Buried Yet Breathing16.

Caulfield found the bottle of kerosene next to the fire pit. He squirted it liberally on the wood beneath, sitting from nights ago, ready for use. Henry grabbed the metal grill then set it down, remembering he had pans to lay out first. After the three of them spread out the pans, all touching each other as to collect most all of the remains, they placed the metal grill grating over the rocks, making it as even as possible.

Then Caulfield fired it up, quite literally. The fire became an instant blaze. The boys stepped lively toward the casket. With Caulfield and Edwin grasping a foot apiece, Hank picked up his deceased brother by the shoulders and they carried him toward the roar of flame.

“On the count of 4.” Henry said.

Caulfield was perplexed. “Why 4, Hank? Why not say on 3?”

“Shut up. I said 4. One. Two. Three. Ok, four.”

The three of them launched poor Peter’s rotting bod onto the fire and when the cadaver made contact, sparks flew wildly, as though the fourth of July had come early. Or late, depending how you looked at it.

Edwin took two giant steps backward and pinched his nose. The others looked back at him as though he was crazy. Little Edwin said, in a nasal tone, “What? Cousin Monte once set a rabbit on fire and the burning flesh scent made me throw up. I don’t wanna smell my oldest brother.”

Henry and Caulfield followed suit and plugged their noses while backing up to their youngest.

They watched intently as Peter’s skin began to melt away and organs started to make their appearances. “That’s disgusting,” Caulfield said, hand still holding his nose, as they all cringed in horror.

“Henry… how do the bones turn to ash?” Edwin wondered aloud, turning his head to his eldest. Meanwhile, a blast a smoke hit them all right in the eyes. Each boy coughed heartily, eyes watering freely.

Henry looked up into the air for a moment, most likely pondering the question. He glanced at Caulfield, then at Edwin, then back to the sky.

Edwin implored. “Well!?”

“I don’t rightly know, to be honest. I just assumed everything burns then disintegrates into little crap called ash. Dust. You know, from the Bible… ashes to ashes and dust to dust.” Henry felt proud of himself for remembering an entry from the good book, diverting his lack of knowledge about the ash, in his mind anyway.

The boys watched in silence. Minutes passed. Caulfield got anxious, “Dangit, Hank. How long is this gonna take?” He said this while one hand held his privates, signaling that someone had to urinate. His left hand still held his nostrils closed, as did all of them.

Another minute of silent viewing passed. Nothing seemed to be remaining of their brothers remains and the fire was mere embers. They all took a few steps forward, to get a better look at what was left. As the smoke dissipated, it was plain as day obvious that Peter’s entire skeleton was still intact. Skinless, yes. Organ-less, sure. But all bones intact, and no signs of ash.

“What in the all-time hell?” Edwin delivered slowly, accentuating the word hell on account of that he was forbidden to curse by Mother.

Caulfield looked around by his feet, finding a thick twig. With his right hand, he scooped it up, while still plugging his nose with the other. He poked at Peter’s smoldering femur, gently at first then a hard couple jabs. It cracked upon impact and ash sifted into one of the pans.

Immediately, both other boys looked for weapons to crush their brother’s bones. Henry found an ax and Little Edwin found old baseball bat, amidst the junk strewn around the yard.

With hands off noses, they smashed up that skeleton good. They nailed it so hard, ash flew up into the air, along with falling onto the baking pans. Henry axed Peter’s face good with the butt end. The other two boys worked on disintegrating the rest of the burning bones.

Buried Yet Breathing15.

Meanwhile, on earth..
Mother was in a schizophrenic state of catatonia, accompanied by severe catalepsy. She was so deep in shock that she completely froze up, in the most thorough of scenarios. No one was there to help assist her or the boys, so Henry, Caulfield and Edwin did their best.
She sat in her green, well-worn recliner. Her left foot was planted flat and the right one was up on her toe mounds, heal up off the floor. Both palms of both hands were up and open, with her right knuckles on her upper thigh and her left knuckles on her left knee. Her mouth was ajar and her glazed eyes remained open, glancing slightly downward. Dressed in her massive nightgown, the kids had fun taking turns decorating her. Currently, there was a rifle placed in her open hands and Christmas tinsel draped around her neck and head. The cat that should hate her with what’s left of its few lives, sat on her lap, tail wrapped around the shotgun, purring ever so gently.

