Graveyards are not as lifeless as one may think.
Dustin Wakefield's new suit was soaking up the sun's warm rays as he stood at the grave of his aunt, who died three days earlier of cancer, five days before Dustin's twentieth birthday. Carol Simmers was Dustin's only aunt. He thought the world of her. Not just because she was a wonderful woman, but also because she had treated Dustin better than his own abusive parents.
The only person remaining in the cemetery after the small funeral, Dustin departed the graveyard and was soon sitting in his pickup truck, warm humid air drawing sweat from his well-clothed body. So remote was the Tennessee place of rest that a few of Carol's friends had gotten lost and were late for the burial.
Hearing only the chirping of a few unseen birds, Dustin began to peer at his aunt's headstone, which was standing near the middle of the cemetery, near the graveyard's only tree, an oak that many believed to be at least two hundred years old. Some believed the oak was planted as a sapling by a man whose wife was murdered by Indians. She was the first to be buried in the piece of land that Dustin's aunt was buried in, thus creating what would be later known as Oakview Cemetery. The name of the man who apparently planted the tree was Henry Oakdale. There was no grave marker bearing the name Mary Oakdale, Henry's wife. Dustin was certain a wooden cross had been erected at the head of Mary's grave, which would've rotted many years ago.
Having thumbed a tear away from his eye, Dustin was about to start the engine of his truck when he saw three men aproaching the cemetery, walking alongside the dirt road, about seventy-five feet to the left of Dustin. Each was carrying a shovel and wearing trousers that were being held up by suspenders. Each man was bearded, slim and fairly tall. Dustin was certain they were the same guys who had dug his aunt's grave and installed her vault. Where their vehicle was he didn't know.
Seemingly unaware of Dustin's truck, the men, all quiet, entered the graveyard.
"Hello?" Dustin shouted out through the window opening.
They failed to even look in the shouter's direction.
Dustin shuddered, for he knew something was quite right.
Eyes wide, Dustin watched the trio as they were heading straight toward his aunt's grave, which had yet to be filled in with dirt. Twenty or so steps later the men reached the grave and, without hesitation, sunk the blades of their shovels into the dirt.
"I don't believe what I'm seein'," Dustin whispered, not knowing if it would be wise to exit the truck. "Something' very strange is goin' on."
Blade after blade of dirt was entering the grave, the workers appearing to be full of energy. Dustin decided it was time to introduce himself.
Heart pounding, he exited the truck and walked to the front of it, an old barbed wire fence separating him from the errie graveyard. "Hello?" he shouted at the workers. "Who are you guys?"
They failed to respond. Didn't even glance at the shouter.
Dustin walked to the fence, smelling now a musty odor coming from the cemetery. It was a familiar odor to him, one he recalled smelling in his grandmother's old cellar. "Hey!" he fairly screamed. "What are---"
One of the men relaxed his shovel and began to look at Dustin. A few heartbeats later the others caught sight of the onlooker, and it was then the trio moved closer to each other as if afraid.
"That's my aunt's grave you guys are at," Dustin informed, speaking loudly. "I'd appreciate it if---"
The men went back to work at the same time, as if believing they had thought they'd seen someone.
Dustin stepped over the broken-down fence, daring not shift his organs of sight from the men. "Wha', you guys can't hear me? What the hell's the problem?" He stopped, the fence about five feet behind him, his feet near the grave of one Lester James, who was born in 1898 and died in 1951. "Are you guys from the vault company? If so, where's your truck?"
They continued to work, a butterfly about to stagger through the air before them. Suddenly, the colorful butterfly fell to the earth in front of a worker. So quickly did this happen that it appeared to Dustin that the winged creature had been shocked by something electrical. He knew it was time to return to the truck.
The workers were shoveling even faster now as there wide-eyed onlooker was moving toward his machine, doing so backwards, having just stepped over the broken down section of the seemingly ancient fence.
Having yet to take his eyes off the trio, Dustin was about to enter his machine when the workers stopped shoveling at the same time, a hump of dirt on Carol Simmers grave.
"They're done," Dustin muttered and then quickly seated himself behind the steering wheel, seeing now that one of the men was approaching where he and his companions had entered the cemetery.
Dustin started the truck and then honked the horn. The men didn't even look in the direction of the truck. In fact, all three were about to reach the road, two walking directly behind the first, each carrying his shovel with both hands as if the tools were rifles.
The men reached the road and veered to their right, the distance between them and Dustin growing. Fifty or so steps later they began to descend a hill and were soon out of sight. Dustin knew he had just experienced the most chilling time of his young life.
Sweating, he removed his suit coat, his eyes following a snake as it was slithering from side of the road toward the other, the reptile having been in the graveyard. "I'm the hell outta here," he said and was soon on his way, heading in the same direction as the men, knowing the nearest farmhouse was about a mile away.
He began to descend the hill, expecting to see the three men. They were nowhere in sight. Only dense timber was there near the sides of the old road.
Shortly after Dustin arrived home he called his aunt's heartbroken husband, Jim, and shared with him the experience he had while at the cemetery. Jim told him he'd be at his place in a few minutes and then hung up.
Ten minutes after Dustin finished speaking on the phone, Jim showed up. After the men opened a few bottles of beer, Jim told Dustin to sit down, adding that he had something to say.
According to Jim Simmers, his wife, a week before she died, told him that three bearded men appeared in her dream and told her they would look after her and guide her spirit to heaven. Jim thought she was talking nonsense but listened attentively anyway, for he knew her mind had been slipping lately.
Jim finished drinking his beer, tears welling up in his eyes. He then told Dustin he would see him later. He never would.
On September 19th, 1990, two weeks after the death of his beloved wife, Jim committed suicide. Before taking his life with carbon monoxide, he left a note on his kitchen table. On it were these words: I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT MY CAROL. I KNOW SHE IS IN HEAVEN, WAITING FOR ME. LAST NIGHT I SAW THREE BEARDED MEN. THEY TOLD ME EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT, AND THAT MY CAROL WANTS ME TO BE WITH HER. I HAVE LIVED, AND NOW I MUST LEAVE THIS WORLD.
Jim Simmers was laid to rest beside his wife two days after his passing. Four days later Dustin and his girlfriend drove out to the cemetery. In it were three bearded men, each standing at the foot of Jim's and Carol's graves. Dustin just kept driving, promising himself he would never again return to the graveyard. He didn't. W.R.