A.J. Walker


A Cage Can Set You Free

Mid Week Flash Challenge: Week 256

A Cage Can Set You Free

Stephen had been buried on Wednesday in a plot in the graveyard of St. Cuthbert’s. Paul heard about it on Friday from his sister, Maria, after getting back from Norwich. He couldn’t quite believe it. He’d been with Stephen on Saturday night in the King’s and he’d been fine. Very drunk, but fine.

Now he was walking into St. Cuthbert’s with Maria holding her hand. She was dressed in muted colours, but that was normal anyway. She was quiet though, which was less so. But having just buried her husband it was understandable. Paul paused and looked around as if he could work out where the grave was, before Maria seemed to remember that he didn’t know. She led him to a plot.

‘He lies here.’ Maria said, pointing to the nearest one.

Paul took it in. His eyebrows furrowed.

‘What the hell is this?’ he muttered beneath his breath.

Maria took a moment to compose herself. ‘Oh, you mean the cage.’

‘Yeah, I do. The cage.’

Maria bent down and grabbed the thick metal at the foot of the grave. ‘It’s Stephen. He’d paid for it in advance apparently. Quietly he was a god fearing man and didn’t want the risk of his body being disturbed or worse. You know bodysnatchers and dogs.’ She trailed off.

This was news to Paul. He’d no idea that Stephen had paid for his funeral works in advance. It was most unlike him. In fact it was hard to believe; he owed money to countless lenders in the area and here he'd been squirrelling money away for something he’d not benefit from in life. As for god fearing that was pure humour. He hadn’t heard of body snatchers for years, not since the hospitals had started paying people direct for bodies.

He stood with Maria for a while in quiet remembrance of Stephen and they left for their homes in silence, going their separate ways at the crossroads; Maria adamant she was happy to go home alone to the empty room. Paul was uninterested in challenging it.

For the next week or so he kept thinking about Stephen. Both his way when he was alive and his apparent desire to be treated on his death. Something wasn’t right. But as the weeks went by he thought about it less and less. Life has a habit of getting in the way. ‘Life goes on,’ he said to his friends in the Kings.

It was about ten years later when the church yard was dug up for a new warehouse that he heard of the grave without a body. It was said that it had been robbed from beneath. That the devils had seen it as a challenge. Paul laughed. Maria had moved away years ago and she’d not been back. He’d heard years earlier of the robbery of some old grave cages. Stephen hadn’t bought anything, but time.

At the King’s that night he drank a whispered toast, ‘To Stephen and Maria!’

WC: 498