Thursday, October 15, 2009

Short Story: Body by Dorlana Vann

I watched as a guy in a dark suit dug up Beatrice Beaumont Virgil, April 5, 1965 – August 19, 1998. Funeral flowers still fresh, dirt still moist, Until we meet again, her epitaph.

I stood in the shadows and dared to watch a moment longer before deciding I would just make note of his car license on my way out. If I had to say, I would guess his height as six feet and give him a generous build of medium. And I would only use this information if there were questions. Otherwise, I’d rather my secret after-hours visits stayed my secret.

As I turned to leave, the moody clouds drifted, allowing the full moon to tattle. I limped away as fast as I could, but my bad knee had started acting up again. I could only hope I was far enough to seem a ghost. Just as I began to breathe, I heard the man shout, “Hey you... stop!”

A gun fired; the bullet ricocheted off the tombstone next to me. I stopped.

“Now get over here,” he said. “Slowly.”

As I approached the gravesite, I could see that he had dug about halfway down into the grave. He held a shovel in his right hand and a gun in his left. “You’re not going to run are you?” he asked. His appearance seemed rather ordinary— until our eyes met. I’m not easily spooked, but his keen stare alarmed the hair on the back of my neck.

“No,” I said.

He tucked the gun in his pants and then threw me the shovel. “Start digging.”

I dropped the shovel down into the thigh-deep hole and grunted as I followed it inside.

“What are you doing out here this time of night?” he said as he sat down and wiped his brow.

“I’m the groundskeeper.”

“That’s strange. I did my homework; there are no employees at night.”

“I’m not supposed to be here either.” The shovel sank into the dirt easily enough, but my muscles complained when I started shoveling it out of the hole.
“Hmm,” he said. “So, what are you doing here?”

“It’s peaceful at night.”

“So you work here... and come here to hang out? Kind of an eerie guy. But I suppose the right kind... if one has to exhume a body.”

I kept digging, and the man kept watching until the shovel caused a clunking noise.

“All right,” he said. He sat with his legs dangling over the side of the hole. “Now start digging on the sides so we can open my treasure chest.”

When I had finished my task, the man jumped in beside me. It took quite a few hard pushes before we finally had the lid all the way open.

I generally have to be content with a mental image of my residents—unless their loved ones are kind enough to leave me a picture—I couldn’t help but comb my hair with my fingers to tidy up a bit before I met her.

Her long blonde hair flowed gracefully over her petite shoulders. Rosy cheeks and ruby lips highlighted powdered fair skin. “Beautiful.”

POW! I felt the deafening discharge from my fingers to my toes. Beatrice received a bullet hole in the middle of her forehead. I had stopped breathing.
“Hmm,” the grave robber said. “Grab her arms.”

“What?”

It took him aiming his weapon at me before I comprehended the instructions.
“Grab her arms. I’ll get her feet.”

Heavier than she looked, the first attempts at getting her out of the grave were grotesque. I wanted to lay her back in her bed, fold her arms back across her body... smooth her hair.

Finally, we had her in a somewhat normal position lying in the grass next to her assumed final resting place.

My dilated eyes absorbed a sudden explosion of light. When I regained my vision, I realized the man was snapping pictures.

I couldn’t withhold my curiosity a moment longer. It had fused together with fear and sympathy for Beatrice and formed a knot in the pit of my stomach. “I do realize that this is none of my business, and I really shouldn’t be asking you anything, but...”

“I don’t off chicks,” he said. His chest heaved in and out, just like mine.

“Excuse me?”

“That’s why I’m doing this. That was your question... right?”

I nodded.

He pulled a flask out of his jacket, put it to his mouth, and took a drink. Surprisingly, he handed it to me. As the unexpected bland taste of the pure water quenched my dry tongue, he spoke, “Some asshole hired me to kill a woman. This is just what I do when I’m put in the situation.”

I swallowed hard. The liquid felt like a tank going down my throat. The man standing beside me murdered people for money. And I was the creepy one. “So you’re going to pretend that Beatrice is the woman you were supposed to kill?”

“Beatrice,” he said and stared down at her. “They don’t want them at their doorstep. All I need is proof. I did a lot of obituary searching to find her. Same facial features, hair color, age.”

“What about the real girl?”

“She’s on a plane as we move our lips.”

We stood there for a moment: the atmosphere thick with the smell of death and the moonlight animating tree shadows across Beatrice’s face.

“So, why did someone want her dead?” I asked.

“Don’t know... didn’t ask.”

I nodded.

“Let’s get her back down,” he said.

The chore of replacing her didn’t take as long as excavating her had, but I hated our method. We just dropped her in.

We climbed in after and put her back in the casket. Except for the bullet hole and the dirt in her hair, she looked like she did before we disturbed her. I said my goodbyes and shut the lid.

When I looked up at the assassin, his jaw was tense and his eyes and gun were focused on me. He said, “You know, I have to kill you now.”

I stopped to inhale the earthy air, to scratch my nose, and to think about my new home with Beatrice Virgil’s address. Until we meet again, my epitaph. “Yeah,” I said. “I know.”

The End







Body is one of the short stories from the dichotomy/opposites anthology Split -by The Humble Fiction Cafe.
Read the second half of this story here: Hell's Kitchen



Dorlana's website: http://www.dorlanavann.com/


Dorlana's blog: Supernatural Fairy Tales



Happy Halloween!

4 comments:

Sheryl Tuttle said...

As many times as I've read this story, I enjoyed reading it yet again!! Thanks for sharing.

Dorlana said...

Thanks Sheryl :)

A.J.Johnson said...

Great story, interesting very enjoyable read.

Dorlana said...

Thanks A.J.! and thanks for stopping by :)