As you walk through the forest, you glance up, and amongst the browning leaves and twisting branches, the coffins sway. The leaves rustle in the wind, and though it blows with enough ferocity to rip lims from the trees, the coffins hardly move. They’re weighed down from their interiors, anchored by the weight of the souls inside.
There is no afterlife for the restless. No moving on. The ones who died without reason, those who lost their way, are all here, swaying gently. These tombs of the damned are untouched by the time that ravages their buried corpses and burned remains. Here, even the most ancient of bodies appears the same as it did the day its life was lost, as though it could get up and dance if it so chose.
The moonlight filters down upon you through the branches, but the coffins cast long, unnaturally dark shadows across the dirt and stones at your feet. So black, so impossibly black are these shadows, these memories desperately held onto by a lost life and mourning soul. They mourn themselves here, for there is no one else left to cry for the lives they once lived.
You step into one of these shadows, and immediately your knees meet the soft earth. All of the memories - triumphs and failures, regrets and successes - contained in the shadow you set foot into assault your mind, and you relive the life of a young girl through her own eyes, emotions and all. She was 16 when she died.
You see snow and high fences topped with barbed wire. Your lungs burn from coughing and you don’t quite remember where you are; you don’t know how long you’ve been away from home. Despite the freezing temperature, you feel hot, dizzy even, and your whole body aches. The numbers tattooed on your arm still sting, reminding you of what you’ve been forced to become. There are search lights outside. You start crying even though you don’t want to; crying will only draw attention to yourself, and you’ve shed enough tears to last a lifetime. You try to keep hope that one day you’ll be liberated, but your grasp on that dream is loosening slowly. People are good, but sometimes they do bad things.
Air rushes back into your lungs and you fall to your hands in the moonlight. Ravens caw as they fly above you and disappear amongst the stars. There are no other sounds.
Glancing again at the ground, you leap into another shadow, hungry and eager to experience the last moments of another. Your breath flees your body and you’re thrown into the perspective of a 46 year old man.
The crowd to either side of you cheers loudly. You’re seated in the back of a convertible with your adoring wife, and you smile and wave to the spectators that have come to see you. The air is warm, but not unpleasantly so. Practically the entire world rests in the palms of your hands. Your hard work has landed you at the top; where can you go from here?
You gasp and pant under the gaze of the moon. There is a sharp pain throbbing deep in your skull, but you can’t determine exactly where it originated form.
The wind picks up and graduates from a whistle to a howl, sending a chill down your spine and sprouting goose bumps across your skin. Twice is enough; you don’t want to relive death another time.
Slowly, you approach a coffin that appears closer to the ground than the others. This one does not move, and it looks newer, more modern. The wood is dark and smooth, and the handles on either side shine as though they had been polished minutes ago. This coffin is not sealed.
You ease the lid open like a door to find that there is no one inside. You run your hands along the soft leather lining the casket, and a sense of calmness washes over you - but only for a moment. As you ease the lid open further, a need surges through your body: a need for fulfillment. Something is missing, but you can’t place exactly what it is. One foot, and then the other. The coffin lid creaks shut behind you, and the lonely branch from which this bed of death hangs hoists it into the air where it gently sways with those that came before.