Walking along the edge of the graveyard, Gary smiled as he read the news on his phone. He’d taken this job due to the basic requirements of the job: look intimidating and prevent anyone from doing anything illegal in the graveyard, at least after hours.
That was when he worked after all, and truth be told he didn’t care what happened when it wasn’t his shift. The job was easy enough, if not a little boring. He had a small shed that served as a guard station, a small squeaky chair and a black and white television that showed the front of the graveyard via the one video camera that the church had purchased for the security guards. Now, he just walked around the graveyard at night, sometimes calling his girlfriend and chatting with her while leaning against a tombstone, other times looking up the names of the dead people and typing them into his search engine to learn about them. That was what had led to his most recent discovery.
You see, this graveyard had an Outcasts section; a section of the graveyard where social pariahs and those deemed too perverse for proper burials were set into the ground, generally without a coffin. A single tombstone, set in front of a large willow tree, sat in front of the Outcasts section, the names of the people interred in the ground chiseled into the fine stone instead of giving each and every person their own individual headstone. Gary found this to be a little poor in taste, but with the chiseled names, he was able to look up what the person had done in life on his laptop.
Needless to say, after his third rapist and second child molester he’d merely decided to play solitaire instead of looking up the gross accounts of the dead in the Outcasts section. The Morning Glory Church wasn’t a large one, but it was old; the graveyard went back into the woods, which had encroached on the sacred burial grounds a number of years ago, pushing headstones out of the way with invasive roots and twisted vines. Gary stared at one oak tree, partially riding up out of the soil over a mausoleum, its roots twisting and curling around the worked stone of the dead man’s internment.
“You’d think they’d have a caretaker come out here and handle this,” Gary said into the phone, sweeping the area with his flashlight as he spoke with his girlfriend. “I mean these people paid for these lots for all eternity, and now a fucking forest is growing over them. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty pissed off about it if I were them.”
“Stop talking about your job,” Gary’s girlfriend, Ginny, said over the phone. “Shit, I chipped a nail. When did that happen?”
“Don’t tell me you gotta get your nails done again,” Gary began, shaking his head. “Our budget is already at its limit. Just file your nails down or something.”
“But I hate doing that,” Ginny said, pouting over the phone.
“And I hate having a negative bank balance, so no nail salon for you,” Gary said, scratching his head beneath his cap. He turned when he heard a twig snap, shining his flashlight into the darkness that seemed to swallow the forest whole. Piercing the dark fabric of the night, he cut through it enough to see a deer standing some ten yards away staring at him.
It bolted when the light settled on it, causing Gary to smile; at least, he was doing his job keeping some things out of the graveyard. His smile faded when he heard a churning of the earth, and saw a bush shaking as if something was quivering behind it.
“Hold on babe, there’s someone here…” Gary said, sliding the phone into his pocket and pulling his pistol. He’d had two days of training and passed a certification that allowed him to carry while on the job, and it made him feel special that the county would trust him with this heavy a responsibility.
Marching up to the bush, Gary pointed the pistol a foot from it. “Alright dirtbag, come out from there and there’ll be no trouble!”
A long arm lashed out, slapping the pistol to the side as a dirty hand grabbed onto the front of Gary’s shirt, yanking him down to the ground, his knees landing in the mud. His flashlight fell to the wayside, illuminating the trunk of the tree next to him, along with the gray arm. It was thin, waifishly so, and was covered in streaks of brown earth and mud. A face emerged from between the bush and the tree trunk, coming into the light.
Two vacant sockets and a noseless skull with muddy skin hung in the light, the head lolling about as if it was searching for someone. Gary started shrieking as the broken lips parted, revealing yellowed teeth, and a mouth-splitting into a smile as it opened wide and sank down into Gary’s throat, noisily chewing through the veins and muscles that were present. Slowly, in the dim light of the flashlight, the vacant sockets gained substance while the vacant hole in the middle of the face filled in with a bit of flesh. From Gary’s pocket Ginny was screaming at him, demanding if he was okay. The creature fished into his pocket, pulling the phone out and holding it up to its ear.
“I’m right here,” it replied to her screams with a raspy voice, clumps of mud flicking onto the touchscreen of the phone.
“Gary? You don’t sound right, what happened?” Ginny asked.
“It was just some kids messing around in the forest, had to chase ‘em off.” The creature said, reaching down its other hand to pull itself up from the hole in the choppy soil between two thick roots. “So how are you doing?”
“I told you, I chipped a nail. And right before I have worked tomorrow as well!” Ginny exclaimed.
“Do you have any at-home sets you can use to replace the nail?” The creature rasped, its voice growing clearer with every word. It slid up the side of the trunk and stepped out on wobbly legs, stooping down to pick up the flashlight in gnarled hands.
“I have some stuff, but I don’t know what I’m doing…” Ginny said.
“Now now, don’t put yourself down like that,” the creature said, stepping slowly out from under the shadow of the tree. “We all have our talents, I’m sure you could apply the nail if you really wanted.”
“You think so?” Ginny asked, sounding earnest.
“I really do. Now, why don’t you call me back in an hour after you’ve tried replacing the nail, alright?”
“Alright!” Ginny said. “Love you!”
“Back-at-cha,” the creature groused, turning off the phone with his thumb before throwing it like a Frisbee into the woods behind him. “Ah, young love… it almost makes me want to crawl back into my grave…”
Stalking to the front of the graveyard naked as the day he was born, the creature’s pale flesh was missing in numerous spots, leaving ragged holes where the maggots had eaten away its softer tissue. Holes riddled its arms, with fat white larvae sticking out near his elbow, wriggling in the free air. He reached for it, snatching it by the head and tugging it free, before tossing it back into his mouth like a hard candy. He chewed thoughtfully as he stopped near the marked section of the graveyard where his brethren lay.
Squatting down, he splayed his fingers out and ran them over the lush grass growing over the mass grave of cannibals, murderers and other renegades of life that just hadn’t found a place in this world. A slight tear ran down the soft tissue of its face, one it wiped away as it contemplated what it would have to do.
“Time for a second chance my brothers and sisters,” it said, standing back up. “Now barring they’ve gone into the business themselves, I believe it’s time for a little grave robbing.”