A dead silence settled on the graveyard like the blanket of pristine snow that now enveloped the lifeless field. Bright wreaths and store-bought flowers boldly proclaimed the death of a loved one, while other headstones were left bare, forgotten, and fewer still were topped with a black figure.
The cross was hardly visited, but the dark creature perching on its rung kept it company. Though appearing vaguely like a cat, the four upwardly turned spider-like appendages draped in golden thread and emerging from its back, the silver chain wrapped thrice around its neck and left to dangle, the three lengthy, independently functioning tails, and the ethereal gleam emitted from its wandering eyes suggested something otherworldly. The tails hung off the back of the stone, tracing narrow, thoughtful patterns in the snow and decorating the grave site in elaborate, swirling patterns.
It had been eighteen years since Alex died, the same amount that he had lived. Long gone was the humanoid figure that rested on his gravestone, the years spent outside of the Spirit Realm having changed the figure, turning it to something of seemingly demonic origin. While his soul deteriorated, Seth’s mind held the same firm resolve that it did in life. Watch over his brother. His soul was too heavy, too laden with regrets, to carry on to the realm of the dead, so while unable to watch over him in the afterlife, he would stay here until what was left of his soul faded away, protecting Alex’s rotting body.
The soft crunch of footsteps broke the silence, creating foot shaped indents in the unblemished snow. Seth’s wandering eyes latched onto the lanky figure. The living being, a female, he quickly realized, was a blotch against the world of white, like himself, the black coat wrapped around her billowing around her in the winter air. Her face, aged for thirty or forty years, was hard, unwavering, as her brown orbs locked with his silvery ones. She stopped at the gravestone, looking it and Seth up and down.
So she could see him. Interesting.
“Who are you?” He asked, his tails waving behind him, interested by this living body.
“Sarah. You’re Seth.”
“Yes,” he replied, surprised. It had been a long time since anyone had said his name. “I am. How’d you know that?”
“Your grave,” she said pointedly, extending her finger to the headstone not more than two feet away, “is the only one close enough.”
True enough, he considered. He couldn’t wander far from his own grave, lest he become nothing more than a ghost, with no knowledge of who he was or why he was unable to continue on to the next life. Many of the spirits he’d seen had taken that route rather than waiting for their soul to fade with only their regrets to entertain them.
“And how do you know I’m not Alex?” He asked, nodding down to the gravestone he sat on.
“I helped his soul to the Spirit Realm myself.”
“So he had trouble then?” His voice took on a melancholy note. He knew his brother had regrets, but not nearly enough to keep him tied to the material world.
“He wanted to wait for you. Had I known you would come only a few years later, I wouldn’t’ve convinced him to move on.”
Seth’s feline mouth settled into a weary grin. So that was it then. Alex always was stubborn.
“So I take it that you’re gonna try and get me to join him?”
“And if I don’t want to move on?”
Truer words had never been spoken, Seth realized. Seeming to hear his thoughts, Sarah grinned.
“Then will you accept my help?” She asked, and Seth thought that he heard a twinge of need in her voice, but he left it alone. Some people just needed to help others.
Sarah’s grin widened, almost unnaturally, her eyes lighting up with something he couldn’t place. The spark in the brown orbs was strange, almost startling in its sudden intensity. She took a few steps closer, setting her hand on Seth’s head. The hand was cold, unlike any living thing he’d come into contact with, but he felt his questioning drift away, like the currents in the ocean drag down the drowning bodies of shipwrecked sailors.
“Do you, Seth Godson, accept liberation from the chains of the material world? If so, say ‘I do’,” she proclaimed, tightening her hand on Seth’s fur covered head. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he could feel the nagging of suspicion. If she had known that he died only fifteen years ago, three short years after Alex, why would she wait until now to send him to the Spirit Realm? But the hand on his head shoved those thoughts away, reassuring him that everything was just fine.
“I do,” he droned, the voice hardly his own.
“Do you, Seth Godson, wish to be reunited with your brother, Alexander Godson? If so, say ‘I do’.” At those words, Seth felt black eating away at his vision, pulling him into a cold darkness. This…didn’t feel right. This couldn’t be right. He struggled to fend off the blackness, but it only yanked more insistently, clawing in him mind, demanding, screaming, for him to just submit. Terror swelled in his chest. Was this what Alex felt when he went on?
“I do.” No! Who’s voice was that? It was coming from his mouth, but it wasn’t his, it couldn’t be his, not when he didn’t want this. Not anymore. He willed himself to take back the words, but it was too late.
“Then submit.” A second more of blinding horror, a flicker from his silver eyes, and then he knew no more.
Sarah sighed contently as she walked away from the cross, now without the feline figure topping it, the swirling patterns in the snow the only sign of his existence. She licked her lips, relishing in the lingering taste of Seth’s soul. They were always so much sweeter when they were ignorant of her desires.