It was always so hard to go to see them. Cemeteries were not my favorite part of the holidays, that’s for sure. Out of all the kids, I was the only one that still came to see our parents. Julia and Becky had kids of their own, and Mark, well…he didn’t care enough to come out here with me. So every Christmas, I’d come out here on my own, flowers for Mom in one hand, while the other held my book bag strap, complete with whiskey and two glasses to share with Dad.
Footprints in the snow suggested that others had come here earlier to see their loved ones, and as I walked past the rows of tombstones, I wondered if there had been whole families that came to see grandparents or just parents in general. Maybe even some children or siblings. It was heartbreaking to see other people grieving. I’m sure people would feel the same if they happened across me.
My parent’s graves were deep into the graveyard. They had chosen the old Barnes plot to get buried in, a plot my family has owned for generations. We would all most likely be buried here too one day. There were no footsteps in the snow out here. When I got to their graves, I dusted off the snow and debris.
I squatted down and put Mom’s flowers in front of her side of the grave. “Merry Christmas, Mom.” Removing my backpack, I grabbed the whiskey and the glasses out of it and sat a glass in front of my Dad’s side. “Merry Christmas, Dad.” I poured two shots and toasted to them. It was peaceful out here now that the church crowds were gone. The sun was hidden behind clouds, so I was a little chilled, but it sure made the whiskey taste better.
My knees started to wobble, so I stood up straight. I sipped the whiskey slowly until it was gone, and leaned back down to pour my Dad’s cup by his name. “There ya go,” I mumbled. “See ya on Easter.” I gathered up my things and started walking back to where my car was, wondering what to do with the rest of my Christmas Day.
As I walked through the graves, I looked at them. All the names were so unique, some hard to read, but all belonging to someone. Who knows if their family was still around to visit? According to all of the footsteps in the snow, a lot of them still had people around to remember them.
There was a new looking tombstone close to the exit. It wasn’t there at Thanksgiving, and it looked way too clean to have been there for much longer than that. If there was no snow on the ground, there would probably be fresh dirt still. Surprisingly there were no footsteps around this grave as well. I paused as I walked by, looking down at the inscription. “GAME OVER. CONTINUE?” I read aloud. That’s all it said. “Interesting…”
I walked closer to it, touching the top of it and leaning over to read it over. There was no name on it, no other indication that someone was actually buried here. In fact, the only thing that was different about the tombstone at this close proximity was that there seemed to be a slot built in. “What’s this for?” I questioned aloud. There was no way this accepted coins, right? I began to chuckle. “How nerdy.”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a quarter. There would be nothing wrong with putting change into the slot, right? This could be a sneaky way of the graveyard trying to make some extra money. Or, at worst, it could be a sneaky way of profiting off a loved one’s death. Placing the quarter into the slot, I hesitated, wondering what exactly would happen. Would this be a wasted quarter?
“I’ve got plenty of quarters,” I mumbled to myself. “What’s the worst that could happen?” I let go of the quarter and waited for something to happen. I stood for a good few minutes, listening and looking for a sign that something was about to happen.
After five minutes of nothing, I let out a sigh. Looks like nothing was exactly what I paid for. I began to walk away, hands in pockets. I could’ve saved that twenty five cents…
Suddenly, I heard a very loud, very ragged gasp, as if someone had just been allowed to breathe again. I turned back to see what the noise came from and saw something poking out of where the grave was. I froze, watching as the something turned to face me. It was a head! A man’s head was sticking out of the ground, his arms desperately trying to claw their way out of the snow and dirt. “Hey!” His face was quite frankly terrifyingly happy. “Hey, you! Did you wake me up?”
“Could you, uh, help me out here?” The corpse laughed. “I seem to be stuck in the ground.”
I couldn’t move. This was…weird. “What…”
“Yeah,” the man continued. “I’m stuck in here, can you pull me out?”
“What’s happening? I’m asking you to help me and you’re just standing there like you’ve seen a ghost!”
I snorted and the man frowned. “You, uh, aren’t a ghost?”
“Wha — no!” The man shook his head as best he could. “I’m just a normal guy. Well…I guess I’m a dead guy. You brought me back!” He wriggled around desperately. “Now I have to get out of the ground to continue the mission, but you’re not helping me so, you know, it’s a little weird right now…”
Not knowing what else to do, I started coming closer to the man in the ground. “How do you want me to help?”
