Why are people afraid of death? It’s only natural; it’s the order of life. Everything must come to a conclusion. That particular question has puzzled old Thomas Frye. For a quarter of his lifetime he has been wondering why people squirm at the word. Thomas thinks otherwise of death. To him it’s a gift that everyone should strive for, the prize at the end of the race. Isn't what being human all is about? The desire to win the race?
Or course no one in their right minds would understand Mr. Frye. And no one should, for you see old Thomas Frye is the town’s gravedigger. He understood death more than anyone. All the residents in this small little barren town had their respected roles. There was Henry the doctor, Peter the dentist, Julia the caretaker and Thomas the gravedigger. Yes there are others with their careers; however Thomas never did care for them. In reality he didn’t care about the town.
Thomas has lived in this town since its earliest stages, when the first citizens lived their lives as if hate never existed. Thomas moved in the town with his first wife, Ariel to find shelter and solitude. Their family despised the two getting married; an old family rivalry never bothered them. They were in love and nothing would break their wedded vow. “Till death do us part” That was the promise. Unfortunately the promise was broken when Ariel passed away five years later.
“There’s nothing we could do to save her” Henry the doctor said to a heart broken Thomas with a hint of defeat in his voice.
“I understand doctor; it had to be this way”
Did it have to be this way? Thomas had thought. The loss of his wife was his first encounter with death; and he found it to be interesting. Thomas never considered himself to be a religious man; however there are things in life that are hard to explain. Who is in charge of life and death? Who is the one that dictates if someone should live or die? Within no time Thomas gave up his lucrative career as a fish salesman to become the town’s gravedigger. The first corpse he buried was his late wife. He took it as a sign.
Thomas has been the gravedigger for fifty years. Never remarried and never had children. How could he? If he knew death would take them also and would have to bury their grave. Thomas couldn’t stand the sight of burying his own children. It was safe this way. Every time he entered the town’s dark, old cemetery he feels welcomed. When Thomas reads the name of the tombstones; he pretends to live the life of the person. Thomas takes pity on the other citizens who will never get to know the satisfaction that he endures. One of Thomas hobbies is to collect items from the dead such as: golden lockets, silver watches, torn photographs or glass eye balls. He thought of them as gifts from his friends. He would return the favor by burying them in their homes; six feet on the ground.
One rainy day in June, which was in itself strange; Thomas had to dig three graves for three bodies. One of them was the mayor’s son. The funeral was nothing sort of pathetic to Thomas. He found it a joke that people make an event out of the dead. The corpse should be buried immediately not to make it a spectacle. This day was strange indeed, for the first time in years Thomas was not alone in the cemetery. A dark figure was standing by a tombstone. Thomas couldn’t see clearly so he started to advance.
“Who lurks there!?” Thomas shouted: the rain was unbearable. Thomas got closer still. The figure hasn’t responded. He held on to the shovel as if it was a weapon instead of a tool.
“Who lurks there!?” he repeated; the age has caught up with his voice.
“It’s only me. My friend” finally a response from the figure. The voice sounded so familiar to Thomas.
The figure came out of the shadows and instantly Thomas knew who it was, Peter the dentist. Thomas smiled because Peter referred to him as “friend”. Thomas never had and will never have friends. Everyone in town made sure to avoid Thomas while he was around. The neighborhood children made up tales about the man; Thomas found this amusing and flattering.
“What are you doing here?” Thomas has said, apprehensively. As if Peter was invading his home.
Instantly Peter broke out and cried. Thomas never had the luxury to cry before; he always wondered how it felt to have a tear drip down your face. Maybe it was the rain blurring his vision but Thomas saw Peter was covered in mud.
“Please Thomas, I hope you forgive me” Peter said, wiping away his tears. Thomas was confused. What was going on? He didn’t have time for this game.
“My poor Mary Ann” Peter continued, his crying stopped. He was trying his best to muster up the next words. Thomas couldn’t help noticing the scene around Peter. A shovel lying beside him, two open graves. Did Peter dig them?
“She was just ten, filled with joy and smiles. I gave her the best childhood that any father would have ever since her mother died” Peter said. Thomas knew about the demise of Peter’s wife. Suicide; people in the town said that she was possessed. Just like Thomas was possessed.
“It was my fault; I never did anything right in my life. Nobody can say I haven’t tried my best to raise a girl that was like…Mary Ann! I tried damn it! Nobody could do what I did!” Peter was livid with rage. He grabbed the shovel from the ground.
“What the hell are you talking about!?” Thomas exclaimed, noticing that Peter is walking closer to him.
Something in that second caught Thomas’s eye. He looked down in one of the open graves. He didn’t know if he was going crazy, he could have sworn he spotted a finger!
“She was only ten and I couldn’t give her the time of day! I was greedy! I saw no other choice!” Peter raised his shovel “Just to make sure you don’t tell anyone else, I’ve dug up a grave for you!”
Thomas stood there in amazement. He couldn’t believe this was happening. In a split second; Peter’s shovel lands on Thomas’s forehead making him topple on to the ground. Peter proceeds to bash his head with the shovel; a stream of blood mixes with the mud creating an eerie new substance.
Minutes after; Peter dumps Thomas’s lifeless body into the grave he dug next to Mary Ann. Peter stood there, pondering on what he did. He felt a connection with the late Thomas. Maybe the old man wasn’t crazy. Mary Ann couldn’t have any friends due to her “condition” so Peter spared her the grief. Peter slowly understood what Thomas had known for his entire life; Death was necessary. As Peter was filling the graves with dirt, he was thinking about switching his career into something he recently has enjoyed.