I'm in a graveyard, I don't remember why, or how I got here, it is a big place, there are people here, but they are standing around a grave, wearing black, a funeral. I look at the stones, grey markers sticking out of the ground, names of people who were no longer with us, names that mean almost nothing anymore.
My eyes keep coming back to the funeral, I see all the black suited people, and I see someone I thought looked familiar. I take a step in their direction, then realise that I can't interrupt them, it isn't something that you can do, interrupt a funeral. There is a stone angel, a headstone that is obvious, a name that means something. A funeral always has a name that means something.
I sit, my back against the stone angel, I watch the funeral from a distance, I don't know why. Why would anyone watch a funeral? I sit and watch a woman cry, from a distance, she looks like someone I know, I don't remember who she was, I don't remember how I knew her, but someone who I once knew, I could go over there.
I stand, stretching until my back feels straight, it probably isn't. I take a few steps towards the funeral, I stop, I can't interrupt a funeral. The woman keeps crying, I can see her, I can see the tears running down her cheeks, and I know her face. I keep walking.
I can see though a gap in the mourners, a coffin, covered with flowers. A memory comes back, A man with black hair, I can't see his face, a woman who looks familiar but I don't know why. He is yelling, I am not, he is holding a gun, where did he get a gun? Why is he yelling?
"You can't keep doing this," he yells at me, I know that he is wrong, he doesn't know why he is doing this, she knows. This woman I know, smiling in the background, who is she? Why is she doing this?
I said nothing, there is nothing I could have said, nothing I wanted to say, and nothing that I should have said, a gun pointed at me by a drunk and angry and confused man. She smiled at me, it was not a nice smile, she knew what would happen, she always did.
"I have to stop you," he yells. He thought he could stop me, he thought he knew what he was stopping, he thought he knew so many things. She knew it all, she knew everything he thought he knew, it was her fault as always.
I'm back in the cemetery, staring at her, I know her now. Memories come back, the man standing next to her was a friend of mine, someone I knew, a good friend that I had. I remember, I remember when I first met him. A bar, a friend introduced us, a woman I had dated for a week. I had told her I was gay and she had wanted to stay friends.
He wasn't gay, neither was I, same story.
Back in the graveyard, my head hurts for a moment, red hot pain, I can see again. A woman next to her, someone I knew, someone I liked, I had gone out with this woman for so long, almost eight years, until I met her, I didn't know her anymore then.
Back in the cemetery, I know her now, again, so many times this has happened. I start back towards them. I have to get her, I have to stop it from happening again, I have to stop it. I'm running now, with all my strength.
"It always happens again, no matter how many times you try," a voice I don't know, but there are almost no voices that I do know. I turn towards the voice, I don't see anyone. "Going down that road again will not be good."
I see him, I don't know how I didn't before, he is sitting on a gravestone, I grind to a halt. "Who are you?" I ask, looking at him properly. He has completely white skin, and completely white hair and completely white eyes. He has totally black clothes, a long coat that almost touches the ground, a black, button down, shirt with buttons that don't shine even slightly, black slacks and black shoes, he even has black gloves.
"I am someone you used to know," he says, smiling, I notice that his lips are white. "You can try to stop her, try like you always do, I will be here, waiting."
I started running again, not too concerned by what he had said. I hit the mourners, not solidly, I come to a gap, I stop and hesitate, recognising every face, except that of someone who looked like a priest. Why would everyone I know be in the same place?
It doesn't matter.
I take another two steps and I'm at the coffin, I step up onto it and launch myself at her, hands outstretched. She glances at me, I meet her eyes and she smiles, such a small smile that I am the only one who could have seen it, she looks back at the coffin and I stop in midair, stretching fingers barely an inch from her throat.
No one is looking at me, I float in midair and cannot get her. No one sees me, they all look at the coffin, perfectly quiet. I hit the ground, fairly hard, but it doesn't hurt in the slightest. I get up and brush myself off. I breathe in, deeply, and swing at her again.
She does the exact same thing, she glances at me for a moment and makes the same, small, smile. I stop, not voluntarily, the same thing, I hover for a moment and drop my arm. Something strange is going on, I remember everything she has ever done to me, I have to stop it from happening again.
"Just can't do it?" the voice was questioning, I turn and see him, sitting on the coffin. "I wonder why that could be."
