The cemetery had been nearing capacity when I was first buried, but this was getting ridiculous. The dirt shifts over my head, almost imperceptible. I feel it as a kind of faraway pulse, less a sound or a sight than a sense of change, of life invading a shrine of death. I imagine I can feel sunbeams on my dry, withered bones. I am much too far down to feel the world above, but I can imagine. I’d close my eyes if it’d make any difference. If I had eyelids and if my world wasn’t perpetual darkness anyway. I am the first of this hole. Perhaps the last of this decayed land to have ever laid in a bed of dirt alone. Those days are long gone.
I am the first.
The lawyer is the second.
When the dirt shifted for the first time, I was close enough to see the sky, for a split second. A sliver of blue through a crack in the wood. I heard birds, for a split second. I felt almost alive, for the time it took for them to heave his old, bloated body onto mine. Our coffins crunched together, the rotten wood of my abode giving way easily to this new inhabitant. They covered us in dirt, we perpetual roommates, and they left us there to figure out how to split the rent. I was myself for a moment longer and then suddenly I was he and he was me and we were us and there was no one else.
I was a man in a suit adjusting his tie in the mirror. I was a boy of twelve on a softball team. I was tall and short and handsome and plain all at once. I was kissing my wife on her soft, pink cheeks. I was bouncing a baby boy on my lap. I was crashing a plane. I was loving someone with my entire heart. I was utterly alone. I was in a courtroom, and I was commanding that room like it was my empire. I was smart, smarter than I had ever been. I was taking my kid to school. I was looking at a bar stool through the bottom of a glass. I was who I was, and I was who he was. I was a dead pilot and a dead lawyer.
His life nourished me for a few years. I scrubbed through it like a cassette tape, rewinding and fast-forwarding at leisure. I knew he did the same, for half the time. My tape is much shorter than his.
The next was the addict.
When the dirt shifted for the second time, I saw nothing but black above me. The ground had softened, and we had sunk, the lawyer and I, and I knew then that I would never hear birds again, except in memory. A dull thud came from above and it did not feel like loving hands. Someone had wanted her buried here, in the church courtyard. Someone had insisted. But a proper ceremony, that she would not get. In the stillness, I waited. I felt the vibrations from shovels tossing dirt into the pit and I waited. When the dust settled, I was she and she was me.
I was pressing needles into my skin, finding blueish, purplish veins. I was lying on hard cobblestone, my shoulder blades cut to pieces by grit and time. I was gambling my first pay away. I was running from my dad. I was taking money for favours. I was trying to figure out how to kill myself. I was walking in a park at sunset. I was getting my wings. I was nosediving in my first solo flight. I was selling my grandmother’s ring for a hit. I was being abused. I was abusing myself. I was a dead pilot, a dead lawyer, a dead addict.
Her tape was even shorter than mine.
The others came slowly. The teacher, the murderer, the pastor. Stacked on top of me, on top of us, like long forgotten books in a dusty basement box. I was each of them and they were me.
I did not know cemeteries ran so deep. But people would always be dying, and expanding our field of decay would encroach upon the living. And so, we remained, layered, us obedient dead.
Today, it is the child. The dirt barely shifts anymore when we gain new companions. I am too far from the surface, and we are too compact. I welcome her in silence, and I wait.
Her tape is shorter still.
I was lying in a field. I was too drunk to feel the pain of a broken neck, a broken everything. I was playing with my dollhouse. I was hugging my mom. I was smelling my burning hair. I was staring at the birds overhead. I was writing on the walls in blue crayon. The blue of sky. I was putting ribbons in my hair. I was lying and cheating. I was gasping for breath under a wave, and under open air. I was watching the water swirl under me. I was begging for death. I was clutching on for dear life. Blue above and blue below.
I am death itself. I am life itself. This is the endless in between.
Cassandra Sarah Pegg (she/her) is an Honours English Literature and Psychology student at Concordia University, Montreal. She dabbles in poetry, occasionally finishes a short story, and is a serial hobbyist. Cassandra is the co-founder/co-EIC of Crab Apple Literary. She has fiction and poetry published in places like Dollar Store Magazine, Metatron Press’ #MicroMeta Instagram series, All Worlds Wayfarer, Gnashing Teeth Publishing, and Beaver Magazine.