“A coffin? What the hell is this? This doesn’t feel like before…” John said disoriented.
John had abruptly awoken on the inside of a casket. He could feel the difference between this reality and the previous changing ones. The difference was night and day. It was similar to when a person dreams and believes it is real, but as soon as they wake up, they realize how lucid their present state of being is in comparison.
He began pounding against the lid of the funerary box yelling and exhausting his voice for help. As he wildly threw his fists upward, he noticed the areas he was hitting were beginning to crack. Noticing, this furthered his ambition to escape his enclosure.
The lid was breaking…
“I broke through!” John thought excitedly to himself.
After nearly 45 minutes of repeated blows to the casket, he was able to make a hole big enough to fit through. Expectorating the dirt that was falling through, he pulled himself up high enough to begin digging with his hands. The dirt was not loose and brittle, but was dry and fractured indicating, oddly enough, that he had not been buried recently. It however, was not too dense that he could not dig through it.
It took him a few hours to get to the surface, but at last he broke through. As the soil fell in towards him, he could see stars aloft in the sky above him. The empyrean night sky appeared more absolute than he had experienced in his entire existence. He felt…
“This feels like home.” He thought.
He continued digging until, like a groundhog on a superstitious holiday, he emerged spinning a 360 and looking around; he was confounded at what he saw. He was in a graveyard in the middle of the night, but people were everywhere; at least 50 if John had to guesstimate. Everyone including himself had a strange glow to them. It was not too overly bright of a glow, but noticeable indeed.
“Hello?” John spoke rather loudly.
Some of the people around took notice, whereas some gave a glance and continued doing whatever it was they were doing. One group in a nearby gazebo motioned for John to come over. He was hesitant, but needed to know what was happening, so he proceeded to walk over and enter the gazebo. He was greeted by an elderly man with a kind face.
“Well, well, who do we have here?” the elderly man said accompanied with a southern accent.
“My name’s John. Where am I?”
“You’re dead, son.” A smiling older lady said who had been standing next to the man.
“Way to be subtle about it, Marlene.” The older man said sarcastically.
“After everything that’s happened I’m not surprised. I’ve been through hell and back the past couple of…well, for a while now” John said, unaware of how time worked around him any longer.
The elderly man spoke sympathetically, “It’s always hard re-enterin’ the corporeal world, especially when you’re no longer corporeal yourself.”
“Why did I experience all that strange stuff after death though? And why did I have to fight my way out of a coffin and dig myself out to end up in a graveyard?” John curiously asked.
“Well, first of all, you fought your way out of a casket, not a coffin, son. Coffins have eight sides and yours was four-sided, indicatin’ it was a casket. Extra specifics aside though, when a livin’ person dies, their energy or life force has nowhere to go if the body still has skin and muscles on it, and since you’re dead to the livin’ world, you’re stuck within your own head until every bit of your skin and muscles decompose off of your bones. That’s what you experienced after you died. You were stuck in a world of your own; filled with all the thoughts and experiences you had durin’ your lifetime. It usually takes about fifty plus years to fully decompose, so accordin’ to the “living’s” time, that’s about how long you were runnin’ around up in your mind. The endin’ was cool though, huh? Did everythin’ collapse on itself?” the man said with an excited undertone to his voice.
“Yeah, I was in a shack when it all collapsed…” John’s words trailed to a different subject. “I’m sorry; I didn’t even catch your name.”
“How rude of me, my name is Austin Adams and you’re lucky your collapse was in a shack; mine was on the inside of a Giant Sequoia tree. Hell of a trip that was…” His memory of it consumed him for a moment. “Crazy times…not as crazy as Albert’s experience though. He’s the one who constantly paces over by the old oak tree behind us. He’s been here longer than any of us. He told me his final collapse was inside of his late wife’s stomach. Now, how he knew it was his wife, or why he didn’t just escape through her vagina, is beyond me. It’s possible that he’s just crazy. Bein’ dead as long as he has, probably messes with a man’s head. You should go talk to the other deceased. Most of them have been dead longer than Marlene and I have.” Austin said while chuckling to himself.
John agreed and walked out of the gazebo towards the center of the graveyard. Each step felt incredibly light. It could not be described as floating, however it did not feel as if he were firmly planted in the ground either. During his stroll, he looked to where he had dug himself out and saw that the dirt was still intact, appearing to have never been dug up at all.
“Odd…” He pondered.
