I pick my way around the stones, careful to not trip over broken pieces of marble. My mother’s voice cautioning me to not step directly on the graves plays in my head. As a child exploring old cemeteries, I once imagined a gnarled hand reaching up toward me from the buried crypt, snaring me in a death grip then dragging me down into the earth before I could be rescued. My trepidation now the only proof I am alive.
Wandering through this boneyard comes with a mixed ethos of peace and dread. My face is a false mask of apathy.
Upon entering through the wrought iron gates, all sound is muted. Even the birds still their singing, giving reverence to the dearly departed. The wind, trapped between the mausoleums, softly moans, sending shivers up my spine.
The pathway is familiar. The names on the gravestones, recited from memory, fall from my lips like a litany of sins.
Kneeling at the foot of her plot, I pull dead leaves and vines away from her stone. Tracing the letters etched there so long ago, my fingertips tingle with anticipation. Far off storms boo their displeasure at my intrusion.
The sun hides behind the rolling clouds, chilling the air and my hands. Rising, my clothes tangle in a tree root, and I nearly fall. Reaching down to free my skirt from the snarl, my childhood nightmare becomes real.
Pawing at the ground, I try to gain purchase while the wraith pulls me backward. I scrape at the buried stone, begging for an anchor in this world. Her desiccated fingers close tighter around my ankle. Darkening shadows and cracks of thunder swallow my screams for help.
The rich, black earth envelops me, wrapping me tightly in woody tendrils to thwart my escape. Above, the only sign of my passing is a torn fragment of cloth. The wind quickly sweeps it away, along with any memory of my existence.