|There are beings that have lived among us
from the beginning of time, those that have
gathered their matter in the bowels of the
earth, and they have evolved in human form
with powers that cannot be explained or
un-derstood. The few of us who encounter
them are forever changed, never to view the
world the same way again. Immortal by way
of never-ending re-incarnation, they have
from us their sustenance and pleasure.
They have discovered that inside many of
us, hidden behind our religious beliefs and
moral codes, lies a sleeping phantom of
Julian Mott entered the graveyard shortly after two A.M.
Not that the dead of night was of any consequence to one like him, but for what he had to do,
he preferred a shroud of darkness. A stray dog cowered as he strode through the maze of
ghostly statuary and timeworn memorials. Shadowed by ancient oaks, their sprawling limbs
hung with Spanish moss, the necropolis lay quietly in its everlasting wait. On he went, a long-
handled shovel in hand, his footfall silent across the dew covered grass. He passed more
than a few long since dead that he might have once known, thinking their existence had been
no more than a pitiful speck in time, their lives such insignificant and fleeting dramas in the
eternal scheme of things. He could not imagine passing into oblivion after a mere eighty or
The warm night air lay over the old Savannah cemetery like a damp, invisible fog. Nary a leaf
stirred in the limbs overhead. Beyond the verdant silhouettes in the high branches, an
endless parade of iridescent clouds passed under the moon, one after another like ghost
ships floating across the heavens. And as his eyes scanned the environs and his short trek
continued across the damp grass, the seconds ticked by like eerie increments of time. Never
hurried, not even on this most important occasion, Julian Mott would find the fresh grave
easily, even had he not come by to look after it earlier in the day.
As he had anticipated, he came upon an indigent man sleeping in the shadows behind a
crypt, the same fellow he had seen that afternoon slinking into the cemetery with a bottle of
wine hidden in a paper bag. The man awoke with a premonition of someone nearby.
Trembling, his gaze moved upward over Julian’s legs and chest. The ragged man shrunk
back, terrified, looking up at the lone figure standing over him, though his immediate fear
began to melt away as he stared into Julian’s luminous eyes. Within them rested an
omnipotent smile, its effect disarming, and the lost soul suddenly felt safe and protected.
Falling prey to the authority of a powerful mind, not knowing or wondering why, he came to
his feet and Julian extended the shovel. Aware there was a purpose to abide this mysterious
presence, this master, the man took the shovel and followed as a duckling follows its mother.
On in the dark of night the two figures trod, the strong leading the weak, on through an eerie
maze of moss-covered headstones and tomes.
Ahead, barely discernible in the moonlight, a freshly turned knoll of earth came into view.
Julian approached with a quiet sense of relief, not that he had found the grave, but that she
had finally died. Cassandra Mott had lived to age ninety-two and had become quite impatient
with her aged and crippled body. She never enjoyed those years beyond sixty, and this time
she had endured thirty-two of them. He looked down at the freshly turned earth, knowing
several hours would pass before his decree would be fulfilled, the moment they had both
awaited for so long, when everything would be put right once again.
Julian looked at the homeless man and nodded toward the grave, at which time the man
started to dig. Standing a few away, his hands clasped behind him, Julian stared at the ever-
expanding hole. A while later, just as the shovel struck the casket lid, he sensed someone’s
Accustomed to chasing teenagers out of the cemetery this time of night, the watchman figured
it had been a good two years since he caught a pair of grave robbers. With stealth, the large
man crept through the shadows like an overweight cat. His eyes narrowed on the culprits as
he drew near. Stepping out from behind a tree some fifteen feet away, he pulled his little-
used revolver and drew an aim as the intruders went about their villainous trade.
“You don’t look like no grave robber I ever saw before,” said the watchman, piercing the quiet
with his tense voice. He found himself discomfited by such a stylish man robbing a grave,
wearing what looked like a rather expensive white linen shirt and matching trousers.
Julian turned and looked at the watchman, smiling inwardly, his hands still folded behind him.
After so many centuries in Europe before coming to Savannah, he found himself still amused
by the southern drawl in this part of America. He looked upon the watchman dispassionately,
his vacant expression devoid of alarm or apprehension. The homeless man, wretched in his
sweat stained and tattered clothes, stopped his work and stabbed the shovel into the mound
he had created by the hole.
