My classmates finally asked me where I work. I think they were all wondering this because my pants are always dirty, or because sometimes I come in sweaty to class, or because I come in with random things to hold my hair into a messy ponytail.
I work down the street, actually. There’s a cemetery there.
My job is to dig, sometimes by hand with a shovel, and sometimes with the machines. The job is simple, we get the spot location and dig either a standard-sized grave, an infant plot, or an extra large or double one. The dirt is always soft and black, and I’ve lost some weight since I started digging. It’s actually kind of a good workout.
I’ve never been there for an actual burial, but I have been there with the grieving relatives who sneak in there late into the night, sometimes while I’m digging. We have a team of two or three people, and we get these loud bright generator-powered lights to work when it gets dark. Most of the time, however, I had to be there early in the morning, before dawn.
One night, a coworker warned me about an older man who was sitting by a tree and had been there all night. Apparently his wife had just died. He was asked to leave but he refused. They said he didn’t seem dangerous, but to keep my phone on me in case I needed something. The security guard house was located at the entrance and they did their rounds every two hours or so. I know they skipped out on a few, but there were never any major issues.
Plot in section P4.
Another late night.
I dragged the generator to the foot of the hill, started it up, and got to work. That first instance when your shovel hits the ground was always the hardest. It meant that I still had a long ways to go. Then I needed to start up one more before I could call it a night. It’s best not to think about that sometimes.
I was halfway done when I happened to look up toward the tree on the left side of the hill, and sure enough, I could see a figure of a man sitting down, a hat covering his face.
I kept digging, but after a few minutes, I looked to the left again to look at the tree. I wanted to make sure he wouldn’t sneak up behind me, I don’t know. Call it paranoia, but us humans can have evil intentions at times. The dead are dead, they don’t bother me.
I finished up, looked at my post-it for the next plot, section P9, number 7. Just up the path, thankfully. It was close enough for me to not have to move the lights, but just rotate them a little to the left.
I didn’t bring my Bluetooth speakers this time, and even though my phone was on full blast, the empty field of the dead seemed to muffle my music. We weren’t allowed to wear earphones. I looked up and with the light now shining toward the tree, I got a clearer view of the man. The light didn’t seem bother him, neither did my music apparently.
I turned my back to the tree and started digging, but I didn’t feel comfortable that way, so I turned to the other side. I didn’t feel comfortable that way either, looking toward the tree and the man.
While standing there, deciding what to do, I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around.
Nobody was there.
I looked toward the tree, but the man was still there.
I felt another tap. It was rougher this time. It hurt a little bit.
I quickly turned around again, but no one was there.
I picked up my phone and called the security booth.
“Yes? What’s up?”
“Something weird is happening.”
“What? A ghost?” they replied, jokingly. I didn’t find it funny at all. Since I didn’t respond, they said, “I’ll be right over, where are you?”
I told him, and hung up. I put my shovel down and started walking toward the light setup a little ways down the path. Two steps in and I felt someone pulling on my hair. I screamed.
I tried to turn around and punch and kick at whatever was behind me, desperately trying to get away, but there was nothing there. I started running, cold sweat dripping down my forehead and my hair, now undone, sticking to my neck. I went past the lights and down the path, hoping to find the guard along the way.
I made it all the way to the security booth, but the guard’s golf cart was gone. The door was locked. I was planning on running all the way out into the parking lot, wondering how I would explain myself, when I saw the small headlights of the security guard approaching. I could hear him talking loudly on his phone. He was on with the local police.
It turns out that he went around the hill toward where I told him I was, but couldn’t find me. He got off his cart to ask the man by the tree if he had seen me, but the man didn’t respond. He got closer, repeating his question even louder, but the man wouldn’t budge.
In a last attempt, the guard tapped the man on the shoulder and the man toppled over. He was dead. He was dead the whole time.
I didn’t think much of the events of that night until I walked up to the tree with one of my coworkers a few days later. Maybe because I hadn’t gone there because I didn’t want to freak myself out. They couldn’t believe it, and we walked up to check out the scene as I told them my story of that night.
Then, something caught my eye. At the base of the tree was something familiar. It was a yellow plastic bracelet. It was mine. I was using it to hold up my hair that night.