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Fiction Suspense Thriller

The lightning shot down and struck miles away from the now-illuminated graveyard. Rain slammed against the guard shack window mercilessly with loud cracks and slaps that began to resemble the sound of rattling television static. As the rain pounded, more lightning dove into the ground, reminding John of just how despairing his job could be.

People carried a misconception that graveyards were dark, creepy, and unsettling. For John, the graveyard he oversaw at the turn of midnight was nothing more than the peaceful resting place he’d chosen his wife to take. Some around his quaint town snickered and gossiped about themselves; spouting off about his occupation doubling as a desperate attempt to gain back the time he’d lost with his wife.

And maybe… They were right.

He’d gone the last two years of her painful existence hopelessly burying himself in miscellaneous paperwork, extra shifts, and a little broad on a corner street he’d paid to hold secrecy. While none of it could withstand justification, John felt the years leading up to losing his beloved were not meant to be exploited in such a way.

Regardless of his wrongdoings, the murmurs and speculations that circulated were a disrespect to his wife. It was an odd realization. Had he been the helpful, loving husband his wife fell in love with, maybe their lives wouldn’t have been the source of entertainment to the masses. Despite how hard John fought it, John knew he was the only one to blame for it, and Penny’s passing would forever take the heat.

Howling wind soon redirected the angle of the unforgiving downpour. The speed of nature’s fury had not changed, but the sound it made eased in random pulses. Mutations in the patterns—skittering along the glass edges of the window for twenty minutes while banging directly against it the next—unmuted John’s senses.

With a sigh, John sat at the desk and began attending to the paperwork often left for him by the lazy guard before. His lack of complaints kept the routine regular, and yet, the scribbling and timekeeping left unorganized just for him left him unbothered. It was something to do. After all, in a storm like the one he was bearing witness to, there was a hardly any chance of teenagers sneaking beyond the squealing gate for late night ‘rituals’.

After an hour of his racing fingers against the shoddy forms, a knock came at the door. It jolted him upward with surprise, forcing a scrape of pen from the left corner of his form to the center.

“Damn it,” he hissed as he slammed the pen down next to his work.

“Who could be knocking at two in the morning—in a storm?”

Within three steps, he was at the door. As he looked down to see who’d been there to disturb him, another flash of lightning flashed him a perfect view. Nothing.

He growled and stormed back to his seat. There wasn’t a way to fix the result of his startle except to continue the file and explain later what had happened. He hoped the boss would just be grateful the work had been finished overnight.

Ten minutes passed.

Knock. Knock. Knock. It had been lightered the second time, and the hand against the metal of the door sounded thin.

“Johnny Bean,” a soft murmur sang, “I miss you.”

John immediately ripped the door open with a panting breath. The only person to ever give him such a nickname was his deceased wife. There was no way for her presence! He’d watched her body sink into the ground just ten feet from where he worked. It was not possible.

Again, there was nothing.

“Great,” he grumbled, “I’m losing it.”

He dragged the door closed with more strength as the wind contradicted his efforts. Too much to do with three hours left to have it arranged accordingly. At the rate of his disturbances, half was destined to be untouched.

He stomped back to his desk. If it were a teenager or two playing a prank on him, it was the sickest one yet, and he would be sure to figure out the culprits in the morning. Secretly, though the wind was not strong enough to make it possible, he hoped the wind would take them like scattered papers.

One…Two…Three…Four…Five. A stack of papers filled out in a row began to settle in each place originally designated. With each, noticeable dwindling of his filing, his mood improved. At a steady rhythm, he’d convinced himself it wouldn’t quite take the full three hours. He may even get an hour to do as he pleased! What a relief that sounded like. In a storm such as the one that raged on, a break would be just perfect.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Johnny Bean,” Penny’s voice came again as an echo, “don’t you miss me, too?”

“It’s not real,” he mumbled to himself as he ignored the knocking without a budge. He would finish his work with an hour to spare if it killed him. He would have the small luxury observing nature’s anger, and he would do it in peace.

Knock! Knock!

It was not a dainty ask for entry but instead a demanding slam against the door.

“Johnny Bean,” Penny called to him, “I know you can hear me.”

“Nope,” he whispered to himself with a slight doubt. “It is just the storm playing with my head.”

“Johnny Bean,” she sang in a taunt, “why won’t you answer me?”

John gritted his teeth and pressed himself to not open the door. A manifestation out of guilt, he swore to himself. His wife’s death was still fresh, and it had been his first night back since then. That was all it was—

“Johnny Bean, Johnny Bean,” Penny sang again.

John pushed her voice aside.

“Just open the door, and let me in.”

He would not speak his denial out loud. Talking to himself would only strengthen the delusion and build his doubt.

Penny’s voice had not come again when he did not acknowledge it. Another deep breath of relief followed suit. “I’m just imagining it.”

Minutes passed with two more forms removed from his stack of things to do. An hour to himself was getting closer and closer, and the idea continued to motivate his quickness in getting the job done.

Knock… Knock…

It had been slow and uncertain, leaving John frustratedly intrigued. Was it possible that it was somebody else? Did someone go out of their way to ensure he’d been getting through the storm alright?

Reluctantly, John paused his work once more and went to the door. His hand rested on the handle with hesitation. A tension built in his chest as he contemplated cracking the door. Curiosity was known to kill the cat. Yet, those he kept watch of were all gone and rotting in soil at different rates—some already turned to dust.  So, what could actually hurt him?

John cracked the door so slowly, the hinges squeaked.

Nothing.

Before he could close the door, his wife’s voice was no longer an echo in his head. She spoke loud and clear as if they were standing with each other.

“Johnny Bean, don’t you miss me?”

“You’re not real!” he finally screamed and slammed the door shut.

John tangled his fingers in his hair as he gritted his teeth. He was losing it, and there was nothing he could do to stop it, but why? Why was she choosing to torture him this way? Had she known all along what he’d really been doing in the late nights he claimed to be extra shifts? Did she know that the honest hours he took were a way to escape?

“Johnny Bean,” she rang out with more force, “I know you miss me.”

John shook his head rapidly. “Not real. You’re dead! I put your body in the ground, Pens. Just leave me alone.”

It was crazy! He’d been lured into talking at the air that teased, taunted, and tortured his ears. In all the years he’d been the graveyard’s midnight keeper, he hadn’t heard a murmur or hum from the dead. He’d never laid eyes on an apparition of any kind. There wasn’t even so much as a rustling leaf without explanation. So, why now?

“John,” she seemed to yell, “admit that you miss me!”

“Fine!” he screeched. “If you it will make you leave me! Yes! I miss you! More than you will ever know!”

Laughter followed his admittance and a loud clap thundered John’s chest. Then, the lightning struck near Penny’s gravestone as if it was a strategic sign, and the storm came to a stop.

October 22, 2022 18:46

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2 comments

Keegan Eichelman
04:52 Nov 13, 2022

Wow, this is incredibly creepy and kept me on the edge of my seat!! It's got a Stephen King vibe. Loved it.

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Sarah Rich
15:44 Nov 13, 2022

Thank you! It was inspired by my finance's security job! (not at a graveyard)

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