Garden of Memories by: Raquel Lupe Berrio
I watched as a man walked into the diner across the street from me, crouching underneath his umbrella. It was raining, but even through the din of it, I could hear him asking for a Mr. James Rembarrow's table. 'No' I imagined her to say, 'he called to say he'd be a bit late but for you to go ahead and order yourself something.. .' A loud thunder sounded and interrupted my thoughts. Looking up I grimaced as flashes of lightning darted around the buildings. I hated this weather, but we had to do it tonight, if he was to believe me. Back at the diner, I found the two to be gone. Sighing, I pulled my collar closer to my neck and dove through the traffic and rain, towards the door. I met the same waitress and showed her my card, from which she immediately led me to our table. I began to sit down but she pressed an object in my hand and said,
"If there is anything I can do for you, just press this buzzer and I'll come right along..."
She turned sharply and began to walk away before adding.
"Oh... and I'm Sally…" she blushed and then scurried away.
The man still had his menu hiding his face from me, but threw it down blushing as soon as she was out of sight.
"Ain't she a cutie?!" he asked, smacking a large piece of gum in his mouth.
I faintly smiled and observed him with displeasure. He seemed almost polar opposite of me in every way. His face was rounded and merry, with small blue eyes, a squat, upturned nose and wide lips. Light brown hair grew thin on his head, pushed to the side in front in a vain attempt to capture the illusion of thickness. His tiny, thick rimmed glasses matched the tie he wore, which was yellow and orange checkers over a light green shirt. I severely doubted whether or not he really was the guy who was about to destroy my life.
"She was mildly attractive, if you are interested in her type." I replied coolly, putting the buzzer on the table. He laughed heartily and reached out his large hand.
He smiled and said confidently, "Nice to meet you James; I'm Fred McClean, contractor whose working on the Garden place." At this he smiled smugly. "And you called to talk about it. What's up?"
I looked at him calmly and folded my hands in my lap.
"I want you to stop the demolition."
He looked surprised before letting out a bellowing laugh. Obviously, he found my declaration funny. I did not. When I continued to stare blankly at him, he stopped and gave me a foolish smile,
"I just can't do that Jay." I twitched in agitation, both at his reply and destruction of my name.
"You can't ask a guy to drop a multi-million dollar job just because a guy he just met asks 'em to. I mean ccoome oonn!" he laughed again, but more weakly this time.
"Mr. McClean, that graveyard has very… sentimental things concerning me. I can't just let you build over it."
"Sorry Jay; the deed is done. Tomorrow's scheduled for the first day of demolition."
I breathed deeply and gritted my teeth in annoyance. Leaning across the table, I said softly,
"Obviously you do not understand how important the Garden is to me. So important, I cannot live without it anymore."
"Then you need to get out more fella!" he laughed, slapping me on the back. I coughed in retort and retreated back into my seat. After a moment of glaring at the fat man, I said quietly,
"I will pay you 1.5 million dollars for the rights to the property."
He stopped laughing and looked at me, eyes twinkling. "That's quite a generous offer there, but still… the property is worth much more than that."
"That is all the money I have."
"Well, it's not enough." He shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
"But," he said suddenly, wagging his thick finger at me, "I hear there's… a treasure..." he looked at me carefully, as if waiting for some reaction.
His mouth formed into a wide grin.
"How much is it worth? You see… I'm kind of a treasure hunter on the side and I'd love to get some real stuff."
It was my turn to smirk now.
He continued eagerly at my expression.
"Have you seen it?"
"Of course" I replied softly, "But I had hoped it wouldn't have come to that."
I felt my heart flicker at the thought. The waitress was back for our orders.
"So, what will you gentlemen be ordering this evening?" Fred's gaze tore away from mine, and toward her, smiling widely again.
"What're yur' specials for the evening honey?" he asked, leaning his head on his hand.
"Well..." she began, "we have fried chicken with mashed potatoes, chicken fried steak with cream of corn soup….."
