There is a place that lies deep within the forest, where the children sleep through the morning lull and the midday sun. Past the cemetery gates, we see their tiny, silent homes that we call tombs.
From beneath the soil, they wake at night alone together. After all, no one really sleeps forever. The abandoned children of this earth roam free in the late hours, in their putrid shells of dry hardened skin.
Most people are clueless to the truth of this age-old myth. That is because small corpses have quiet feet. Some have feet so rotten they can hardly be called feet at all.
Those wise enough to suspect a little, they say, have never seen it with their own two eyes. If they had, their mind had chosen not to believe them. It is after all true, that humans are more often than not, willing cynics at heart.
Whether you believe it or not, the dead children walk. When the moon hangs high and the time comes, he rises. She rises, too. They all rise and yawn, letting their stale breath fill the air. A sharp ear can hear their jaws creak, as door hinges of old homes often do.
Samuel climbs out of his plot, sluggish like his (also) late Gramps, who lives in a different adult cemetery. His bones make an unsettling cracking noise as heavy mud slides off them. He is only seven. But to be fair, he has stayed seven for a rather long time. In fact, his death anniversary had begun right from his seventh birthday.
Anna climbs out of her plot too, proving more nimble than the others. She stretches, standing her ground with little trouble. Great work on the sutures, she thinks. Even so, the fresh face from the morgue still suffers the endless taunts of an uninspired nickname.
“Hey Roadkill,” Samuel exercises his numb tongue and his skeletal grin, once he gets out.
In return, he gets a disappointing sneer. He has expected a good comeback from the usually feisty child. Instead, Anna turns away with a frown on her tiny face. It seems that tonight, the little girl is not in the mood for jokes. There is fear in her eyes, which may be an odd-sounding statement to the living.
What need the dead ever be afraid of? Death is already far behind, and there are few things worse than death.
It goes to show how little you know. Cadavers have more things to be terrified of than you and I. Grave robbers, for instance, send shivers down their bare vertebrae. For Anna, her fear is a far more common anxiety, especially amongst fresh corpses.
“I miss home,” she lets her thoughts roll off her tongue easy. “I miss my family. What if I never see them again?”
After all, she has been an only child all along. Her passing had left two grieving parents in her wake. They had loved her, even as that bright red mess under the wheels of their neighbour’s antique Chevy. The funeral home had put her back together again, enough for their last kiss on her cold body. She can still feel their presence, in their absence.
Love is something that kids like Jude never can understand. No one can blame the child. The last thing he saw was his dear mother smiling, with his fresh blood on her dress. This is the blue-faced child who at present, sulks on his nearby plot at Anna’s maudlin longing.
“Pfft, get over it,” Jude mutters as he sits atop his tombstone, scraping the dirt in his rotting nails.
“You will get over it, Roadkill,” Samuel echoes. “I did.”
“But I can’t help missing them,” she says, thinking of all the kids who no longer get visits in time to come. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“We’re with you, aren’t we? Besides, give it a week, Anna. I promise you won’t miss them again in just one week.”
“Been there, done that. Take it from ol’ Jude.”
Anna sobs, not believing a word. After all, her parents will never forget her… will they? Just then, in the intermittent silence, an idea comes to her. The question burns as it lingers at the back of her throat. What will they think of her? Cardinal rules are rules.
Finally, she churns out the words, with what little courage she gathers, “Have you… ever tried going back out there?”
“For the love of ghouls, no!” Saul, who has been quietly fiddling with withered flowers on his grave, almost shouts. “We aren’t allowed to wander out of the gates. You know that, Anna!”
“Says who?”, Anna is crying now, tearlessly.
Jude grunts a non-reply. Saul shakes his head in resignation.
Samuel puts his literally boney arm around Anna’s purple neck, and finally says in a whisper, “Look at us. They might have missed us once, but what would they think of us now?”
Daily Prompt: Gate