“What’s you’re name, Mister?” asked the watchman, his voice edgy.
Julian stood perfectly still, amused by the watchman’s sloppy appearance.
“You got big trouble here, Mister,” the watchman assured him. “It’s best you answer me when
I talk to you.”
“What’s wrong with you?” asked the watchman, now stammering. “Can’t you talk?”
Julian sighed. Enough time had been wasted.
A foreboding came over the watchman as he stared into a pair of unyielding blue eyes. All but
forgetting the ragged man who stood knee deep in the grave, the watchman peered warily
into eyes that reflected needles of moonlight, and were cold and possessed by something he
could not comprehend. As the warm night air kissed his forearms and damp face, his big
hand gripped tighter the gun, aimed recklessly as it was at the intruder. His mind raced with
conflicting notions and growing apprehension as he stared at a man too dashing to be a
grave robber, a man in his early thirties with sandy blonde hair and broad shoulders, a
strange man who stood erect and stared back as if his mesmeric eyes beheld nothing more
than a curiosity.
The watchman nervously fumbled for his handheld radio and switched it on, and he listened
for the familiar static as he studied the intruder’s face, struck by its beauty, its perfect
symmetry and distinctly accentuated, though unsmiling lips. Realizing the radio was dead, a
panic arose inside him.
“Why do you look at me that way for?” he asked, his voice filled with dread. He steadied his
revolver in a direct aim, a feeble attempt to establish his control and authority.
Julian’s eyes shifted to the gun.
It began to feel warm in the watchman’s hand, growing suddenly hotter and hotter by
degrees. Before he could think or had time to react, it scalded his hand. He flung it away
quickly and then stood like a large vulnerable child, looking at the intruder in mortal fear, his
face strained and running with rivulets of sweat as he rubbed his blistered palm. A sudden
and horrible pain came into his belly, gripping his vitals like relentless jaws. He buckled over
and stumbled backward and fell against a tree. Doubled in pain, he looked up at the man
standing near the open grave, an image that grew vague and blurry in the moonlight. His
head wobbled and then fell limply upon his shoulder.
Julian turned and looked at his companion. The homeless man reached for the shovel and
continued his task. When the top of the casket was fully exposed, the man took a hold of one
end and pulled it out of the grave. Julian stepped forward and leaned over it to search for the
seam with his fingers, ripping the top from its hinges as if it had been made of papier-mâché.
A smile came to his lips. In the shadows of the small space, she lay peacefully within the
satiny folds, lifeless once more.
He leaned forward again and lifted her head. She had lived to age ninety-two. Her face had
wrinkled and her body had become frail, and she had been angry that she had lived so long.
He stroked the cold wrinkles of her cheeks, and then pushed his hands under her body to lift
her and lay her on the grass. He stood and stepped toward his companion, folding and
placing two one hundred dollar bills in the man’s shirt pocket. Then, by way of transferred
thoughts the man received his final objective. At once he carried on with the task.
By daybreak, no one would know the earthen tomb had been disturbed. The homeless man
would soon finish his work and return to the spot where Julian had found him, two hundred
dollars richer. The watchman would awaken in the morning with no idea why he had fallen
asleep under the tree, nor what had blistered his hand. The homeless man would not know
why his back hurt, nor the source of the two hundred dollars, though he would happy to
quickly spend it.
Julian lifted the dead woman close to his chest. It was a good distance to carry her, to the
place on the river he had chosen to perform the ritual, but she was as light as a feather. It
would take most of what remained of the night for what he had to do, but by daylight he would
have her safely back in her own bed, youthful and vibrant once again.
Just why, Julian was not sure—it was not for him to decide such things; but it seemed
Savannah had charmed Cassandra with its antebellum balls and abundance of eccentric
personalities. She had simply decided to live another lifetime in the old southern city, and like
any of her many whims, that was agreeable to him.
Yet he feared, beyond her love for old Savannah, she would bring into her new life a darker
reason to return here, for she had died believing she had an enemy. On this Julian did not
agree. He had gone into the man’s bedroom before coming to the graveyard and found him
sound asleep. There wasn’t a trace of malice in his heart or thoughts, or any knowledge of
Cassandra Mott. Exactly why Cassandra hated him, he never fully understood.
|The Strange Haunting