Unusual Graveyard

| October 29, 2010

The granite tombstones are gray and crooked, their engravings barely legible from weathering more than a century of rain, sand, and Atlantic hurricanes. Purple sea grapes border the cholera graveyard which rests peacefully on a bluff near the old Hopetown fire station. We see white caps glimmering in the pure light of the moon, a full dried sand dollar with pores for craters. As we tiptoe barefoot up the peaceful path, we spot familiar names — Malone, Russell, and Bethel are among the 100 sad souls who died in 1850 as a result of the epidemic. I am joined by their descendants, my friends, reluctant to resume another round of Gin Rummy with my younger brother on this hot windy, cloudless night.

I sidestep a thin, glistening spider’s web delicately stretched along the blades of sea grass bending in the powdered sand. As I decipher the faded inscription on the most worn and toppled tomb in the upper yard, I feel a strange clamminess about my ankles, a slight tickling under my toes — when my skin is otherwise its normal warmth. The sensation recalls unexpected cold streams when we snorkel on the reefs out back, west of the cemetery. Glancing down, I notice no spider, no mist or vapor rolling off the ocean. The coolness wraps around my lower legs, lingers for a few seconds, then fades mysteriously into the night, like a Black Widow disappearing into a sheltered nest, her red hourglass measuring the moment. My eyes fasten on a single point straight ahead – the yellowish fluorescent bulb in the streetlamp at the junction on Cemetery Road. The crashing of the waves fifty feet below, coupled with the calling of a distant crow at the local rubbish bins, is our cue, and we scamper off towards the coconut palms.

Cards take an ill turn many moons later – a nasty, week-long intestinal infection curable only with strong medication brought in by boat from the main hospital in Nassau. The cause, it seems, is from our old septic tank, home to frogs and other island creatures. We’d hear them croaking and splashing about, not too unhappily, as we drank our hand-pumped rainwater on the cemented patio under which the tank was buried. 

Referencing Research and Musings Behind Paranormal Television, a guest talk by Diane Dobry on Monday, 10/25