"Swear on Your Mother's Grave" by Vittorio Emanuelle, September 2012
Disclaimer: All characters presented here are product of fiction. Any resemblances to real characters are of a pure coincidence. No intention was made to insult anyone for any reason.
AN: This story is an act of fiction. No one should attempt to act in the same manner as described.
Summary: England was not so "old and small" that new cemeteries could not be established, but crowded graveyards did exist, due to the Christian tradition of burying the dead in the consecrated grounds of Church yards.
Swear on Your Mother's Grave
As they were sitting in a café, sipping coffee and eating doughnuts, Dean Novosat and Ron Lagerquist watched some city works outside, wondering how come the deafening noise did not bother people so much.
"Did you know that during fasting …", Ron bit his doughnut, "… toxins are loosened and cleansed from the body, cell by cell, even within deep tissue."
"All right. Sounds cool." Dean was guessing most of the words or reading from Ron's lips due to the noise. Every time someone would enter or leave the place they had to make an intermission in their conversation.
"Yes." Two teenager girls were hanging at the half-opened front door, giggling. Someone finally objected and Ron sighed with relief.
"For a moment I though we were in some kind of a 'Twilight Zone' or somethin' …"
Girls finally left, extending their middle fingers to the balding man that dared to object to the noise.
"The process hurts as by-products enter into the blood."
"Sorry … what 'process'?"
Ron grinned and stared outside at a flock of pigeons that were obviously aroused by the local disturbance.
"Oh … that's right." Dean smiled back and continued to feast on his piece.
"Feelings of weakness, even discouragement, accompany a fasting dip." He waited as the drilling just continued. "It is during this time people often give up the fast, dispirited." He was waiting for another pause. "In the same way …", waitress managed to shout and ask them whether they needed anything else, "… old emotions, memories and hurts are stirred." She departed angry since both of them ignored her. "Why this happens is a mystery though." Ron sipped his coffee.
Later on, as they were pacing fast towards the parking lot, Ron continued.
"It could be a combination of radical change in lifestyle, slowdown, mental clarity, and the working of the Holy Spirit."
"Holy cow!" Dean responded, noticing a girl in mini skirt with violet colored hair. She was listening to some music and ignored him. Ron made a fake look back and then snorted.
As they were driving towards the cemetery, Ron continued.
"Connections are made between a harmful past experience and present encumbrances."
"And this would be …"
"About fasting, remember?" Ron wondered whether Dean was playing with him in some way perhaps.
"They are powerful moments of awakening …", Ron stopped to abrupt halt as a vagabond man trotted in front of his vehicle. Guy behind him screeched to a stop and honked, not realizing the true reason of the sudden stop. "And the strengthened fingers of the will are able to skillfully undo the knots that bind …", he checked on that that dirty street dweller in his back mirror, "… finding … new freedom." More cars were stopping and honking. Finally there was a sound of a crash and Ron chuckled, looking at Dean. "We discover new strength, convincing a tired hope that one is never too old for remarkable change."
After he parked, they walked slowly and then entered the cemetery. Security greeted them politely.
"Fasting slows life down enough to examine unconscious patterns of living, forcing us to face the chaos." Dean noticed a carved demon wing wings resting on a grave and nodded to Ron. Ron smiled and squinted as the sun suddenly got into his eyes. "It is like pressing the pause button of life and quietly observing how crazy and detached we have become."
"True." Dean turned around once more, not believing what he just saw.
As they were standing in front of the designated graves, distorted pictures of two children staring at them, Ron continued.
"Fasting, in its simplest definition, is giving up anything for a specific period of time." A raven landed on a branch above them, making some noise. "Typically …", Ron placed a hand over his eyes, trying to spot the black bird, "… we think of fasting as is in giving up food or water as in a fasting diet." Once he noticed the glossy feathers and those dark, ominous eyes, he grinned. "In this regard, there are basically three types of fasts …", they watched as some ceremonial burial passed them by in a long row.
"Yes? Go on, I am listening." Ron wondered whether Dean meant to add a comment on the procession in this manner.
"A total fast in which you give up all food and water, a water fast, in which you give up all food and drink only water, and a juice fast …", they heard a fat boy fart and giggled silently, boy blushing in embarrassment, "… in which you give up solid foods but drink only fresh juices." They continued to giggle and eventually had to move away since everyone was staring at them gravely.
"And where did you say they found them?" Dean examined some notes from his briefcase.
"In the basement of the 'Elk's Club', Casper."
"Casper?" Dean sneered and looked at Ron.
"Yes." Ron turned left, noticing a skinny old man staring at him as he glided by. "Casper, WY 82601."
"And when was this?"
"October the 2nd, 2011."
"Phew! Fairly recently, wouldn't you agree?"
They waited as some children were being unloaded from a yellow bus.
"Who initiated the investigation?"
"Some janitor lady. She noticed spots in basement."
"Richard Doyle, a Land Surveyor noticed extremely high EM fields, even outside the house."
