Highly Commended Story - In the Cemetery
“In the Cemetery” by Aniruddha Aloke, Home-schooling, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Aniruddha Aloke is a home-schooling student. He enjoys reading about politics, history, physics and geography. He has begun writing stories and articles a couple of years ago. He is an avid reader of fantasy books. Especially those books concerned with space and time are his favourites. In writing, he always followed the rule of listening to his own instincts. Aniruddha aspires to be a writer and participating in contests has definitely taken him further in this direction.
In the Cemetery
I was at my grandfather’s grave that morning. For eighteen years I had been with him. He used to be my storyteller, my friend. Occasionally, we had discussions and arguments. He was an atheist cosmologist. Three years ago he had suddenly died. I missed him a lot. On his death anniversary, we went to the cemetery and lay flowers on his grave. But it was always ‘we’. Never I. I avoided being at the graveyard by myself.
Except on his third anniversary as my mom was sick I went their alone. It was a warm but very quiet. Even the watchman’s shed seemed to be empty. I walked past it to Grandpa’s grave. After standing there for a while, I felt someone’s gaze on me. I turned and saw a man standing beside the bench. He was wearing a huge overcoat, covering himself as much as he could. He could easily be a beggar. Was he going to ask for something?
My first thought was to turn and leave but he raised his little hand, “Hi!”
“Hi! I have never seen you here.” I replied, tugging my hands in my pockets. “Are you the relative of a deceased?”
He seemed to turn thoughtful but also fazed by the question. “No, none of my kind is here... Do the deceased really live here?”
“Yes! Of course,” I said but my eyes widened. He looked crazy. The only reason I kept standing was that he could not harm me. He was a boy younger, shorter and definitely weaker than me. If he took any suspicious move, a kick or two would flatten him to the ground. “You are not a Christian perhaps, are you?” I asked.
“A Christian -did you say? What is a ‘Christian’?”
“Have you been living under a rock for two thousand years?” I laughed out.
“No, I have not even been here for that much time. I have heard this word many times, but no one has bothered to explain.” He replied. I found this quite peculiar. No one I had come across before said he did not know Christianity. “What religion are you then?”
“I don’t really know.” He replied. I went closer and showed the small cross with the Christ engraving. It was hung around my neck in a locket. He stared at it in fascination. I asked him if he had seen it before.
“Yeah, I have seen a statue like this but a hundred folds bigger. It is atop the church.”
I nodded. “What is your name?” He told me that he and others of his kind did not have such things.
“Funny! Everyone has a name.”
“Not our people.”
“You are some kind of a foreigner?”
He suddenly turned and walked off to sit on one of the coffins. I thought that his behaviour was abnormal; he could be mad. I started walking back. Suddenly he got up, ran upto me and caught my arm. He was about a head shorter. He removed his hat and said, “You are a nice man!” I was surprised, “Oh! You have violet eyes. And your ears! You don’t have ears?”
“Yes, no one around my place does.”
“There is no place,” I said taking a step back, “in this world where people look like you.”
“Yes, not in this world. But in my world, where I can never return.” I shivered. He noticed it and said in a single breadth, “Yes. I came on Earth, but by mistake lost my contact device. I was greedy; I thought I will earn a high rank. I will become master of this Earth. So I took the job. But I was wrong. Earth is so huge that even all the people of my planet can’t own it. Lots and lots of hydrogen bombs, chemical weapons and missiles. Even those who return are sad. They say that they should never have separated themselves from their family.”
I noticed his eyes turning large and wet. I pulled away my hand but did not run away as my intention had been. “What nonsense! You mean that aliens gave you this job! And why would anyone give it to a little boy like you?”
He grinned, “Just don’t call me a boy. If I was born here, I would be aged about sixty. Still... The people of my planet.” He said dreamily. “You know we fear the humans a lot. All the great wars and two thousand nuclear bomb explosions within Earth years... we have observed them from deep space. When you began sending these spaceships all across your star system, we feared that one day you may reach us. ”
“Why are you... telling me all this?”
He started laughing, slowly at first, then more loudly. Until at last, I felt as if the sound was ringing all around me. “Because I cannot keep living here like this. You have found the truth. Go and tell the world. Let them capture me... kill me. What are you thinking?”
“Shut up! You LIAR,” I shouted.
“No! No, I never lie.” His face reddened. He grabbed my hand again. I screamed, “Let me go.” But he didn’t. His hand kept tightening me around my wrist. I hit him across his cheeks. He hit mine. I fell down on the ground. He laughed and wound his arms around my neck. I had never expected him to be so powerful. In the middle of the cemetery, I was fighting for my life against a man whom I thought I could flatten with a couple of kicks. Now he was kicking me and we were rolling on the ground. He began digging his nails into my skin. His small fists kept ramming against my skull.
Then everything was swept by darkness. I woke up lying on the cold ground of the cemetery. The man was nowhere in sight. I somehow got to my feet and fled.