Climbing Hills – Daily Story Project #9

I noticed today that I had skipped #9 last week; yup, went straight from #8 to #10. So just to complete the series and get it back on track, this is #9, even though I wrote it tonight. Enjoy.

“Well it’s a beautiful day for… it. For, for this.” Karl said, as he and Woodrow walked up the hill from where they parked the car. The hill faced a green valley, and there were enough clouds in the sky to give it some texture, but plenty of blue sky showed through. Karl was tall, with a full head of black hair, wearing a dark t-shirt with no logo or pocket, jeans, and well-worn leather shoes.

Embedded in the ground, though, in a regular grid, were stone markers, nearly all of them flat marble flush with the ground, with names and dates and epigraphs and aphorisms engraved on them. A graveyard.

Woodrow was careful to walk so that he avoided stepping on the graves. He carried a handful of cheap flowers. He was wearing a button shirt, a vest, slacks and Chuck Taylors, and he stood a head shorter than Karl. “I suppose. It’s her birthday. I would have come no matter the weather.” He stopped moving. “It would have been better if it had been raining, I guess. More… cinematic.”

“Sure. But if she’s up there and she’s glad we’re here–” Karl walked behind his friend but he only avoided stepping on the headstones; he walked in more straight lines. He stopped next to the shorter man.

“She’s not.” Karl’s voice was flat and final.

“Well, right, but if she was… never mind. You never let me win that one.”

“What’s to win? Eternity in boring paradise? God, we haven’t argued that in years.”

“We haven’t. But this place is a good place to do it, don’t you think?” Karl’s voice was gentle and almost under the sound of the wind.

They both started walking again, Woodrow in the lead, both of them looking down at the headstones.

“Unfair. This place gives you an unfair advantage, Karl.”

“Wait, what? If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that people die. The only argument is what happens afterwards.”

“Not the only argument. But… Right. Atheist or Christian or, I don’t know, Nordist or Cthulhuist, we all die.”

“Maybe not the Cthulhuist, though. They might be tormented until the heat death of the universe, on our earthly plane.”

“Blasphemer.” Woodrow chuckled, then stopped.

Karl regarded his friend. “It seems strange that you’re the one who’s superstitious here.”

“I’m not superstitious! I’m… I’m respectful. Fuck you.” Woodrow looked south, his left. They were only about halfway toward the crest of the hill. To the south there was a line of trees and they could see that there was a wide open expanse where no gravestones were set. “I think she’s this way. We should have got the map.”

“I thought you’ve been here before?”

Woodrow stopped short, turned to face Karl, his jaw dropped. “You’ve never been up here? Oh my god, Karl! She’s been dead for four years! You’ve never visited her?”

“First, I don’t know why you’re shocked. Second, this isn’t her; the part of her that’s her is in a better place than this, and I think she visits me all the time. Again, this seems weird coming from the atheist, this, this, judgement.”

Woodrow’s face, his cheeks, were red, but he didn’t answer for a while. Karl let him think.

“You’re right. I’m freaked out. And I’m nervous about being here, with, with you. When she died, you and I weren’t.” He scratched his arm, looked down. “We weren’t on the best of terms.”

“Do you think she cares about that now? She’s probably happy we’re friends again! It was stupid, fighting like that.” Karl stepped closer to his friend, put his hand on the shorter man’s shoulder. “Hey. I’m glad we’re still friends.”

Woodrow didn’t look up right away. “It was stupid. She had a big heart. She was special to, to both of us.” He looked up at his friend. Tears rolled down his cheeks. “You motherfucker, you made me cry first.” He hugged his friend, who returned it with vigor. When they parted, they were both crying, but also smiling.

Woodrow punched his friend on the shoulder. “Goddammit, Karl, we should have hugged OVER HER GRAVE. You can’t do anything right.” He turned and walked towards the line of trees. “I’m pretty sure she’s over here! We still need to find her.”

Karl followed his friend. “I think we already did.”