"Oh …", traffic police was questioning a man with a retarded boy behind him, "I believe it was 35 Gauss … but on 3 different meters!" Dean glanced at him and then back. "Basements are inherently damp places, even if you don't have active sources of water. Cool temperatures plus humid air makes one feel cold."
They drove in silence for a while, Dean making some notes.
"How come the bodies were preserved so good?"
"It's no accident that what may be the world's best-preserved mummies have been found at the world's highest-altitude archaeological site." Dean lifted his head and wondered whether Ron heard his last question.
"You don't wear any hearing aids on yourself?"
"No. Why?" Ron checked Dean's notes casually.
"Oh … it doesn't matter. Go on, please …"
Ron swerved around a corner and parked on the street.
"There's nothing quite like unending cold to keep an ancient corpse looking fresh and young." He pressed his electronic lock and it made characteristic sound. "Three young people, two girls and a boy, have been uncovered atop Argentina's Mount Llullaillaco at a height of 6,706 meters, buried under one and a half meters of loose and dry earth." They watched for traffic in both directions and finally crossed the street, Ron waving apologetically at some Buick driver. "They were ritually killed over 500 years ago in what appeared to be an Inca sacrifice to the deities of the mountain."
As they entered the coffin house, a solemnity of the place struck them like a cold shower.
"Did you know that there were no 'bone houses' in England, but there were 'charnel houses'." Ron noticed a picture of some old English funeral home and smiled since he knew what inspired Dean to say that. Dean continued, caressing smooth surfaces of the various sarcophagi. "These were consecrated buildings for the storage of bones, usually uncovered in the course of digging new graves." Ron explained to the salesman who they were and what exactly were they looking for. He bowed curtly and let them proceed in silence. A widow with a daughter examined a chestnut coffin. "If these bones had been buried in coffins in the first place …", Dean suddenly realized that Ron exchanged some glances with that girl, "… a fairly uncommon practice among all but the wealthy …", their mutual stare was almost like some secret communication and Dean chuckled at the thought, pulling Ron away, "… the coffins had long since fallen apart." He looked at Ron. "What was THAT all about?"
"That girl?" He turned around once more but the widow cut him off with her penetrating and scornful stare. "She …", he looked at Dean, "… she looked like almost identical to the body they found."
"One that has been preserved for a hundred or so years and buried in that grave we've been at?"
"Yes. That one!"
Dean lowered his head and rubbed his nose.
"Have you been using some medicines recently or … some paint, glue or similar?"
"No … not that I can remember of. Why?"
Dean pulled him gently into a separate room where the most expensive coffins were.
Ron examined golden plated coffins and twisted his lip into a sneer.
"Did you know that some charnel houses were set up during the plague, when the cemetery was overwhelmed by the number of bodies to be buried, and the corpses in previous graves were removed to make room to bury the freshly dead."
"Really?" Ron felt sick for a moment but hid his revulsion.
"Yes." Dean continued oblivious of Ron's nausea. "In fact …", salesman checked on them smiling and then left, "… It wasn't until the 18th century that the nefarious practice of secretly removing the bones from a grave to make room for new coffins took place." Dean spotted the security camera in the corner and grinned in a sardonic way. "Church sextons would quietly dispose of the bones in nearby pits."
Ron touched the smooth interior of one coffin, enjoying its white silk and satin parts. He pointed it to Dean and snorted like a child.
"The coffins were usually so decayed that if scratch-marks had ever been made inside them they would not be distinguishable in the rotted wood."
"Did you know that it was the gravediggers that unearthed those preserved bodies in the 'Elk's Club'?"
"Really?" Dean immediately made a note in his notebook and a passing salesman smiled politely thinking it was something related to his products. Dean brushed his hair with fingers and then continued. "The gravediggers would often appropriate the hardware …"
"You mean …", Ron was touching and examining delicately decorated metal parts of the coffin, "… like these handles, plates, and nails?"
"But … of decayed coffins, correct?"
"That's right. Just in order to sell it for waste metal." Ron was amazed how much embroidery and carvings were placed on the handles of the coffin he was looking at.
Later on, after they exited, Ron placed hands on his hips and took couple of deep breaths.
"How was the matter resolved though?"
Dean grinned laconically, realizing that Ron was finally paying some attention to his words.
"The matter was resolved in the mid-nineteenth century when London succeeded in passing a law that closed the churchyards and put heavy restrictions on burial within the city limits, and most cities and towns across Great Britain soon followed its lead." Surprisingly enough a car with the steering wheel on the right side passed them by and they after it as if the demon was driving it.
Ron waved a hand at it and they ran back towards their car again.
Just before they entered, Dean suddenly stopped and stared at Ron inquisitively.
"Yes?" Ron asked, anxious to get into his car.
"Were there any bedrooms added in after the house was built … designed?"
Ron placed a finger on his lip, mocking the process of deep thinking.
"Yes. As a matter of fact I think they did."
"Ha!" Dean wrote something down and Ron was instantly curious.
"I'll tell you some day …"
As they drove off, an over-sensitive female driver honked from a distance at them. Ron showed her his middle finger and pressed the gas pedal.