I’ve been kicking around a story idea for almost ten years – one I started working on after I finished my first (and only) novel that no one would publish (the bastards). Part of the story involves a cemetery, so as part of my research (and just because I can be a little morbid) I have spent a couple of hours wandering around the grounds of a cemetery near my home. The cemetery is a landmark and it is over 100 years old (founded in 1900). The oldest grave that I found was from 1908. It is a gorgeous property with lots of trees and hills and a small stream that crosses it.
It’s also very creepy and spooky. There were people around on both of my little tours, but the property is 200 acres, so there is lots of privacy – and maybe no one would hear my screams …
As I drove in, I passed an old man walking in jogging shorts, wearing earbuds. He looked like he might have been running, but had slowed down to catch his breath. He stared at me as I approached and turned his head toward me as I cruised past. I’m cute, but not that cute. Then again, he was twice my age, so I probably looked like a solid 10 to him. Five miles per hour seems like a slow, respectful speed in a cemetery. It doesn’t feel like you’re moving at all. When I looked in the rearview mirror, he had turned around to watch me. I hit the gas.
A couple turns later, I pulled over and climbed these stairs
and found myself in a very secluded, very old part of the cemetery.
On the outside row, closest to the street and at the edge of a very steep but short hill, I found a family plot with about a dozen graves. There were even two children’s graves, which made me sad. A four-year old girl and a 2-day old infant who didn’t even have a name yet.
I wondered what he did in life that made his family separate his grave from the rest of the family.
As I was walking back toward the stairs, I accidentally stepped on the baby’s grave – and my foot sank into the ground a little. Almost like someone was trying to pull me down. I hurried away but I felt like someone was watching me and I kept looking over my shoulder and all I could think about – for some stupid reason – was the movie The Omen. I just knew that something was going to happen to me before I left the cemetery. I would have a heart attack, or a car would come out of nowhere and run me over … or I would sink be pulled fall into a grave or someone would grab me and drag me into a mausoleum …
I slammed the door on my imagination and got back in my car to leave. Only I couldn’t find the way out. Did I mention it’s 200 acres? The roads wind around and converge and form giant circles and when Death is stalking me, my sense of direction goes to hell. Er … leaves me.
But then I saw a headstone that stopped me cold. It was a husband and wife headstone. The husband’s name and dates of birth and death were engraved, but only the wife’s name was engraved. Death was still waiting for the wife. Death is a fact but when you’re young middle-aged forty-one not ready for it, it seems like something that only happens to other people. When I saw this, I understood – maybe for the first time – that it will end. Death will find me – probably before I’m ready. It gave me a chill.
When I transferred the picture to my computer, I had my second almost-heart-attack of the day because I saw an image within the image. A ghost, a spirit form, a figure … something. There was something following me that day. It wasn’t my imagination.
Then I looked more closely. It was my reflection in the headstone.
I think I should stick to writing on bathroom walls. At least that doesn’t give me chest pains – and there’s no ‘research’ involved.