by Bob'n Around
Invisible matters of the mind turned real into the written word.
|The local pastor’s backyard bunted up next to the church graveyard. The good reverend Paul Thomas looked visibly shaken. “No-one told me my place was haunted.”
The comment raised the eyebrows of Emmet Till, lay preacher from the next parish. “Didn’t ask, did ya?” He took the fly spattered old church record of births, deaths and weddings, brushed off ancient dust and flipped crisp yellowed pages back a century. “Here? This where you marked it?”
“That’s the last entry. Goes back to Indian times when Utah was a territory and Father Escalante come up from Mexico exploring. See. There? Letter on parchment wedged in that crease.”
It amazed Emmet Till how God made things fall together at the time when they were needed. “Even back then. First sign of foreigners and natives sick and die. A whole village buried in unhallowed ground right in your backyard. Let’s take a look see.”
In the light of day, everything looked normal until Pastor Thomas’ left foot nudged a shaded piece of rust colored ground under the arched limbs of an old Cottonwood tree. “Dried. When it first appeared, it was blood.”
Brother Till nodded, biting his lip, “The Lord moves in mysterious ways. Thought it might be kids playing tricks, maybe? Or some hobo burying animal dinner remains. Chicken he stole?”
“Didn’t come to mind. Not with what happened the night before. The red mist turning the moon the color of blood. The moaning wind becoming wordless rising and falling chants.” The good pastor fingered the cross hanging from his neck. “I prayed. Things turned normal towards morning twilight.”
“Inspired to read church records back to the beginning of time. Found out about the sickness.” They’d talked about it over before Till came over. Mysteries weren’t usually so detailed as this. It intrigued him. “Why, you think it is changing now?” Till knelt down, fingers brushing through the soil, coming up wet. A bubble of blood burped at him.
“Not anybody willing to talk about before I come. Nothing different since I did. Can’t be me, can it?”
“Got any Injun in you?”
So that was it. Till saw the look in Thomas’ dark eyes flash and turn darker still. “Figures. They calling out to their own. Let’s take a walk.”
Till led the way towards the holy graveyard of church members going back to before the edifice had been built. They passed more modern stone monuments into the oldest part where dead grass and broken, forgotten, time worn stones lay fractured and half buried. “Looking for any common names in your document, there. Might as well help, long as you’re standing loose as a goose.”
Their slow path led them further into history where the first pioneer settlers lay to rest. Spanish surnames could barely be distinguished from shallow etched stone. “Looky here.” Till knelt. “Fresh blood.”
“Meant to tell you I connected a few dots. Later church records show another tribe come to get baptised caught small pox or flu. Don’t matter what. Heaven took them quick.”
“Before they belonged to the church? Buried in unhallowed ground in your backyard, of a surety.” A creepy tingle of chills crawled up Till’s spine, raising hair along the way. “My ancestors come from this stock of well meant missionaries. I’m bound to this earth through several generations.”
The two religious stalwarts examined each other with new interest, one pure white the other a good part redskin if all be told. “Both sides want something. You think they’s crying out for blood?” Till asked.
“Been fomenting a long time, if that’s so,” Thomas mused, stroking his chin. “Likely we’ll know soon. You willing to stay the night?”
Till continued kneeling in prayer without answering. Thomas joined in.
Hours later, when they rose, the ground before them had dried into the look of copper. “Almost looks like it was trying to scrawl a word.” Thomas remarked. “Plague?”
“Maybe. Letters kind of shaky. Your subconscious talking to you or is it an answer to prayer? A warning.” Till kicked dirt over the crawling raised outline of letters if you looked at them right.
Dinner was simple fare, soup, bread, water. Neither man felt hungry. They used the occasion as a familiar habit to comfort their souls. Till spent the time until dark by writing up observations. Thomas stared at the rising moon waiting for the red mist. “I detect figures in it. Come look.”
The two joined thoughtful gazes at the backyard facing window. “Maybe ‘cause you’re Injun. I don’t see nothing but fog.” Till said gruffly. He had his bible in hand, lips began moving chanting chapter and verse in a monotone devoid of emotion.
“I’m going out there,” Thomas said. “Hear that wind? Like the night before. They’re trying to talk to me.”
He was gone like a ghost before Till could stop him. The swirling mist swallowed up Thomas. The wind stopped. “Do I go or stay?” There was no answer which meant it was up to him. Till stayed, waiting, listening until his teeth were on edge and he could wait no longer.
James appeared out of nowhere as Till opened the back door. Streaks of blood wept from his face like war paint. He seemed barely able to carry himself erect. The two leaned and walked each other back inside. “Here. Take some water.” Till said, At a shake of Thomas’ head, he used some of it to dab the thick drying lines of blood from the man’s face.
It gave Thomas the time needed to gather himself together. “There is another side, brother. The veil was lifted. Spirits live among us a breath apart from the world we know.”
“What they want? They say? You understand them?” Some things you just had to believe on faith alone. One look at Thomas and Till had to accept or lose everything he believed in.
“Say, we got to go to the church cemetary where your people lie. Do it now before daylight.”
“Well, come on then. Time to wake the dead. Don’t forget your bible. May need it to bury them again.”
It was cold as sin, quiet as death. The moon was a hollow yellow eye peering down at them, guiding the way. Till took a nervous look behind. The red mist calmed down, settled closer to the ground, hovering, painting the grass brown and green into blood red. “It’s following us,” he said.
“Never mind. It will stop at the boundary of the church graveyard.”
“How did you know?”
There was no answer. They made their way a little faster, this second time to the oldest section, feet familiar with the winding path. “You hear that?” Till asked.
“Two winds talking, stirring things up. One here. One back there.” Thomas pointed back the way they’d come.
“Rising a dust cloud over my ancestor’s tombstones.” Dry gray fog churned the dry dirt, tore at the dead grass. Till’s eyes widened. “Shadow men. You see them? Stay here. They want me.”
When he came back, the fog followed clutching Till’s feet as he walked along the ground. “Blood turned to wine, our Savior’s sacrifice.”
“What, you’re saying it’s us?”
“You’re Injun’s didn’t say the equivalent? They didn’t talk their religion to you?”
“Talked about stopping the new plague. I told them it was too late. Covid19 is already here. Told them thanks, there was nothing they could do.”
Thomas shook his head. “Got too much white in you. You weren’t listening.” He took Till’s elbow, guiding him towards the backyard. “Same problem happened over in China bringing on Covid. Toaist and Buddhists, two cultures opposed to each other, making themselves sick. Before that the same with the Black Plague being brought by the trade routes of mingling Muslims and Christians.”
The two stood at the border where red mist met gray fog. “Last chance. The next disease going to be the last. God about ready to wipe us out and start over.”
“What are we supposed to do?” Thomas heard the moaning wind start up again from the backyard.
“Lay down. Join hands. Breathe deep. Maybe our faith and offering will be enough, like Christ’s was. Give mankind another chance.”
“We’re no God like he was, is.” Till sighed. Tired. Feeling the burden of an imperfect man trying to live perfection.
“Our choice. I can’t do it alone. You coming with me?” Thomas knelt in prayer, settled at length on the ground. He felt Till’s hand join his as the mists joined each other.
“Odd,” said the graveyard caretaker. “Wonder what took them. Look peaceful enough.”
Thomas’ housekeeper come looking, nodded. “He loved this place. Probably prefer being buried right where he lay, at the edge of his backyard.”
“I’ll make the arrangements. Till got some relatives my side.”
The church council wanted the manner of death hushed up to prevent whispers of a mutual suicide pact from finding the possible light of day.
Maybe a miracle would happen.