I don't say anything, I can't say anything now, I have seen past him, a picture of me. Why would everyone I know be in the same place? It does matter. This is my funeral, something bad is going on, something that is very, very, bad.
"A funeral for you," he says, smiling. "I bet it is starting to come back to you now."
It was. I remembered another graveyard, watching her cry over a different coffin, this one had me in it as well. I remembered a drunk man, yelling at me, holding a gun, she was standing behind him, smiling at me.
"I have to stop you," he is quieter this time, her smile fades slightly.
I see mourners, different people in different clothes, people I knew, I see them all, so many people who had mourned my death, so many people I had known. She was always there, so many different costumes, so many tears.
A drunk man, pointing a gun at me, she isn't smiling anymore, he has started crying. "How about you put the gun down," I say, soothingly. Mistake, I shouldn't have said anything.
"Don't talk to me," he is back to yelling. "I will stop you," this time he means it, the gun goes off. It is loud, they always are, I move around the bullet and shove my hand right through his throat, he gasps and looks at me in shock, he didn't see me move, they never do.
I know she is moving, but I am not going to stop her this time, I am not going to do anything, because this is what always happens, and until she can kill me by herself, without inventing a new life, until then I will not save myself.
"You remember now?" his voice brought me out of the memories, he was standing above me, when did I fall?
"How could I forget?" it is all back now, almost everything. "There is only thing that I have forgotten, who are you?"
"I guess I will have to explain again," he smiles again. "Walk with me, have a look around, this will be fun, but not for you."
I stand and follow him back out of the ring of mourners, he abruptly stops and points to a headstone, he turns back to me and smiles again. "Whose headstone is that?" he asked me.
I look, the name means nothing, but it comes with a memory. I am standing in the rain, one of only three people, staring at a coffin, I can feel the tears, even through the rain. "My brother's, from a long time ago." I tell him.
"It was a long time ago," he says, reminiscing. He shakes his head and smiles, obviously remembering something from a long time ago, but I don't remember it. I remember over one hundred years of life, how is it than I'm missing something?
"How it could it be so long ago? How can there be things that have happened to me that I don't already remember?" I rub my head. "I remember everything that has happened to me for more than one hundred years."
"Do you remember your childhood?" he asks, vaulting over the headstone, he walks over to another as I follow him, walking around the headstone. He kneels in front of the grave and starts to scrape away at the moss that seems to be growing out of the stone.
I think back over my whole life, all of it that I can remember, no childhood, I just remember being. I remember coming into the world, but only slightly, I remember the start of my life, but it is hard to describe.
"There was no childhood," I tell him.
"There wasn't," he confirmed. "Whose headstone is this?" He asked, scraping away the last of the moss.
Another memory, from a long time ago, I am standing by a grave with my brother, tired and sore, we are both holding shovels and it is the middle of the night. Tears have left tracks down our cheeks, there was a shroud with a corpse in it, my sister is dead.
"That is my sister's grave, from a very long time ago," I tell him, I can feel the tears starting again.
"That one was a shame," he says. "She got better though." He grinned.
"What are you talking about?" I ask. He ignores me and moves onto a different headstone.
"Whose grave is this?" he asks me, with another smile.
Another memory, from a long time ago, about ten people standing, in the sun, around a fresh grave, we were all crying, I seemed to cry a lot. "That is my brother's grave," I told him, then thought about it, it was a grave of the same brother, I only had one.
"You get it now," he said, he wasn't smiling anymore. He pointed to another grave, "That is yours" – he pointed to another – "that is your brother's" – another – "that's your sister's."
Memories come back as I look over all the graves, funerals, and burials, memories of crying people, and of being alone at a graveside. All of the graves had memories, all had memories of my sibling's funerals, and of my own.
"What is this place?" I ask, covering my eyes with my hands to try to stop the flood. It doesn't stop, the memories keep flowing, so many deaths, so many lives that didn't matter anymore. "Is there anyone else here?"
"Only me," he says, smiling.
"Who are you?" I ask, taking my hands away from my eyes.
"That is hard to explain properly," he says, his smile turning into a grimace, he covers his eyes.
"How can it be hard to explain? All I need is a name," I say.
He grins again and takes his hands away from his face, he has irises now, and pupils, his irises are almost as white as the rest of his face. "That is funny, all you need is a name, the only thing I'll never need is a name."
