Tossin and Turnin
I hear them, every day, every night.
The words the old gravedigger had said stuck in Glenn's mind like a damp cobweb.
He turned up the radio and tried to wipe them away.
Tossin and turnin, they do, every day, every night.
"Stop it!" Glenn cried to his car's interior, and then quickly regained his composure when he noticed a pretty woman in the car next to him at the stop light. She had long black hair that framed her pale face and wore a dated blue blouse.
She gave him a puzzled look and turned away.
Glenn sighed. It had started a few months earlier, when he was strolling through Thornlove Cemetery. He frequented the place because it cleared his mind. He'd just split from his girlfriend and needed the peace and quiet of the graveyard to get his thoughts in order. Meandering around through weathered tombstones, towering obelisks, and imposing mausoleums allowed him to put things in perspective.
It was a brisk autumn day and he had just finished his walk when the old man suddenly popped out from behind a copse of barren trees. He was rail thin and held a rusty shovel in an arthritic hand.
"I've seen you here before," he drawled through sizable gaps of teeth. "You walk around for a while and then leave."
Glenn was annoyed that the old guy had been spying on him. "What's it to you," he said with more than a hint of irritation in his voice.
"Nothing, just noticing, that's all."
"Well, mind your own business."
The old man chuckled, a dry laugh that ejected bits of past meals onto the leaf- strewn ground. "You know, once they hear you they know that you're here." He ran a withered hand over a bony chin. "And when they know you're here you'll start hearing them." He lowered his head and looked around the cemetery. "Tossin and turnin, that's what they do, and you'll hear it every day, every night."
Glenn shook his head in disgust. The old man was crazy, spouting nonsense about dead people.
He turned and walked away.
Glenn went straight home after that. The old man was obviously out of his mind, but what he'd said still bothered him so much that he had trouble sleeping that night. Those words and the image of the old gravedigger stuck in his head, refusing to be ignored.
Three days later Glenn found himself at the gates of the cemetery. Overhead, thick gray clouds had drifted in, casting the burying ground in an aura of gloom far beyond what it normally possessed. And the temperature plummeted as well, dwindling to a mere fraction of what it had been a few hours earlier.
But Glenn was not deterred. He didn't care that Mother Nature was seemingly trying to warn him, attempting to convince him to stay home in bed. He simply had to see for himself what was causing the nightmares. He had to discover if he was imagining the voices and sounds that plagued him every time he closed his eyes (and sometimes when he kept them open) or if they were real.
Sliding the rusted latch to the side Glenn pushed open the wrought-iron gate and walked onto the grounds. He retraced his steps from before, following his previous path as closely as he could.
He passed the Monger obelisk; a towering slab of crumbling marble. He walked by the Tanothion mausoleum; a looming pink granite structure that resembled a small palace, complete with dimpled columns flanking a heavy iron door. He noticed the Lloyd marker; a half-ton mass of finely-carved sandstone in the shape of a grieving female angel.
He paused and looked at the angel. It reminded him of his grandmother.
"I'm here," he shouted suddenly. The words seem directed at the graves as much as they were at the almost certainly hidden gravedigger. "You win, I'm here."
As if in response to his cries the old man emerged from behind a small mausoleum. Sather was etched into a raised slab of granite above the door.
"You've heard them, haven't you?" the old man said with a crooked grin. "You've heard them tossin and turnin, right?"
Glenn's hands clenched into fists. He was angry, both at the old man and at himself for getting caught up in this whole mess. "Who?" he demanded. His patience had long since deserted him. "Who or what is doing this to me? I'm hearing people call my name! They know my name! How do they know my name?"
The gravedigger leaned against the mausoleum. His body creaked and groaned with every movement he made. "Nobody comes here anymore," he said quietly. "Nobody but me, that is. I figure they leave me alone because I keep this place looking good. Let's them think they're not forgotten."
"What do you mean they? Who are they?"
"The dead. The people who are buried here. They hate to be forgotten, and whenever someone comes by they hear their footsteps and sometimes send out one of their own to track that person down."
"Track them down? For what?"
"To make that person join them.
That big tombstone to your right is for the Oliveira family. Saw the mother once about ten years ago. She took a woman who was visiting the grave of her husband, took her right into the ground."
Glenn covered his ears.
"And that grave there," he pointed to a weathered spire with Steane carved on its base," "is where Jerome Steane rests. An important man in life, but forgotten in death. Saw him snatch a couple of teenagers away about a year ago. They'd been drinking and never knew what hit them. And this one is for Ms. Jillian Sather." He gestured to a small photograph inlaid in the stone. It showed a melancholy young woman with a pale face and long black hair. "Sad. Too young to die, but now more restless than she was when alive."
Glenn had heard enough. He turned and stomped away.
"Where you going? You can't escape them. Sooner or later one of them will come for you."
Glenn literally sprinted out of the cemetery. He didn't care anymore about the gravedigger, or the voices. All that mattered was getting to the relative safety of his house.
A horn blared behind him, jarring Glenn back to the present. He shook off his disorientation and gave the car some gas.
You belong to us now, the voice in his head chanted. You will be with us. Join with our sister and sacrifice your life for the glories of the grave.
The car sideswiped Glenn, sending him careening off the road and headfirst into an enormous oak tree. His head smashed into the steering wheel with such force that it embedded itself nearly three inches in his forehead, sending him into a coma and then death, and all in the span of a few seconds.
Tyler finished securing the steel cable to the rear axle of the car and sauntered back to his truck. He pulled a small lever until the cable became taut, smoothly dragging the remains of the car out of the big tree it was wrapped around.
Tyler sighed, both from boredom as well as sadness. It was another job hauling away what was left of someone's car. He'd seen the guy too. Messed up real bad. They had to cut the steering wheel just to get his body out.
The car settled on the pavement like a dead toad. The front end was caved in all the way to where the windshield used to be, and the engine resembled a block of scrap metal.
As Tyler began unhooking the cable from the axle he noticed a car drive by. At the wheel was a pretty woman who wore a blue blouse and had long black hair.
She smiled at him.
Tyler felt a chill run down his spine. There was something unsettling in her smile, something… dark.
He stood there, his hand still resting on the cable lever. He felt an urge to get in his truck and follow the woman, but managed to resist it, instead focusing on where she was going.
He watched the car roll down the street, and with a sharp right, turn into Thornlove Cemetery, where an old man leaning on a shovel waited by the gate.