“Just, ah, reach under my pits here and help me hoist myself out.”
“Yep, that should do it,” he continued, “just pull me up and we’ll be good!”
I did as he requested, sliding my hands underneath the dirt and underneath his armpits. I squatted down and tried to pull him up, using as much as my strength as I could to help him up. I could feel his body moving underneath, practically suction cupped to the dirt surrounding him. I felt his body shift and slowly, his arms fully revealed, his legs kicking close behind him, and his full body popping out of the ground like a dandelion.
He was a tall man, and as he brushed off all the dirt and snow from his funeral suit, he grinned at me brightly. “Thank you so much, man! I was waiting for someone to give me an extra life.”
“For how long?”
“Oh, I don’t know. What year is it?”
“2019?” His eyes got wide. “It’s been twenty years, holy cow!”
“You’ve been here since 1999?”
“This is a brand new tombstone,” I told him as I pointed to his grave. “There’s no way you have been here that long. I’ve been coming here for years, and this is the first time I’ve seen this.”
The man frowned again. “Well, I don’t know, buddy, all I know is I died in the Nineties and now I’m here. Oh, I’m being rude, hold on,” he suddenly said, as if he remembered something out of the blue. He wiped his hand off best he could and held it out to me. “I’m Brian Reef. Thank you for helping me out of here.”
I shook his hand, not really knowing what else to do. “I’m Kevin Barnes. I guess it’s nice to meet you? I’m a little freaked out right now.”
“Understandable. I did just crawl out of the dirt.” Brian looked around, as if he was missing something. “So what are you doing for the rest of the day?” he asked as he looked down. He bent over and reached into the ground. “I’m going Downtown myself. I’ve got a debt to collect.” He pulled out something long and silver.
“Is that a fuckin’ sword?!” I stepped back, gawping at the weapon he had in his hand. “That’s a sword!”
“Yeah, it’s mine,” Brian laughed. “Ol’ Faithful, you know?”
“What the hell is going on?” I cried. “You’ve got to tell me who you are and what’s happening.”
Brian nodded curtly, as if he was waiting to tell me. “I’m part of a group of people who were designed at birth to have extra lives. Some sort of government program, I don’t really remember if we’re being honest.” He strapped his sword to his back and bent back down to dig around his grave some more. “There’s only a handful of us that actually passed all the tests. We were designed to be perfect killing machines and great spies…Basically, I’m like a Marine who can’t die.”
“You don’t look like a Marine,” I told him.
“I am aware of that,” Brian said, gesturing to his lanky self. “They made our DNA able to regenerate, so if I’m mortally wounded, I can just sleep it off. The only problem is that when I died last time, they had to put a lock on my grave because they couldn’t destroy my body to get rid of me.”
“Who’s they? Why would they want to destroy you?”
“‘They’ is the CIA, and they wanted to destroy all of us because we didn’t believe in Y2K, believe it or not. Obviously, everything seems to be fine,” he added, pointing at the city behind me. “It looks great over there! Not destroyed at all. Anyways, they wanted us dead because they wanted Y2K to happen so that they could have full reign to do whatever they wanted while the power was out. Some kind of Russian conspiracy, I don’t care. I’m just upset that they tried to keep me down there for so long.”
Brian finished digging in the dirt, and I saw that he had his hands full of various papers and random items. “So,” he smiled at me again. “You wanna help me take this stuff to your car? I’ll give you gas money.”
“I don’t know how you’re going to do that, you probably don’t have any…”
Brian reached into his pocket, precariously balancing all of the stuff he had in his other hand, and found a green bill. “Here’s $100,” he said. “Drive me around today and I’ll leave you alone for the rest of your life.”
Hey, y’all! This week was full of things I want to write about, but since the end of the month post is almost here (and the month went by so dang fast), I’m saving the good stories from September for that post. Instead, here’s a writing prompt that I was inspired by a few days ago and finally got around to writing!
I might come back to it if I can figure out where to go from here, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the setup of a potential new story! I’m notorious for starting a story and not finishing it (looking at you, Forsythia), so one day I could get some inspiration for this prompt again. It’s a pretty good prompt, I’d say. There’s lots you could do with it! In fact, it would be interesting to write from Brian’s perspective…
Follow me on Twitter to see if I ever actually do that! If anything, follow me on Twitter to see my daily complaints and thoughts. See y’all next week for the monthly roundup post!