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                     THE GRAVEYARD CHRONICLES

                                           by MAYUR B. THAKKAR

THE ONLY THING I REMEMBER ABOUT MY PAST IS MY NAME. IT'S JOHNNY MAYS. I HARDLY REMEMBER WHO I WAS BEFORE I BEGAN MY NEW JOB. I DONíT EXACTLY KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN MY STORY FROM. SO I WILL START FROM THE POINT THAT SIGNIFIES MY PRESENT EXISTENCE, AT LEAST TO ME.

I FELL IN LOVE LAST WINTER. IT FELT LIKE TRAVELING ON A PATH THAT HAD NO DESTINATION. THAT IS HOW PEOPLE LIKE ME FEEL ABOUT AN EMOTION SUCH AS LOVE. I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FALL IN LOVE YOU KNOW. NO WOMAN IN HER RIGHT MIND WOULD LIKE TO SPEND HER LIFE WITH A MAN LIKE ME. I WORKED FOR THE DEAD YOU SEE.

BUT THAT DOESNíT MEAN THAT I COULD'NT  FALL IN LOVE, DOES IT?

I SAW HER ON A GREY, GLOOMY, RAINY DAY. IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO. I DONíT REMEMBER WHEN. I HAVE LOST TRACK OF TIME. SHE HAD COME TO THE CEMETERY WITH A SMALL GROUP OF PEOPLE TO BURY HER FATHER. I HEARD MY FELLOW DIGGERS TALKING AND FOUND OUT THAT HE HAD DIED OF CANCER, LEAVING BEHIND A HUGE FORTUNE FOR HER. I HAD NOT BEEN INTERESTED IN THEIR CONVERSATION AS ALWAYS. BECAUSE I COULDNíT SPEAK. I HAD LOST MY VOICE FOR SOME MYSTERIOUS REASON THAT I DONíT KNOW OF

I HAD ALMOST FINISHED DIGGING A FRESH GRAVE BESIDE ONE OF THE MANY TREES SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE GRAVEYARD. I HAD STOPPED DIGGING TO COVER MYSELF FROM THE RAIN UNDER THE TREE WHEN I SAW THEM COMING. THAT WAS WHEN SHE CAUGHT MY EYE. SHE LOOKED SO BEAUTIFUL, THE RAIN STREAMING DOWN HER INNOCENT FACE MIXED WITH TEARS. HER BLUE EYES SHINING LIKE TWO MINIATURE STARS. SHE STOOD THERE AS THE PRIEST READ THE RITES OR WHATEVER IT WAS (I DIDNíT KNOW AND I DIDN'T CARE). SHE WAS WEEPING SILENTLY, HER CHEST HEAVING UP AND DOWN AS SHE STRUGGLED FOR BREATH IN THE HEAVY DOWNPOUR. SHE WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEINGS I HAD EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE OR WHATEVER I RECALLED OF IT. AS I KEPT LOOKING AT HER, SUDDENLY, I FELT SOMETHING MOVE INSIDE MY CHEST. I DIDNíT WANT THE RAIN TO STOP ANYMORE. IF IT DID, I WOULD HAVE TO GO BACK TO DIGGING AND I WOULDNíT BE ABLE TO SEE HER MAGICAL FACE ANYMORE. I HADN'T FELT LONGING FOR QUITE SOMETIME NOW. AND I WAS SURPRISED AT THE EMOTION THAT TOOK OVER MY MIND AND HEART. IT SEEMED LIKE SUCH AN ALIEN FEELING.

