by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author
I am in a graveyard. I know I’m in a graveyard because there are headstones of various shapes and sizes, and there are people dressed in black all around me. Although the graveyard should be gloomy, the surrounding colors are radiant and bright, and my presence here feels surreal and subconscious as if no one in the graveyard can see me. I am in a modest hospital gown, but I am not embarrassed of my lack of appropriate clothing because no one seems to be aware of me.
I look around at the people in the graveyard. I don’t recognize any of them. Most of the people are sad, but one or two of them appear pleased that the graveyard is full to its capacity. I study the man closest to me. He is walking around between the headstones with a pen and notebook in his hand. As he looks at each headstone, he checks something off in his notebook. The man is wearing a black hat and sunglasses, but I can tell, even with the obstruction, that the man is intense. His face is rough with a shadow, his jaw is pointed, and he sports a deep scar that runs down the side of his face from his eyebrow to the bottom of his ear. The man’s aura is threatening, so I direct my attention elsewhere.
As the chill of death brushes by, I draw my head down to the headstones. Surveying the ground, I am aware, without counting, that there are exactly twenty-two headstones. I look back to the headstone directly in front of me. I am standing only feet away from it and can read the name clearly: Geneveve Blackmore. The headstone is frail and old, with several cracks, and the corners of the stone are chipped. At first look, this stone appears older than the other stones in its immediate vicinity, but I have not yet looked closely at the other stones and might be mistaken.
I suddenly have a desire to read the names on all of the remaining stones. Without delay, I move to the next stone. This stone is about half the size of the first, is in much better condition, and, if a stone can look younger, looks younger than the first stone by at least twenty years. The name on this headstone sticks out in raised letters. Tamara James.
Moving from this stone, I look at the next stones in sequence: the third is a dark grey almost black stone approximately the age of the one immediately before it with the name John E. Farley; the next is a smaller headstone with the name Nathan Farley; the next is a headstone that appears almost glaring white, with a chip in the center and the name Sara Farley (I assume the Farleys must be related to one another).
The sixth headstone catches my eye enough that I examine it closer, a foggy mist is encircling the stone, but I am able to wave the fog away with my hand revealing the name Ronald Pierce. The name is blood red, and, once the fog is fully dissipated, I see that this headstone sticks out as compared to the others – as if this headstone should be my focus. Regardless of the appearance of this headstone, my curiosity forces me to move on to the other stones.
Moving rapidly because I plan to return to the stone with the blood-red letters, I bring myself in front of the other stones one by one, reading the names: James T. Fitzgerald; Allison Mitchell; Whitney Ann Warren; Julia Keiley; Isabel Stuart; Thomas L. Brandt; Paul Shreyer; Victor Daniels; and Nora Hahn Foreman. I have looked at sixteen of the twenty-two stones – only six remain.
The seventeenth stone is set apart from the others, but I can see it clearly. The name on the stone sends a chill down my spine that makes me wonder if this is reality because I have never felt such strong emotion in a dream. I stare at the name, wanting to cry, but I can’t. Jennifer Roberts Palmer. Roberts was the maiden name of my wife. The headstone represents Jennifer – I am sure of it.
I fall on my knees to bring myself directly on level with the stone, my plan to return to the stone with the blood-red letters pushed to the side. My head swirls, and I want to collapse. The hurt I feel for Jennifer is overwhelming, but involuntarily, my legs force me to a standing position and draw me to look at the final five stones. The five stones vary in appearance and size in the same manner that the first seventeen varied. The difference with these stones is that a name doesn’t appear on any of them. They are blank and smooth, waiting for a name to be written upon them.
In the shadows, behind the blank headstones, a figure eerily moves from one side of the graveyard until it arrives just a few feet in front of me. The presence inexplicably fills me with terror. The dark figure begins to shake back and forth, and it becomes apparent that the person to whom the shadow belongs is laughing maniacally. As the figure shudders with delight, its face moves into the light just enough for me to see the side of a face. It is the man with the sunglasses, and his scar is prominently visible.
In disbelief, I stare at the man but am interrupted as I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around to see my brother, Trevor, sitting in a chair near one of the headstones. He is holding a Sports Illustrated magazine with LeBron James on the Cover and looks up at me with a concerned look. He looks older now, as if he had aged more than a year since I last saw him.
“You gave me a scare there bro. We thought you might not wake up again,” he says as he stands up.
I try to reply, but, as the vision ends, I can’t speak.