Grey skies peek between the skeletal fingers of the trees at the lone man in black coat and hat standing stoically at the foot of a headstone. It is one monument among many that pepper the grass at regular intervals. This resting field that has become the home of many. Tufts of golden hair dance beneath the brim of the hat and a crooked smile cracks his face.
"It will not be long now, my beloved," the wind swallows his whispers as it crawls between the hard stone reminders of lives that once were.
Anxious compulsion propels William around the house, straightening the books on the shelves, the knick knacks on the end table. Not that he is moving careless or fast, he just can not stop. Everything must be right for tonight. Taking a globe of glass from beside the couch, he is momentarily mesmerised by the swirl of crimson rising through its center. Life's blood.
He had bought it on a vacation with Lynda when they were eighteen. Things were so much different then. They were young, in love. It was easy to see in the glow of their faces when they were in the same room together. Everyone expected them to get married once school was complete.
This is what compelled their parents to take a joint family vacation, to give the relationships a chance to breathe the same air. William's father found a log cabin, large enough to accommodate both families, tucked away in a hollow between two mountains, just the other side of the small town of Gimble.
The first several days of the vacation, the families settled into a good rhythm together. There were those tense moments as happen when families get together for the first time, such as when William's father forgetting where he was and singing in the shower, waking everyone. Lynda's mom made an eggplant casserole that most swallowed hidden behind counterfeit smiles, William's dad wishing they brought the dog to feed to under the table.
William and Lynda spent every waking moment together, exploring the countryside, venturing into the small town and lounging by the lake. Trips to the woods were by far their favorite, away from the prying eyes of their parents. Lynda would burst through the surface of the water flinging droplet from her golden hair, stirring William from his place on the beach to join her. The third night, after everyone went to bed they snuck out, choking back giggles as they ran to the lake. They made love on the docks, beneath the stars.
"I want this to last forever," Lynda said breathless, snuggled into the crook of Williams arm, their bodies entwined.
"It will," he assured her.
At breakfast no one confronted them or even pretended to know about the couple's tryst the night prior. Nor did they mention the pink that rose on Lynda's cheeks when William said how well he slept. She knew he saw it.
Swallowing a piece of sausage he had been masticating, Lynda's father announced to the group that they would be going to a fair in town for the evening. Driving in they had noticed banners going up announcing the event and thought it might give the families a chance to have some fun.
Lanterns threw pools of light from each street post, setting the mood of the evening. Brightly colored tents lined the roads, merchants hawking wares; jewelry, crafts, clothing, art and food. Rides were set up in a small grass lot between the buildings for kids to play on, a great inflatable slide towered over everything and squeals of glee could be heard of those that dared to ride it.
Looking for some alone time William and Lynda ditched their parents at a side stage while they watched bluegrass music being performed. Slipping between two tents, they lost themselves in the crowd, clinging tight to each others hands. Assuming they might find solace down a corner street, they rounded the corner only to find a multicolored tent and a grinning gypsy lady.
"Young lovers, come here," the lady beckoned, waving her jewel crowded fingers.
"Let's do it," Lynda whispered to William tugging him by the sleeve into the tent.
"So where have you two been?" Lynda's dad exclaimed when the parents found them sitting on a bench by the food tents.
"Oh, around. We got tired of the music so decided to come sit a bit," Lynda lied, surprising William.
"Whats that you've got there?" Williams mother asked, pointing to the glass globe that sat on the table between them.
Unsure how to continue the story Lynda began, William stammered momentarily. They would not understand if he told them the truth. What would they say if he told them about the ceremony the gypsy had performed, binding them, their mixed blood now encased eternally in the glass that sat between them. Promising their love would last forever.
"Something William bought me. I thought it looked pretty and he...," Lynda saved him, ending in a sigh that won over the mothers instantly.
Taking it in one hand and twining the fingers of her other in William's, Lynda led them along with their parents toward the parking area where they had left their vehicle and away from uncomfortable questions.
Blue sky fades beneath the black blanket drawn across the sky, pierced only by the glow of the moon, full and obese. William rises from the couch where he settled while ruminating. The faintest touch of the glass did that, conjuring images of her. Perhaps this was part of the magic, the magic that could not save her two years ago when she suddenly died. It was not supposed to be this way. They were supposed to be together forever.
Placing the glass globe gingerly on the table, his thin fingers pry at the buttons of his shirt, discarding it in a basket by the hearth. Releasing his belt, his pants slink down his legs, then join the shirt. Naked, he admires himself in the mirror on the far wall.
Skin hangs looser than it once did, silver overtaking the coarse hairs on his chest. Creases mark surfaces once smooth. Finding his face, he imagines the twinkle of youthfulness beneath the clouds that now hover them. There is an emptiness, in his arms, no one to hold. With heavy fingers, he retrieves the glass globe.
Hurling it at the floor, it explodes into millions of shining stars across the hard wood. A crimson puddle gathers at the point of impact, the life blood released from its prison. Turning, he walks to the front door, unlocking the latch so that it will remain open. Shards of the globe bite the soles of his feet, painting foot prints that follow him up the stairs to the bedroom.
Carefully, he turns down the comforter and lays, waiting.
His eyes pop open when the front door howls against its hinges. Stairs squeal with each footfall advancing toward his room. His heart tremors, breathing quickening. His body tenses and untenses, wanting to rise, to escape, but he holds himself steady. A shadow slowly comes into view outside the bedroom door, a gasp uncurling across his lips.
Fresh soil, bitter decay, and a tart sweetness sweep before the advancing form scratching at his nose. Fingers dig into the sheets as she stands by the side of the bed. The hollows, where her blue eyes once resided, long given way to worms or insect, traverse him. A chalky skeletal finger traces the tender flesh of his leg, sending shivers of goose flesh to his toes.
Wispy hair dangles against his cheek as she covers his body with hers and he feels not the mottled bones his eyes see but warm flesh. For a moment he sees her as she was on the dock that day, her skin translucent.
"Beloved...," he breathes as she begins to gnaw at his neck hungrily, him thrashing in ecstasy.
The grounds keeper makes his way methodically through the cemetery in the morning sun on a old red lawn mower, trimming the turf one last time before winter. Approaching the crest of the hill, he stops his progress, turning the engine off, when he sees the disturbed plot.
Wiping his head with a handkerchief he mutters about damn teenagers vandalizing the dead. Crossing himself he surveys the damage. The white headstone rests prone on the ground, broken in two large chunks, the soil in front, peeled back as if rolled away from within and in the hollow of the grave...
Plummeting to his knees, steaming vomit erupts from the groundskeeper's lips in copious lumpy strings. Chattering prayers between his teeth, he looks once more to make sure his eyes were not deceiving him, before he goes to call it in.
...the skeletal remains of one body entwine with the fresh corpse of a naked man, cloudy eyes gazing far off, waxy lips curling in a smile.
Happy Halloween Everyone! Be sure to lock the doors. Smiles.
This is a Magpie Tale.