Used to the probability of odd occurrences, he continued onward toward the group. All seven of the people gathered around were dressed in black cloth. John hesitantly approached them.
“Umm. Hi. I’m John. I’m new here and –“ John was cut off by a voice that resonated, from what seemed to John, to be from the center of the group and not from any one individual. He could then see lips made of smoke in the center of them, hovering effortlessly above a well.
“We know you are new. We know who you are. Walk away.” The smoke spoke sternly.
John ignored their demand and talked again, “I was just wondering where we are? Geographically I mean, cause – “yet again he was cut off, but this time it was by the constant pacer, Albert. He grabbed John’s arm and pulled him away from the hooded six around the well. Albert had taken his fears from life and carried them over into death; rarely does this happen. Accordingly, Albert was constantly in movement and had a slight twitch to his eyes. His skin was dark and his head withholding a few wrinkles.
Albert took him far away from the group and leaned in close as soon as their feet came to a stop. “You never bother The Six. They took pity on you since you were new, but they hate to be spoken to by the lowly dead, like ourselves. Pity is something they have little of.” Albert said almost whispering.
John looked up, slightly shaken and said, “Who the hell are ‘The Six’? I was just asking them a question.”
Albert looked serious when he responded, but distant at the same time, making it slightly apparent that he had told this same story many times before and may be tired of telling it.
“Interesting choice of words; The Six are the mediators and gatekeepers of the districts that fill this world. They are in many places at once within their districts. They watch over all the deceased who are buried properly in graveyards. They protect us from evil entities from the spirit realm and in return, we are confined to the yards we are buried in. At some point, you may be considered to travel to the spirit realm, otherwise known as the Summer Realm.”
“So, we can’t ever leave?” John asked disappointingly.
Albert tuned into the conversation at this point, putting more passion into what he was telling John. “It’s a fair trade, believe me. You don’t wanna leave the confines of the yard.” Albert said.
“Why? What’s out there? If no one living can see us and all the dead are locked up inside graveyards, what’s the big deal?” John questioned.
“Because all the dead aren’t locked up in graveyards, and besides that, deceased people aren’t the only things out there. Things from the spirit world escape sometimes too. It’s rare, but there’s some roaming about, as well as demons of all kinds. When you’re alive, you’re scarcely bothered by any of the horrors that roam this Earth, but once you’re dead, well, that’s when the nightmares become real. There is no Satan or God, no definite good or evil; just 2 worlds coinciding and trying their best not to mix.” Albert asserted.
John was frightened when he responded, “Why are there dead roaming about?”
Albert squint his eyes. His eyebrows were pronounced and appeared full of wisdom as he answered, “Different situations. For example, if you aren’t buried within the confines of a graveyard, you won’t be considered for protection from The Six, unless you are deemed a special case and are confined to a structure such as a house or a building, sometimes even a highway or area, but they always have boundaries. However, a lot of souls who were randomly murdered or have died in other ways, which were never recorded by The Six, still wander around aimlessly.”
John took it all in for a brief moment as he gathered his words, “So what if you did want to leave because you wanted to search for someone who may be roaming aimlessly?” John stopped and posed another question. “Has anyone ever escaped?”
Albert laughed condescendingly, “Escape from The Six? Ha ha, no that’s never happened and never will. The Six didn’t get their position by being easily duped. Once a year we get an update from the spirit realms leader, Quijan, who tells us what’s happening and what creatures have escaped the summer realm. I think they only show us that to reassure us of The Six’s presence (not that it would matter if we disagreed.) The updates are our only news source to the outside world, unless we hear something from one of the living who is visiting our humble abode here in Mills Cemetery. Point being, you should just settle down. Whoever you want to find, you don’t have any control over it, so just let it go.”
John’s legs became weak from the thought of never seeing his boy or first wife again.
“No. I’ll find them. I’ll get out of here and find them.”
Albert shrugged his shoulders, “Whatever...” and walked back into his set pace.
John, determined to find a way, began surveying the inhabitants of the cemetery in the hope that talking with as many of them as possible may yield a response that will lead to an idea. The first group he saw looked like a close-knitted family. Secluded far from the rest of the ghostly people, they sat peacefully upon the grass in front of a gravestone that read off all of their names:
Mother: Bella Smiley.
Father: Chase Smiley.
Daughters: Lily Smiley, Gertal Smiley, Charlette Smiley.
All Died May 9, 1827.
