Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the third installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
As he approached the outskirts of Soddy-Daisy, Steve decided he wasn't going to visit his mother, not just yet. Perhaps the deaths of Tommy Joe and Mindy were an omen. The curious fact that they would die before his very eyes on the day he'd returned home wasn't lost on him.
He needed to face his demons, maybe even exorcise them once and for all. He turned off the main road onto an unmarked dirt road and followed it to those forbidden places at the crest of the hill where it had all begun and where it all had ended.
He stepped from the car and surveyed the scene before him. Little had changed in all those years. The road was still unfinished forcing visitors there to walk the remaining 500 yards to the top of the hill. He took a deep breath and began his hike to that point ahead where the sky and earth seemed to meet. Of course it was only a matter of perspective, for when he reached the crest the horizon would be formed where another hill and sky met in the distance. For Steve, however, there was nothing beyond.
Winded from the ascent, he stopped before the worn rocky path. He suspected that few had tread upon it, and yet after all those years no vegetation had taken root. He mused for a moment as Robert Frosts' poem, The Road Not Taken came to mind. Unlike the wayfarer in the poem, Steve knew exactly where both directions would lead him. To his right lie the old quarry where Eddie had died. He turned instead to his left, to where Eddie had been laid to rest.
He stood before the rusty wrought iron arch marking the entrance to the small unattended cemetery. Dead undergrowth and fallen tree branches were strewn about, belying the fact that beloved departed resided there. He wished nothing more at that moment than to turn around and to forsake his purpose for coming to that place. He wiped away the perspiration that had collected on his forehead and stepped through the arch.
Only a few yards inside he stumbled over a toppled headstone. He brushed aside the leaves hiding the inscription upon it. He choked back a wave of emotion that began to sweep over him. He had almost forgotten, no he had long, long ago suppressed the memory that they had been buried there. He was not there to pay respects to George and David Cooper. As they had been interred here, so too had he buried them. His father and his younger brother and the memory of them would have to remain in the deep recesses where suppressed memories belonged.
He knelt before Eddie's grave and clasped his hands. He gazed upon the face of the weathered headstone and read aloud the inscription upon it, "Edward Nolan - Jan.12, 1980-Dec.29, 1997." A sudden wind picked up and he felt a chill course through his body. He tensed and looked about his surroundings. Was he having that dream again? He pinched himself to make sure he was awake.
He reached his arm forth. He wanted to touch the headstone but felt afraid to do so. He studied the earth before the stone grave marker. He had to be certain that the earth wasn't going to move. He fell backward as some leaves shifted upon the grave. A cricket emerged from beneath the dry foliage and scrambled for another place to hide.
He managed a nervous laugh as he stood up. He then looked down upon the grave and pleaded to its occupant, "Eddie, please forgive me." He closed his eyes and added, "I'm sorry I haven't been here before now to pay you the proper respect you rightfully deserve."
He was still trembling as he was once again following the path, leaving the cemetery behind. He knew he should be home seeing his mother, but there was one more thing he had to. He had to return to that quarry, to the last place where he'd seen Eddie alive ten years ago.
The path ended in the center of a large clearing. He stood there for a moment orienting himself. Satisfied he was in the right place, he moved slowly straight ahead to where the rim of the quarry would be. He stopped at its edge and carefully peered over the edge. He could see some of the large boulders at the bottom of the quarry fifty feet below.
Slow motion images of Eddie falling head first over the edge played somewhere in his mind's eye. He cupped his ears trying to silence his friend's cries as he fell to his death. He strained in attempt to shield himself from seeing the image of Eddie's broken body on the blood-stained rocks far below. He tried not to feel the terror and the guilt of what they'd done.
Steve fell down onto the ground and wept, his profuse tears soaking the ground next to his hand. Then through the tears he caught sight of something reflecting the sunlight into his face. His fingers groped the spot next to a dry root until they fell upon the smooth surface of something. He sat upright and studied the object in his hand. It was a pair of earth-encrusted eyeglasses. One of the lenses was cracked and bits of glass were missing.
He tried to stand up but the soil at the edge of the quarry suddenly shifted. Steve tried to scream as he felt himself sliding over the edge. It was the same spot where Eddie had fallen.
To be continued.... Echoes of Eddie -4