This had been her state for two days now. Family would come and go, often speculating that she was faking it.

Driving home in their station wagon, packed with kids, Cousin Doreen mused to her obese husband Lance, “Well, she’s obviously acting. After all that trauma, I guess I kind of get it but considering the entire family witnessed the same horror, why aren’t we all drooling zombies?”

Lance scratched at his beard, fumbled with opening a Twinkie, took a bite then replied, “Ya, she’s a great actor. I remember when we were dating in high school and…” Doreen cut him off by clearing her throat loudly then saying, “Um, excuse me, Dad?” Her eyes darted back and forth to the backseat. In a whisper, she said, “You quit your friggin’ high school banter and you stop it now, Lanny!” And that was just one of the many judgmental family members untrusting of Mother’s state.

Henry, Caulfield and Edwin watched television for the most part over these days, also sensing Mother was faking and knowing she allowed them only limited viewing times. This was their way of sticking it to her, and also enjoying the fruits of television mind melting. The sweet bliss.

Occasionally, dialogue would break out amongst the vegging. “What do you suggest we do with Peter’s corpse, Hank?” Caulfield didn’t like the idea of it rotting in its box in the backyard. They had skillfully lifted the body back into the casket on the day of the funeral, but they left the lid off. It hadn’t rained since so they figured all was well.

Henry, still staring at the television screen, said, “I reckon we need to cremate it ‘cuz no one in this town can deal with another déjà vu job.”

Caulfield looked over at Edwin, then back to Henry. “And how in tarnation do we do that? You mean just us, like in the backyard?”

“Heck yes, Einstein. We ain’t got money for an official burning. I figure our bonfire pit is big enough. We put a big ol’ mess of cake pans and cookie sheets under the grill, you know… to catch the ashes.” Henry looked at his brothers, who looked baffled.

Edwin asked, “What do you mean ashes, Hank?”

Caulfield chimed in. “He means when Peter’s body burns. The leftover ash that was Peter.”

“Well, do we have to watch it burn?”

Caulfield questioned, “It??”

Edwin adjusted. “I mean him, I guess. He’s so dead. He doesn’t feel like a ‘him’ anymore.”

“I know what you mean, Eddie.” Henry spoke with a mild sneer.

There was a minute or so of silence. All that could be heard was the dull roar of the television and the cat purring on Mother. Then Caulfield broke the quiet. “Okay. Let’s go do it now.”

They all stood up in unison. Henry and Caulfield found the pans and Edwin grabbed the propane torch. Edwin also picked up a bible that was sitting on the coffee table beside Mother.

They all filed outside and approached the pine box, as reverently as possible. One by one, they peered inside. Their brother was still there, but he appeared greasy and pale. Bloated and dirty. An ant scurried across his cheek and the three boys shuddered simultaneously. Little Edwin reached out and smacked the corpse’s cheek, missing the insect completely.

Buried Yet Breathing14.

In that moment of ripe bedlam, the very air itself shook, as did the soil and everything in this place. A piercing scream birthed in the gathering itself rose to an unhealthy pitch in a matter of milliseconds. All others backed quickly away from the one tortured soul, with her hands held high and head hung low. An inferno trail of white heat blazed skyward from her hands, causing the gathering to jaw drop exponentially. Slowly, her head lifted and with her mouth visibly closed, the war cry increased, emanating out her being, every sinew calling out.

And when it ended, and the light show ceased, the silence was deafening as each ear rang irrevocably. Most believed they were now literally without hearing. And as the majority of those lost, dead apparations gathered themselves, within their groups of five, he swept in at a great speed, grabbed the disturbed screamer by the collar and burst away from everyone.

