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Das Musick (Part 2)
Chad gagged and scooped some mud from the ground, slathering it frantically over his face in an effort to purge the touch of death. He ran, spitting and hawking, to the edge of the trees and let the rain rinse his face clean. When he dried his eyes with his sleeve, he noticed two things.
First, he had dropped the leash, and Leroy was racing away from the suddenly close peals of thunder.
Second, the woods were littered with coffins.
Some were in the trees, while others were strewn over the ground; the new ones were closed, the old ones were rotten and often missing their lids; some ancient and some hardly a year old. Some bodies lay on the ground; others hung partway from rotten caskets, their skeletal remains a testament to the poor workmanship in their old-fashioned pine boxes.
The stench was unbearable.
Chad cursed as Leroy ran up the hill. “Leroy, come back! Leroy!”
He broke into a run along the nearly washed-out gravel road that led through the cemetery. He passed many gravestones that now lay flat on the ground and tall stone memorials that tilted at mad angles from the soggy ground.
He glanced at his watch. It was getting late. The sun was going down behind the overcast skies – already he could barely see, even with his flashlight.
Cursing fervently, he turned around. There was no way he was going to keep chasing the crazy dog through the cemetery like this – he was bound to trip and fall into a grave (ugh!) Besides, Leroy would find his way home. The cemetery stretched for miles, but before long the dog would turn back around.
Chad began to walk for the tree line. He was certainly glad he had brought his jacket – he zipped it up against the cold. The rain would make for a miserable night at the homeless shelters, he thought to himself.
He noticed that the flashlight was getting dimmer – the bright white had faded to a yellow. One of the kids had forgotten to change the batteries today! Suddenly, he realized that the crunch of gravel was gone and he was slogging through mud.
He had lost the road.
As the light faded, he realized that he was essentially stranded without a light in a dark, filthy cemetery. He switched off the light and listened, straining his eyes to find the lights that would guide him home.
Good, the rain had stopped. That was something – the forecasters had said that it might break up tonight. He continued to guess his way along the ground, feeling each step so he didn’t fall into a grave. Just ahead there was a patch of moonlight – the clouds were clearing up! The light shone on the road in a gouge of white.
As he approached, he saw the edge of a coffin on the road. Was that – no, he was seeing things. There it was again! He rubbed his eyes.
The coffin was trembling.
He froze. The coffin was definitely moving before his very eyes – vibrating almost imperceptibly, as if someone was trapped inside and weakly struggling to escape.
He had heard of live burials before, and thought that modern medicine had rendered them impossible. Never had he imagined he would witness one! He remembered now the burial that had occurred just before the rain –this must be the victim of what was now obviously a terrible mistake!
He raced to assist the victim – no doubt some stupid teenager who felt ignored and neglected. Risking your life to get attention! There were safer ways to make a statement. A week – there was no time to wonder how anyone could survive a week in a box underground as he fumbled with the clasps. The polished hardwood glinted in the moonlight as he reached to the last silver fastener. Expensive. He snapped them open and eased open the heavy lid, blocking the moonlight and shrouding the interior in darkness.
“It’s ok fella,” he panted. A trembling white hand groped out of the shadows. “I’ve got you! Let me help you out!”
He grabbed the feverishly grasping hand and pulled.
The figure that was now sitting in full view of the moonlight, dressed in what had been an Armani suit, was not that of a teenager, nor was it that of a middle aged person.
Chad was holding hands with an old corpse.
The flesh hung from the gaunt bones. The holes in the rich suit showed just how long the man had been rotting in his grave. And the eye sockets stared into Chad’s eyes.
He screamed – never in his adult life had he screamed like that. It sounded like a little girl’s voice, coming from a six-and-a-half-foot tall man. It hurt his own ears.
He began to run for all he was worth – terror took control of his mind. He ripped himself from the grip of the monster and did not stop pounding the earth until he had gone what had to be several miles.
That was strange, he realized, as exhaustion forced him to slow to a painful walk. His house was only a mile or less away from the spot where he had started running; surely he could find his way, if he just went back and through the tree line.
But he had run the wrong way for that. And as he looked back toward the moonlit spot, he saw that the figure was groping for the edges of the box, trying to clamber out.
The buildings around him were not houses. And the figures all around him were not concerned neighbors. His first impression as he frantically took in his new surroundings apprised him of several key points.
That was Leroy’s head that stared plaintively from a distance. And there were two human figures gorging themselves on his entrails, heads buried in his abdomen. And the figures standing or limping all around were turning towards Chad.
Now was not the time to scream – but then, why not? Those rotten ears couldn’t hear him, anyway! When Chad screamed this time, he split a vocal cord (so the doctor said afterward). Now at least, if the undead could hear anything, he was indeed safe from that point onward.
He raced behind the biggest mausoleum and ran – until his legs collapsed and he nearly tumbled to the ground. He stumbled into a tree – a large tree that stood in the darkness. He looked up – it had many limbs that projected from a thick, powerful trunk. This venerable oak had stood the test of centuries and flooding.
Chad had never climbed a tree. His father had never taught him, and he had never had siblings to show him the way. Necessity, though, is the mother of invention and new skills. He climbed until his arms burned. Right when he thought he could go no more, he found a crotch in the tree. He straddled it and clung to the wood in relief. Here was a place of rest and safety.
He watched the ground. There was no sign of anyone below. He didn’t even feel his head droop to his chest as he fell asleep from the overload of stress and exhaustion. He forgot that he had left the door unlocked to his house.