The Gravekeeper II

It was bitterly cold as he ascended the steps to the graveyard and the wind was a constant callous companion that continuously threatened to penetrate deep beneath the layers of clothing and claw at the skin underneath just as it had long ravaged his face as he made his way from the town along the short coast road to the graveyard atop the cliff. As he reached the summit of the steps he looked behind him to see the town below him and the coast stretching out for miles as the hue of pale clouds above signified that the dusk was fast approaching and it would soon be dark. He smiled and turned back towards the path. He enjoyed the dark and the solitude. It was a comfort and such a pleasure to be away from the yelling children and the nattering townsfolk that he heard passing by his door as he lay half-awake, half-immersed in torpor every morning after his night shift at the graveyard. As he turned, his smile dimmed as he saw a mourner kneeling over the headstone of the plot that was interred not four days ago. He paused, and studied the form. It was a man; he was weeping, sobbing quietly, yet audible above the low murmur of the wind as it whipped and swirled over the edge of the cliff. He was unfamiliar to the Gravekeeper. He had not been among those scant few mourners at the burial that morning. It was always his task to supervise the burials in the morning before heading home, and his was a good eye for faces. It always made him chuckle lightly that his hands and his body could become so gnarled and mottled and so closely resemble the twisted roots of the giant oak tree he passed every day on the coast road, and yet his sight was as crystal clear as the day he was born. So clear, that he could see the lack of a wedding band on this man’s hands and the dried, caked mud beneath his fingernails. A relative? A close friend? A lover. The puzzle would help ease him into the dark hours.

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