Chapter 1 - Evergreen Cemetery
One month after our celebrated engagement, and trips to Malaysia and Thailand, with loads of scuba diving, dancing, drinking and a stubborn tan, I found myself in Colorado Springs for a month long transition, finalising some work related interventions with our new clients.
After a daylong meeting of back and forth, I was exhausted and all I needed was a nice long massage, until my team managed to get themselves convinced by our clients to take a half day tour of Evergreen Cemetery. Not that I was super keen on visiting spooky places, but I have never been one to scream when people say “boo”.
So, after quickly changing into my Calvin Klein skinny jeans, Being human white tank and crumpets, I tied my waist length golden brown hair in a high ponytail, wore my tan suede jacket and got ready for a quick walk through graves unknown.
As I walked through the gates of the cemetery, I came across giant Greek columns that stood in isolation, tall and looking down upon us, silent in their menacing stare as though they have a secret to hide. A secret, they would rather kill for, than reveal. I felt a sense of foreboding and doom slowly creep up my legs and if I moved forward, it was only because my brain kept telling me that I was stupid to find this ominous.
In hindsight, I should have turned back, run, not looked what was behind me and screamed like a banshee that afternoon. But no I didn’t, I behaved absolutely uncharacteristic, I listened to my brain, the same brain that was lying rusty from its complete lack of utilisation, except to piss off Ma Baker, my mom, with my “pain in the ass” vocabulary.
“Are you scared, Timmmmmbukkktuuuu?”
“Sorry, what?” I turned around to look at Mehtab, our client coordinator, working in ‘my’ freaking company. A Pakistani American, mocking me with his big black eyes and wide smile. And that leery stretch of my forsaken name; it was time for some serious “pain in the ass” vocabulary. How dare he mock me? Doesn’t he realise where his pay checks come from?
“We can go back, if you don’t want to? Especially, since I have pants to spare.” he continued.
Arghh, I hate smart asses. Especially this one, since he obviously insinuated that I was so scared that I would piss in my pants.
At this point of time, I feel it is very critical to mention that never since my days of a “doe eyed” 6 month old chubby have I pissed in my pants. And how dare this idiot insinuate that.
“Mehak, darling, no I won’t require a spare, however, I can see why you would need to carry one.” I retorted, and yes I was damn well proud of my retort. Perhaps, my brain hadn’t been as under utilised as I first imagined it to be.
This earned a bark of laughter from the other two, Runa, the lovely Egyptian woman who was working with me on the intervention as a culture expert and Isabella, our marketing head.
“It’s Mehtab, not Mehak.” His deep baritone suddenly had a high pitched shrill on a little boy has just been told off by his teacher.
“Whatever, Misbah.” It was hilarious watching him getting all pissy in his face. Pity, he didn’t have a spare face.
I again looked around me as I kept walking. We were on the curvy path surrounded by massive trees. The branches swayed in a silent ballet, straining to meet one another, touch, feel, brush, caress. A momentary fling, a fleeting pleasure. I could almost hear the branches whispering to each other.
After walking for a while, and going through few more Greek columns and patios we came across a massive clearing, lined with graves, thousands of graves. Something drew me towards them as I started reading the epitaphs. From 1 year old Mary Lou to 93 year old Dallas. Baby Bancroft, who died the same day she was born to Randolph Bishop, who died an old man.
It was humbling, yet terrifying that no matter who you are, what you do, there is a six feet space in earth with your name on it. I felt shivers creep up my spine, I turned around to find that Mehtab, Runa and Isabella had walked way ahead and were now heading towards another cemetery called “The sons of Israel”.
Isabella, having a Jewish grandma was really keen on learning more about her heritage. I decided to stay and look around more graves, feel philosophical, and come up with some really deep thoughts to share with Sean. I could actually visualise the amusement on his face, when I share my ‘oh so deep’ thoughts about life and death. And when I wouldn’t stop ranting, he would shut me up with his ‘oh so luscious’ lips, lift me up against the wall so that I get the undivided feel of his ‘hard’ desire against mine.
I missed Sean, especially his ‘hard’ desire. Suddenly, I found myself craving passion in the middle of graves, and that was wrong at so many different levels. I couldn’t wait to see Sean next weekend when he would come to Colorado Springs, from New York. I had planned an entire itinerary that involved getting out of my hotel room only for lunches and dinners, and a lot of hard desire.
“Can you feel it?”
I whirled around, my heart racing and my hands shivering. Who spoke? I was the only one in the cemetery since my team had gone through “The son’s of Israel” gate. It was almost dusk and among the shade of trees, I could make out the large looming shadows around me.
“Who is it?” I spoke aloud, not at all feeling as fearless, as I sounded.
I heard rustling among the trees behind me, as if someone or something was running bare foot.
“Hey, who is it and what do you want me to feel?” I said. Did I speak out loud about Sean’s hard desire? Timbuktu, you bad girl!
“It’s inside the tree.” I heard whispers again. This time I knew the words. It was like I heard thousands of whispers speak in unison.
