“We have to stay the whole night,” Mr. X said with the determination of a contestant on Survivor.
“The whole night!” Mr. Y protested. “Not the whole night! I haven’t agreed to this!”
“Well, we’re already here, so you might as well try it.” Mr. X shrugged.
“It’s so-o-o boring!” Mr. Y continued to behave like a little child tugging at his parent’s sleeve five minutes after they’ve arrived at an adult gathering.
“C’mon! It might be fun. You never know.” Mr. X dialed up the optimism.
“You’re crazy, man,” Mr. Y shook his head. “What are we supposed to do the entire night? Not a single soul here but us. Told’ya it’s not a good day to visit. We might’ve waited until the night of Halloween at least. There could’ve been spooky parties taking place. Kids in terrifying costumes…” His thought drifted off for a bit before his eyes lit up. “That could have been FUN!”
Mr. X looked around. He had to admit his friend was right. The night was unusually calm. Time seemed almost still; not even a whiff of breeze could be felt. He bet that if it wasn’t for the pleasant chirping of crickets, he might be able to hear the grass growing. The wide green field before them was looking quite peaceful under the generously cast silver moonlight. There was nothing sinister about the gravestones and family mausoleums. At best, the angel statues looked like the perfect museum exhibit of gothic art. At worst, the simple headstones resembled badly chiseled garden gnomes.
“Yeah, you’re right. Nothing much going around here, huh?” Mr. X sighed. “But that's kind of the point. To see what a graveyard looks like on an ordinary night.”
“So? We saw it,” Mr. Y crossed his arms in front of his chest, “and I was right. We haven’t lost anything by not coming here.”
“But don’t you want to get a sense of what it’s like to hang around?” Mr. X asked. “That’s supposed to be every person’s final resting place. I wonder who came up with the idea of burying the dead together. In ancient times all you needed was to dig a hole wherever and there you go – a grave! People did it in their own back yard. Must be hell of a lot cheaper.”
“Who came up with the idea? Not a very creative person, I’d tell you that much.” Mr. Y snorted. “They didn’t understand anything about design. Rows and rows of the same granite stones, and if you’re lucky your family might get you a statue or two. But always angels. Or mostly angels. God forbid they did something original. Let me know, if you see anything different. Although, I highly doubt it.”
“See, there’s one.” Mr. X pointed to a bigger tombstone on their right. There was a tall figure leaning over the grave – its face hidden under the hood of a long robe, its right hand armed with a scythe.
“Death? Really?” Mr. Y was unimpressed. “How innovative! Are they seriously still doing him with a robe and scythe? More like a Versace suit and custom-made Rolex. Ah, some people seem to be stuck in the prehistoric era still.” He approached the statue and peeked under its hood. “Yea-a-ah, they hadn’t even bothered to give him facial features. Not even a skull. See, the stone below is completely round.” He stuck his finger into the space where Death’s face was supposed to be. “I bet he won’t be too happy about it.”
“How do you know he won’t like it?” Mr. X turned to his friend. “Ancient superstitions are a classical choice. They never get out of fashion.”
“Just a hunch.” The friend replied. “Nowadays Death is a stylish guy. He doesn’t strike me as someone who’d go back to wearing the trashy robes he used during the bubonic plague.”
“OK.” Mr. X nodded thoughtfully. “Let’s say you’re right. What would you do differently?”
“At a graveyard?” Mr. Y’s rhetorical question propelled him into a monologue. “Let’s see. For starters, I don’t like the colors. So dull. Gray on green. And come winter – gray on gray.” He rolled his eyes. “Why not red, orange, and yellow? Combined with black. Yeah! That would be a cool look for a graveyard. And no more identical headstones. How the hell are you supposed to remember or distinguish which one is yours? I think everyone should do with their plot whatever they think fits best. Ideally, it has to be something the person resting there enjoyed while they were alive. Like, I would’ve loved for mine to be occupied by a bar, and a poker table. Could you imagine? Endless games and booze. That’s the life… or, well, death.” Mr. Y paused to enjoy the dreamy sequence in his head. “And yours? What should yours be like? I’d say a Ferrari. A big red-ass Ferrari, ain’t that right? If you want, you could throw in a Ducati by its side.”
“Really?” Mr. X was surprised. “You want your grave to remind you of the guy that shot you at the casino?”
“Ah, that’s water under the bridge.” Mr. Y waved his arm dismissively. “Besides, he can’t shoot me twice, can he?”
