Caretaker of Bones

My entry for week two of the Luminous Creatures Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness contest. The photo below was your prompt, and the word max was 500. There was also the optional theme of magic/supernatural for possible inclusion in their anthology. Admittedly, I struggled with theme, as it’s not a genre I read or write very often. But, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone if you want to improve as a writer. Hope you enjoy.

cemetery photo by Brady Wedman

The gardener finished buttoning his charcoal uniform, grabbed his copper pail, and headed out to the cemetery. His eyes took in this land of polished granite and muffled sobs, its manicured carpet of luxuriant grass, its well-travelled footpaths. He inhaled the night air, an old friend that tickled his throat, and nodded at the mute stars, which reciprocated his silent hello with a subtle twinkle. A reunion of sorts, once a year on this exact day.

With much to do, Morris began his journey with familiar steps on the sacred lawn. As he approached the etched markers of lives extinguished, he mumbled a concise string of rehearsed words, then reached into his bulging pail. With the flick of his wrist, he tossed his batch of modified fertilizer across the shamrock-green terrain, like a croupier dealing a hand of blackjack. After three hours, there wasn’t a lone blade of grass untouched by the granular substance of renewal that he meticulously spread with a focused pride.

The gardener sat on a bench, a mug of coffee perched next to him, as a golden, breathing fog hovered above the ground, its viscous lungs heaving its gift to the residents napping in eternal solitude.

Six feet below, an unseen architect was ripping the dirt apart with the brutish effeciency of an invisible bulldozer. Caverns were gashed open, revealing tunnels of shimmering quartz and veins of liquid glass. Walls of soil became billowing silk curtains, spindly roots morphed into incandescent lanterns, their chartreuse glow illuminating the burrowed world of renewed encounters. Worms were transformed into the slithering conductors of a maudlin orchestra. Heavy casket lids began to shift.

Fleshless bodies, unleashed from their slumber, began to walk amongst their brethren, greeting one another with the clack of a skeletal handshake. Parents were reunited with sons and daughters, some adults, others mere infants, a tiny bundle of bones exchanging lipless kisses with mommy. Husbands and wives gazed at each other with ardor in their hollow eye sockets, their unhinged jaw bones snapping desperately in an attempt to mouth forgotten words of affection. Obedient dogs found their masters again, their furless tails lashing against the welcoming scent of their owners tibia. Soldiers patted their band of brothers on the spinal column, then saluted their former lieutenants with a properly stiff carpus. And two dashing skeletons, one wearing a red fedora, the other a lavender scarf, danced their yearly waltz on the anniversary of their shared expiration date. This city of lively dirt was a place of rebirth, an underground villa of love reignited.

Above ground, his eyes boring into the pair of towering, ivory tombstones in front of him, Morris, the gardener, the son of conjurers, tapped his foot on the vibrating ground, as the music of his youth played on. With his promise to his parents fulfilled for another year, the caretaker of bones was spent. He stood and began to shuffle home, a flaming grin on his face, a soft goodbye on his lips.

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