Flash Fiction No. 45


A Grave Gift

I stood by the sucking pit that gaped through the grass and wondered how it was that they didn’t see it. My heart hammered in my throat, but leaning back only made the pressure of my mother’s hand dig in against my shoulder.

She said the monsters were only in my imagination.

The stink of death and damp peat reached my nostrils. I would have closed my eyes, but if you do, when you open them again, those things creep closer to grab you. If you jump or scream everybody thinks you’re some kind of freak. And I didn’t need any help in that department.

My lip hurt under the crush of my teeth, blood dripping on the inside of my mouth. It helped me concentrate on keeping them away. You have to concentrate or they find your weaknesses and slime into view when you least expect it.

The sky shuddered, threatening the solemn graveyard with rain as the vicar continued to speak. The mourners cried and pasted sombre expressions on their washed out faces, but I couldn’t look at them. My gaze was frozen on the vortex before me.

To them it looked like any other dug grave. I’ve never seen a dug grave except in movies.

What I see at every funeral is a chasm screaming out to swallow me down into its leering blackness. I know that’s what they want. My grandmother warned me hours before she passed. She told me that when I came to the funeral I was to stare deep into it and to ignore everything else. If I didn’t… If I lost concentration at any moment they could grasp my soul and pull me into the world beyond.

It almost happened once. I almost slipped away.

My father had been there, though. He’d been more experienced. He’d saved me from them as they’d clawed at my mortal skin to reach my spirit core within. Until then he’d thought I’d been spared our family’s grave gift. He’d assumed the girl I spoke to at breakfast was simply an imaginary friend I hadn’t grown out of. It’s funny how parents lie to themselves when they know the truth.

The taste of salt reached my lips. The truth was that humanity didn’t understand. You don’t mess with the dead, even if you can see them.

I stared resolutely down at my father’s burial abyss.

He’d known that too, but still he’d dabbled. They’d thought it was a bizarre suicide when they found him. How else could you explain it? The door had been locked. There’d been no sound until the thump of his bloodied body hitting the wooden floor above. Lucy’s translucent eyes had spun to me across the breakfast table as she’d mouthed her apologies and melted into nothingness.

Rain sullied the noir congregation. Even when the hole was filled some of the vortex still bled out. My mother muttered in my ear, “You’re the only one who can lead us through this, now.”

If only she knew. If only she realised what my father had done and what it was that I would have to lead them through.

I stared hard at his ghost as I was led away, then blinked back tears readying for my task.

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