It was a dark and stormy night in the village of Reigelberg. The river had flooded and the townsfolk had brought the livestock in from their pastures.
Only the pastor lay awake. Unable to sleep due to his fear of storms. He stared at his ceiling, unblinking. His knuckles had gone white from gripping his sheets. He was somewhere else. Deep in the woods bordering the river. Pine trees swayed with the wind and rain spattered his face. Ever since his childhood he’d been coming to woods. Less now that his father passed. The smell of pine trees and decaying nurse logs filled his nostrils. It was like a second home.
The forest began to darken and he looked up. The trees flashed white and the ground shook. Needles and rain drops crashed to the ground and he heard snapping. Overhead an old growth’s branch hung limply from the trunk. It hung by its splinters.
Everything became silent. The stormed had lulled and all he could hear was his own heart beat. He stood there at the tree base watching the branch dangle. The splinters that held the branch hadn’t held couldn’t hold it.
He could hear them breaking. And he branch crashed through the canopy. It fell through the air and hit a lower branch and was sent into a spin. Further down the branch caught on another and waited. Needles fell from the tree the new branch was bending. His body urged him to move. But when his legs moved his feet didn’t follow. The needles had sewn him into the ground. Finally he heard a last crack and saw the limb lurch back into a fall.
He heard a slam. Was he dead? Slam! He opened his eyes. Everything was black. A raindrop fell on his neck. The window was open.He approached it and could feel the rain through his gown.
He stood in front of his window in his red pinstripe pajamas looking out. There was a faint light in the cemetery. Who’d visit in the middle of the night during a storm? It couldn’t be graverobbers? Could it?
He walked to his bedside table and picked up a match and struck the it. A small flame breathed from the tip. He covered the flame with his hand and the light projected on his palm. He held the match for a moment. The little warmth it provided was nice. He leaned over to light the lantern and the flame shivered. It danced around the tip oscillating.
With the assistance of the lamp he dressed himself and fiddled with the laces on his boots. But he began to worry that the graverobber wouldn’t stay much longer He hurried down the stairs and quietly opened oak door at the front of the church.
He left the churchyard thinking that it’d be easier to sneak up on the robber if he approached him from the woods. The pastor walked along the waist high stone wall that bordered the graveyard and crouched beneath an ash tree. The dim light he saw earlier wasn’t there. Had he been seen?
The pastor began to make out a figure clinging on to the wall. He could just make out the lumpy silhouette as it shrunk off the wall. He began to sweat profusely and wondered. That wall is only 3 feet tall. What was the stature of the man who clung so desperately to it? Before he could ponder the thought any longer he found himself nose deep in the dirt. He felt tap on the back of his head that reminded him briefly of the final pat of the hammer securing a nail in place before it moved onto the next.