He soared fast and fluently, as though a programmed missile, dead-set on making its arrival to its destination in record timing. Meanwhile, his baggage had clung herself to him, holding on for dear life, not because she had to but because it was her souls desire and predestined path. The journey was quick, though equally drawn out. His eyes, blasting forward at a ridiculous speed, would glance down upon her then up to the flight at hand, repeat. And in that hyper cold state, he never knew such warmth, filling his disoriented being with a strong sense of an emotion he had once been familiar.

Like a mighty Boeing 747 aircraft without option but to crash as fearlessly and with as much dignity as possible, they collided with a stretch of damp grass, skidding and bouncing as they came to a muddled halt, bodies rolling over one another. They sat up with eyes locked.

She spoke first. “Please forgive me. Sensing the level of uproar was too much for even the mightiest of beings, I wanted to… save you. Before you save us.”

His gaze at her was one of baffle. “Who are you? Your distinction feels comfortable to me, in this godless place.” He awaited her response cautiously.

Taking his hand in hers, she looked deeply into his soul. “It is I, Peter. You must remember.”

He spoke quickly, as though too fast but his direct nature could never be stifled. “When I was drawn back to Earth, I was reminded of a girl that meant everything to me. Her name was Savannah.”

“I recall loving you like no other, like an infant adores her mother and no one could ever replicate that bond. Though I have no recollection of my previous name, I know that I must be that Savannah.” Upon declaring that heavy statement of truth, her ancient face crinkled and blue light shone from her eyes. “You were my salvation on Earth and now you’ve come to rescue not only me, but all the others, yes?”

What was once tears from whence they came, blue light also blasted from his eyes. “How is it that I found you, after that life and throughout all that could be after? And on top of that, I cannot fathom why you all consider me to be whom will save you from this place! You’re you and I am me! Who’s to say you aren’t the chosen one, not I? You obviously have a… a gift… a power.”

She smiled and brought her face inches from his. “This power lives in you, too. In all of us. You can already channel some of it, I’ve seen. In time, you will demonstrate that your source is greater than mine, and then all of ours. You aren’t just one of us; you are The One.” She laid her head against his strong chest. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. I love you.”

They sat there on that grassy bank, and held an embrace for what could have been an eternity. He was visited with a myriad of thoughts, questions and fears and in this time of serenity, it temporarily did not matter.

Buried Yet Breathing13.

“We are so glad to see you!” The spirit spoke in a soft tone, while touching his face.

“We thought we were abandoned here for eternity, but your presence gives us hope!” Another spirit standing behind him sung out.

“We want to know how you will bridge our divide!”

Some were very touchy, desperate for connection and beyond hopeful for a savior. Others stood back and observed, formulating questions wiser than the rest. Some talked amongst themselves, pondering his importance and what this could mean for everyone.

They were many: easily a hundred or more, and all trapped in this dismal, distant prison. Their numbers were overwhelming in abundance, as well as their inquisition. They all dressed the same (and the same as him): an off-white suit covering their entire body. And everyone, though distinguished from one another, had the appearance facially as old or elderly. The variety of voices made him question their approximate ages, as they were not all on the verge of death. He assumed his appearance looked similar.

The questioning continued, from all sides. Processing it all was not an option. And how is it they looked to him to be some savior, or the guide to salvation?! He felt the least qualified. In fact, they should be leading him! They, at least, knew this place and had time to think and devise plans. He was the new fish and in very deep water.

Amidst the clamoring, touching and verbal aggression, he willed himself to ascend off of the ground, and so it was done. With arms outstretched, the others became silenced and awaited his utterance.

For a moment, he surveyed the expansive lot of them. All of them standing, and all of them in groups of 5. He made eye contact with many of them as he spoke. “I know nothing about from where I came, and I know nothing about this place nor where I will go next. Who can I be to you, when I do not even know myself? How can I lead when I know less than to follow?”

Another murmuring overtook the canyon they inhabited. A garble of mass communication flowed like foul sewage from the geyser they called their mouths. Then a voice rang out, louder than all the others, dusting a film of silence over all. The voice sounded musty and seasoned; deep and elusive. “We have been here many eons. Not another soul has come forth from the chasm, save one, forever. This, my friend, is the sole basis of our reverence for you. You have come, or have been sent, and there is great meaning behind it. It must set us free. We all sense it.”

