3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
On a cold and windy night in a cemetery of Edinburgh, Scotland a coffin opened from the inside.
I saw thin fingers curl around the lid and slide the top aside. In the distance I could see the two gravediggers taking a break behind a tree. The cherries of their cigarettes marking the end of their occasional laughter.
The gravediggers job tonight was to move around old bodies to make way for the new. I saw all of this because I had started to sleep in the cemetery near the church. People fear the homeless at a cemetery but a homeless man at a cemetery is unthinkable. I felt safe, except for tonight.
While the gravediggers smoked, I watched the partially decomposed body of an Edinburgh resident from the 1800’s escape. I can’t explain the why or how, all I can tell you is what I saw; the who, what, when and where.
As if aware that his liberators would soon return and become his captors, the skeleton tip-toed through the grass toward a wall that led to the train tracks below. On his way he grabbed one of the fluorescent vests with reflectors sown in. he flung an arm through the vest and swung it around to pop the other arm through.
He reached the wall and hopped over without hesitation. I was dragged from my spot in the shadows and ran after, pausing to look at the tomb from which he, or she, escaped.
“Gavin Alexander, Esquire. Honorable Captain of the East India Trading Company.”
I reached the wall and peered over. Captain Alexander had used his remaining muscle (more like loose yarn and tattered rope) to pull himself up to stand at the back of a train car. The train began slowly to move.
I hopped over the wall, hearing my ankle crack and pop. I wiggled it while looking at the captains foot, as if attempting to understand what lay beneath my skin. Perhaps it was the adrenaline but my foot felt fine. I ran to a train car three from Captain Alexander and hung on as it picked up speed.
In the direction we were heading, we’d soon be at the mouth of the river Edin, leading out to the ocean.
The wind picked up and grew colder as we exited the hole of the city. The fine spray that fell soon became needles as we moved faster. I looked up at the moon, nearly full and illuminating the farms peeking through the density of trees near the tracks.
Captain Alexander leaned away from the train with his head turned up to the moon, taking in the evening like a man entombed over one hundred years.
The train began to slow as it neared the Queensferry stop, a port town.
I watched Captain Alexander climb down from the train car and rest his hands on his hips. I slowly clambered down and lay in the grass, still about three train car lengths away. The train started up again and Captain Alexander turned in my direction and walked slowly toward me.
I could see bits of his former self clinging to his structural anatomy like the scraps of a Spanish Jamon. His bottom jaw slightly opening and closing as if breathing, not from necessity but out of habit. His clothes were merely strips of cloth hanging from his sharper bits of bone.
As he got closer I began anticipating my escape but as soon as the last car passed him, Captain Alexander turned toward the tracks and crossed. I peered over the mound with metal ties and saw he was making his way down to the port.
When he reached an alley way that led to the Firth of Forth, Queensbury’s bridge across the river Edin, I followed.
When I reached the alley, Captain Alexander had reached the Firth of Forth and began to climb. his yellow vest reflecting brightly from the light of the moon and contrasting against the deep red painted structure of the bridge.
With his back to me, I made my way to a dock just East of where he climbed. I could occasionally hear the clank of his bones against the metal as he neared the top. Pulling himself over the top-most arch of the bridge he lay on top and wrapped his arms and legs around the frame as a train passed on the bridge below.
When the train was gone, he stood up on the top bar and waved, at me.
He kept waving until my fear of this strange creature was out done by my awkwardness of the situation. I stood up and waved.
Then Captain Alexander placed his hands perfectly by his sides, bent his knees and lifted his hands back up, making prayer hands above his head. Then he jumped straight out from the bridge. The vest pulled in air and for a minute I thought he took flight, then the vest flew off and the skeleton jackknifed under the waves.
I watched as the vest floated on to the surface of the water. I did not see Captain Alexander resurface. he simply waved and disappeared beneath the waves, which I assumed, if I’m to make sense of the evening, was where he wished his final resting place to be.