A COOL BREEZE by Joseph J Patchen
 
The ground doesn’t seem as wet as it should. Not for the nine inches of rain fallen in a single day. Not for the continuing rushes of displaced water from the rivers and sewers and lakes; flash flooding that uprooted trees, fences, and street signs before knocking down doors and walls. Not for the sustained soaking that drove many from their homes and lives.
 
In spots the soil seems dry and powdery; almost barren as if a victim to a drought. The grass seems to have been replaced by splintering straw.
 
But only in spots; sporadic spots of various sizes and shapes.
 
The air doesn’t seem as clean as it should. There is nothing fresh. There is nothing vibrant or colourful. There is a stench of staleness that is all encompassing. There is a wisp of rot every few feet or so.
 
Despite October’s chill; there is an undercurrent of heat; a thread, sustained and not at all comforting. There is a feeling that the vast area around is closing in.
 
The sun is sinking but not in the west. It is setting from whence it came and it is only noon.
           
I could tell you of the silence here; but there is none. Birds are chirping; wings carrying bugs are amplified and the moaning is deafening.
 
The breeze cools as an even cooler rain falls. Mists rise on those barren places; those dry spots begin to display forms. Out of the dry earth and empty husks rise outlines of bodies, transparent shapes of the dead and dying with clothes torn and flesh slashed open.
 
Limbs display bone whether attached to a body or simply torn free. Blood runs, much like the water from the sky or the tears from a phantom’s face.
 
I don’t know these people. Some are old, some are young; races and genders are mixed.
 
I don’t know this place. I am not even sure I am in my own town as I walk along this small open space in the middle of tall and aging trees. The grass is maintained. There are no wildflowers or loose leaves.
 
None of this seems natural. But it does seem disturbing.
 
The wails of these ghosts transforming into physical form become louder…
 
I am beginning to understand. I now believe what my lifelong atheism attempted to hide. I am dead. I am dead, I am dead and I don’t know why. I am dead walking among others so similarly dead and who wail in denial and disbelief.
 
Confusion and panic are mixed with their pain and distress, as is mine. I am dead and understand that my demise had to have been sudden. I am dead and with others so similarly afflicted.
 
I walk in purgatory.
 
“You are correct.” The voice is strong but old. The voice seemingly comes from everywhere with a commanding omniscient authority and knowledge.
 
Good. Perhaps some answers. I need answers. Why? Why before my time? Was it a stroke? Was it a heart attack? Could it have been an accident? I have no memory, no hint. Why have I been ripped from my wife and children with no warning? I never had a chance to say goodbye or put my affairs in order. Please answer me, please.
 
“You were murdered.”
 
“Murdered? By whom and by the way, who are you?”
 
It does not come.
 
Answer me. Why do you leave me now? Answer me.
 
It becomes my own wail, over and over, similar to the wails of the others. It becomes my own mantra, my own cry of pain. I am only thirty-two years old and I have lost everything. Why? Why me? What have I done to bring this karma about?
 
I know things were not perfect in the marriage. I know we had our problems like every married couple. I know I disappointed her in so many ways; she expected so much more and I was beginning to change things…
 
A great shiver surrounds and enters my body tumbling down from my brow and spreading through to my toes. A great icy cold seizes my muscles and bones riveting me to the spot I am standing on. I can’t move. My walk is halted.
 
“Your wife says you have drowned in a tragic accident.”
 
The voice whispers in my ear. I can’t turn my head but I feel a warm breath on my neck and the side of my face.
 
“Her lover, a fireman, fished your body out downriver from your home.” Beads of sweat form from my eyebrows. My heart pounds as I grow weak.
 
“I was murdered.”
 
The voice whispers again. “Her lover fished you out of the river.”
 
The rain falls harder. The drops stab as pins pricking my flesh, they pierce with each strike. Each is sharper and colder, sharper and colder. Between the cold, the news, it is all freezing me in place, riveting me to this spot.
 
“There will be no service. The widow is telling everyone, including a news crew, she is too distraught. She is leaving the children with her mother for a couple of weeks and is heading north with a friend to a cabin in the woods to grieve in private.”
 
A cabin; I have never owned…yeah…
 
Truly alone, I am so truly alone. Vilified…Truly alone, vilified. That is how I lived in this marriage, even with my children. Forgotten…The authorities, my family won’t challenge…I am cast aside…even by my own children…
 
Yeah. It makes sense. ‘Why don’t you work harder? I want a new house. I want a new car. You are not making enough…’
 
Yeah. ‘Look at the body he has. He works so hard in his yard.’
 
There will be no service. The widow is heading north with a friend…played…Played for all these years…sure…I wonder now if they are even mine…
 
I will find them. Time is on my side. They can do nothing more to me. I am less than a footnote. I will find them and they shall see.
 
The wails of the lost souls muffle as the sun falls. The night comes bringing a sense of vigour in the form of a bright wide moon. Coursing through my veins as a hunger I have never before felt.
 
I have finally found my life’s purpose. I finally understand why I am here and what it is I must do.
 
In their dreams each night after they relax from their celebration of debauchery and treachery I will creep in their thoughts uncontrolled. I will appear in their vision, just out of sight, just out of reach. I will inhabit their shadows and each breeze that swarms about them.
 
Each night and soon day I will be amongst them for the torture they have earned.
 
My darling bride, the love of my young life your hate will be mirrored in my new existence. No one around you will be safe and each will be a standing lesson for you until we meet again for one final embrace.
 
Be sure I am completely at rest when you place me in that tomb. You better be sure it is sealed oh so tight because I won’t stay still in that room. The darkness of death, the absence of light doesn’t still my life. I shall roam this earth each day and night to nourish myself on you and your kind.
 
THE END
 
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