Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
I graduated from high school a few years back. I still live with my parents, but I’m using this time to my advantage. They’re kind enough not to charge rent and that allows me the ability to save up almost every penny I make. The hope is that I can one day start up a small, but legitimate business and move into my own apartment. You know, the American dream.
You see, much to my parents’ dismay, I don’t have a steady job. I prefer to take a DIY approach and be my own boss. I buy and re-sell things online and take up odd jobs here and there to supplement my income. With the help of social media and Craigslist, I’m able to regularly mow lawns in spring and summer, rake leaves in autumn, and shovel driveways in winter. Eventually I’ll have enough to buy a decent car and reach clients outside of town, and maybe even hire a few lackeys.
What I’m here to share with you, however, is an incident that occurred almost two years ago – one that keeps me on edge to this day.
In my first year of “business”, I introduced a flower delivery service. Depending on the season, I’d either pick flowers from around town or buy them from the local florist, then deliver them to a person of my client’s choosing. Though it wasn’t my most popular service, it did bring in some good money. You’d be surprised at how much folks are willing to pay to woo a loved one with plants.
In all the time that I biked flowers back and forth from person to person, I only ever picked up one regular. His name was Red, and he was absolutely infatuated with his girlfriend, Claira. Once a month, I would deliver a dozen roses to the local hotel where she worked. No matter how many times I went over there with the same bouquet, she always acted surprised and delighted to no end. They really did have something special, and I was happy to be apart of their lives, at least in some small way.
But then February rolled around.
Albeit my least popular odd job, I do gain a little traction during the Valentine’s season. Along with the additional customers, Red goes all out and has me deliver three bouquets on the week leading up to the holiday. Between these deliveries and keeping up with my usual services, February beats the hell out of me.
This particular Valentine’s week was a little different. It was getting close to the big day and I hadn’t received a single order from Red. I usually don’t get attached to my clients, but I was quite fond of Red and Claira. Because of this, I decided to reach out to him.
I tried calling him – no dice. Nothing but dial tones and voicemail. I thought about riding over to the hotel to ask Claira about it, but that would cut into the rest of the work I had lined up for the day. With no viable options available to me, I simply went about my day and kept a positive mindset. Something felt off, but I was sure it was nothing to worry about.
The next day, Red called back. He was fine, but there was something he wanted to discuss with me. Of all of the phone conversations I’ve ever had, this one tops the list for most bizarre.
Red hadn’t ordered any flowers because he was getting ready to pop the question to Claira. He wanted the lack of gifts that week to leave her confused and then catch her completely off guard on V-Day by asking for her hand in marriage. I was happy for them, but that’s when the conversation took an unexpected turn.
Red didn’t have a ring. He was wealthy and could afford whatever jewelry he wanted, but not just any engagement ring would suffice. He wanted his mother’s ring; the one his father proposed with. It was the only one he felt was fitting – the only one worthy enough to be wrapped around her finger. There was just one problem – his mother was buried with it.
And then came the weird part.
Red offered me $10,000 in cash to dig up his mother’s grave and retrieve the ring from her dead finger. He said that he would do it himself, but he didn’t have the nerve. He couldn’t bring himself to defile her grave-site like that. He wasn’t exactly comfortable with me doing it either, but he truly felt this was the only way he could propose to his one true love.
I pleaded with the guy, I really did. I told him to go to Jared’s – I mean, women love rings from Jared’s, seriously! But alas, he wouldn’t budge on the matter. And whether it was the allure of money that I could use to expand my business or the desire to help out a desperate friend in need, I grudgingly accepted the job.
I’m not going to make any excuses here. I know you think I’m crazy for doing it, and yes I most certainly was. I know this now – hell, I knew it then too, but have you ever looked back on something you did in your past and wondered, “What the hell was I thinking?” Well, this is one of those moments for me. And try as one might, you can’t go back and change the stupid shit you’ve done. This is something I’ll just have to live with.
Under the light of a full moon, I biked over to the cemetery. As conspicuous as the shovel protruding from my backpack looked, I managed to make it the whole way there without any trouble. After passing the black entrance gates, I laid my bike down and set out on foot.
The graveyard was consumed by a late-winter chill and an uneasy silence. My footsteps cut through the crisp night air, creating echoes that danced from headstone to headstone. I turned back from time time and told myself it was to check for passing cars, but really I was afraid of ghosts lurking in the shadows. I never really believed in them, but being surrounded by hundreds of buried corpses in the middle of the night can do a number on your psyche.
Growing more nervous with each passing moment, I trotted to the back of the cemetery in haste. My hurried pace was soon impeded by a fresh pile of white marble, upon which was etched the name, “Abigail Grovewood”, in a stunningly elegant font. This was it. This was Red’s mother, right where he said she’d be. It was time to get down to business.
In the hopes of saving at least a little bit of face, I will say, that in this moment, what I was doing did feel deeply wrong on a moral level. I was about to vandalize and rob the grave of a deceased stranger. She didn’t deserve this, and I very well knew it. How would I live with myself knowing that I disturbed her peaceful slumber? That question had a simple answer – with $10,000 in my pocket, that’s how. I had come too far to turn back and I foolishly felt that this was the best way to further my financial endeavors. May God have mercy on my soul.
The whole process only took about six and a half hours – a little less time than I expected. I suppose shoveling driveways every year prepared me for this pivotal, yet strange moment in my life. After all was said and done, I looked at the coffin below and panted profusely. Despite being utterly exhausted, I had no time to waste. Daylight was on its way, and I had to get the hell out of Dodge before it shrouded the land of the dead.
With how narrow the hole was, there was no way I could open up the coffin by conventional means. Adding insult to injury for poor Abigail, I had to use my shovel to break through the confines of her death bed. Eventually, I desecrated the entire cover, allowing me ample room to retrieve the ring, no matter which hand it was on. Victory was within reach.
Before taking my prize, I looked at the woman I was about to steal from. The sight of her corpse was a grotesque one – she’d only been buried for about a year, so her flesh had not fully decayed yet. It sat on her skin like batter on an undercooked drumstick. To top it off, maggots crawled around every inch of her surface. It was sickening.
Just as I was about to reach past the flesh-eating bugs and grab Abigail’s hand, something crazy happened. It was dark, that’s for sure, but I swear I saw her begin to sit up in her grave. The movement was subtle, but it was enough for me to take notice. I was startled, but it took a few seconds for the gravity of the situation to sink in. When it did, I became so spooked that I hightailed it out of there without a second thought.
And that is the gist of my late-night adventure. Pretty lame, right? I went through all of that grief just to chicken out at the last minute? Pathetic, I know, but you weren’t there to experience it. As I climbed out of the hole, I thought I felt something brush against my ankle – perhaps Abigail’s brittle hands attempting to pull me to my death. As I ran to my bike, I pictured her crawling up from her earthly tomb and chasing me down the road until I was inevitably captured. This was the single most frightening night of my life – I was scared to death and didn’t care about Red or the $10,000. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
Of course, upon arriving home, logic set in, and I realized the error of my ways. It was entirely possible that Abigail was as still as stone and I only thought I saw her move. What I felt against my ankle was more than likely maggots crawling up my pant leg. I had let the eerie atmosphere of the cemetery get the better of me and was now out ten grand and a good friend. Just my god damn luck.
I almost went back, but the sun was beginning to rise. I couldn’t risk being spotted and going to jail (though that was a likely outcome regardless). Instead, I wallowed in self-pity and ignored Red’s calls for a couple of days. Soon enough, my failed grave robbery was all over the news. But here’s the thing – when the police discovered my handiwork, something was profoundly amiss.
Abigail’s casket was empty.
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