We all have a choice of two endings to our lives as does the character in this short story. I didn’t know there was a choice when I created her fate some forty years ago, but now that I do, I thought it only fitting to pass along to this fictional person the option for the hope that I have, in addition to the horror I forced on her. I now want to give her the choice to erase her previous fate forever, as God did for me.
Those of you who recognize this as a re-post will also recognize the changes made are important to the impact of the story because the first post did not include the original unhappy (to say the least) ending. I see this now as a mistake because there is no contrast to a choice without awareness of its opposite –therefore this revision includes both endings.
The setting is the California Ghost Town of Bodie, inspired by a family vacation visit in my early teens. The original version was written as a horror story for a high school English class assignment.
At the end of this post you will have a choice of the two endings: Hope vs Horror.
Waiting for Hope or Waiting for Horror -it’s your choice.
She was driven by the hysterics of the wind through the main street of a desert town. The wind tugged frantically at her clothing. Her hair curled and snapped angrily like dragon’s tongues.
She fled before the wind past a building that stood empty and dark. Its flat face tapered upward to a steeple. Its few high windows were tightly secured against the wind, its double doors bolted solid. Tumbleweeds huddled close against its leeward side and shuddered for fear the wind might find and rout them into the open desert to be pursued and terrorized for miles.
She continued into the tangled scrub brush beyond to a formation of boulders as big as a house. She rested a moment in their lee. In the town below, window shutters twisted and tore from their hinges in agony. Doors groaned slowly open, then swung violently closed, with a sound like a gunshot in an empty room, as if by maniacs alternately curious then offended by the weather.
She stepped back into the wind. The loose cloth of her gown snapped taut under her arms like the exhausted, relaxed material on the framework of a kite caught by the wind. The wind blew her upward to the top of a hill.
A section of the fence that surrounded the graveyard lay on its side, two supporting posts splintered, snapped by the wind. The graveyard gate hung askance, a hinge dislocated from its support. The wind dragged it in the dirt. She ignored the gate, stepped over the fallen fence, and stood a moment on the edge of the graveyard.
The wind buffeted her frame, beat on her back, and pulled at her sleeves.
Light and cautious she crept over the roofs of graves. A newly painted, white cross punctuated the top of an open grave, dividing two sides of a broken tombstone. A tumbleweed bounced spasmodically into an open casket, jumped out then quivered away.
She backed away in fear. Where was the body? Why wasn’t it buried? What were they waiting for? She looked fearfully about expecting to see it standing. She bolted in panic, her foot struck a rock and she fell hard beside the grave.
She propped herself up on an elbow, spit dirt, and scolded herself for her wild panic.
Her attention fell to the inscription engraved on the tombstone…