Her voice drifted out softly, and I felt my mind wander. I could hear the steps on the echoing sidewalk toward that gate. The bent spikes seemed to beckon me toward them, the drops of dew glistening as eyes do when they mirror dark intent. I pushed through, ignoring the screech of the rusted hinge. Before me law a dark maze of tall, marble mausoleums and grave stones, dying plants and withering trees. I began to navigate my way through, climbing over fallen over stones and tree limbs.
I came upon a particularly beaten down tomb. It laid alone, the grave marker fallen and shattered. By its head grew a smalltree which vainly attempted to flourish. It was a pitiful sight: thin trunk and leggy, leafless branches, few that they were. On it sat a sad-looking bird, ash gray with light blue eyes. It stared at me blankly and nodded its head in…
"And what would you have sir?"
I awoke from my thoughts.
It took my mind a few moments to collect themselves before I replied.
"I'll take a cup of coffee, black please…. Nothing else."
She left, leaving us alone. I massaged my forehead before I looked back up at McClean. He had leaned back against the seat, folding his arms.
"So, back to our deal. How much is this treasure worth?"
Frowning, I pretended to look uneasy.
"I really don't know, but it's passed… down my family... for generations."
"Then is must be pretty old, and therefore… worth a lot of money." He smiled greedily, eyes shining.
"Sure, I guess"
"When can we go?"
"Right after we eat."
The rest of the meal passed with Fred ranting on about football games and referees with "no fricken clue what's goin' on".
After we had finished, I threw 25 on the table and walked away, with Fred following close behind. He was still ranting, with my occasional "mmm"'s edging him on. I wouldn't be able to stand much more, but luckily, the Garden wasn't far away.
We arrived, Fred suddenly fell silent. I must admit, it was quite an impressive sight. The rusted gate in my dream was now contrasted against fluorescent orange construction tape. I frowned at it and moved towards the gate. A heavy lock held it tight, and with a swift kick it crashed against the ground, emitting a loud, echoing ring.
"How the-? He began but stopped as he found I had already gone way ahead of him.
I was already dealving past tombstones when I heard the heavy patter of his shoes.
"Wait…up!" he cried, breathing heavily.
I stopped in my tracks and let him catch up. It was interesting view from my height with his already short figure. Maybe a distance of 8 inches or so…
"Jeez Jay! You move fast!" he laughed.
That was such a strange sound to hear in a graveyard. I stared at him darkly, and began to go again as soon as his breathing becoame somewhat regular again.
After ignoring his complaints, we reached our destination. I pulled open the tilted door into it, and began to descend.
I could feel the air chilling slowly in the tomb. The candles flame shuddered and extinguished, leaving us with only the dim light of the window to guide us. It was barren except for a marble casket hidden in the dark of the room.
Sgt. Andrew Rembarrow, born 1863, died 1938.
May he Find Peace with God.
Fred quickly moved towards me, putting his hands on the stone lid. He looked around warily and said uneasily,
"Are you… Do we have to do it now?"
He clenched his jaw as he said this, but his eyes betrayed his fear. I sighed, concealing my amusement.
"Well, tomorrow you destroy all this…" I motioned to our surroundings.
We pushed and let the stone fall onto the ground with a thud.
Fred coughed at the rising stench of decay and dirt. Deep in the casket lay an corspe bearing a heavily decorated army jacket. A wrinkled face was formed into a frown with thick brows squeezed together unnaturally. Thin hands lay by his side, clenching a paper in each palm.
Curiously, the rate of decay on the body seemed to show that he had been buried only a few months before.
"There you go."
He gave me a weak smirk before leaning over the edge and reaching in. Grunting with effort, he attempted to grab the papers and tear them away, but couldn't reach. He stood back up, breathing heavily and coughing, wordlessly gesturing for me to try. I shook my head in disagreement, telling him to try again. He glared and leaned over again. Seconds later, he cried out and fell backward onto the stone. He crawled away from it, eyes wide in terror, pushing himself against my legs.
"J—j—a-y—mmesssssz" he cried, trembling, "t-the… body…. moved."
He shuddered and stood up, using me as a pillar. I calmly helped him and shushed him as he screamed again. A withered hand, free of any paper, had grasped the edge of the casket. Pulling himself up, Andrew gazed around for a second before noticing us.
