Private Hell

The ghost walked between the headstones of the cemetery slowly and languidly. It had all night–like every night–to itself. Teenagers looking for a cheap scare or a place to make out were few and far between. Grief stricken parents and spouses hopping over the stone fence to lie down next to freshly dug plots were even fewer. Most of the time anyone who came after visiting hours were drunk and consequently easy enough to scare off. The ghost simply had to materialize ominously from behind any of the taller headstones or statues. People would initially look at the ghost in subdued surprise, thinking it might be the groundskeeper. As their eyes tried to penetrate the darkness, they would squint, attempting to make sense of the blurred and twisting shape before them. Then the ghost would approach and utter one of the few Latin phrases it knew, like en pace requiesca or en vino veritas or fiat lux. The ghost didn’t speak Latin, but it knew most people didn’t either and Latin has a particularly chilling effect on people who don’t understand it. At times, people would stand frozen, unsure if the apparition was real or simply part of their drunken stupor or acid trip. Times like that the ghost simply had to approach and flare its ghostly visage, causing wispy tendrils to shoot out of its ethereal form. No one alive ever withstood that and often times ran away in uncontrollable panic.

There were no intruders tonight, leaving the ghost to its night stroll undisturbed. The cemetery was poorly lit, but well maintained on a technical level, yet not on a sentimental one. During the day, people would come and visit their loved ones, bringing cards and flowers and other knick-knacks of affection. At night, the ghost would look these things over and try to piece together the relationship the individual dead had to the living. In the morning the groundskeepers would come and simply drive their lawnmowers right over these items, scattering their torn shreds to the breeze. It was usually pretty breezy during the day, considering the cemetery was separated from a busy freeway only by a narrow frontage street. Religious figures often had to compete with the din of honking cars during traffic when delivering prayers or eulogies. At night, it was often quiet enough to hear the crickets.

The ghost made its way through a row of plots and onto the main road that wound its way through the compound. The road was made of gravel and the ghost enjoyed listening to the sounds it remembered its feet would make when it walked on gravel when it was alive. At the top of the road, before it bent back down the hill back to the entrance, an ornate headstone caught the ghost’s eye. The headstone was slightly raised and tilted so that standing viewers could read the epitaph easier. The ghost had visited this spot and read the name before–one of the three Caucasian names clustered together surrounded by Gonzalez’s, Rodriguez’s and Garcia’s. The plot belonged to a woman who had died giving birth and the child did not survive. Her husband had waited nine hours, hoping for the best. When the news came, he exhaled a wail that sounded as if it carried away his soul with his sorrow. Months after his wife’s burial the grief stricken man would come visit her gravesite late at night, drunk out of his mind, and pass out until he was dragged away by authorities the next day. The man killed himself later that year.

The ghost slowly wandered away from the headstone, wondering why it remembered these events. Its thoughts swam around, fading in and out of contrast, until finally the ghost gave up. Nothing came into focus and only created more confusion. The ghost went back to wandering the graves and reading epitaphs. It never got bored of doing this. Tonight–like every night–all the death seemed new.


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