My dawn of awareness returns as I sweep out the last cobweb. Absolute darkness clings to me like a clammy vapor. I hear nothing. I cannot move. I can’t even breathe.

My mind jolts, “How long have I been here? Where the hell am I?”

My thoughts surge with fresh horror, “My eyes are locked! I can’t speak! I can’t even blink!”

A dull thump resonates from above. I try to move again without even managing a twitch. Then a slightly louder thump follows another until a slow progression vibrates through my clothes.

A mild fragrance of perfume creeps up both nostrils. ”It’s my cologne!”

The thumping dies just before hard scratching sounds replace them.

My body begins to tremble. “Yes! Yes! Thank God I can move again!” But now I suddenly feel myself being lifted, “Damn it! I’m not moving by myself; it’s only what’s beneath me!”

I stop rising before the surface under my body comes solidly to rest.

A painful grinding noise grates my ears from above like fingernails gouging slate. An eternity of moments passes before it finally stops.

Now I hear faint voices:

“I figured we’d unearth a coffin someday!”

Another voice replies, “Although most licensed morticians prefer burial caskets instead, I felt the odds were with us this time.”

Below the voices, my mind recoils, “A coffin? But I’m not dead! I’m awake! I don’t know what reason you boys exhumed me for, but thank God you’ve corrected a horrible mistake!”

The voices continue:

“It is a genuine coffin, isn’t it?”

“See for yourself! Coffins are eight-sided boxes usually made from oak or ash wood.”

“I know! And caskets are rectangular while being crafted from wood, plastic or metal. You taught me that a long time ago, Harvey.”

“Pry off the lid.”

Suddenly my face and hair are buffeted by a rush of cool air an instant before my paralyzed eyes are locked onto the glare of a blinding white light directly above me.

Those voices now ring perfectly clear:

“Why did you ask that rookie question concerning coffins, Sonny?”

“I just wanted to pull your chain, chief. Come on; I’ll help you pack the meat.”

“What are you so nervous about, Quentin?”

“I just don’t want to get caught, Harvey!”

“You seem to forget that I’m caretaker here! Nobody’s going to catch us riffling an ancient, unmarked grave on our own cemetery grounds under the staring eye of an October Blood Moon!”

“Blood Moon, ancient grave? Oh my God! Cassandra’s curse is real!”

Two sets of hands seize under both my shoulders and behind my ankles before I begin rising again. The cool air remains as I feel a soft cushion that covers what feels like a rigid metal framework supporting the length of my body.  That blinding light continually bathes my frozen eyes.

Those voices return:

“Why was it necessary to exhume this grave, Harvey?”

“Take a look, Sonny.”

Both voices stop as I suddenly perceive the black silhouette of a human head and hat eclipse the light above me. The odor of sweat and a woolen jacket overpowers my dying cologne.

One voice resumes: 

My God, Harvey, you were right! This carcass hasn’t moldered at all! How long did you say this poor sucker has been planted?”

Above me, the black silhouette shifts to the head and shoulders of a taller man. He eclipses nearly all of the light as I feel twin points of pressure raking across my eyeballs.

Then the blinding white transforms into a curtain of velvet blackness with sporadic after images floating against the backdrops of my eyelids.

The second voice replies:

“His name was Benedict Anderson. And according to the manuscript I found, he’s been in the earth for 91 years.”

“Ninety-one years? But that’s impossible!”

“Well, Harvey, we found his unmarked grave right under the East Gate like your manuscript showed.”

Suddenly my jacket is removed before I’m rolled onto my left side. I feel clammy air seeping through my shirt to chill my back and buttocks.

A voice returns:

“It’s amazing, chief! The dear departed Mr. Anderson has been buried nearly a century and his body doesn’t show any rigor mortis. There aren’t even any livid skin blotches from dark, pooling blood along the lowest extremities of his body! Which black magic rite kept this guy preserved like a vacuum packed pickle?”

“I don’t know, Quentin.”

“You’re usually serious when you call me that, Harvey.”

“And I’m serious now.”

“But you’re a senior sorcerer!”

“And you’re just my apprentice. But this spell is a new one on me. The manuscript only related Anderson’s curse in general terms. It read that this man’s body would rebuke the dust of the ground…”

“Oh my God! When Cassandra cursed me to Limbo while I was alive, I thought she meant that my spirit would be trapped in some celestial purgatory, not doomed to be consciously encased in my pristine corpse!”

“…and that his spirit would be imprisoned in Limbo for eternity.”

“So why did we bother to dig him up?”

“Curiosity, Sonny, I wanted to see how much of the manuscript was true. And if this body rebukes the dust, then I would really like to know how.”

Oh Sweet Jesus! What are you going to do?”

“But you’re only a mortician, chief, not a coroner. Isn’t an autopsy a little out of your league?”

“Please no! I’ll feel everything!”

Harvey retorts, “Sonny, I’ve carved more bodies in my time than you have Halloween pumpkins.”

“Whatever you say, Harvey, what’s next?”

“Help me wheel our specimen into the funeral home lab before you come back and reseal this grave.”

“Damn you, Cassandra! Are you really justified shoving me through the meat grinder of hell?”

My ex wife’s voice shatters my thoughts; “No punishment is too great for the adulterous husband of a witch!”

Copyright © 2017 by William F. and Alice L. Johnson