(3) Cold & Undying - nicholaiv

Cold & Undying

by nicholaiv

The cemetery was vast - the last great cemetery - a frozen sea of green and gray that framed the horizon in every direction. 

A bot stood in the short midafternoon shadow of a stunted cherry tree watching a quiet funerary ceremony in silence. It had a large bouquet of frost-white carnations cradled in its arms that it had been slowly scattering among the headstones just before its attention was caught by the procession, which it followed from a respectful distance and, as the long line of mourners coalesced around the open grave like the running of a faucet, it took to its current vantage point. It was a windy spring day, bright and pensive; voices were carried to the sharp ears of the bot only when the whipping of the wind permitted.  "... allowed him to be... very gracious," came a voice from a group of 3 old hens, one of which held a black bible tightly to her bosom, and they all glanced over their shoulders toward a single point. Their lips and cheeks tightened in unison.  

"Well, if the Lord wills... to judge. But it was... on the family."  The bot followed the line of their gaze and its eyes settled on a small clearing far to the left of the scene, far behind the crescent of white chairs which circled the grave. At this rather removed position were 4 men: 3 uniformed officers, standing casually and chatting among themselves, arms resting on their batons; and a man in a royal purple jumpsuit with his arms and legs bound and shackled to a black metal wheelchair. INMATE in large white letters was printed across his chest.  The inmate's face was stoic, jaw a hard line, and he stared directly at the ground before him. His hands were vices on the chair's handles.  "...disgraceful."  

By then, small chattering clumps of mourners had formed. In front of the short step-up pulpit that stood next to the raised casket were a stooped elderly man and a younger woman with short purple hair. A small crowd had gathered around the pair and the two were greeting mourners individually.  "... for coming. He would've been... to see you, Jem," from the elderly man.  

"Oh Rai... ok la, it was just so sudden, you know. Yes... worry, I will speak to them," from the younger woman, who bowed lightly to the group and gently excused herself. She took a deep breath, smoothed the sides of her dress and, with her chin held high, took long strides through the chairs to the far left of the scene.  "...20 years is long, man..." "... just so sad." "commuted... yes they fought...death penalty!" "... overdose?"  

As she approached, the guards stopped their casual chatting and one moved to her and held his hands up. She drew close to him and a heated conversation took place. The inmate looked up and towards the young woman, a look of fearful hope, with the coloring of shame, hung on his face.  "...ma'am, its protocol... can't make exceptions." "Just... him closer... his husband!" 

"Listen, we don't make the rules. Its for the safety..." "... some rabid animal! Look at him, he has rights! Let him say goodb..."  

By then the volume and heat of the conversation had drawn the attention of the entire crowd, and many craned their necks, lifted their heads, or turned completely, to gawk at the spectacle. Mouths were agape, brows furrowed, sneers frozen, and not an eye seemed to blink - they were all held captive by the scene.  

"... for a moment?... not allowed at the wake!" 

"sorry, ma'am... Best we... bring him... after everyone has left." 

"Fine... I speak to him?" "Yes, from here."  

And with that, flushed, she took a shaky breath and straightened herself again. She looked past the guard to the shackled man. For a moment there was a lack of recognition, a shock - then she started sobbing. She covered her face with her hands.   

The inmate looked on in horror, his cheeks red and his eyes large and wet; he seemed unable to speak. She sobbed until, a short moment later, a mourner came by and escorted her away in his arms. He didn't look at the inmate, but nodded at the guards. - The ceremony ended without much fanfare. The bot watched as the the mourners said their goodbyes and made their slow exits, until only the young woman, elderly man, 3 guards, and inmate were left.  

The purple haired woman strode over to the far left clearing and motioned to the guards. They surrounded the inmate and began wheeling him through the white crescent of empty chairs. By the time they had crossed the final row the inmate had begun to mumble to himself, head turned sharply away but eyes fixed on the grave. Anguish and horror paled and sunk his cheeks, his hands were white and shaking.  When they reached the grave, a wreath with the deceased's image came into his field of vision, then the mound of soft loam, and his mumblings became audible from where the robot stood vigil.  

"No.. no, no... no.." he moaned, then the moans became wails.  

"No, NO...NO!" and an angry gust blew through the cemetery but could not drown out his howls. Then rage mixed with the horror and anguish, gnarling his brow, and his mouth gnashed open and shut like the mindless aggression of a rabid dog, lips wettened by the violence, and the chains rattled against the metal chair and his body shook with a frightful intensity, and the chair swung on its legs.  

"NO! Oh god, NO!"  

The guards, shocked by the outburst, watched him, aghast, for a few moments. The young woman and the elderly man held each other. Then suddenly the guards were ontop of him, batons raised - again and again; the violence continued for what seemed a lifetime. - The bot watched and waited and contemplated the scene. It stood under the cherry tree long after the murmurations of the mourners were silenced by their respectful goodbyes, but intrigue would curl its long tongue into their ears and steal their mouths and the whispers would follow; after the gluttonous tempest had its fill and only the bones were left of their conversations, and no one could possibly understand intentions from the remains; and after the wails had become cries had become violence had become pleas had become whimpers had become blood, which fed the dark loam.  

The bot walked to the grave. It threw the remaining frost-white carnations onto it; for whom it was unsure


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