A Short Story
The apartment was overtaken by a stillness that, at a casual glance, would suggest that it was abandoned, but upon closer inspection, one could see that someone was indeed living there. The furniture lacked the dust and decay that would suggest vacancy while the walls were free of anything to suggest they were in disrepair. The table near the kitchen had a stack of letters, all unopened, with recent dates. They varied from bills to condolence cards but none of them would probably ever be seen by their recipient. The kitchen itself was a mess of pizza boxes and fast food bags quietly rotting away- tempting cockroaches and rats to make themselves home.
And finally, within the apartment’s living room, a man slouched in a recliner chair as he mindlessly watched television. His eyes were dim, and lifeless- almost as if he were a shell of a man. The images flashed one after another and the sound came in just fine, but to him it was all just white noise. He didn’t even know what he was watching; he just wanted to find some way to forget that he even existed at this moment.
His name was Isaac. He was a tall man with black, scruffy hair that that came down to his shoulders and a five o’clock shadow that was teetering on the edge of becoming a beard. He wore a ragged, black shirt covered in grease stains and crumbs and a pair of sweatpants with matching stains.
With a soft sigh, Isaac shifted a little in his chair trying to gain just a bit more comfort while his eyes wandered. He found himself watching the setting sun as it attempted to break through the thin line between the curtains. For a moment, he considered standing up and throwing open the curtains to bask in the disk’s final glow of the day, only for his mind to fall back into the void that he could never seem to fully escape.
Isaac used to be a happy man with a loving wife named Elizabeth. She was a kind, but somewhat sarcastic woman who never ceased to bring joy to Isaac’s day. However, that all changed when Elizabeth gave birth to their son whom they christened Aidan. Shortly after giving birth to him, Elizabeth came down with a mysterious fever. The doctors did all they could to treat it but the fever only seemed to worsen until finally it took her life.
For the next few weeks, Isaac did his best to care for Aidan in between his job as an underwriter. And yet, despite his best efforts, he could not stave off his gnawing depression. The sleepless nights of trying to get Aidan to go back to sleep as he wailed in his arms, the emptiness of his bed, and the days spent at work with heavy eyes and a need to rest his head made him want to shout and cry at the world around him. He would slowly begin to resent and loathe Aidan, watching him with burning eyes as he fed him or tried to get him to sleep. It soon got to the point where Isaac contemplated chopping off Aidan’s head and forever ridding himself of Elizabeth’s killer.
Although in a brief moment of clarity, he realized just what he was thinking and so, to maintain his sanity and Aidan’s safety, he gave the boy up to an adoption agency.
Yet, despite his son being gone, the spectre of sadness and anger still loomed in his mind. His friends and family tried to console him but their words fell on deaf ears and they were soon shut out. Although they would continue trying to contact him with comforting words. Eventually, his work deteriorated to the point where he was forced to take a vacation in order to work out his state of being.
And that had been over a month ago
Isaac’s mind briefly returned to the present, still sitting in his chair in front of a screen of pointless moving images. He tried to focus on them for a moment, only to find his eyes beginning to grow heavy. He put up a token effort to stay awake, but soon his vision was consumed by darkness, the white noise of the television and the smell of rotten food drifted away while his unconscious mind took hold.
A thick fog as white as snow began to overtake Issac, obscuring everything save for the funeral unfolding before him. He vaguely recognized the scene as his wife’s, however the tombstone was blank and the figures surrounding him were black suits and dresses whose other features were completely covered in a blanket of fog. He watched as the casket slowly sank into the ground just as it had on the fateful day when he began to hear a faint noise.
At first it was a muffed tap like the patter of a mouse in the walls but while the casket sunk lower and lower, the sound grew louder. The noise grew from a light tapping to a knocking to a loud banging and it seemed to be coming from the casket itself. His heart jumped before he dashed towards the casket while trying to scream yet no sound came out of his mouth. He rushed up to the casket and got down on his knees before putting all his strength into throwing open the lid. The lid felt heavier than anything he had lifted before but after an eternal struggle, he finally managed to open it.
