Tim and Ashley waited beside Ashley Kirton's grave. A judge had signed an order to open the tomb. A mortician, a representative of the court, the sexton, and the county commissioner were all on hand.
"I"m not sure it's a good idea for you to come along," Tim said to Ashley before they drove to the cemetery.
"I have to see for myself," she had insisted. So here she was, torn by inner turmoil, yet knowing she could not lay the matter to rest until she knew.
Everyone watched as gravediggers turned the first shovel of dirt. Moments later, they heard the sound of the shovels hitting the lid of the burial vault.
A backhoe was used to lift the cement lid. Ashley watched as the vault lid swung up and clear of the grave, and the top of the casket became visible.
Ashley's heart pounded madly, and her breathing grew ragged as the workers lifted the light pink casket from the vault and sat it beside the grave. As the workers slowly opened the lid, she wanted desperately to close her eyes but was unable to. When the lid was finally open, everyone present gasped.
There in the casket lay the body of a young man dressed in blue jeans and a t shirt, looking as if he'd just been buried.
"It's Mike Sanders!" Ashley cried.
"That's funny." Tim scratched his head. "I don't remember anyone ever reporting him missing."
The court representative snorted. "Guess that proves how popular he was, or wasn't, rather."
"So that's how the spell worked," the mortician mused. "A soul for a soul. I guess poor Mike here didn't realize, when you're dealing with the supernatural, you never get something for nothing."
Ashley began to sob, hard. A few moments later, she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and turned to look into Tim's gentle blue eyes, which were soft with compassion.
"How can you stand to be around me?" she sobbed. "I'm a corpse! A dirty, filthy, stinky, rotten corpse!"
"Ashley." Tim shook his head as he patted her shoulder and looked into her tormented eyes. "There's nothing dirty, filthy, stinky, or rotten about you at all. You're a lovely young woman who's just as alive as I am. A corpse can't eat, talk, cry, or laugh. I've seen you do all of those things, and much more."
"But I was in the ground rotting for two years before Mike brought me back!"
"Ashley, I don't understand it any better than you do. But to me, it doesn't matter where you came from or what happened to you. All that matters is that you're alive now, and you have the same rights as any other living person, including the right to be loved."
"Who could ever love me?" Tears streamed down Ashley's face as Tim put his arms around her and held her close.
"You're one of the most lovable people I've ever met, Ashley." He smiled gently. "Think of it this way. You've been given a second chance, an opportunity to live your life all over again. How many people does that happen to?"
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Ashley looked up at him with a weak smile. "But where will I go? What will I do?"
"You'll have plenty of time to figure all that out." Tim smiled and took her hand. "In the meantime, always remember that you have a friend who's more than happy to help you in any way possible."
Hand in hand, they walked away from the open grave and toward whatever the future held.