call me old bones 

emily aucompaugh

            Mrs. Fontain was crying. The ceremony had been beautiful, everybody had given both their compliments and condolences. But now everyone was gone, and Mrs. Fontain stood staring at the freshly paved grave stone and overturned dirt that encased her dearly loved husband.

            So invested was she in her weeping, she did not hear the steady steps of the cemetery keeper as he approached. He was an old man, only a little younger than her late husband, with white hair and leathery skin. Yet, the old man held himself very straight, and walked with a confidence in his step more characteristic in someone younger. His voice was soft.

            “How are you holding up, Ma’am?”

            She dabbed delicately at the corner of her eyes with the clean but rather worn looking handkerchief the cemetery keeper had handed to her.

            “I’ll be alright. My daughter will be staying with me for a little while. I may go live with her once we get all of Albert’s things settled. I worry more about Albert, I know it’s silly, but I can’t help to think he’ll be lonely here.”

            The old man gave a kind chuckle. “Well, I can assure you, Ma’am, my family and I take good care or our deceased. We’ll do all we can to make sure he enjoys his stay.”

            Mrs Fontain broke her gaze from her husband’s stone to let her eyes wander around the cemetery. It was a small place, only about 200 graves filled the gentle slope of mossy green earth, situated on a hill nestled snuggly in a circle of pine and oak trees. A narrow gravel road led to the open entrance, a gap between two trees spaced farther apart than the rest.

            The cemetery was not at all visible from the road, and the gravel path at first seemed to be the driveway of the regal white farmhouse that guarded the graves. This was one of the only cemeteries Mrs. Fontain knew of that was still run by one family. They took great pains in keeping their small place of rest clean and presentable, one of the reasons she had decided to lay her husband there.

            The family also made a model of their extreme reverence for the dead. The children that lived in the farmhouse, along with the parents, as well as the patriarch of the family, the keeper himself, knew that the cemetery was no place for games. They did not play on the stones or take the forget-me-not flowers from the graves, and if they went into the cemetery at all, it was only to take a silent and somber walk.

            Mrs. Fontain had caught a glimpse of two of the children early that day, as the funeral procession made its way up the narrow path of the cemetery. Admittedly, they struck her as little odd. The girls, apparently leaving just as the cars began to arrive, wore braids in their hair and colorful clothes, but had a dreadfully morose look on their faces, making them seem older than the ages she had at first thought them. The two little ones halted at the side of the path and stood still as marble as they watched the cars roll past them. They had stared straight at Mrs. Fontain as her black Cadillac drove by, one with blue eyes and the other with dark ones. This struck her as particularly odd, considering the car had tinted windows, and it was nearly impossible to see anything from the outside facing in.

            But by the time she could finally muster the strength to leave her dead husband and make her way back home, she had forgotten all about the incident. The same blue-eyed child had even dashed out of the house as the Cadillac made to exist the driveway and handed the elderly lady a tray of chocolate cookies.

            “We’ll take good care of Mr. Fontain,” was all the girl said before she sprinted back into the large house.

            Three days later and Mrs. Fontain was beginning to feel a little more herself. The nights were still achingly lonely, but the days passed by quickly between the company of her daughter and visits from old friends.

            It was on this third day that Mrs. Fontain stumbled upon the clean but worn out handkerchief she had taken home with her after she had left the cemetery. She had all but forgotten it belonged to the old cemetery keeper until she saw it clinging with static to the underside of her blue woolen sweater.

            Though twilight was fast approaching, and she did not care to drive in the dark, Mrs. Fontain decided to return the handkerchief to the kind man who had lent it to her and have a little chit chat with the grave stone of her deceased husband while she was there. Mrs. Fontain knew it was silly to still crave conversation with someone lying underground, but why should she stop talking to her truest confidante simply because he was dead? At any rate, although Mrs. Fontain was not a devoutly religious woman, she had not ruled out the possibility that Albert could still hear her, perched on a cloud somewhere in the sky.

            Mrs. Fonatin parked her little gray car on the edge of the gravel path and continued walking the rest of the way to the entrance of the cemetery. The place at times nearly suffocated her with its ethereal charms; it seemed illogical to enter the grounds with a convenience of the 21st century.   

            With the aged yellow cloth held delicately between her two soft, wrinkled hands, Mrs Fontain emerged on the other side of the gap of the trees and heard voices she had not heard while on the outside of the entrance. She saw the children, which she had not seen while gazing through the spaces of the grand oak trees. They were far away, standing with their backs to the elderly woman, on the top of the rolling hill.

            It was hard to tell exactly what they were doing. She could not tell what they were saying. Mrs. Fontain slowly made her way around the hill to the spot where he husband lay. As she approached from the side, a new view of the peculiar scene made itself known to her. Not only were the children present on the cemetery grounds, but the whole household stood before them, making a crescent moon below the two youngest inhabitants.

            The older members of the family, the ones in the moon shape at the base of the hill, all had rakes and shovels and clipping prunes, held in their hands and resting on their shoulders. Yet they were not cleaning, not even moving, only watching the two children on the top of the hill with a focused eye. None noticed an intruder.

            “Alright,” called out the keeper himself from his place in the center of the moon, “Say it again. One more time.”

            Mrs Fontain watched in utter confusion as the two children began to chant in unison what seemed to her an odd jumble of a nonsense phrase.

Call me Old Bones

Call me Dry Bones

Call me All Bones

The gaze of confusion on Mrs. Fontain’s face soon turned to a look of shock as the ground began to tremble. Not all the ground, not the ground beneath her for instance, but the ground to this side of her and that side of her and the ground before her. The earth was being moved away be those under it, the dead were digging themselves out of the ground. The poor woman watched in horror as skeletons marched with rickety bones to get a shovel or a rake and began to clean off their own graves.

But only when the ground began to move behind her did Mrs. Fontain truly have the fright of her life. She glanced down to watch her husband, the only member in the procession of the undead to still have gray and bloated flesh clinging to his bones, use her leg as leverage to help him heft himself out of the ground.

The whole family heard the shrill scream, but by the time they found Mrs. Fontain crumbled in a heap on the moss-covered ground, it was too late. She had truly died of the fright, or of the despair, of seeing her husband risen from the dead, but not alive.

Her daughter cried as she gazed down at the freshly paved grave stone of her mother, lying soundly next to the spot that already held Albert Fontain. She heard steady footsteps approach her from behind, and a soft voice spoke.

            “I can assure you, Ma’am, my family and I take good care or our deceased.”

Emily Aucompaugh is a junior at Ualbany majoring in English and minoring in Journalism. Between writing academic papers, she likes to write creative fiction and poetry. One day she hopes to publish a full-length novel.