Isaac woke up in a cold sweat, his spine tingling while his heart violently pounded in his chest. His body shook as he slowly stood up and made his way to the bathroom. Once inside, he turned on the sink and splashed his face with handful of icy cold water. The liquid seemed to lift the weight off of his eyes while he dried off his face and stared at himself in the mirror.
That dream…Elizabeth…was she calling to me? His eyes locked with his reflection’s Or was it a detail I missed? Something I forgot at the funeral? His eyes grew wide She must’ve been buried alive! But no, she was…No maybe this was a sign she’s woken up! She’s woken up and I can get her back! His muddled mind reasoned before running out of the bathroom and into his bedroom.
He quickly exchanged his dirty sweatpants for a pair of clean jeans, grabbing his keys and a flashlight before heading out the door. Despite his eagerness, Isaac managed to show enough restraint to quietly speed walk down the hall and down the stairs so as not to wake any of the other sleeping tenants. After reaching the bottom, he walked out the door and was greeted with the cool air of the autumn night. The wind blew past his ears while the leaves on the ground rustled about. The sky was mostly clear with the quarter moon hanging high against the stars while in the distance, a group of heavy clouds slowly made their way towards the apartment.
Isaac made a quick stop by the groundskeeper’s shed and stole a shovel before running to his car and driving off to the cemetery where his beloved awaited him. He tapped his left foot while his body shook as he drove down the almost empty roads, his mind playing out the final images of his dream except with the addition of finding Elizabeth alive and well. Upon being reunited, they could go back to their lives as they once were, happy and together.
It took him roughly an hour but Isaac soon found the cemetery. After grabbing his shovel and flashlight, he took a short walk passed the parking lot but he soon arrived at an arched gateway with the vague shapes of tombstones in the distance. He turned on his flashlight and shined the light on the iron archway which had letters built into the top which read “Yellow Springs Cemetery”. As he stepped past the archway and into the hallowed grounds, he couldn’t help but smell a heavy air of moisture. Isaac looked up and saw that the heavy clouds from earlier as they threatened to swallow the moon.
“Better make this quick before it rains,” he muttered under his breath before he began his search for his wife’s final resting place.
The wind howled amongst the shivering trees as the wind slowly began to pick up, the cold air stinging Isaac’s eyes while he made his way through the graveyard. The leaves crunched beneath his feet with every step and his eyes began to glaze over from continuously reading the tombstones of people he neither knew nor cared for. However, after what felt like hours of searching, he finally found the stone marked with the name “Elizabeth Einladen” near an old oak tree.
A shiver of familiarity shook down Isaac’s spine before he dropped his flashlight and began furiously digging. He dug through the heavy earth and the thick roots of the oak tree, which had grown beneath the grave. As he dug deeper and deeper, he thought about how things would return to how they once were, spending their weeks working hard while bringing joy to each other and occupying their weekends with ventures to the movies or to late night bars. While Isaac threw up more dirt into the ever-increasing pile, the Moon and the stars were completely blotted out by the heavy clouds as they began to rumble.
After endlessly digging into the deep earth below him, Isaac heard a hard thump as his shovel hit something solid. Tossing his shovel aside, he got down on his knees and brushed away any remaining dirt. In the near pitch black night, he could vaguely make out the shape of the casket’s top half before he tried to open it up. It took a little bit of force but he managed to pry open the top and inside, he saw the silhouette of his deceased wife.
Isaac still remembered her long, black hair, her immaculate face, and her hazel eyes which always shined with a happy glow. With that image in mind, he was undeterred by the darkness masking her face.
“Elizabeth! Wake up! I’ve come to save you!” he cried as hot tears streamed down his cheeks.
