Estimated reading time — 3 minutes
It was hardly past seven that morning when the Gravedigger saw the Earth stir. Fingers, rotted and skeletal, burst forth from the dirt, and with force they pulled their bodies to freedom. It was happening all over the graveyard. Every grave. Every square inch of dirt was overturned. Soon, there were thousands; so many more than the graveyard actually held. A horde of the undead stood before him.
The Gravedigger watched, with his shovel in hand.
He found himself simultaneously horrified and fascinated. The creatures stumbled about. They moved with urgency, but their decrepit bodies only allowed for so much. Yelling and screaming, they started to coalesce near the center of the graveyard.
They were revolting, damned souls.
Just as the Gravedigger went to turn, to flee, a hand gripped his shoulder. The grime soaked deep into his sleeve. It leaked down his arm. Behind him, a man (what was left of him) stared into the Gravedigger’s eyes. The corpse’s face had long since lost its tissue, but it had eyes, returned anew to their sockets, that showed nothing but fear. The ghoul spoke to the Gravedigger, and the Gravedigger listened.
“Go,” It begged of him. “Please. Go.”
What sort of madness was this? What trickery of Hell? The Gravedigger brought his shovel to bear, and he swung it down on the corpse. It was met with a revolting, moist crunch. The figure fell. His fingers twitched, and his skull leaked.
From behind, three more figures came. Two ignored the Gravedigger. They bent to pick up the wounded husk at the Gravedigger’s feet. They dragged him on with all the strength they could muster. They carried him like a wounded ally. The third figure, what had once been a woman, perhaps, spoke to the Gravedigger.
“Go. Please. Tell them.”
The Gravedigger couldn’t move. He wouldn’t. These fiends were no masters of him. Why did they command him so? For what purpose? Answers! He demanded answers!
“Why?” he asked, the words falling out of his bearded face. “Why aren’t you in the ground?”
The ghoul didn’t blink. She simply told him the terrible truth.
“Hell isn’t safe anymore.”
Those words. The Gravedigger couldn’t even comprehend them. What was the meaning of them? Hell? Safe? What kind of haven was the pit of eternal damnation?
“What are you talking about?”
Had she a tear to cry she would have let it fall. Instead, she had to use her trembling voice to convey her fears.
“Lucifer is dead. He killed Him. He is coming.”
The words held no meaning for the Gravedigger, for he had not been there. He had not seen the horrors that even the denizens of Hell itself couldn’t describe. Then, from the graves, dark figures with eyes of flame and hatred came. They moved like smoke, and they filled the air with their sulfurous fumes. The Gravedigger watched as demons, Satan’s orchestrators of pain and suffering, began to assist the poor, wandering souls below. They started to stack atop each other. One by one, their bodies built the foundation.
What in the name of God? He could only ponder.
A collective lamenting cascaded down from the hills around. The Gravedigger saw them. From every direction more hordes moved together. More undead. They lumbered forth, with his cemetery in their sights. Their hellish rendezvous. The Gravedigger was speechless. The ghoul instructed him.
“Go. To your family. We’ll need them too.”
“My—” he questioned the request, “My family?”
“The living,” the thing corrected, her gaze skyward. “We’ll need them too, if we are to make it.”
“Make it? Where?”
The ghoul cried as she wandered forth. Urgency flooded her words.
“The gates! We have to make it to the gates.”
The Gravedigger shook his head. Their aim was clear, but his teachings were concrete.
“What’s judged is judged. He won’t take you, or any of us unworthy.”
That stopped her, if for just a moment. She turned, for he knew nothing.
“We seek not redemption,” she said. “We damned seek to warn the righteous.”
The honesty in the ghoul’s voice brought a heavy weight to the Gravedigger’s stomach. He couldn’t stand. The Earth below had started to tremble. The Gravedigger fell to the dirt as his knees gave in, and with his face to the ground, he heard it.
There was a deep, unbridled scream echoing below the surface. A demented laugh. The sound of a thousand hornet wings, and insect feet. It grew closer. Climbing. As he stood, bodies were flung atop each other, as the demons and the forgotten built their tower to salvation.
“Who is He?” The Gravedigger asked. It was his turn to plead, but the corpses said nothing. It didn’t take much for the Gravedigger to realize that they couldn’t respond even if they wanted to. They didn’t know.
As the Gravedigger ran home, the ghoul uttered a final mantra under her breath. The words still tasted so alien to her, so vile and disgusting. It was all they had left.
“God must know that He is coming.”
Credit: Ryan Brennaman
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