The bones, they rattle. Each time I walk through the cemetery, I hear them, calling out to their loved ones, begging to be heard.
People, they call me Old Man Winthrop, and at seventy-three, I still feel like a spring chicken. Each evening, just after the sun sets in the west, I grab my rusty but faithful watering can and head out to the cemetery to water the bones.
Highland Heights Cemetery started out as a potter’s field at the end of the Civil War. That corner still exists, but there’s a new section now filled with fancy shiny headstones and a marble angel so lifelike she seems to just look right through my soul. I don’t water that part of the cemetery. Those bones are too new. They don’t need watering yet.
I focus on the potter’s field and the sections with weatherworn headstones with indecipherable names and dates. Those are the ones that scream for water, for recognition, for remembrance.
Last night started like any other. I had my watering can by my side and was halfway through the potter’s field when I heard the familiar clinking of the bones beneath my feet. Them old soldiers, unnamed, were crying more than usual. It sounded like a warning, and I felt less alone. I set my watering can on the ground and looked up.
My cataracts didn’t make things any easier, but eventually I saw another figure out in the cemetery standing near the angel. I left the rusty can and walked right on over. When you’re my age, sometimes you forget that life experience does not grant immunity from present danger. I walked as fast as my arthritic knees could carry me, but before I could reach the figure, he slipped behind the angel. I peered around once I got there, but it was as if he had vanished into thin air.
I looked up at the angel and a shiver went right down my spine. I wish I could blame it on the autumnal air, but I can’t. It was those marble eyes, painted black, looking right through me. I half expected them to blink.
And then I felt a twinge of pain sprawl along the left side of my chest. Dizziness crept over me, and it became hard to breathe. I twirled around and followed the loudest of the bones, the ones really screaming for me.
I feel to the ground and clutched a weary-looking rose-quartz headstone emblazoned with the name, “Marion Winthrop.” Her bones, the most familiar bones, the ones I watered the most, called out to me. I listened and let their comfort wash over me, replacing the bristle of fear from the angel.
The moment passed, as did my pain. I watered Marion before I went home, half-disappointed that it wasn’t my time yet to join her. I figure that shadow I saw was the angel of death, checking up on me to see if I was ready. Will I go back to water the bones? Of course I will. Someone’s got to do it, and I figure it’s up to me until the angel finds a replacement.
Author Bio: Tiffany Renee Harmon is a poet and writer of speculative fiction based out of Cincinnati, OH. She has had work published in, eHorror, Poetry Quarterly, Inwood Indiana, Haiku Journal, and more.