The horse kept its distance from the hand. This told John that it could’t have been good news. The horse stopped a few feet from it and relaxed its body as if saying ‘get off and go find out’.
John stood next to the horse for a moment. He took two fingers and dug the tobacco out of his mouth. He threw it to the ground where it lie like a small pile of mud.
“I guess I should prepare, just in case,” he said.
The horse moved its body and bumped into John. John turned and saw the card was hanging out of the horse’s mouth.
“Boy oh boy, you really want me to believe in this card, eh Mystery?”
The horse nodded.
John took the card from the horse’s mouth and stuck it in his pocket.
John gave Mystery one last pat on the back and then started to walk away.
“Just don’t go running on me,” he said to the horse. “I have a feeling there’s more out here than you and I but I also feel that you and I are the only good that’s left.”
John walked slow towards the hand. He noticed there was something behind the hand. Something bigger. . . roundish. . . with dead weeds or flowers. . .
“A grave?” John asked.
But that’s what it was. A grave. A few steps closer and he could make out the full headstone and the mound of black dirt. Then John noticed the closer he walked towards the grave, the more of them he saw. Two more appeared behidn the first. Then three to the left. Four to the right. Two more behind the first two and so on and so on. They were all graves. That’s when he realized he must have stumbled up on a cemetery. It gave John a feeling of hope. It reminded him of what the world had once been. He wondered if he dug through the sand, maybe he’d find more the world. Or perhaps if he kept travelling in that direction, he would find the park bench he’d fallen alseep on.
The happy thoughts soon faded when he saw that all the graves were the same even down to the hand sticking out. It sent chills through his body – the first time he had ever felt goose bumps pop up in such heavy heat. The back of his neck was sweating and burning from the sun. He looked down to his feet and watched as his shadow was moving from his left to almost in front of him. He wasn’t sure why but he felt afraid at the moment. He thought about the card. . . the saying. . .
open, alive, dead.
As the seconds moved, his shadow was growing with the setting sun.
John’s fear was starting to grow into terror when he realized that he may have to face a night in the desert. The only saving grave he had for himself was that it seemed empty.
“I’ll come back tommorow,” he whispered as he scanned the headstones.
Maybe it was his inner child playing tricks, but the idea of being in a cemetery at night scared him. Not to mention a cemetery with hands sticking out the ground. Each hand looked crusted and all the fingers were bent in different directions.
John thought he saw one of the hands move but told himself it was the heat and the desert playing tricks on his mind. He told himself that maybe even after going to sleep he’d awake back to when the world was real and whole. Maybe everything happening was nothing but an all-too-real-bad-dream.
Feeling satisfied – and with another burning urge for more tobacco – John turned to walked back towards Mystery.
When John turned there were hands everywhere. The appeared out of nowhere. It was the same stone, same hand, same flowers next to the grave. There had to be hundreds of the graves. Everywhere John looked there were graves. He looked back at Mystery. The horse kept its gaze at him. Its big eyes told him nothing. He suddenly felt worried that he may never see Mystery again.
John kept his wits about himself. He didn’t panic and he didn’t scream. Whatever was happening perhaps had to do something with the setting sun. It seemed the lower the sun got and the bigger John’s shadow grew, the more weird stuff that happened. For John, he convinced himself it was easy. He just needed to keep his eyes on the graves, his periphal vision on Mystery, and walk as slow as need be to get back to the horse and get moving again.
Three steps into his plan, one of the hands grabbed his ankle.