After the Light by Chris LaRose

Short Story

2022 Cedarburg Reads Writing Contest Winner - High School

           I have 60 years of stories, 60 years worth of memories and questions, along with answers, choices, and embarrassments worth 60 years. And this has to top all of them.

            The black hearse moves incredibly fast for how long it has taken them, and how much longer it might. I follow what could only be my corpse that bumps against the hollow wooden slab. Well, more specifically, I get dragged along with it. Being yanked by a thousand invisible tiny strings that dig into my senses. Pulling me through a course of winding roads and gravel segments. With the same boring, ill-humored, dry guys I ever met.

            With no pleasing entertainment from the world, I let my thoughts wander. I was afraid to before as when so many new things happen it’s not good to ask questions, you will only get more. Not like I have anybody to ask them to anyway. We’ve been travelling for quite some time and that is currently my biggest wonder. I have concluded to save the meaning of life and religious questions for later, or never, depends if there is a never really. Focusing on if I see any familiar roads or signs passing by. There was to no surprise, no funeral, as my will read. Frankly, I wouldn’t care if they fed me to the rats, but proper burial seems to be where we’re going with this.

            My body rocks sharply to the left as we turn to Jill-Beary Road. Maybe just as sharply as it hit me. Jill-Beary is where I used to live. No wonder it took them so long to get here. I spent 60 years trying to get as far away from this way as possible. To good avail, til these folks came along. I didn’t know I had to put it in my will don’t travel for 5 days to the town of Kilren. Now I wish I did, and I don’t find that I regret much. I found that guilt and regrets add to too many things to cry about at night. If you really want to cry, spare a tear or two for starving children, not your own pitiful life that it most definitely your own pitiful fault. Though, no need for advice from me, who would get anything from it anyway?

            It’s laughable, you know. How having an after-death inner monologue could be so amusing. Well, it’s entertaining for now so why not continue.

            The town reeks the same air as it always has, cigarettes and other vile things. The drivers seem incredibly eager to get rid of dead company. I would be too, especially if I was alive. Luckily for them, I’m undoubtedly not.

            We continue past the old sidewalks and unkempt roads, so bad that I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t been worked on since I was living here. Honestly, they probably haven’t been. Proceeding down the way, I wonder what cemetery they chose. I hope it’s Merriwell, a small cemetery out of the way that no one knows and never visits. Most outsiders think it’s a pet cemetery, and we let them. We bury the crazy cat ladies and grumpy old folks like me there, ones who would probably not want to be disturbed. Perfect.

            We pass a blue house, with a small yard full of flowers. I don’t recognize it whatsoever, but the boy seems oddly familiar. With his dark brown hair lingering to pale ears, keeping what I can sense amber eyes low to the floor. A nervous fellow, who walks quickly, but not too quick. Looks behind him often, but not too often. Acts a little like me, looks a lot how I used to be, now that I think about it.

            I finally realize this has to be some crazy after-world dream as the hearse didn’t drive past him. He somehow kept up. The boy was running after the hearse. Quickly. The drivers took no mind, but for some reason, I wanted them to stop, for this ghost creature. He just looks so helpless, so in need. So, like me.

            Nevertheless the strings pull me along until all my senses jog to a stop. The men groggily go to the back, probably eager to get this over with. I still wonder why I hate this place so, I barely remember it, though, it couldn’t have been all too bad.

            As the men lug the hollow slab to the spot of chosen dirt, they get the shovels out. I got taken back as the boy’s ghostly figure sprints in front of them. The men stop to look at each other, discussing of a sudden weird vibe. I only pay attention to the boy, his eyes wide in my direction, shaking his head furiously. He seems to be trying to warn them. Me.

            Now I knew childhood wasn’t a walk in the park, but he seems over dramatic. “What’s so wrong about this place?” I knew I wouldn’t get an answer, but he was persistent. Just let the men bury me already. It’s at least the cemetery I want.

            The boy just shook his head, I got annoyed. All my patience probably already dwindled by this whole being dead thing. “Who even are you?” This kid just frustrated me so quickly.

            He seems to take a step back. “You don’t remember me?”

            “Nope.” Familiar, yes, but I don’t remember this kid at all.

            “Of course you don’t.” He now whispers bringing his head down. “Let me introduce myself as we may have a lot of catching up to do. I’m the memories Paul Gollian left here.”

            What? “I am Paul Gollian?” Was I? Cause I didn’t leave any memories. Sure I’m old and I forget, but I don’t think you can just drop off memories somewhere.

            He only seems surprised for a second, giving a nod as he steps out of the way. “Already? I was expecting to have to save you this grave a bit longer.”