Into the groundMature

Bellville Maryland, 25 years later.

Today had marked the two year anniversary of Charlie's father's death. Just as she did one year ago, she comforted herself by looking at pictures of her father. He had lived a good life, her parent's had an admirable marriage. So why did it have to come to such an abrupt end? Charlie wasn't sure she would ever get answers to that question. “There's a reason it's called a car accident,” she thought out loud.

She stifled through the pictures that her mother kept in a box under her bed, setting her favorites to the side. If anything the pictures proved that her father was a well loved man with lots of good friends. She found an inner peace in that. She dug around in the box sorting pictures until she found one that didn't fit in with the others. It was an older picture. One figure she recognized as a teenage version of her mother, but the person standing next to her was a mystery. He was a pale boy with contrasting dark eyes and hair. To Charlie he looked sickly. His posture drew him as weak, not confident. She flipped the picture over thinking there might have been an inscription on the back, but no. There was nothing.

Charlie took the picture into the kitchen with her. Her mother sat at the kitchen table, coffee poised in her hand. She had a stack of papers left to grade yet. “Mom who is this?' Charlie asked holding up the picture. Her mother seemed to momentarily choke on her coffee. “I told you to stay out of my bedroom.”

“Yea but I wanted to-"

“But nothing. That is nobody.” She said clutching the picture from Charlie's hand.

Charlie met her mother's stare with a dark look of her own. She grabbed her father's wreath off the counter. “I'm going,” she shouted before slamming the door behind her. This was her time alone with her father. Later, at night, she would come back with her mom and light a candle for him. Just as they had last year. Just as they would in years to come.

Charlie arrived at the cemetery. It wasn't hard to find her father's grave. Already it was decorated with flowers and wreaths. She sat down. In her mind she had a conversation with her father about his death. Her mother said a deer ran out in front of him, causing him to swerve and hit the guard rail. It was odd, her father always prided himself on being such a safe driver. He had grown up in Bellville Maryland, the deer population was nothing new to him. He should have known better. By every right he should still be alive. She traced her finger over the inscription on his grave. The crunch of leaves under someone's boots caused her to jump.

She turned to face the noise. A strange man stood a few feet behind her. His hands were folded and his head was tilted to the side. Starring at her. Every instinct she owned told her it was time to book, but she couldn't tear her gaze away from him. He was maybe in his late thirties like her mother.He was tall, a shaggy black beard grew over his porcelain skin. His fave was obscured by long dark tresses. He was clad in black, classic mourning attire.

Charlie cleared her throat. “Were you a friend of my father's?”

The man's voice come out huskily. “He was...A friend of a friend's. Just stopping by for a visit.” The corners of his mouth twitched ever slightly.

Charlie set the wreath down on her father's headstone, and stood up to properly face the man. She extended her hand. “I'm his daughter Charlie.”

The man grasped her hand desperately between his own hands; bony and cold. She was overcome with the need to pull her hand away but didn't want to appear rude. Luckily her cell phone chose the opportune time to ring.

“I'm sorry, how rude of me. I forgot to turn my cell phone off. It's probably my mother calling to see where I am,” She said, apologetically.

“Answer it.” The man demanded, urgently. Charlie looked up, into his face, questioningly. “You don't want to keep your mother waiting,” a tight smile stretched over his pale face.

Charlie flipped her phone open and walked a couple feet away from the man. “Mom,” she spoke into the receiver. “Yes mom. I'll pick up milk on my way home......love you too, bye.”

She turned her attention back to the spot where the man had stood moments ago, only to see he was gone. She scanned the area for the man, with no avail. She noticed a nearby grave had been knocked over and cracked down the middle. Instinctively, she walked over to inspect the damage. Philip Morris, the cracked grave read. More concerning was the gaping hole that formed behind it. How had she not noticed this earlier?

Charlie edged as close as she dared to the hole large enough for a grown man. Was her imagination taking over, as it sometimes did? She wasn't sure what she expected to see down there. An open and empty casket was surely the last thing. She screamed as she lost her balance and fell some fourteen feet below, into the newly created hole.

The End

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