The plain, wooden cross, skillfully constructed from weathered, white-washed fence slats, appeared overnight in St. Anthony Gardens at the neglected burial site of a nameless decedent.
Great care had been given to crafting a traditional grave marker, one that was reverent and not pretentious as were so many of the monolithic tributes in the cemetery. Whoever placed the cross did it with great respect.
When a pauper – someone unknown, unloved, unclaimed – was interred in St. Anthony’s, it was the role of Gravediggers Anonymous to see that the deceased is afforded, if not a sanctified burial, at least a dignified one.
When the cemetery director questioned the G.A. Crew Chief about the cross, the chief claimed the organization had no idea who left the marker.
“The site is old,” Chief Brown said. “Besides, G.A. is only involved in the newly buried, we aren’t concerned with historical sites. Our usual eulogies would be useless.”
Local sheriff investigators interrogated Brown with the same questions.
“This is hardly vandalism,” Chief Brown had little regard for by-the-book, Sheriff Flynn. “Nothing was destroyed, nothing was stolen. A cross was planted, not your usual defacing of property. It was in a cemetery after all.”
A few of the noblesse families complained that the crude marker was distracting to the ambience of the Gardens, and petitioned for it to be removed. When the G.A. members threatened a strike if it the cross was taken down, funeral director Bahr offered the petitioners a month of free landscape maintenance for their dearly-departeds’ plots as appeasement.
“Someone took a lot of trouble to make that cross and place it with intent,” Chief Brown argued. “It’s not our place to dictate what a loved one wants as a grave marker. It stays or we go.”
The cross remained, and the St. Anthony’s Gravediggers Anonymous continued their work. That was until other G.A. charters reported other rustic markers were showing up in other cemeteries on other unmarked graves.
“What’s going on, Karl?”
Chief Brown presided over the Southeast Federation of G.A.s. An emergency meeting was convened at the Highway 21 Ruby Tuesday to discuss the Cross Situation.
“Tony, I don’t see this as some kind of infiltration,” Chief Brown, tried to wave down all the shouted questions coming at him. “Like I told our local constabulary, they’re just crosses. That’s all. Now, who wants to share some Thai Phoon shrimp?”
While the membership of the SEFGA noshed on sweet and spicy fried shrimp, something was happening in the pauper fields at 13 cemeteries in the region. Beneath 13 wooden crosses, placed on 13 nameless plots, the ground began to shift. Ledger stones and grave curbs cracked and crumbled, unleashing 13 nameless spectors from the rubble.
Back at the restaurant, Chief Brown checked his watch, then imperceptibly raised his glass of beer – a salute to his swarm. “So, it begins.”