Cheers and bellows of agreement erupted from practically all in attendance. The very ground they hovered above vibrated with the intensity of their commitment to their apparent belief.

The apparition spoke again, this time with more passion and greater direction. “And did you not get called out of this place almost as quickly as your timely arrival? Only to be sent back? These factors awake us greatly to the knowledge that you are individual. Unique. Exclusive. And we all, including you, my friend, want to understand why.”

Without time for response, more spoke out, barely waiting for a turn. The verbal chaos consumed him, driving him away.

With great expression, on bended knee and full of passion, a timid spirit questioned, “Have you seen The Promise Keeper? Is He angry with us? Why does He abandon us?”

Another cut him off. “What is His plan for us? Are we to be incinerated as some have forewarned? Is there no cleansing and acceptance for us, ever? Why must we suffer in separation?”

Buried Yet Breathing12.

In a rare moment of silence, with the sun long ago set, his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He became flooded with thoughts of the next life. What were those voices that taunted him and hid amongst the darkness?

Without identity in this life and the next. Such mystery clouded all of it. What use was he back here in this old life? Certainly, there was some place better.

He focused hard, seeing past the shapes the cluttered his bedroom. As his eyes adjusted to the shadows, a newfound level of frigidity ran coursed through him, as though liquid metal entered his bloodstream at the toes and worked its violent way north.

Vision locked and all senses frozen. This time he felt his spirit packing its bags, sensing a permanent vacation was at hand. Nothing to do but succumb to the transformation from life to death, and in this case, it was a welcome process.

And in that beautiful moment, as all color left his eyes and he exhaled one final hissing breath, Mother opened the door and witnessed her baby’s expiration. The glass of water she carried got tossed into the air and shattered simultaneously with her first of a thousand screams.

His body, still and covered, lay motionless; fully unalive. Eyes open and flesh already cool to the touch, and no heartbeat could be found by Henry who burst into the room after hearing Mother’s blood curdling shriek. Mother was literally on Peter, holding him tight around his waist. She was walloping her head into his pubic bone as she wailed and hollered, certain to bring anyone back from the dead.

Family members flooded in. With twenty some humans pushing their way through a door way, a massive pile up ensued. Grandpa Ernest and his new wife Gladys flew in after Henry, and then came Aunt Betty and the dogs, followed by Morty and the triplets, all trampling Gladys and Ernest. And it snowballed from there. Pee Wee, Burt and Nigel Collins of the Collins family (long time neighbors) came running in a fit and ended up stomping all the other intruders fawning, or attempting to fawn over the two-time dead kid.

Mother, now stopped thrusting her head into the corpse, sat up. “Mother!” someone cried out. “You’re bleeding!” Mother had hit her head so many times, she was now dripping blood and a fair amount, onto her lifeless son’s carcass.

Mother, receiving a towel thrown by Caulfield peering through outside the door, dabbed at her noggin and asked, “Why God why! Take him once, damn me. Take him twice… pardon my French but… ahh!!” She wept openly and dramatically, as everybody looked on, or more specifically at her. They all figured she should just get it all out. And so they watched. And watched. It must have been hours, or maybe just a lot of heavy minutes, enduring her relentless sobs between towel changes as the blood never really let up.
The Other Realm…
Awakened and dead, again. A sense of salvation and a sense of terror slithered through him as purgatories air found its way into his lungs. Choking, shaking and not quite aware of his surroundings, he fell flat to the soil, rich and cold. The chill of death wasn’t near as icy as this after life scenario.
And then the voices that once spoke yet muffled and distant, became clear as day. The dissonance was too much to take. All the once blurred voices now called to him, in tones and decibels causing him to recoil.

Upon sitting up, he opened his dry eyes and recoiled in the chilling realization that he was surrounded by many disembodied spirits, all circling ‘round, speaking to him and clawing at him…

Buried Yet Breathing11.

The dad chimed in, arms crossed as he stood leaning against the wall. “The amount of meals my wife served you, I swear it was enough for me to work two jobs.” They all laughed and for the first time since his arrival, Peter smiled.

