Wild Pony Publishing



The rail thin man, his face haggard and drawn with un­bearable pain, grasped the top rail of the gate, and fighting the rusted hinges, tugged it outward. Through it he stepped into a world he dreaded above all others. An unraveled and razor-sharp link of corrugated wire sliced the palm of his hand. He felt the sting of the deep cut and inspecting his hand, checked closely for blood. A pea-sized orb of red dripped from the torn flesh and trembled as it fell toward the gravel walkway below.

He thought of two things; the first, the drop of red seemed to have a life of its own and the second, it feared the cemetery as much as he.

This was not Harlan McFadden's first visit to the Ever­lasting Peace Cemetery. Too many times he'd been inside the gates of Jasper Corners' only graveyardonce for his mother when she quit her fight to find happiness on earth and sought it elsewhereonce each for his two uncles, his father's two brothersand once for a childhood friend, Hector Hernandez, killed by the Taliban in the Afghanistan war. But in all those visits he'd never suffered as badly as he did this time.

The varied, and handed-down from generation to genera­tion, definitions of the term cemetery strangled him. Each came with a self-serving meaning all its ownand each of spe­cific benefit to the believer and non-believer and always at odds with the beliefs of all others.

To some, the graves represented holding cellsa lay­over of sorts, before continuing a journey which would last for-ever. Sister Mary, or someone of similar name . . . “Such a nice lady she was . . .” being the most often repeated praise heard of the recently deceased, was on her way to be with God to share an eternity of happiness. Those who felt they had been slighted by Brother Henry were pleased he was about to be handed back the same hell he'd spent a lifetime handing out to others. Old Man Jenkins was fast-tracking to a mind numbing and deafen­ing quiet which he had believed all of his life was what death was really all about. And—at last he would know.

Never before had the harsh reality of a cemetery's singu­lar purpose—that of a depository—assaulted Harlan's senses as now.

A low cloud, dark gray, as if filled with sadness, hung suspended above the cemetery. Never before had Harlan been invested so heavily in death.

A life he cherished above all others had ended and he needed answers. He could hear muffled moaning and thought it might be those buried below weeping for his loss. A cool breeze brushed his face and he realized the dreadful sounds were those of leaves fluttering on the few trees scattered about the burial ground. But try as he might, he could not reason away the trembling he felt beneath his feet, is it the sobs of broken and shattered hearts? And if it was, he wanted to thank them for understanding how badly he hurt.