Elizabeth, however, did not respond to his shouts nor did she seem to acknowledge him.
“Come on, wake up so we can leave and be happy,” he said before grabbing the shadowy figure by the shoulders and shaking it. Elizabeth moved back and forth but did not stir and Isaac’s cold hands were too numb to feel for any warmth.
“You…you must still be sleeping. Don’t worry, I’ll take you back and when you wake up, everything will be alright,” he reasoned before he tried removing her from her tomb.
Elizabeth refused to move as she seemed firmly planted in the casket. Her husband grunted and pulled on her shoulders until he heard the sounds of roots snapping.
Is that the sound of the wind or… but before he could finish his thought, Elizabeth came free and Isaac let out a sigh of relief.
“Finally, we can be together once more!” he cheered as he hefted her onto his back and climbed out of the hole he had dug.
Isaac struggled a little to get a grip on the dirt wall but he managed to pull himself and his wife out of the hole and onto the surface.
Elizabeth seems a bit light but maybe she just needs something to eat, he rationalized before picking up his flashlight and turning it on. Another rumble of thunder crashed its way across the sky, causing him to jump a little.
Slowly he began walking away from the grave but after walking a few feet away, an urge overcame him. It was a strong, irresistible urge like the kind you get when you first see a Christmas present. Isaac wanted to see Elizabeth’s face again, he wanted to confirm the image in his mind was true. So he turned his head to face her own and shined the flashlight on her.
What he saw was a hideous, half-eaten face with much of the right side eaten away by decay and maggots that were squirming in the wound. Her right eye was gone and her left eye had become a glossy grey while the rest of her yet decayed face was sickening combination of greens, yellows and greys.
Isaac screamed at the top of his lungs as he felt maggots dropping and squirming onto his shoulder. He threw the corpse off his back and quickly brushed off the squirming larva.
“No! No! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be! You should be alive!” he got down on his knees while tears began to stream once more “You were supposed to be alive….” his eyes fell upon the rotting corpse once more.
Suddenly, a scratchy, rasp of a voice pierced Isaac’s eardrums and made him jump as a light was shined in his face “Hey! Who’s there? Get over here so I can see ya better!”
The man saw a hunched old woman with a hefty droop to her face standing behind the tombstone. Her hands, mangled by arthritis, carrying the electric lantern that had illuminated his act The hag began to approach when her lantern fell upon the corpse he was carrying.
“What the hell? Did you do this?” she accused but in his panic, Isaac stood up and began ran off.
“Get back here you pervert!” she screamed as she ran to the best of her ability but her frail body only gave her a fast walking pace.
As Isaac ran to the entrance, the wind picked up speed and nearly knocked him over while he ran. At the same time, thunder and lightning crashed and flashed across the sky, muting the wind and sounding very close to him. Immediately following another boom of thunder, a bolt of lightning struck a tree just as Isaac passed it. The bolt blind and deafened him for a moment as the tree fell on top of him. The tree made a loud thud while it hit the ground and crushed Isaac’s left leg beneath it.
Isaac let out a shriek of pure agony before using every venomous four-letter word he knew. He gritted his teeth while he struggled to free his pained leg, managing to slip it out inch by agonizing inch. By the time he reached his ankle, the old hag was already about to reach the tree. He let out another cry of fear before he popped his foot out from under the tree and began quickly limping to the archway.
“Stop! Stay where you are!” the hag shouted impotently while her target soon made its way out of the archway.
“Damn it,” she panted and sat down as her body screamed for her to stop “I’m callin’ the police!” she threatened while Isaac disappeared into the night.
Isaac managed to limp his way to his car, his heart slowing down a little when he saw the hag had given up the chase. Upon reaching it, he swung open the door, climbed inside, and drove off with the tires screeching behind him.
“Do I go home? Do I leave own? What do I do?” he asked himself, his eyes carefully watching the windows and mirrors as he drove off into the unknown darkness of the night.