| Suffering of the Grave
By Dave Dormer
Nothing I’d learned in church, when I was young, could have prepared me
for this. It's noisy here. Voices of erratic conversations come to me in waves,
I do my best to piece them together, but they never quiet. The visions are
worse. Flashes of my past replay over and over, haunting me. Not that I
looked forward to death, I wasn’t afraid of its unavoidable arrival. Now I’m not
The slender, young girl frittered away the afternoon patiently waiting for her
father to return. Wielding a broken branch, she scratched funny faces with
the jagged tip into the graveled drive-way and looked up to see if that was his
truck that just drove past their house. This was her weekly custom. Her
father worked construction, continually on the road, but that was okay, she
was happy to wait.
She flipped her long, brown hair away from her eyes as his truck rolled into
the yard. She let out a squeal, “Dad…Dad’s home!” Restraining herself from
racing up to the truck and smothering him with chatter and affection, she
remembered her mother’s past scolding, “Just give your dad some time…let
him get into the house at least!”
He slid from the driver’s seat, weary and fought his duffle bag out of the
backseat. “Hey, Kelly. What’s new?” He asked from over his shoulder. She
ran to him and he greeted her by putting his arm around her shoulders. He
was genuinely happy to see her, but wanted nothing more than to put away
his gear and plunk himself down on the couch. He brushed past her as she
rattled on about her day, barely pausing for breath.
“Hey dad, do you want to jump on the trampoline with me?” She asked,
looking to the assorted playground equipment in their backyard with her big,
“Uh, not now, Kelly. What are your three brothers doing? Why don’t you ask
them to play with you?” He replied, continuing to the back door lugging the
heavy bag across the drive-way.
Her head and shoulders slumped at his casual dismissal. Every week was
the same. Every week she stood disappointed. She speared the graveled
driveway with her branch. He walked away, ignoring her again. Tears welled
in her eyes. She drove the jagged end of the branch deep into soil. He
collapsed in a heap ten feet away, face distorting in agony and groping his
right leg. The branch stood, swaying from his footprint in the driveway. She
hurried past his sprawling form into the house, sobbing.
I can’t be sure how long I’ve been languishing here, but the insects and
worms feast on my flesh. All I can do is watch. Driven by primal instinct, I
stay to protect my body, but for how long? Parts of my soul or spirit or
whatever you care to call it have been separated-torn from me. That’s what it
felt like when it happened. I’d always believed myself to be a decent,
honorable person-something doesn’t feel right. I’m not sure, but this seems
like it's taking longer than it should.
Kelly threw herself onto her bed and buried her face into her pillow. Within
moments, she was fast asleep. Her room resembled that of a princess and
she’d want for nothing. Fairy tale books lined her white bookshelf and dolls
dominated the pink-painted space. Books were her escape. When troubled,
she found comfort within their pages. Rhapsodomancy was a rare gift, a gift
she was beginning to understand. Her divinations were not answered
through usual words on a page, but through guidance from a strange, male
voice. It explained that she could affect others through her games of
pretend. Physical contact with anything, the voice said, left a lingering
connection that she could exploit for good or ill.
I roam topside often, especially when they visit me. In the beginning, my
family visited my headstone each week, as near as I can tell. I loved seeing
them, but I couldn’t take the heart-wrenching tears and had to retreat below
where the ravage of carrion continued. It's winter now and their visits are less
frequent. On their last visit, they placed ice candles and I spent the night
watching the flickering glow against my headstone while my body is reduced
Kelly awoke and removed her favorite book from the shelf and flipped
through its pages, her eyes still stinging. Robert Munsch always cheered her
up. Not understanding why her dad didn’t want to spend time with her she
wondered, did he miss her at all? As she thumbed through the colorful
pages, the birthmark on her forearm flared with an unbearable itch, just as it
always did when the voice surfaced to guide her.
Her stomach turned in knots as the voice offered its new instructions. Her
blue eyes locked on the pages of the book, unblinking. She concentrated,
remembering word for word what the voice asked of her. She obeyed and
made her way through the house to her parent’s bedroom. She entered their
bathroom and searched for the items he requested. She escaped the room
successful and went to the sandbox in her backyard as directed. The voice
promised her it would always be there for her. It would always find time for
her. She squatted down on the wooden rail of the sandbox and began
sketching in the damp sand with her delicate fingers. She laid the strands of
hair and fingernail clippings gently atop her father’s likeness. It felt wrong,
her stomach churned. The voice repeated relentless. Her hand trembled as
she drove the knife into the sand.
The visions and voices haven’t subsided and I feel my soul splitting.
Feelings of regret overwhelm me. I recount my misdeeds endlessly and wish I
could have done differently, but I can’t. For some reason I expected some
form of paradise. I wonder if my bones had been cremated, would I suffer the
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
|About Dave Dormer
Dave Dormer lives and
writes in North-Western
Ontario alongside his
wonderful (and patient)
wife and four children.