Midnight

(A piece of flash fiction written by Katherine E. Soto)

At midnight, the cemetery gate opened silently on well-oiled wheels as Samantha Magem arrived for her night watch.  She met George, who was coming off the swing shift, at the guardhouse.  It was a tight fit for the two of them in the small guard house.

“Pretty quiet tonight, Samantha.  I’m glad to be getting off these grave shift hours. At least until you flee like rabbit, bored from our small-town life.”   George laughed at her surprised face.  “You know there’s a bet on how long you’ll stay. Close your mouth before a fly thinks you’re a fish.

“Is anyone going to do anything to me?”  she sputtered in surprise.  “I really need this job.”

“No one messes with the cemetery or its people. Respect goes with this job. I leave you the keys to the gates, the Mausoleum, and to the jeep.  Three things to remember at night in the dark.  First, watch where you walk.  Second, watch where you drive, third be respectful of the dead.  See you tomorrow at midnight, young lady.”

“Thanks, George.” Sam watched as he limped out the gates.  She settled into the small guard house by putting the keys onto her uniform belt loops, ready for her first patrol.  She placed the walking headlamp on her head and fit a small flashlight onto her belt.  Her first walk through the cemetery was next on the list George left her on a clipboard next to the logbook.

Sam left the guardhouse behind, leaving its cheery light.  She walked down a well-worn path stopping to listen and watch several times.  An entire mile around and through the Mule Head Town Cemetery lie ahead of her.  She started to kick a rock, then decided games in a cemetery were disrespectful.  The cemetery was beautiful even in the dark.  The old part had headstones, while the newer area had inset plaques.

The Mausoleum was beautiful inside.  Sam could see marble and ebony in a Grecian design. She would have to come to see it by daylight.  One more turn to look back down its darkened hallway, brought a breeze to her face. It felt like a kiss in the wind.  Sam said, “Thank you.”

Her walk ended back at the snug guard house. She logged her walk into the logbook on the desk and checked the time.  “Not a bad night’s work.” she thought as she sat down in the desk chair.  By the end of the night she had finished the three required walks, spent a little more time exploring the mausoleum, and the rest reading or writing.  A tap at the door startled her.  Tamarind HighBear’s face, the day guard, smiled into the window.

“I see you made it through night.”

“I did.  It was quiet.” She smiled as Tamara bustled into the guard house.

“Very tidy.  Lovely logbook.”  Tamara read her entries. “Go home, get some sleep.  George will be here to check you in at midnight. I’m glad to have someone doing the graveyard shift.”  She laughed at her own pun.  “See you tomorrow morning.”

Sam picked up her things and walked the few blocks to her apartment she rented over a garage.  Her friendly landlord waved a towel from her kitchen window.  She called Sam over to her door.  “Did you have a good night on the job?”

“Great!”

“Want some breakfast?”

“Mrs. Ortini, I told you…”

“Hush, young woman.  When you’re ready, come on over.  I have a quiche to share this morning.”

The first two weeks of cemetery watch were not unusual.  They started and ended with regularity.  Week three found her spending her dinner break outside the Mausoleum.  There was a comfortable place to sit outside on a bench.  It appeared in her logs as a schedule change. 

“Sam, you shouldn’t be spending time up at the mausoleum.  People say there are real spirits there.”

Sam did not even blink when she heard about spirits.  “But Tamara, there are spirits everywhere.”

“Be careful out there, please.”

“I’m careful especially with spirits around.”

Sam checked in with the cemetery watch committee at the town council in a private meeting a few weeks into the job.

 “You have a spirit in the Mausoleum, but nothing dangerous.  She’s the one that kisses in a breeze near the door.  A few spirits that just want to be left alone walk the cemetery grounds doing their penance. Including the cemetery on your Ghost walk adventure would be perfectly safe.”

“Thank you, Samantha.  You’ve been a great help.” One council member waived her report into the records.

“Did you know the Clover Building, this building, and the courthouse have ghosts?  I’ve listened to several stories of forest spirits being in the area.  I could develop a haunted walk of real ghosts in your town if you want one.  I am a paranormal investigator, after all.” Samantha said.

“We’ll take it under advisement.” The committee dismissed her from her paranormal investigator’s role with the town council. They wanted an exciting haunted walk for Halloween to bring tourists up into the northern town, not a small walk with lots of local color in it. 

She could still run one as part of her new business.  They let her to keep the job as Graveyard Watch and gave her a raise as promised.  They paid for her paranormal investigation of the cemetery.

She walked to her apartment where she shared a salad with her landlady for lunch. After lunch, she placed advertisements into the newspaper and on the bulletin boards around town.  It read: “Ghosts or Spirits got you nervous?  Call Sam Magem  ###-###-#### Paranormal Investigator.”  Another read: “Samantha -Handy Person, house cleaner. You need it done; I can do it.  ###-###-####.”  

Samantha stood down at one end of main street in the tiny town, squared her shoulders, determined to make this life work.  Trouble followed her from place to place. This sleepy little town seemed too sleepy and easy going for trouble to come looking for her here.