“You were there, on the night she had her accident. The two of you had just finished racing her beloved remote controlled pink Cadillac that Harrison had built for her. And you, Peter… my husband had made a black Jeep for you. He said it was impenetrable to any obstacle and it sure did stand a lot of rollovers and smashups.” Miranda pulled out a wad of tissues and patted her eyes then continued. “I had gone into labor and with Harrison out of town for work, the two of you were hell bent on taking me to the hospital. With no other option, I climbed into the bike trailer which is designed for a toddler, maybe two.” Laughter erupted, and Peter also chuckled, on the edge of his seat as he listened.

Miranda’s voice wavered. “You towed me, Peter, with all the strength in your little nine year old legs. Savannah rode alongside me, constantly reminding me to breath. We rounded the corner on Maple, literally a half block away from the hospital. Before any of us could process…”

At this point, she wailed into her tissues. Harrison knelt beside her and held her, reassuring her that all was well. She dabbed at her watery eyes and kept going. “Before we knew what was happening, a car, from what seemed out of nowhere, hit Savannah from the side and kept driving. I remember hearing not only the sound of brakes but the bone chilling sound of her little metal bike being dragged for meters, with her young body pinned beneath, being torn to shreds.”

Both Ophelia and Olivia came to their mother’s side and hugged her, as they openly wept. They knew this story word for word, though not being there but in hearing it retold many times.

Harrison continued where his wife could not. “But consider this amazing part of the story though, Pete. You managed to swerve, while controlling your bike and the load behind you,” he said this with a big smile, through his own tears painting his stubbly face. ”You made it to the ER. Because of you, not only was my wife untouched but my twin daughters you see here today were able to come into this world, happy and healthy! You are a hero; our hero.”

They all touched Peter, whether an arm or leg. Miranda full-on hugged him and at that moment, Peter began to sob.

“I do remember her! Blond and always smiling, with that dimple on her cheek!” Peter took a tissue and dried his eyes. “Can we talk more tomorrow? I want to hear more. I want to remember.”

They filed out of the darkened room and Peter laid back, pulling the covers tight to his chest.

Buried Yet Breathing10.

Earth. Peter’s home, hours after the supposed funeral…
Friends and family came and went the duration of the day, checking in on the living, breathing corpse. Peter lay in bed, stoic and practically motionless. Person after person that looked in on him and spoke to him and patted his hand, poking and prodding, was unrecognizable to him. Mother would bring in family photos, books of them, and he didn’t even recognize himself.
Mother would plead, “Petey, you must know me! Don’t you know how you’re breaking my old heavy set heart, son?!”

Peter would look away with anyone in the room, staring out the window, to the vacant beyond. He knew this Mother character was different; that she loved him like no other. He looked up at her then down as he spoke. “Please don’t be hurt. I don’t even know myself, let alone anyone else here on this earth.”

“Well, where did you go? What was there?” Mother’s tears streamed down her plump face again.

Peter looked toward the window then said, “I can’t explain it, let alone tell you where. It was cold, dark. I wasn’t me, I had no body.” He stopped and closed his eyes. “I feel like there was something there for me, Mother. I don’t know what and I guess I never will, but I felt a calling.”

Mother stood up, fed up with her hands on her big hips. “Your calling is to be friggin alive, Peter! Your calling is to be here with us, it’s your destiny and I won’t have you talk about anything other than that. I won’t let you leave me.” She stormed out of the room, pulling the door tight.

He wanted to leave but where would he go? These people made him sick. They weren’t family. They were all unknown strangers, and he did not belong amongst them. This woman called Mother didn’t deserve to have kids. If anyone should be dead, it’s her!

He felt no pain, though the numbness in his limbs reminded him of his limited movement. Skin pale and cold to the touch. There could only be one plan: he would suffer through all these visitors, pleading to him how much they cared for him and then use all his strength to make his way out of the house. Destination currently unknown.

Aunts and Uncles. Dogs and nieces. A local news reporter. Pretty much everyone in that little town and littler neighborhood had come through that day. And still more!

