Here’s the last of my flash fictions from Feb ’11. This one is my favorite of the three. Lots of telling and cheese, but hopefully you still enjoy it :).
Nine years ago was the last time Ivan had died. He had fallen off a ledge while hiking and snapped his neck against a stump. He remembered it took about an hour before his neck repaired itself, and he woke with the usual disorientation and temporary memory loss. It was much longer, however, since he’d been murdered. And much, much longer since he remembered feeling fear.
He’d been buried plenty of times. It was a fairly simple matter to break through the coffin and dig up to the surface, usually only suffocating two or three times along the way. Of course these days it was more difficult. His body took time to deal with the embalming fluid and the organs removed during any autopsy. Some times weeks passed before he woke up, and the soil was not so easy to dig through after it had settled.
But he was not prepared for this. After breaking through the casket lid he had felt his hands scrape against hard concrete. Panic struck him and he knew there was little time before he would lose consciousness.
It was not the death that he feared; suffocation was an easy death. What racked his mind was the knowledge that the oxygen in this small space was not going to be replenished, and he was not sure his body could repair itself without it. It could be decades, perhaps centuries before someone stumbled across his body. And the longer he was dead, the worse the memory loss was. Some of it even permanent. He felt the ring around his finger and held it in his hand in the dark, squeezing so hard the diamond broke his skin. He could not forget her. He must not. He sent his mind back to their time together, holding the memories close as he waited to die.
Anna. He had met her in Egypt 78 years ago. It was another time of self search for him, one of many tries to understand what he was. His earliest memory was of seeing pyramids in a state of construction. Who he had been or what he was doing he did not know. There was nothing but that instant of time; gazing at the monolithic structures, the sunset behind them and a breeze on his skin. He had visited them many times in an attempt to recapture more of his past.
Then there was her, and nothing mattered anymore.
Her big brown eyes filled his vision. Long straight black hair slipped between his fingers. He kissed her neck, her eyes, her forehead. Her smile tightened his chest. He forgot the thousands of years before her, and blocked out the future he knew would come. They lived without a care but each other.
He often wondered then, if he had loved anyone like this before. He had forgotten much. He was consistently surprised at languages he understood, and flipping through a history book was like reading an old journal; the pages triggered memories of what he had been doing when he first heard about the events described within. But he never remembered caring for someone so much. Needing someone.
He knew the longer he stayed with her the more he would love her, and the more it would hurt when it was over. But there was no way he could have prepared himself for the gut wrenching horror that took him when he heard.
Tuberculosis. She was dying. Five years they were together, but it felt like his whole life. Even now as he lay in the coffin caressing her wedding ring, it felt like yesterday that he had last seen her face.
He kept her alive all the years since then in his memories. He had many conversations with her, imagined her reactions to sights he saw, even had arguments with her. Would that impression of her still be there when he awoke? Would her personality still be so sharp in his mind? He knew the chances were slim.
So he prepared for her to die another kind of death. He felt a tear rolling along his face, and let out a shuddering sigh, kissing her goodbye-
His breath. He had taken a large breath just then and had not felt any effects of oxygen deprivation! It had been several hours since he awoke, he was sure of it, he should have been close to death by now. He ripped and pulled at the rest of the coffin, his fingers becoming mangled stubs of shredded flesh and exposed bone in the process. Finally he found it.
A hollow tube led up through the concrete. How far it went he could not tell, and shouts he sent up it were muffled somehow. But air was coming in. Whoever did this to him knew what he was, and they meant to torture him. He laughed aloud with relief. If only they knew they had just saved the only thing he cared about.
They would have buried him deep, at least ten or twelve feet of concrete above him, possibly more. But below it was a different matter; there could be as little as two or three feet. He shifted onto his stomach, the wood from the coffin now lying on his back. He kissed the diamond on her ring, remembering her tiny hands. He had his arm on her waist as they gazed over the Nile at the sunset. He was kissing her in their doorway. They were making love in the grass.
While his mind was with her, his hands grasped the diamond ring, and he began to scrape.