“Well, you’re wrong about me.” Mr. X threw him a stern look. “Being reminded of the car crash for eternity is the last thing I’d go for. I was a dumb piece of shit that believed he was invincible. Now I know there are other things, things worth living for… But it’s too late.”
“OK.” Mr. Y conceded. “What would you have then?”
“I think graveyards should be made more appealing and fun for the living. People tend to bury their kin and then they forget about them. Oh, to be sure, they do visit from time to time. But those visits start spreading farther and farther across time, until eventually they stop altogether.” He lifted his index finger like a teacher explaining a very important lesson. “Now, imagine if they were more like an amusement park, or if a fair was taking place every week – raffles, and camel racing, and the like. I bet that Lynn and Tyler would visit me then… And I wouldn’t have to hang around the house so much.”
“See, that’s what I’ve been telling you.” Mr. Y livened up. “Graveyards are boring. That’s why no one stays here. Hell, I didn’t even come for my own funeral. I found it too depressing.” He continued. “It’s far better at the house with my ma. Watching evening game shows and stuff. Sometimes I think she knows I’m there. Makes her feel calm.” He turned back to his companion. “You don’t want to be around your folks no more? I thought you liked it in your old place.”
“Well… Lynn has been seeing this guy for a while now.” Mr. X let out a heavy sigh. “Things are getting serious, and Tyler is growing up. They hardly ever speak about me anymore.”
“I’m sorry, man! I didn’t know.” He tried to emulate a pat on the back when suddenly something in his peripheral vision caught his attention. “Whoa! Yes! There it is! I can’t believe it!”
Mr. Y directed himself to a nearby gravestone, his smile getting wider and wider. The piece of grey granite itself wasn’t anything spectacular, but one could easily see that its borders were decorated with playing card symbols – hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds.
“It’s not a poker table, but it looks like your ma knows you quite well.” Mr. X smiled.
“She does, she does…” Mr. Y’s voice started to tremble a bit. “Man, I didn’t expect to get that emotional. I thought being dead for years kind of roots this out of you.” He tried to compose himself. “Let’s look for yours. It should be around here somewhere.”
The two friends kept perusing the headstones until finally Mr. X stopped in front of a white marble one with black veins. The inscription read:
(1985 – 2017)
Beloved husband and father
He stood completely still, facing his grave. After keeping silent for a few seconds, he spoke. “I don’t know what I expected.” There seemed to be a hint of disappointment in his voice. “It’s short and sweet. But they hadn’t even bothered with an original epitaph.” Mr. X started to walk away, “You were right. This isn’t fun– “
He had barely made half a turn, when his friend stopped him. “Hey! Wait! There seems to be something there. Do you see it?”
Tucked between the headstone and the marble flower vase next to it was what seemed like a handwritten note placed in a transparent sheet protector. Mr. X wasn’t keen on using his psychokinetic abilities, but this time curiosity got the best of him. He locked his eyes on the note and concentrated. At first nothing happened, but after a few seconds the sheet of paper started to shake violently like a scared bird trapped in a cage. Suddenly it flew out of its hiding place just to end up flat on top of the grave. The spotlight cast by the Moon revealed a messy handwriting done in blue crayon.
HI, DAD. I HOPE YOUR GOOD IN HEAVEN WITH GRANNY. SAY HI TO HER FROM ME. I’M OK. YESTERDAY I SCORED MY FIRST GOAL IN LITTLE LEAGUE. I WISH YOU WERE THERE TO SEE IT. MIKE SAID TO WRITE YOU ABOUT IT. HE HELPS ME PRACTICE AND HELPS MOM AROUND THE HOUSE TOO. HE’S NICE.
I JUST MISS YOU. A LOT. I’LL WRITE AGAIN. PLEASE WRITE BACK IF YOU CAN. I LOVE YOU DAD
The two shadows in the graveyard couldn’t produce tears, but the air around their faces started to glow as if filled with dozens of fireflies.
It was Mr. Y that broke the silence, “I thought you said they didn’t mention you anymore. You seem to be mistaken, my friend.” He grinned. “I hate to admit it, but you were right to make us come here. The place might not be my style, but now I know its purpose – it’s a communication hub between the living and the dead. And the living do visit. At least, until both sides still need the connection.”
“Yes–“ Mr. X said thoughtfully. “You know, I will start coming round more. I think I might be getting some new mail soon.”