CEMETERY

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STONE HEROES

For weeks he had noticed the mildewed stone angel peeping over the hedge, which surrounded the graveyard opposite the car park, where he parked up for his lunch. It stood forlorn through sun, rain or snow. Resolutely sad. A proper mourner where no burials now took place. As obsolete as a pagan rune to this modern world, it still spoke to him. Every day he waved to her, a recognition of sorts. She had a place amongst the dead, but the living passed her without a thought. In her day, maybe over a century ago, she would have cost a pretty penny, she would have been part of a grand statement… A mourning period which would have been structured and defined by the passage of time… Victoria had set the example, the black and then purple, the long sad face worn as a memento mori… He didn’t think of these things, He was a van driver. He ate his sandwiches and watched the old folks walking their dogs. It was a pleasant way to spend his lunch hour. The angel only caught his eye because of the way it seemed to float on the top of the hedge. He thought it looked like a real angel, looked like it was really flying, or floating. it had brought him up short when he had first seen it. But now it had become part of his daily ritual, he ate his sandwiches, watched the dogs fetching balls, sticks or frisbees, and as he turned on his engine to rejoin the day’s labours he waved to the floating angel. She never acknowledged him in return. Her’s was a watching brief, she was the perennial mourner, always to bow her head and look sad. One day, maybe it was a Tuesday, he was waiting for a gap in the traffic so he could exit the car park, when he saw a figure sat below the angel. This figure was not of Victorian vintage, but most assuredly modern, a small person with a hoodie covering all but a nose. He was taken aback, for he had not seen anyone enter the cemetery in all the months he had been parking there. The cemetery was obsolete, the church to which it had been attached had long since been knocked down and replaced with a Focus store… Of course Focus itself was now no more and it had recently become a B & M Bargains store… Part of the slippery degeneration of the Nation. Despite the disappearance of the church, the ground remained consecrated and thus the cemetery remained… The process to remove it being too legally complicated and in truth, not worth the money and time. As a relic of the old church, its occupants were equally of a certain vintage, with the likelihood of any surviving close relatives being remote at best. So the space was an anachronistic vacuum. No-one came and no-one went, a veritable silent version of waiting for Godot.

So the sight of a mourner, a presumption on his part, was incongruous. He let it register and then promptly forgot it, as a gap in the traffic allowed him to pull away and carry on with his labours.

The next day, which we will call Wednesday, given that we have already set the precedent with the day before being a Tuesday, The weather was filthy, an amber warning had been given for the area, storm Ophelia promised heavy rain and lashing winds… It gave it’s all as promised! The rain had been so heavy, that He had not been able to open his window to smoke a cigarette. He was alone in the car park, no old folks braved the weather to exercise their dogs… people behaved responsibly, they stayed in doors and watched the weather pass their window. Sometimes, the van driver thought he would rather like to behave responsibly, and stay at home too. Given the cargo he carried was medical and rather essential to a great number of people, he thought, such behaviour would be more irresponsible. It made him feel important to carry the weight of this responsibility… But not that important. Anyway, as he sat, He happened to look across at the angel, and so noticed once again, the small person sat on the bench beside the angel. Again, the figure was hooded, or hoodied if you prefer, so he could not make out anything about the person therein. It could have been male or female, old or young, he had only the fact that the hoodie was blue, and the figure was small to go on. Given that the wind and rain made sitting there a precarious and uncomfortable proposition, he thought that there must be something wrong with the person. He thought, silly bugger, and then drove off to his next important stop.

The next day, yes Thursday, given the chronology already established, the back-end of Ophelia swung back around from the North, giving a lovely snowy blizzard by the time the driver reached his lunch time destination. Snow-blind from staring into the falling snow for four hours of dangerous driving conditions, he shut his eyes and listened to the music, playing via bluetooth from his phone to the van’s music centre. The temperature gauge said that the ambient area around the van was a rather bone-chilling -3c. He kept his engine running, drank hot coffee from his thermos, and prayed for the demise of Ophelia. Naming storms just made them seem more malignant and their actions more of a personal affront.

The dinner hour passed without any foolhardy souls attempting to brave the weather, be them animal, bird or aged crone. The road was silent, the snow making sound beyond his cab, superfluous. Even sound took a look outside and stayed schtum. He looked across at the angel, capped in white, instead of the usual green of algae and lichens, and saw to his surprise the figure was sat there motionless beside the angel. Now, he thought that maybe he should do something… something about the figure, sat as it was now in snow, before in rain, suggested either super-natural or indeed unnatural behaviour. He put on his large hi-vis jacket and his flat cap and left the warmth of his van, to go and investigate. As he trod through the snow and found a lovely unseen puddle of ice-cold water under the snow at the edge of the curb, he cursed the fact that he had forgotten to bring his Wellington’s. Now he had wet feet and wet trousers. Damn You Ophelia! He found the Lych-gate hidden in the overgrown hedge and walked carefully through the cemetery towards the silent sitting figure. He put out his hand as if to touch the shoulder of the figure, in truth he was afraid the figure might be dead… He gently pressed his hand on  the figures shoulder and it moved in an unnatural way. It bent away from him in a manner which was probably impossible for the human body to make. The legs remained in the same position but the torso fell sideways as if it wasn’t attached. He stifled a scream of shock. He pulled back the hood and discovered nothing more than a ball of scrunched up newspaper and a plastic mask. He had in fact walked through the snow and ice to save a Guy! Do you remember Guy’s? We used to make Guys for Guy Fawkes’ night back in the sixties… We would go around the neighbourhood knocking on doors and asking for a penny for the Guy… Anyway this incongruous character that he had puzzled over for the last three days, had turned out to be another relic from the past, another anachronism. He could have spent many hours wondering how and why a “guy” had been left in the empty cemetery, about what kind of mind came up with such a prank, and for what end? But as the snow was heavy, and his feet were freezing, he decided that getting back into the warmth of his van, and carrying on with his very important job were far more pressing needs than to try to understand what the hell was it all about.

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