with Death, or the grim reaper, however you want to call it. He gives me a list of names for that week and some information and I pick out a stone. With the information I engrave the stone and put something personal on it. It isn’t required for the job, but I think it gives it something extra. Apparently Death likes it, I just received a contract extension for another fifty years.
That sounds like a long time, but if you live for 5000 years it’s a small amount of time. In a strange way I love my job. It gives a sense of fulfillment to know the people about to die already have an eternal resting place. And it makes my job even better to see the smile on their faces when they are shown their last resting place and tombstone.
The only thing that raises some issues is designing a tombstone for serious criminals. Although they also deserve respect, as you would to the dead, it’s harder to come up with something personal to put on the stone. For a murderer you can’t write that he loved his knife, for instance.
Living for so long on this planet raises another problem, which can haunt me in my job. I know a lot of people, and in all those years, some are going to die. When I got my list for this week, I was shocked. My best friend was on there and for a moment I didn’t know what to do with myself. I ran after Death and confronted him in his office.
“Death, could I have a moment?”
“Yes of course, come in.” He gestured to a chair and I sat down. I was lost for words and sat there, in complete silence for a couple of minutes. Death saw through my silence and bluntly asked; “Who do you know on the list?” I looked at him with wide eyes. I scraped my throat, now or never.
“My best friend is on the list, as a matter of fact, he is on top of the list. What has he done to die? I know he’s not sick.” With a shock I realized something. “Oh no, he doesn’t die due to an accident or something, does he?” Death saw my frightened face and had always hated this part of his job.
“I’m sorry to tell you he gets murdered. Sadly, I can’t tell you when, where or by whom. I know it’s rough but I really can’t tell you anything else, as you could prevent it and that gets me in a pickle.” he said, with a sad face.
“Can I just ask, do I have time left to see him one more time?” I asked, with more hope than ever.
“If you go now, yes. But think about what I said. If you mess with his Death I can’t help you. I know it’s hard but please, do the right thing.” He touched my hand. It was cold and felt like ice water shooting up in your veins, but by now, I was used to the feeling and felt somewhat comforted by the gesture.
I got up and rushed home. On my way I called Daniel and said I was coming over. I knew he’d be home, as he currently had no job to go to. He was surprised by my call but happy I was going to spend the day with him. He didn’t have any close relatives and had already expressed he was feeling lonely.
Upon my arrival I told him I was playing hooky from my job. He didn’t know exactly what I did and it always felt best to keep it that way. Same with me being a witch, I never told him and I wasn’t going to. Some things were better left unsaid, and it only complicated things.
We spend a wonderful fun-filled day full of laughs and giggles together. Although I knew it was the last day, I had fun, and a wonderful last memory of us together. As I left his house at the end of the day I hugged him and told him I loved him. He was touched, thanked me for the incredible day and we said goodbye. I waved at him until I couldn’t see him anymore, and ran all the way home, where I cried my eyes out for a couple of hours.
As Daniel’s final hours passed by, I returned to the graveyard and picked out the most beautiful stone I could find. I spend the whole night working on it and by the time the sun rose I was finally done. Death rolled in to the workshop on his trusted segway and stopped to admire my work.
“You did a fine job, lady. Did you have fun yesterday?” He looked at me.
“Yes, a lot of fun. It was hard to leave but I did as you asked. And then I returned here to finish his tombstone.” I stroked the marble, like a final touch of love.
“I will signal you on his arrival. I’m guessing you want to be there.” I nodded as confirmation. Death continued, “Try to stay busy ‘till then, and for your own good, I would try to avoid the news for a couple of days.” He reached for the steering handle and rode off.
The rest of the morning I did just that. I avoided my colleagues, any newspapers or televisions and did my job. I was just finished with my lunch and returning to my seat when I saw Death in the doorway, signaling to me. With a sigh I rose to my feet and followed him outside.
“I’ll see you in a couple of minutes by his grave. Try to stay strong.” He gave me a pat on my shoulder and disappeared into thin air. I walked the distance in complete silence, feeling more alone than ever. My only upside was I got to see my best friend once more, but it was only a tiny spark of light inside me.
I stepped on the freshly turned soil and stood in front of the tombstone, waiting for Death and Daniel to arrive. As they appeared I saw the look on Daniel’s face change the moment he saw me.
“What are you doing here?” He asked with great shock.
“This is where I work, Daniel. And I couldn’t bare it to not see you one last time.” I wanted to take a step forward but I hesitated. He looked furious at me. Luckily Death had warned me about this beforehand.
“You work on a graveyard?! With Death! So that’s why you came by yesterday! You knew I was going to die and you didn’t do anything about it! Some friend you are!” He crossed his arms defiantly.
I took a deep breath and stepped forward. I uncrossed his arms and took both of his hands into mine. At first he didn’t want to meet my eyes, but I waited for him to calm down and look at me. When he did I saw tears in his eyes.
“I understand you are angry, upset and every other emotion I didn’t think of. It’s hard to accept, I know that. But you have to understand I couldn’t do anything, I wasn’t allowed. It was a big exception I was able to visit you yesterday, so we could have one last day together. If I could, you know I would have done something. It broke my heart to leave you, but it was the only option. Please don’t be mad at me, and try to remember the good times, like yesterday. Please, Daniel?” Now I was tearing up as well. We both looked at each other and I could see in his eyes that he forgave me. He pulled me in for a hug and held me tight.
“I do forgive you, love. I’m still having a hard time dealing with the whole ‘you are dead’ thing. I am going to miss you so much! You were such a good friend, standing by me and making me laugh… I love you.” He gave me a kiss on my forehead and hugged me again.
“Although you are dead, I have one last thing to show you.” I gestured behind me as I stepped out of the way. Daniel saw the tombstone and a smile started to appear on his face. The white marble shone in the sunlight and the handwritten text moved him so much he began tearing up again.
The stone read; ‘Forever loved and missed, here lies the best friend anyone could have ever wanted. For he always knew when it was time for coffee, wine or chocolate ice cream. Life will be much less colorful without you.’
He looked from the stone to me, and hugged me so tightly I thought he was taking me with him.
Death finally stepped in and told us to wrap things up. “I know it’s hard to tell you this, but I have more dead people to collect. I’m sorry for the both of you.” He stepped back and we said goodbye one last time. With tears in my eyes I watched him lie down on the gravesite and sink into the earth. A couple of seconds later his soul rose up to the heavens, all the way smiling and waving at me.
It took me another half an hour to get up from the ground. I wiped the tears from my eyes and went back to work. The pain was hard for now, but it was always best to keep busy and not let your mind wander too much.
The next day I came to work with bags under my eyes, but staying at home was not an option for me. Only fifteen minutes in one of my colleagues gave a shout and started to sob uncontrollably. It really was an odd job… and sometimes I wondered why I still did it.