SHE WASNíT HOLDING AN UMBRELLA LIKE THE OTHERS. THAT SHOWED HOW SHE SEEMED TO HAVE LOST CONTACT WITH THE WORLD AROUND HER. THE RAIN DIDNíT BOTHER HER. AND I SUSPECTED FOR A MOMENT THAT SHE WASNíT EVEN AWARE THAT SHE WASNíT ALONE. THE RAIN GOT HEAVIER AND SLOWLY, ONE BY ONE ,THE PEOPLE AROUND HER STARTED TO WALK AWAY. SHE WAS LEFT STANDING ALONE, DRENCHED AND SHIVERING, STILL WEEPING. I WANTED HER TO SMILE. FOR SOME STRANGE REASON, I THOUGHT THAT IF SHE SMILED JUST ONCE, THEN I WOULD GET MY OLD LIFE BACK AND SHE WOULD SOMEHOW, MIRACULOUSLY FORGET ALL HER SORROWS AND BECKON ME TOWARDS HER AND ASK ME TO TOUCH HER. I WONDERED HOW IT WOULD FEEL TO TOUCH HER VELVET CREAMY SKIN. I FELT THAT SHE WOULDNíT EVEN BAT AN EYELID IF I DID THAT RIGHT NOW. SUCH WAS THE INTENSITY OF HER GRIEF. IN FACT IT WAS SO MUCH THAT I SAW SOMETHING THAT I HAD NEVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE. SLOWLY, THE DEAD ROSE UP FROM THEIR GRAVES AND WALKED TOWARDS HER. SLOWLY ,THEY FORMED A CIRCLE AROUND HER AND STARTED CRYING ALONG WITH HER, SHARING HER GRIEF. I SAW THEM EVERY TIME A NEW BODY WAS BROUGHT HERE TO BE BURIED. BUT I HAD NEVER SEEN THEM CRYING OR MOURNING BEFORE. THE SIGHT SCARED ME SOMEHOW. ALL I HAD EVER SEEN THEM DOING WAS LAUGH AND HOWL AND CELEBRATE THE NEW ARRIVALS WITH MALICIOUS, UNEARTHLY GRINS. SOME STRANGE PART OF MY MIND WAS BEGINNING TO THINK THAT THEY WEREN'T THEIR USUAL SELF THAT DAY BECAUSE THEY TOO WERE STUNNED TO SEE SUCH A BEAUTIFUL CREATURE OF NATURE SUFFER FROM  SUCH INTENSE PAIN AND SORROW. I SMILED AT THE THOUGHT. BEAUTY THAT COULD MOVE THE DEAD. I LAUGHED. I WAS SCARED AT THE SAME TIME. IT DIDNíT SEEM APPROPRIATE.

I WAS HOLDING THE SHOVEL ALL THE TIME AND IT SLIPPED FROM MY HAND. I LOOKED DOWN AT IT. WHEN I LOOKED UP, THE UNDEAD HAD VANISHED. AS THEY ALWAYS DID, SUDDENLY. SHE WAS ALONE AGAIN. SLOWLY, THE HEAVY RAIN TURNED INTO SOFT DRIZZLE. I DONíT KNOW HOW LONG WE STOOD THERE. HER AND I. AT SOME POINT, SHE TOOK A KERCHIEF OUT OF HER PURSE, WIPED HER TEARS, AND STARTED WALING AWAY. AS I WATCHED HER GO, I FELT A STRONG FEELING OF AN IRREPARABLE LOSS. AS IF SOMETHING INSIDE ME HAD DIED A LITTLE. AS IF SOMEONE HAD TAKEN MY MOST PRECIOUS POSSESSION AWAY FROM ME. I HAD BEEN DEVOID OF EMOTIONS FOR A LONG TIME NOW. I HAD NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD FEEL AGAIN TILL THAT FATEFUL DAY. BUT THERE I WAS, HOPING FOR SOME MIRACLE TO HAPPEN AND BRING HER BACK TO ME, TO THE FORSAKEN PLACE THAT WAS MY HOME. NOT ALL OF THEM COME BACK HERE U SEE. I HAD RARELY SEEN THE SAME PEOPLE COME BACK TO VISIT THEIR LOVED ONES WHO NOW RESTED IN PEACE (AT LEAST A FEW OF THEM) UNDER THE EARTH. BUT FOR SOME REASON, I WAS SURE SHE WOULD BE BACK. THERE WAS SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT HER. SOMETHING THAT I COULDNíT EXPLAIN THEN. FOR I LACKED IMAGINATION.

NOW I KNOW WHAT IT WAS. SHE WAS BOUND. BOUND BY THE LOVE THAT SHE FELT FOR HER BELOVED FATHER, THE LOVE THAT WAS THE VERY ESSENCE OF HER EXISTENCE THAT COULDNíT LET HER STAY AWAY FROM HIM EVEN THOUGH HE WAS DEAD.

AS I WATCHED HER GO, I TOOK A STEP FURTHER TO PICK UP THE SHOVEL, UNAWARE OF WHERE I WAS GOING, MY EYES STILL FIXED ON HER, I TRIPPED ON THE SHOVEL AND FELL FLAT ON MY FACE INTO THE VERY GRAVE I HAD DUG SOME TIME AGO. MY HEAD HIT THE GROUND AND I FELT A TERRIBLE JOLT OF PAIN RUN THROUGH MY WHOLE BODY AND EVERYTHING WENT BLANK.

