Friday, April 21, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 25 -- Burials

Part 25. That means we are into month six of this project. This is the somber part of the story, but for the larger tale, this is where motivations are cemented. At least for me, the person that knows how all of this culminates, these moments are those first steps toward the next chapters and the ultimate end. I know that probably doesn't make a lot of sense from where you're sitting, but it does to me.

Looking at how much story we have left, I'm guessing we will get to 30 parts before all is said and done. So, we should be finished by the end of May.

Hope you enjoy this installment. On with the story.


Welcome to the End//Part 25:Burials

I hold my stone out in front of me and assess my creation. I’m happy. Caroline is still concentrating on the rock in her lap. I take mine over to the hole I dug for Walter and situate it at the top, adjusting it so it’s centered square. I wait a moment before heading back over to Caroline. I am trying to give her space. I don’t know if it’s what she needs or wants, but I haven’t asked. I don’t know how. I know her emotions are raw. I see that she’s been crying. And why not? Her entire world is now different. And that’s on top of it all going end over end with the attacks. She’s alone. Part of me, I suppose, is frustrated that I can’t predict her reactions anymore. Not like I could a day or two ago. She was feisty and bored. I could tell you with some certainty what she was going to say to my questions or how she’d respond to my remark. It wasn’t so hard to put myself back in that teenage headspace and predict what she’d do. Mostly because it’s what I would have done or said. But now, after the wailer attack and her mom dying, I didn’t know what she’d say or what she’d do because I couldn’t imagine, even in my wildest thoughts, being her. She was dealing with things that I would have never been able to handle at that age.

I go back to camp, and Caroline has finished with her rock.

“It’s nice,” I say. “She would have liked it.”

Caroline doesn’t stop looking at her creation. “I hope so.” She pauses. “I think so.”

“I’m going to transition Walter over. Spend a few more minutes with your mom. We’ll move her over after I get back.”

She nods then looks up to me. “Let me help.”

I tell her no, to stay here, and she doesn’t insist.

We’ve wrapped Walter in a blanket that we found over at the empty horse stables. Bundled like this he’s easier to carry, but still heavy. I take slow steps over to the grave. I lay him on the edge then jump in. I pull him into the hole with me. It’s only a few feet deep, but not so shallow that it should be disturbed. The bottom isn’t finished smooth, and he lays in there awkwardly, sort of half on his side. I adjust him so he’s flat as possible then jump out and start throwing dirt into his grave.

The dirt lays in a round mound on top of him, just like some fresh grave you see in a cartoon. It’s an oddly familiar site. Thanks, pop culture and your casual references to death.  I go back to where Caroline is and can see that she’s already wrapped Maggie in another blanket. It was one that Caroline picked specifically. It’s a Native American pattern of some sort, very angular and geometric. It’s all golds and oranges and reds. Caroline spent some time pulling the old hay and other debris from its weave, and it’s clear that she took some time getting Maggie wrapped. Extra fabric is tucked neatly away. She looks like a young, sleeping child bundled tight in its blanket.

Maggie’s head isn’t yet covered, and I can hear Caroline talking to her. I slow my steps, but she hears something crunch under my feet and turns. She wipes a tear then stands.

“I’m ready,” she says.

“There’s no hurry.”

“We have to do it at some point. I’ve said my goodbyes.”

I nod and bend to pick up Maggie. I grab the fabric that’s laying near her head and start to pull it over her face. Caroline puts a hand on my shoulder, and I stop. She bends down and kisses her mother’s forehead.

For the first time, I cry. Big tears wet my cheeks, and I can feel my chest wanting to turn this to sobs. I fight the wave of emotions back as I finish wrapping Maggie. I pick her up, and my tears fall into wet spots on her blanket as I carry her over to the grave I’ve dug. I go through the same procedure with her as I did with Walter. She lays flatter.

I climb from the grave and begin piling dirt back into the hole. Caroline places the stone she created earlier at the head of the grave then begins to sing.

“Amazing grace. How sweet the sound …” Her voice is a bit thin, and it’s understandably unsteady. But it’s pleasant. She continues to sing a variety of old church songs that I recognize until we can’t see Maggie anymore. That’s when she leaves.

I finish the job then step back and look at our small graveyard. Just two plots, but that’s a third of the population of our camp. And it should be bigger, but Caroline never told me where Britt and Bethany were. Once I get graves for them dug it’ll double our number of dead.

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