I should seriously have gone with my friends. I thought. My heart galloping, goose bumps and sweat breaking out simultaneously. All the death and doom was affecting my senses and I was hearing things.
“Look for it there, come on…GO.”
“Feel it with your heart.”
“Red marks your soul.”
The bloody whispers wouldn’t stop. They were all around me, in me, in my head, outside me. Everywhere! I felt I was losing my mind as I twirled round and round, trying to find the source of those voices, trying to find someone, anyone who would help me, nauseated, suffering from vertigo. I was on the verge of passing out.
“You look like you have seen a ghost.” For the nth time in the last five minutes, I whirled around, my hands shaking.
And, I saw this tall, gawky, teenager dressed like a devout gothic, complete with piercings and tattoos everywhere except for her face.
Thank the lord! Another human being! Phew, I was so not leaving her side until I saw my friends.
“Umm, no I am just not used to visiting cemeteries.” I explained myself. This is embarrassing. Here I was, a 29 years old, jet setting, high flying, glamorous executive explaining myself to a gothic teen, why I was about to piss in my pants. It cannot get more awkward than this.
Immediately, three such incidents flashed right in front of my eyes that would definitely win ‘most embarrassing moment’ trophy. Ok, maybe I was exaggerating a little. So, no this was not the most embarrassing, but embarrassing nevertheless. Thank god, ‘six feet of hard muscle and desire’ Sean was not there to watch it.
“I am Rebecca, by the way.” She extended her tattooed hand, and I could see ink covering even her fingertips. Damn, now I had to introduce myself.
“I am Tim.” I said, trying not to look into those big blue eyes, scanning me from tip to toe. And that was for two reasons. First, if I pretended to be busy enough in checking out the graves around me, she wouldn’t ask why a gorgeous, shapely woman like me would have a man’s name. Second, her eyes really were something. There were cerulean, an uncommon shade, and they were the kind of eyes that elicited lots of itching around your face, and general fidgeting. Which I felt right about then; every time I looked into those eyes, this uncanny need to scratch my nose would engulf me.
“Tim! Isn’t that a guy’s name?” Dammit!
“Yeah, it took a while for my folks to figure out sex organs. They are not very literate you see. It was too late by the time, they realised “Tim” is a girl.” I explained. Hoping she would get the humour, no matter the crassness of it.
Rebecca laughed, a rich deep sound. “I see.” I couldn’t help but smile.
“You were constantly repeating that you need to find some tree. What was that all about?” She asked again, taking my hand into hers. I had to crane my neck to look up to her.
What? Was I was blabbering? And damn, she heard it. Was I whispering to myself? I needed to get out of there.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. I need to go out to the main gate, to find my friends.” My legs felt wobbly, and the nausea that threatened to drown me five minutes ago, returned with startling vehemence. I started walking towards the entrance, which was a twenty-minute walk. A tug on my hand reminded me that Rebecca still held it. I turned around, asking her to let me go. Rebecca was looking at me, with intensity so deep that she did not look like a teenager at all. Her cerulean eyes swirled in a hypnotic trance. I chilled to the bones. Her lips widened until I could see all of her smoke stained teeth. The smile was twisted and it did not reach her eyes. I noticed then how pointy her teeth were. With vertigo threatening to impale me; Rebecca transforming into the ‘Wicked witch from the West’; I couldn’t look at her, and dropped my gaze. That was when I noticed her tattoos, all of them looked like faces in pain. Each face different, different age, different eyes, different features; but each face was etched with the same thing, pain.
She held my hand in a fierce grip, forced me to look up, look deep into her eyes and said, “We need to find the tree. I need you to find it for me. Only you know how to find it.”
“Whoa, Carrie! Read too much of Stephen King, have we now?” When she continued to grip my hand with unyielding force, I retorted, “Personal space girl, I don’t swing your way.” I laughed trying to ease the knots in my stomach, and the fact that my legs felt like noodle soup.
Apparently, jokes about which way people swing, did not go down well with Carrie reincarnated. She hissed and tried to drag me towards her. And if anything, the crazy light in her eyes got crazier. I snatched my hand away from the spawn of Satan, and ran blindly. My only aim was to get as far away as possible from this descendent of Norman Bates.
I don’t know for how long I ran, perhaps, until I couldn’t run anymore. When I stopped to catch my breath, I looked around for Tamara, what was her name, Carrie, no dammit, Rebecca. Yeah, and thank the lord, holy spirits and all 36000 deities in Hinduism, she had not followed me. I was safe from crazy eyed Texas Chainsaw.
Now that I was rid of her, I looked around to see where I had landed while I kept chanting ‘Oh lord!’ I had reached into a thick column of forest, with no signs as to which part of the cemetery I was in. I took out my phone and realised there was no network. Dammit! What was my problem; why the fuck couldn’t I ever stick to the group?
This was not the first time I have strayed and gotten lost. The last rays of sun were flickering in the horizon. Plunged into and uncomfortable twilight, where shadows of harmless trees, inspired fear, I realised that I needed to pee, I was thirsty, I was shit scared, one bump away from bawling my eyes out.