“The Watcher” by Jenna Crosier

Every year, from the first I was assigned to the graveyard, I would watch the headstones from my place upon the highest pine tree. My job was to make sure the spirits of the newer graves stayed inside their stone memorials until the Soul Scavenger took them away. Every day my cemetery would be filled with mourners, providing me the sorrows I so desperately needed to survive.

Nobody ever visited the long-faded graves of the kinless. You see, sorrow has a pattern to it. For the first few months after the stone is erected, the grieving family comes by very frequently. As the years go by, the come less and less, until they either leave the graveyard for good, or they find themselves in the ground here, too. In all the years I’ve been The Watcher of this graveyard, I have seen only three exceptions to this.

The first was a baby, born as dead as she was when they buried her here. Poor thing’s soul was only half formed; she couldn’t even try to get out of her stone. Watching her till the Soul Scavenger made his rounds was a mute point, but it was my duty. It was only her mother and father when she was laid in the ground, and after they walked away, her stone stayed quiet like that every day after.

I planted a flower from the Forest of Immortality on her grave a few years back, it looked too lonely. The flower was more for me than anyone, as her soul was already gone and it was invisible to the mortal eye. When I saw her parents for a second time, they were being buried on the other side of the cemetery, together.

My second exception was an old man, homeless for years without a single soul to care. He didn’t have a funeral; he was buried by a ditch-digger in a cheap coffin. His death had no effect on me, maybe because I was done with emotion by that time, maybe because of his old age.

The third is by far the most baffling and I can never come up with any sort of explanation of if. Now, I’ve been in this graveyard for a few hundred years, and it’s absolutely shocking to get any type of visitor at one of the few graves built before this place needed a Watcher. But one faded grave older than my knowledge is visited every year.

Every year I’ve been here, at 23:52 sharp on Christmas Eve, a woman places a peppermint stick on that mysterious grave. The same woman, always is in the same elegant white gown, every time since I started, and possibly longer than that. As far as I can tell she does not age, and I have no idea who-or what-she is, nor do I know who the headstone belongs to. My guess is that she’s some type of an immortal, but even so, one who cannot die visiting the grave of one who did, is unheard of.

Jenna Crosier is a writer, photographer, and high school senior living in Massachusetts. She hopes to one day publish a full novel.

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