Maxwell stood at the center of the cemetery listening to the soft strands of jazz music. He had come to the cemetery to spend time with the memories of his late family. It had been a long, rough year for his family. The Barkley family had added twelve people to those resting in the cemetery in the last year. The music brought him a token of comfort as he stood there. He turned to the left and walked along the stone path toward the back of the cemetery. The music grew louder as he walked. He saw a group of people standing around a fresh grave.
He moved to the outside edge of the path, keeping as much room between him and the funeral. The man standing at the edge of the group stepped off and moved toward him. He nodded. Maxwell returned the nod. “My condolences,” Maxwell said.
“And mine to you. It’s never a place you want to meet someone,” the man said, keeping his voice light. Maxwell kept walking, turning at the next corner in the path. He was now in the section where his family had been buried.
The stone of his grandparents sat as a silent vigil behind the rows of newer stones. For the first time since all the death began, he realized he was the last. The Barkley family had been taken one by one from life into death and into the cold ground of the cemetery. Maxwell moved forward, walking between the graves of his parents up the large stone of his grandparents. He placed his hand on the stone, hoping to find some level of understanding of what had been happening in his life.
Only silence greeted him in response. He stood there for a long time searching his mind and heart for the answers he knew weren’t there. At last, he lifted his hand and turned to walk away. As his eyes touched his sister’s headstone, his feet refused to take another step. Maybe the answers were here after all.
He thought back to one of the last conversations the two of them shared. They had been talking about how so many people in the family were passing away. That none of it made sense, as even those who had been healthy all their lives didn’t seem to be spared. Then she had laughing said, “With all the times dad claimed you weren’t his, maybe whatever is happening will skip you.”
Now, standing over her grave, he had the sickening feeling she might have been right. She had been the last holdout to whatever it was and he had buried her almost two months ago now. He touched her headstone and felt tears fall from his eyes. “So much loss. How am I going to keep everything going with all of you gone?” He asked the now quiet cemetery. Realizing only in that moment the music had stopped. He glanced toward where the gathering had been. The area was now empty, and it looked odd. With a shake of his head, he moved closer to where they had been putting someone to rest. There was no sign anyone had been there that day. Even the monument they had been standing around looked undisturbed.
He shook his head and turned back to his family plots. As he did, a hand settled on his shoulder. “The graveyard knows your secrets,” a gruff voice said.
Maxwell stopped moving. “What are you talking about?” He asked, without turning around. He didn’t know the voice, and he wasn’t ready to join his family.
“I said the cemetery knows your secrets. Be careful what you say while you are here,” the voice said, before letting go. “Never look into the strange things you see while here.”
Maxwell heard footsteps walking away and turned to glance over his shoulder. There was no one behind him. He shook his head to clear it. Feeling strange, he walked across the cemetery and out the main gate. There was no way he wanted to spend more time there tonight.
He got within sight of the gate without incident. However, turning the last corner of the path, a sound caught his attention. Something metal was grinding against stone. Spinning, he scanned the area. Nothing moved. “Nope, I will not tolerate being haunted,” he said, resuming his travel to the gate. Stepping through the gate, he felt something tug at the back of his shirt. The tug stopped his forward momentum. He stopped, turned around, and stared back into the cemetery.
Against the gate’s threshold stood a woman. “He told you we know your secrets. You can’t leave without paying the price for your actions,” she said.
He swallowed. “What actions? What have I done that matters to any of you?” He asked.
There was nothing in the smile that touched her lips, even close to kindness. It was pure evil. “You will pay for the sins of your family. The sins of that man,” she said, stepping forward until she reached out again. This time, her hand stopped just short of him at the threshold.
“I think not. At least not as long as you can’t come out of there,” Maxwell said, stepped farther back away from the gate. He sighed, walking away. It would be a long time before he tried to step back within the walls of that cemetery.