The family of a girl who had known Peter quite well dropped by. Mother introduced them as Savannah’s family. Her little sisters fawned on him, all flirty though barely ten.

Their mother apologized and said, “You’ve been revered in our home as a special boy.” The dad rolled his eyes then grinned big. The mom continued. “Peter, I know you aren’t remembering anything really, but… do you recall our little Savannah?”

Peter shook his head. “I’m sorry, I don’t even remember my own reflection.”

She sat on the bed next to him and patted his knee. “I don’t blame you, honey. God knows what you’ve been through. My name is Miranda, by the way.”

One of the sisters took Peter by the hand and asked, “My big sister died on the night we were born. Me and my twin… Olivia. I’m Ophelia. Born eleven minutes later.”

Miranda laughed and wiped away a tear. “She was taken from us all way too soon. Peter, you and Savannah were kindred spirits. You were inseparable for years. Almost every waking moment, you two were together.”

Buried Yet Breathing8.

The boys did their best at sitting Peter up, by way of positioning themselves on either side of him, bookending him. Henry whispered to his brother, “Sorry I never cleared the lawn. Didn’t expect all this.” Peter turned his head slowly to look at his brother, then nodded.

Mother, now conscious and more emotional than anyone ever saw her, crawled over to her son. She cut herself on a log but kept on. She took his icy hand. He looked at her and questioned, “Am I your son? I can’t feel my arms or legs.”

She stared at him in disbelief, her blood pressure at an all- time high. Then she opened her ample mouth. “Yes, Peter, it’s me, Mother! Where have you been? We all thought we lost you! Don’t be like your father!! Don’t leave us like this! Smarten up, boy!”

At this point, everyone at the funeral was standing nearby, anxious to hear the answers. Even the dogs are crowding in, sniffing and sensing a response.

Peter glanced all around. None of these people he knew and though he understood that waking up in a coffin pre-burial was grounds for wonderment, he wished they’d all just go away. His eyes fell to the ground beneath him. “I….I don’t remember anything of this life. I assume you all know me, but I’m lost on you. I only can recall pieces of the next life.” Peter was spent at breathing, let alone explaining himself, a living corpse or not.

He spoke again, this time clearer. “When I was dead, I was lost. Alone. There was no heaven, and there was no hell.”

The old Minister blacked out, his lifeless body bouncing off the bird bath then landed sprawling onto the wet grass. Uncle Anthony, maybe shy of 60, clutched his heart, as though having a feigned heart attack. Aunt Betty’s dogs howled and circled the coffin, then urinated on the grass around it.

Mother, disturbed at all the disturbing behavior of her family and closest friends, put her foot down, literally. Like a sumo wrestler, with knuckles on her fat hips, she slammed one foot then the next down as she stood up. “I’m sure he’s kidding. He’s always been a jokester. But please… someone call 911! We need an ambulance for my son!”

Buried Yet Breathing7.

The coffin lid flew open like the cork off a champagne bottle, and the would-be corpse sat up, gasping for air. He looked around and felt his body, checking all limbs were intact as his lungs adjusted to the earthly air. His yellow three-piece suit was a mess of sweat and blood as he had been squirming and pounding on the wood with his bare knuckles and elbows and feet for what felt like hours. Wheezing, drooling and extremely disoriented, he locked eyes with Mother.

She clutched her mouth, chunks of excessive mascara pooling down her shocked face. “My Peter!! You’re alive! You’ve come back to me!” screamed Mother, mere seconds before fainting. With the back of her left hand against her forehead, as though on cue, she blacked out. Her thick legs gave way, crumpling in a heap on a pile of tinder.

Gasps and shrieks were heard collectively throughout the mystified crowd. The sight of a now-alive Peter, who was deathly pale and totally shaken, was enough make anyone question not only their sanity but how any of this could be possible. Most of the crowd stood back and squeezed their loved one or child, or stood in front of said loved one with outstretched arms of protection, as though a ferocious animal had just retained freedom and was about to pounce on them. Tensions and heart rates soared in the face of such profound shock.

