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Have you ever driven past a cemetery?

By Claudia NeavesPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 4 min read
Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

“Hold your breath,” she says from the backseat. I glance up, into the rearview mirror, and my blue eyes find her grays. When I don’t respond, she gestures to something outside her window.

“Cemetery,” she says by way of explanation. “So, hold your breath.” I don’t answer. The light before us turns yellow, and too quickly, red. Reluctantly, I stop. A semi-truck clamors down from my left, and it isn’t lost on either of us that it would have flattened my little Volkswagen had I kept going.

“You should have ran it,” she says. Her voice is so wicked. I can feel her gaze in my mirror and on the back of the head, but I ignore her. I hate when she is like this. I hear her let out a huffy breath, hear her fingernails dig into my seats. She tries to roll down her window, but the child-lock keeps the cold cemetery air safely outside.

“Why is that?” she says irritably. “Why hold your breath past a cemetery?” She likes these games. If I don’t answer, she’ll make me regret it. It was already my mistake to drive this way. It is late. My shift had run over and the twinge in my back had me itching for a Tylenol and my bed. I run a hand over the throb just between my shoulder blades. I could take my bra off at this red light. But I don’t want to get stuck here if the light turns green. When the light turns green I will floor it. I just want to get the hell home.

“So, they don’t steal your breath,” I offer. She laughs. It is never a pleasant sound. Some girls have laughs like the tinkle of a bell. Hers is the strike of a matchstick on the box.

“No, no,” she mumbles. Sometimes her voice is nothing more than that. She makes me lean closer to hear her. “That’s cats and babies. Cats steal baby breath.” She pauses. I know what is coming next. She kicks the box in front of her: an unused infant’s car-seat.

“Do you have a cat?” she purrs. “Do you think that’s what happened?” Her gray eyes find me in the mirror. Her eyes are an approaching storm. Mine are the downpour. I tear from her gaze, focusing on the light. Turn green, turn green. Let me speed past this cemetery and get myself to bed.

“I don’t know. I guess I’m just not very superstitious.”

I know that answer won’t be acceptable. But she settles back into her seat. She kicks the box a few more times. I watch the traffic. Cars, trucks, the occasional motorcycle rumble past. I can’t help but to feel trapped when she taps on the window and starts mewling to whatever is roaming the graveyard this late at night.

“It’s so you don’t suck up a spirit,” she tells me finally. “Isn’t that disgusting? Imagine. Driving past and slurp! You swallow someone’s grandfather or sister or some decrepit old priest. And that priest thought he was going to heaven his whole life right? Like he’s going to church all the time and praying and then he dies? And some bitch in a VW swallows his soul driving back from her sad little late shift?”

She’s rambling. I am white knuckling the wheel now. Looking for any break in the traffic. I just want to get home, I think piteously. Let me get home. Let me peel off these scrubs and boil myself in the tub. I start to wonder about just how hot the water heater can get. If I scald myself in the bathwater and blister every inch, I could peel off an entire layer of skin. I could slither around like a snake and warm my new, raw skin in a hoodie and a blanket.

“What a long red light,” she whispers from the back.

“Yes, it is.”

“Just go.” Another semi blitzes by. He almost merges on top of a smaller vehicle. The driver honks his horn, and the semi responds with an obscene gesture.

“Stop that,” I reply. I hate when she is like this. I hate her.

“Some people just keep going. Red light or not. Yellow light or not. Little girl riding past on her bike or not.”

“I know,” I tell her. My voice is soft. I wonder if she can hear me. “Some people keep going. And what happens to the little girl on the bike when they keep going?”

“The little girl is just fucked then.” She is silent. I think she might be finished when she starts kicking the box again. The car-seat inside rattles. I need to take it back to Target. I have my receipt somewhere. I just didn’t think I would need it. Not so soon.

“You’re not superstitious,” she echoes. “That’s ok. You don’t have to be. Breathe in all the spirits you want. But do you believe in punishments? Do you believe the people who keep driving get punished?” She kicks the box. Once. Twice. “The people who keep going? Who don’t see the little girl on the bike?” Kicks it again. Again. There are tears in my eyes. Her voice is reaching a feverish pitch.

“Do they? Do they get punished?”

My voice is barely a whisper. “Yes,” I say. “They do.”

The light turns green. My foot is lead on the gas. There is a squeal of tires on asphalt. The engine is louder than the blood pulsing between my ears. I’ll be home in minutes now. I look in the rear view mirror.

She’s gone. I remind myself not to drive past that cemetery again.


About the Creator

Claudia Neaves

Mother, Soldier, Physician, Reader, and Writer

If you like me on the page, you may enjoy a more immersive listening experience. Catch my episodes, Destinations and Beyond a Shadow on Full Body Chillls by Audiochuck

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    Claudia NeavesWritten by Claudia Neaves

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