"James… what is the meaning of raising me?"
Fred gasped and stared, open-mouthed, in horror. He pushed away from me and hit the wall behind us, gasping for air and reality. The Sergeant glared at him and stepped out, brushing off his destroyed jacket.
"Damn moths." he muttered.
Straightening up, Andrew frowned.
"Why the hell did you-"
A soft voice interrupted his words.
"James? Is that you?"
I turned towards the entrance, moving to meet her. On the stairs she stood, the moonlight illuminating her.
Short, amber hair moved silently with an invisible breeze as she floated towards me. She was glowing an unnatural but entrancing white, intensified by the soft dress that fluttered around her figure. Green eyes sparkled as her lips parted and emitted a soft breath of frosty air.
"James..!" she whispered.
I smiled, embracing her lovingly. Her tiny arms seemed to fit perfectly under mine, and though I longed to keep her there, the Sergeant coughed us away from each other and back into the present.
He stood unsteadily by his casket glaring at us.
"James, answer my question. And…" he said, pointing with a bony finger towards the trembling man against the wall, "who the bloody hell is he?!"
With the mention of his person, Fred let out a terrified screech and put his arms over his head, shaking.
I frowned and said calmly, "That's the man that is going to destroy the graveyard and build a shopping center in its place. I couldn't let him do that to you… any of you."
"Isn't it illegal to destroy graves?" Mariaña asked me softly.
I smiled down at her sadly and slid my hand into hers before turning to Fred.
"You were going to build over the graveyard, as if people's loved ones didn't lay their body's here."
Fred shivered again as both Andrew and Mariaña gave an involuntary shudder. I glared at him before adding,
"I decided to bring him here, to let him see why I… we can't let him do this."
For a moment there was silence, save for the cowering of Fred.
I could barely contain myself and I moved towards him saying,
"It's not actually that scary. You're just not used to it yet." As I began to grab one of his arms, he shrieked again and pounded on my wrist in an attempt to break my grasp.
Mariaña quietly appeared at my side, laying her cool hands on his.
"Quiet..." she murmured, "it's ok. We're not going to hurt you."
"Get away from me!" he screamed, attempting to push her away from him. But his chubby fingers simply slid through the space where her chest was supposed to be. His eyes widened in shock as hers closed with a sigh.
"You're... a ghost..?!"
"That changes nothing." She said quietly, her eyes opening dark for a moment.
"We are this way because God made us this way. The Rembarrow family has been gifted with the ability to come back from the dead when God needs to use us. We are just like everyone else, but come back to act as Grim Repears, in a way...
Fred's face contorted into what his voice could not say.
"I am so sorry Fredrick." She said softly, putting her tiny hand on his head.
A shock of light illuminated the room, blinding us. Fred fell to the ground, a final breath trickling out as we watched calmly.
With no delay, the Seargant proceeded to speak.
"You had no reason to wake me when Mariaña was clearly on duty this decade. "
I simply looked at the crumpled body before me. Without looking up, I replied cooly
"I needed your papers."
The Seargant didn't respond.
As I moved to pick up Fred's now unconcious form, I heard him shuffle towards his casket. With the hefty body balanced delicatley on my shoulder, I turned to see the Seargant throw the worn papers at my feet.
"Don't overdo it again."
He gave me one last firm look before turning and stepping back into the casket. The cover lifted and he was gone, asleep for another decade.
Mariaña and I stood quiet now, still absorbing all that had happened.
Finally I felt her move beside me, away towards the entrance.
I watched her walk up the steps, her back to me. Pausing, she turned towards me, tears steaming down her cheeks.
"I hate doing this James. I hate... having to be this way." She stared at the trembling hands stretched before her.
I started to reply, to say something to comfort her, something to soothe my dear ghostly sister. But I found no words and all I could do was to watch her fade away into the oppressive night.
A sigh escaped my lips. But I had no time to be sorrowful.
I had to find a way to dispose of this nuisance quietly and so that this death could be easily forgotten. With a smile, I remembered the the effect of my sister's fatal talent.
Tomorrow morning would find our friend Fred's pictures in the death notices, the cause of death due to a heart that simply stopped beating...