SHE WAS BACK THE NEXT DAY AND THE DAY AFTER THAT. SHE KEPT COMING FOR A FEW MORE DAYS. THEN ONE DAY, SHE DIDNíT SHOW UP. I DONíT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HER. MAYBE SHE HAD MOVED TO ANOTHER PLACE, MAYBE SHE HAD DIED OF THE SORROW THAT SHE SO STRONGLY FELT FOR HER FATHER. THE LATTER SEEMS MORE OF A POSSIBILITY TO ME THOUGH. BUT I DONíT REALLY KNOW. I WAITED FOR SEVERAL DAYS. I DONíT KNOW HOW MANY. I HAVE LOST TRACK OF TIME. TIME DIDNíT MATTER TO ME WHEN I WAS ALIVE, AND IT DOESNíT MATTER TO NE NOW. I DONíT KNOW IF SHE WILL COME, BUT I WAIT NONETHELESS. I HAVE PLENTY OF TIME NOW AS I DONíT HAVE MUCH TO DO. I JOIN THE OTHERS IN THE CELEBRATION OF THE NEW ARRIVALS SOMETIMES. MOSTLY, I KEEP TO MYSELF. SOMETIMES THEY STARE AT ME WITH THEIR DAMNED HOLLOW EYES, AS IF TO ACCUSE ME OF THE LOVE THAT I STILL FEEL FOR HER. MAYBE THEY THINK THAT I HAVE NO RIGHT TO FEEL LOVE NOW THAT I AM DEAD. BUT I FEEL A LOT BETTER THAN I DID WHEN I WAS ALIVE. BECAUSE I CAN FEEL NOW. SOMETIMES I CRY. SOMETIMES I SMILE AT THE MEMORY OF HER MAGICAL FACE.

SOMETIMES I THINK ABOUT THE LIFE I HAD. I CAN NOW RECALL A LOT ABOUT THE LIFE I HAD BEFORE I STARTED DIGGING GRAVES. I HAVE VAGUE MEMORIES ABOUT A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN AND CHILDREN. ABOUT FRIENDS LAUGHING WITH ME. SOMETHING ABOUT A FIRE THAT DESTROYED MY HOME. I REMEMBER A LOT OF PEOPLE SHOUTING MY NAME ON THE DAY MY HOUSE BURNED DOWN. SPEAKING OF NAMES, IT JUST OCCURRED TO ME THAT I DONíT KNOW WHAT HER NAME IS. I AM PUZZLED. SURPRISE IS A NEW FEELING TO ME.

MY FELLOW DIGGERS COME TO VISIT ME SOMETIMES. THEY STAND BY MY GRAVE AND TALK ABOUT ME. ABOUT WHAT A LONER I WAS. I LAUGH AT THEIR JOKES, GRIEVE AT THEIR MISFORTUNES. I DONíT MIND THEM AS LONG AS THEY LEND ME SOME COMPANY. I AM VERY LONELY. THE ONE WHOM I WAIT FOR HAS STILL NOT COME. I KNOW SHE WILL BE BACK SOMEDAY. WHEN I LOOK UP AT THE HEAVENS, I SEE TWO BLUE MINIATURE STARS THAT REMIND ME OF HER WATERY, BLUE EYES. I SUFFER AND I WAIT. BUT I DONíT FEEL DESPERATION ANYMORE. THATíS ONE OF THE ADVANTAGES OF NOT BEING ALIVE. U FEEL, YET U DONíT REALLY FEEL. U WILL KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT ONE DAY. WE ALL DIE. SOMEDAY, YOU WILL TOO. WHEN U DO, YOU WILL FEEL AS U NEVER FELT BEFORE. I AM GLAD TO BE ONE OF THE UNDEAD. I CAN SUFFER WITHOUT FEELING PAIN. WHAT MORE CAN A BEING WISH FOR? THATíS ENOUGH FOR TODAYÖI HAVE TO WAIT NOW, SHE MIGHT BE HERE ANY MOMENT NOW, IF NOT, I CAN ALWAYS WAIT LONGER. TIME DOESNíT MATTER TO ME...