Intrigued by their happiness, despite all being dead, he walked toward them. The youngest one, Lily, was playing with a small marionette doll. Her eyes were a piercing blue, with long eye lashes. Gertal sat still, staring off into the distance. She was slightly overweight and was the middle daughter in age. Charlette was sitting, leaning against the grave stone weaving something out of grass. Bella and Chase, their parents, were as still as Gertal; both with unrelentingly, large smiles upon their faces. Bella had on a cream-colored empire-waist dress and her husband, Chase, wore a pair of trousers, a vest, and jacket; typical of early 1800’s apparel.
As John approached, Charlette was the only member of the family to acknowledge his existence. Adhering to proper manners, John attempted to address the mother and father initially a couple of times, but neither time did either of them respond or make it known that they were aware of him speaking to them. Charlette spoke up.
“None of the rest of the family is going to speak to you. My parents have been catatonic like that for almost a decade now, and Gertal is retarded.” Charlette rolled her eyes.
John had no idea how to approach this conversationally. He paused for a moment and began with, “Um, I think retarded is a little harsh don’t you think?”
“Why would she care? She is retarded. If it does not bother her, why should it bother you?” she retorted.
John took a step back, figuratively speaking, “Let me start over.” He nervously chuckled. “I’m John and I’m new here. I just thought I’d get to know my ‘neighbors’.”
“What if they do not want to know you?” She rudely responded.
“Then…that would be their choice, I suppose.” John said.
Realizing she had been awful to John, but still wanting to appear unaffectionate, she spoke beginning with a sigh, “My name is Charlette.”
She extended her hand. It hit John that this would be the first contact he would make with a fellow person of the dead. When their hands met, it was loose and cold. The hands could feel the matter exchange so that they did not slip through, but if forced, they could be pushed through one another.
“It’s nice to meet you. I see that your family all passed away at the same time?” John asked, hoping not to offend her.
She seemed indifferent towards the topic, “Yeah, we all died in a tornado that cleared most of the town of its structures. It even killed the mayor at the time, though his body was never brought here; nor were any of the other townspeople. It was peculiar, indeed…” she trailed her words inward.
“I apologize for bringing up such a touchy subject. I lost everyone I loved while I was still alive too.” John said hoping to find a similarity in their past troubles.
“It is fine.” Charlette looked over toward the fence that surrounded the graveyard. “You know, I tried to leave once. The moment I touched the boundary I was instantaneously thrown back and filled with a surge of energy that hurt me for days…I only told you that because you look like you want to try to find your loved ones. I understand wanting to be free of this place, but it is not possible.”
Indeed, John did want that. He looked down for a moment, then back up at her, “I’m gonna find a way…I have to.”
She slightly smiled even though she believed his aspiration was impossible, but said, “Well, if you do, let me know how you did it. I have to get back to my families conversation.”
She turned away from John. He was as confused as ever, since he had yet to hear any of her family speak a word. A brief thought, that he found preposterous after thinking, was: ‘what if they can communicate telepathically?’ His thoughts slowly drifted back to the task at hand, which was the pursuit for more information pertaining to the cemetery and the afterlife; more importantly: how, if possible, to escape the confines of the graveyard.
John walked for hours in pursuit for further information, but he only came upon useless stories from odd people who once were. After a while, he became introverted purposely, knowing that the only useful information he could hope to receive would be from The Six; and it was apparent to John that this was not an enlightenment he would partake in any time soon. His mood lessened, but nature shut its eyes to his mood. Instead of gloomy weather as an accompaniment, the wind began blowing softly, carrying the others voices lightly upon its back. The night sky was dark, but peaceful with a clarity that showcased a plethora of known celestial Greek celebrities, as well as their lesser-known and farther out counterparts.
The mood suddenly and drastically changed.
One of The Six called out John’s name. John startled, looked quickly in their direction. The graveyard became hushed. Without them having to call his name again, he hastily but cautiously, approached them.
The Six quickly locked eyes with him in unison. It was one of the most frightening moments in John’s life. His jaw sunk inward slightly and shivered at a slow pace. They spoke in unison as well, “Malak-Ul-Maut will see you now.”
“I wasn’t expecting to – Who is that?” John said with affright in his tone.
They were quick to respond.
“Malak-Ul-Maut will not be questioned.”
Before John was able to make a rebuttal, his body dematerialized into the well The Six stood around. After he had left, the inhabitants of the graveyard gasped in disbelief, for they had never seen anyone leave the restrictive boundaries the graveyard had forcefully set.