"I don't see the funny side," I tell him.
"I do," he says, smiling. "You usually call me the Grounds Keeper." He smiles again and the eyes fade, back to being completely white.
"Alright, Grounds Keeper, what is this place?" I ask this again because he didn't answer it last time.
"This is your graveyard," he says, still smiling. "The resting place of your family for as long as I have been here."
"How long have you been here?" I ask, it seems the obvious thing to ask.
"Too long, I have been here as long as this place has existed," he is still smiling.
"How long have I been here?" I ask him, it is the only thing left to ask.
"You and your siblings have been here a little over four thousand years," he says it smiling. I don't think he is lying.
"My siblings, are they here?" I ask him.
"They are not, you three are never all here at the same time," he says, still smiling.
"Why am I here?"
"She killed you again," he says, still smiling.
The memory comes again, hand right through a drunken man's throat. I feel the knife going in through my side, she is starting to get it, she is trying to kill me herself, she is getting closer to the right way to do this.
"At least she is getting closer," I say, I can't help but smile.
"That is one way to say it," he says, smiling wider.
"The other way is to say that she stabbed me in the stomach," I say, the smile fading. "I have a question though, how did we get here, what started it?"
"That one is almost impossible to explain," his smile slips and the eyes swim back into focus, he rubs his eyes and breathes in deeply. "There was someone else, in a way, it is more complicated than that. They are why I'm here, they put me here, I didn't know why for a long time. Then they put you here as well, you and your siblings."
"That wasn't too bad," I say.
"That is just how you got there, not what started it," he says, the eyes fade back to white but his smile doesn't come back.
"I'm not that concerned about what started it," I tell him, I like his smile, and my lives are coming back to me, so many people I had been, so many times I had lived and died. "How did she get here?" I was fairly sure that he knew who I was talking about.
"You put her here," he told me, his smile coming back. "Have you ever heard the story of Adam and Eve?"
"I'm Adam?" I ask, sceptical.
"Not really," he says. "But it is the same effect, you put her here and she hates you. She loves you as well, like you love her."
"That is a shame," I say. "But we are close to the end of the cycle."
"That is true," he tells me. He smiles broadly and points over to the funeral. "They are leaving, shall we visit your newest grave?"
"Sure," I say. He vaults back over the grave and I follow him around. We end up back in front of the grave while the diggers are filling in the grave, throwing clods of earth over my newest grave. The name on the headstone means nothing to me.
"Why is it that I don't remember any of the names I had?" I ask him, watching as my coffin is slowly covered with dirt.
"A name doesn't matter, that is why your name is not Adam, you have no name, you make your own every time you live. I have no name because a name doesn't matter when you're dead," he smiles. "But mark my words, when any of you live, without someone you love, you make someone to love, the cycle is only ending because there is another cycle coming, it isn't your cycle coming, it is your sister's."
"If it isn't my cycle then what will happen to me?" I ask.
"You live slowly, like your sibling is now, you will live as long as your sister's cycle lasts," his smile.
"But you just said that I couldn't live without someone I love," I say, more than a little bit confused now.
"I say a lot of things," he says, smiling. "But that will be something different, you stay like this until your sister's cycle is finished. No one will see you or hear you, no one living anyway. You will only be able to talk to beings like me and the recently deceased."
"What about my brother? Isn't he in this place?" I ask.
"Your brother is more complicated, he killed himself because he killed the one he loved before the end of his cycle, now he has no more cycles, you will not find him," the smile fades and the eyes come back.
"Why won't I find him?" I'm concerned now.
"He is no longer recently deceased."
"Any other confusions?" he asks, the eyes fade away again but his smile doesn't come back.
"Why did you say I would live through my sister's cycle, this doesn't really count, does it?" I ask.
His smile comes back. "It doesn't but you can live, your brother was alive for a while, but then he died, none of you have the will power to live through it, so you don't."
"More questions," his smile broadens. "Through the death of one you love."
"Alright, what happens now?" I ask, it seems the only thing left to ask.
"You find somewhere you want to live," he says. "And finish your cycle."
It is time to end the cycle, time for a death that will last, but really there is another question to be asked. "Are we going to go through this again next time I die?"
"We go through this every time you die."