I selected the image of the tower in Ireland for my sprint this week. Twenty-minutes of writing and a quick copy edit later left me with the below scene. Enjoy!
The Final Step Beyond:
Cillian sat on his headstone and waited.
Well, sat was a bit of a stretch. He hovered just above his tombstone positioned like he was sitting. It was as close as he could manage these days. At first, he’d been able to interact a bit with the physical world, but now that he’d been dead for more than a century, he passed through pretty much everything, inanimate or animate.
It made for an exceptionally boring life most of the time.
At least he could still people watch. It was by far the best thing about his particular graveyard. It was a famous old church, or the ruins of it anyway. There were always busloads of tourists wandering around. He might not be able to interact with them, but he could still see and hear them.
Today there seemed to be about four different groups milling around. One bus had off loaded about thirty white-haired elder types. The next had a wide range of ages, including children, many of whom wore the same shirt. He thought it was an advertisement for some kind of religious group. The third might have been some kind of class trip. They at least all had British accents of some kind or another. The fourth was the smallest group, with only about a dozen, mostly in their teens and twenties. They’d gotten off a smaller, dirtier, yellow bus.
None of the groups seemed to interact with the others. They only spoke to people in their own group. He watched them all take pictures and point at things, but most of them stayed up near the still intact parts of the building. Only a few of those from the last group in the little yellow bus came down to walk among the graves.
Cillian noticed that people didn’t seem to have much respect for graves anymore. They walked along not carrying where their feet were or whether they were standing over someone’s final resting place. Granted, the paths weren’t maintained any longer, and the world seemed far less religious than it had been in his day, but it made his sad to watch people walk over so many graves without any concern at all.
That’s why it was so fascinating when he saw one of them purposefully walking along the bounds of the graves. She kept her eyes on her feet to make sure she was stepping properly between resting places, never disturbing those who might have been resting below, or as Cillian above, their last place of peace.
She walked all the way down to the wall, stopping there so she could take pictures of the tower.
Cillian floated up a little, turning so he could continue watching her. It had been decades since he’d seen anyone care about where they stepped.
She lowered her camera and turned back toward the graveyard. Her eyes swept across the grassy area before coming to rest on Cillian’s headstone. He knew she had to be looking at the stone, because it looked so much like she was looking at him, but that wasn’t possible. No one could see him. That wasn’t how the afterlife worked.
She raised her camera again and took another photo before she started picking her way across the graveyard once more. Cillian watched as she approached his grave, carefully walking between the others until she was standing close enough to read his tombstone.
“Cillian O’Brien,” she said aloud. “Is that who you are?” she asked, looking Cillian in the eye.
Cillian stared at her. Surely she was just being fanciful.
“Can’t you talk?” she asked.
“You think you could hear me?” Cillian replied.
“Of course I can hear you,” she answered, smiling at him.
“No one’s ever heard me before,” Cillian said.
“Really?” she asked. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Cillian just stared at her.
“It must mean this country has been without a guardian for some time,” she added. “I’m glad they sent me along.”
“Guardian?” Cillian asked.
“Yes, a guardian,” she replied. “Humans seem to think we’re some kind of special angel. But really, we’re just caretakers for those who have taken the first step beyond.”
“Never heard of them,” Cillian replied. Was he actually having a conversation with a living person?