His journey from life to death, then to life again didn’t do him justice. The embalming fluids injected into his body instantly created a violent puking scenario. With his pale hand on the edge of the casket, he projectile vomited what one might consider liters of bodily waste. More gasps were expelled and mother’s turned their children’s glances away from the debacle of throw up.

Peter breathed deeply and used his tailored sleeve to wipe clean his quivering mouth and teary eyes. Henry and Caulfield came to the side of their brother’s pine box, shrouded by a sense of nervousness they never knew before. After all, it was traumatizing enough seeing the brother die but now witnessing his rebirth?? With Peter’s arms around their shoulders, they lifted him slowly from his coffin and out onto the damp, wooded lawn. When they let go of him, Peter’s body gave way and he collapsed, in the same fashion as Mother, who was still unconscious, in the arms of the concerned Minister who was doting on her as he stroked her nest of hair.

“Oh, my sweet Mabel. I’m going to make you a sandwich when you come to. I don’t know why but I think you will want one. Does this sound good, Mabel? Mabel?” Upon saying her name, the Minister shook her repeatedly, her lifeless arms wagging around.

Buried Yet Breathing3.

There were vivid memories, or faded dreams, of the girl. In this place, though cold and unwelcoming, warm recollections washed over him, as though for the first time ever. Who was she? He fought with furthering this stream of thought as it would make him weak. Of all places for him to experience tender emotion, this was not it. The urge to escape was all too prevalent.

And so he dwelt on these amiable memories. His earthly brain had buried much so accessing this distant feed was indeed taxing. Her beauty was in front of him; he could almost touch her unblemished face in his blemished memory. An angel… earthly, yes. But was she truly a God send, even though the memory ran short. There was no finality to her presence. Her disappearance was unexplained and in the recesses of his post-mortal life, what became of her was a mystery.

From where he came, of whom he once was and where he was now… there were no pieces to put together. A strong sense of yearning and the ever clear knowledge that he had, in fact, perished was all that rang true in his apparitions psyche.

This couldn’t be heaven. Was it hell? The latter shouldn’t be true either because as fragmented as his memories were, hell was a terrifying place with fire, darkness and separation from anything good. He hadn’t seen fire here yet, so quite possibly he was in the abyss. Darkness loomed and no one was there to save him; that was for sure. This was most definitely the afterlife. But he was so alone. Or was he?

Now and again, a vibrating murmur could be noted, coming from all sides. Each direction spewed forth a violent mumble. A language unknown yet it was verbal, it had to have been. The confusion lie in that he saw no other presence so he was tricked into thinking it was something else. Anything else. A storm in the distance maybe. The topography settling. Stars colliding with wherever this was. The murky shades of grey were darker than the blackest night.

Timid to respond, though maybe for the best. What came out of his mouth sounded like gibberish. The language he once spoke in the previous life did not work for him here. He yelled at the top of what would have been his earthly lungs, and more nonsensicality spewed forth. The defeat of everything weighed on him heavily. The ability to speak had now been removed on top of all.

Blasts of wind caressed him and the murmurs got louder. It was as though heavy wings brushed his canvas, and the once silenced voices begged to be heard. Quiet groans, screaming whispers and a variety of tones of voices was becoming more and more audible. He spun around, searching the grey for visions of people… other apparations… anything tangible and to provide answers. Something was trying to communicate with him and it was happening all at once.

Audible reminders of his life became noticeable through the nonsense. Voices of the past maybe?

The intensity of this onslaught of muffled voices barking for his attention took over. He closed his eyes and tried to cover his ears, nor could he respond in the same fashion. He felt a cold, searing breeze and then there was a pull, stretching him and spinning him. A vivid, blue light encircled him, setting him on fire with a deep blue glow. He bolted skyward, propelled forward into oblivion.

Hurtling through the cosmos, he remained in a frozen state, unable to move if he wanted to. The pressure was great. His breath left him. If he had a heart, it stopped. Blacking out was the only option.

Buried Yet Breathing2.

