A Shadow Amongst the Foliage


I sit, high in the branches of a solitary oak, looking down into the graveyard. Almost directly below me is a deep dark hole, a fresh scar in the green rocky, landscape.

I am just about to descent and investigate when I hear the crunching sound of footsteps on gravel. A silent procession approaches down the path from the old church. The cluster of dark shadows shuffle without haste, led by the old man who lives in the church. Even if it wasn’t a funeral, the procession would have been delayed by the churchman’s arthritic limp.

They stop before the freshly dug hole in the ground, disturbing my tranquility with their annoying mumblings. I raise my voice in protest, “Bugger off!” I call, but my screeching is ignored; as is the cackling echo from the rookery in the lower field.

“We are gathered here …” intones the old man.

The sun slides behind a dark cloud as if the preacher’s god has abandoned him in his hour of need. A silent curse upon the man who lies hidden within his wooden cage. Soon, the box will slip into its dark cell, never again to see the light of day.

More worm food amidst the abundant harvest of these blood-fed fields.

The wailing woman who had followed the coffin from the church looks heavenward, and pauses. For a moment I wonder if she has seen me, hiding here; that she senses my presence amidst the foliage, but how could she?

And yet, I feel something deep within.

As silent as the tombstones that pepper the landscape, I flutter down to earth, landing on the pile of freshly dug earth a little way away from the grave.

The earth here is rich, full of wriggly things that seek life in the death of others. For a moment I stand and watch them, hypnotised by their wriggling, before the greater scene draws me back to the funeral.

They are lowering the wooden box into the hole now. It’s clear to see that the box is heavy, straining forearms on the four pole-bearers. Starvation was clearly not the cause of death.

Strange, how living within a graveyard has given me a fixation about death. I often sit in my tree and wonder about the people who pass below my castle.

Somehow though, this particular funeral causes me more pain than the others. I sense a familiarity with the mourners around me; a kinship perhaps.

On black wings I take to the air, flapping and squawking my grief to the universe. A pinion feather falls away, spiraling down to land gently upon the wooden box.

The widow throws her own parting token to the dead man, a red rose. Its message is clear. ‘Death shall stifle my love for you not, my beloved … Until we meet again.’

Then the ripe earth slowly closes over the well-varnished wood, hiding it from all but my memories.

Time passes, and finally I am left alone to consider the strange feelings that overwhelm me.

By now, I have come to accept my reincarnation.

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