walking with the dead
When I pass the gate, I can feel the way the world changes. Vesta walks along the building wall beside me, rising so that we are almost the same height. I won't deign to look at her, but she speaks anyway.
“They wait for your report, gravekeeper.”
The shadows cling to me and I can't help but tease when I let them weave through my fingers. The night is dark, but the dark of a full moon, just enough to see the way the headstones cast their faint shadows.
I move delicately; there is nothing quite like bare feet on fresh grass.
Vesta follows me, of course she does, but I let her, and watch as she places delicate paws onto the grass once crushed by my feet.
“You are unwise to defy them so.”
I pick the dandelions that grow beside gravestones and weave them together.
“And I suppose you think yourself wise for carrying out their will?”
The cat doesn't hide the growl that rises from her throat, but I ignore her and put the woven flowers at the foot of a nearby grave.
“If it is death you seek, I suppose you walk the right path.” Vesta jumps from one gravestone to another and I pick a wilted flower from the ground and roll the stem between my fingers.
“You never find what you seek, only what you fear.”
“What is it you fear, gravekeeper?”
Finally, my gaze slips to consider the cat. Vesta of the Fallen, Queen of Darkness. She is all black, deep and empty in a way some darkness is not.
“I suppose I shall find out eventually.” I say, my fingers brushing the grave as I pass, turning away from her.
“Those are the words of a fool.”
I don't reply because maybe I am a fool. It is so easy not to care.
I leave Vesta behind, perched atop a grave with her cat eyes on me, but she doesn’t move to follow. I trace the delicate carvings on the mausoleum door. I can feel the restlessness of the spirits, their anger and their pride and the way they move in their sleep.
I pick more flowers, I weave them into each other and place them on gravestones. The dates are all the same, carved into stone for history to forget; but I know this maze, and I won't forget them and the day they lost to the world.
Vesta catches up with me and I can see the contempt in her. Sitting on the stone steps of a mausoleum, she is still in the way only cats are. She waits for me to speak, but I remain silent, moving past her to an opposite line of gravestones.
I can feel the stubborn will in her, but when I glance back, she hasn't followed me. I don't mind all that much.
I greet the familiar graves as I pass, the letters carved into stone are ones I have read before. My fingers weave flowers absentmindedly and I walk past lives lived until Vesta joins me again. She is quiet, but I can see the way she watches, and I think that maybe there is fear in her eyes. What could be so horrible as to make the Queen of Darkness fear?
The dead speak to me, their messages mixing together in the shadows of the graveyard, and I listen to them, wind through the trees, roaring and blowing to empty nights.
“What is it you hope to achieve, gravekeeper? You forget your place.”
“I forget my place…”
I say the words again and somehow they are foreign to me.
“What is my place, Vesta of the Fallen?”
The cat hisses at me. “You serve the Council, as we all do.”
“I serve the dead.” I say softly and I'm not sure if I want her to hear the words, but I repeat them louder anyway.
Vesta bares her teeth at me, sharp and bright in the light of the full moon.
“The Council serves the dead, you serve the Council.”
“Is there such a difference?”
Vesta’s cat eyes bore into mine.“They do not grant mercy to traitors, gravekeeper, you would do well to remember that.”
I place a delicate weave of flowers on a familiar grave and my heart is warm with her gratitude. I turn back to Vesta.
“Then it is a good thing I have not betrayed them.”
The cat looks at me with obvious discontent, but this time when I move, she follows. I try to listen as she speaks, but my mind moves away and I pick the flowers between graves. I only hear her last words before she vanishes into the shadows of a poplar tree.
I place the weave of flowers at the foot of another grave.
When the creatures of the night begin their songs, I am the only one there to listen.
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.