Silhouette Against Armageddon John Wiswell
Someone’s trying to get into my coffin. Their shovel scratches through the dirt above, and clangs against the stones, resonating into my osteoporotic bones. You’d think such an expensive cemetery would have given me six feet of smooth soil, but no, I’ve got rocks up there. I guess it’s too late to lodge a complaint.
The earth shakes again, throwing me against the thin cushions of this overpriced box until my left foot breaks off and rattles around. A dead man can’t catch a break. Is this the third or the fourth earthquake today? Whichever it is, it starts up the unearthly shrieking again, like the atmosphere is having a panic attack, or it’s the End Times. That’s probably what woke me up. I’ve got my suspicions.
The shrieking and earthquake don’t stop my graverobber, and that’s definitely a shovel cutting into earth above, along with some labored breathing. My graverobber isn’t even in good shape. I try to plug my ears, but the lobes rotted off long ago. My fingernails aren’t as long as I thought they’d be. I guess they don’t really keep growing. The skin of your fingers just shrinks. It feels so tacky.
If I’d just gotten cremated, at least I wouldn’t go through this. Should’ve stuck to my guns on that one, but Pablo was Catholic and wanted us to rest forever next to each other. Pablo, I opened the coffee shop for you when I knew it was a money pit, and I left Portland for fucking Arizona for you, but what did I get for it?
You died thirty-three years before me, left me for a third of a century with a business in the red, and when sepsis finally caught me and I got to sleep eternally in your stupid burial plot, I get woken up by the End Times just in time to get graverobbed. Thirty-three years missing your cold hands in my bed. I miss your cold hands, and that rose gold engagement ring you just wouldn’t take off even in winter. I miss all your dumb beauties.
This sucks worse than being dead.
The shovel scrapes across the aluminum above with the sound of a cat getting a colonoscopy. No pine box down here. I didn’t pay all that money for worms to bother me. I hope he’s ready to fight a pissed off skeleton, and if he’s just vandalizing the gay graves, I’ll kick his ass twice for the price of one.
I try to hold onto the lid, but of course I didn’t buy a model with internal handles. Weird enough having those on my bath tub. Instead I crack my fingernails digging them into the satin lining, winding the fabric around my hands. My pockets are empty; I guess Catholics want you to fight off Satan barehanded.
“You after my fillings?” I ask at the lid. “Well too bad. They’re resin.”
I left everything to a cashier who couldn’t afford college. I’ve got nothing in here but a cheap suit and a loose foot. Why won’t they leave me alone? Then the heavenly shrieking resumes, like a grand horn blast, and I shudder. This might be worse than vandals.
Above, hands patter around searching for the coffin’s seams, and footsteps thunk overhead, until someone must be standing above my chest. They’re light steps, and for the first time in my life I’m afraid of angels.
As the lid opens, I can see the clouds overhead are aflame, and an endless wyrm chasing winged figures through the smoldering sky. Dead Catholics are climbing out of their graves and walking unto war. But the man who opened my grave stays put, standing over me, a silhouette against Armageddon. He rests a skeletal hand on the coffin rim, and I yell up at him.
“Are you just recruiting for war? Because if God wanted me, he shouldn’t have taken Pablo.”
“Baby,” says a voice that is too pleased with itself. “I missed your bitching.”
Light falls across the hand on my lid, shining on a rose gold engagement ring. My hands fall useless into my lap as I try to see his face. Pablo slips into my coffin, spooning his bony ass into my side. He says, “You still think it’s a dumb idea we were buried next to each other?”
“I meant… oh…” I’m not usually so inarticulate. Don’t judge.
He kisses my forehead with a lipless mouth. “That’s what I thought.”
“Shut up for a minute,” I say, hugging him until his rib bones creek, burying what’s left of my nose in his collar.
The aluminum siding has no give, and we smoosh together like we used to sharing a twin bed in his aunt’s attic. It’s cramped and awful and I forgot how much I needed it. I twine my arms around him, and he links his fingers with mine. No skin and he still has cold hands. I squeeze them, gently as I can, as he shuts the coffin lid over us both, shutting out the clarion calls of Heaven and Hell. The dead have risen, and now two of them can finally rest in peace.
Previously published in Fireside, Spring 2018. Reprinted here by permission of the author.
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