Not a single soul to be seen, he was truly alone here in this god forsaken catacomb. He came to a sudden halt in a sort of room, though open and vast beyond four walls. There were clear pools filling this place, and upon inspection of his reflection, he saw nothing of what he hoped or expected to see. Clearly transparent, yet visibly cloudy, almost murky. He was large yet couldn’t have weighed an ounce. Tall, yet near microscopic. The seemed to be no rules in this place; no constants.

A deep sense of separation weighed on him, almost unbearably so. Not only separated from all he knew, the life he once had, family but separation from his very self. In this afterlife, or whatever this was, so much was left behind and in now moving forward, all identity was wiped clean. His name, prior beliefs, his morality, age… none of it was there for debate. None of it was there to help him backtrack or to move forward. This truly must be a purgatory, for he had never known such limbo.

And then, in what could only be described as lightning entering a raw, exposed nerve, fragmented memories played through behind his eyelids with full-on surround sound. Visions of a little boy, maybe three years of age, storming around in a field, wearing a silver cape and wielding a makeshift wooden sword. He was ferocious. He swung that weapon mercilessly and slashed at the open air with a tenacity beyond his age. The invisible enemies he fought were surely no match. The vision shifted to the same boy sitting in his mother’s lap, as she read aloud a tale of good versus evil. He was enthralled. He smiled big and closed his eyes, letting his own illustrations flow over his mom’s words. As she read of a great battle, with his eyelids still shut he made faces of war; cringes and pursed lips, as he imagined fighting along with his hero. Then there he was in front of the door to their home, opening it to see a beautiful little girl in the doorway. They ran around the house, fighting imaginary creatures and hiding together in closets or crawl spaces. Her long blond hair and her delighted shrieks of laughter echoed. He felt a flooding of joy as these visions played out before him. The connection was strong. It was a moment that should never end.

Another jolt of hot electricity shot through him. This time, he saw a young man filling a giant canvas with… he had to focus hard to see what had been expressed. It looked like a menacing demon of old taunting a beautiful, monstrous angel, glowing in white gold and exposing his razor sharp sword, probably poised to slice his unbridled enemy in two. The demon had a fire in his dark eyes he had never witnessed before, and the sneer of a victor, yet he knew better. To tangle with an angel meant no victory. This he knew and would not accept otherwise.

The painting made his heart race. A perfect stew of nerves, fear and curiosity overtook him. And in that moment, great wings undulated in his very face and his eyes closed, only to re-open and realize where he actually was. Trapped in this catacomb, and alone.

Buried Yet Breathing1.

BURIED YET BREATHING

Chapter One.
As he opened his eyes, he knew he was dead. There was nothing telling him otherwise, as no memories were accessible of his past life. All senses were alive. The darkness overwhelmed but the harder his eyes searched the black, shapes started to become visible. Rough edges. Blurred inception.

He laid silent, not moving, as his eyes surveyed his surroundings. The landscape was like none other than he had known. Vast dips, rugged peaks and shallow craters amidst soil and rock. A still pool lay adjacent to where his body lie. No sign of life. As his eyes became more familiar with the shadows, he could see his breath, alarming him of the cool temperature.

He wanted to wake up, as though this was some kind of nightmare. He wanted to move his feet but first needed to sit then stand. None of this made any sense to him and as he tried push himself off the cold ground with his hands, he realized that he had none. Terror gripped him as he tried moving his feet, only to discover that he bore none.

What was happening? Where was he? And what exactly was he? These thoughts of horror raced through his spinning mind. The agony of being without hands and feet, and mind you, dead, all was making for a horrible day. He cried out but made no sound. Totally locked inside, as though he were a mute paraplegic. And not a solitary soul available to offer help or any kind of guidance on the happenings at hand.

Focusing beyond any sort of lucidity he’s known before, his paralysis was short lived. Delving deep into the recesses of his mind, he lifted himself slowly off the ground and began awkwardly transporting himself upwards into what would be considered a standing pose, though hovering over the soil. Bending, convulsing, jerking then righting himself repeat. An infant standing for the first time was a hundred times more graceful. And then, in a flash, he moved at the speed of light down the rocky peak, inside of a maze in the belly of a great mountain. Slowing down, he took in the dense and ancient hills, valleys and gorges. Everything was untouched yet dark and dirty.