Gary mused as his feet sloshed through the wet grass. The possibility of cloning his wife remained a thought in his mind, but it wasn’t an option. The process could bring her back genetically, but he would be an old man by the time she grew up.
He tripped and stumbled to a stop. Cold gray stones, haunting markers of death, loomed all around him.
The sound of a cars engine caught his attention. He jerked his head up, spun around and pushed strands of wet hair from his face. In the impending darkness, he scanned the field. A dark-colored vehicle, its headlights off, rolled to a stop under a misshapen oak about a hundred yards away. The engine shut down. No one got out. He squinted trying to get a better view of the sedan. Veins of lightning pierced the darkness, giving him a shadowy glimpse of the gas guzzler’s two occupants. Thunder boomed seconds later. The storm was close.
Gary pinched his lips tight. Inconsiderate fools. This was his time to be alone with her.
Over the last few weeks he’d seen a similar vehicle parked on the street near his house. Perhaps the man funding his research had gotten wind of his secret agenda and was having him followed. If the tactic was meant to scare him, it was working.
Ghostly shadows danced around him as tree branches swayed in the brisk breeze, adding to the foreboding nature of this place. A chill crept down his spine and his muscles tensed, but he plodded forward. Misty rain whipped across his unshaven face, driving the coldness into his bones. He blew into his hands to warm them. It shouldn’t be this cold, not in the middle of the summer.
Cresting a small hill, Gary saw her tree he planted ten years ago and quickened his pace. Mary called the aspen the happy tree because of the noise the leaves made in the wind, like a thousand clapping hands. But this was no happy place and the tree failed to thrive here, standing out like a misplaced stepchild among the giant oaks and maples dotting the landscape.
Gary stopped in front of a heart shaped headstone. Read the name. Memories flooded his mind. A solitary tear slid down his cheek. “I missed you. You remember this don’t you? Our first anniversary.” He paused as if expecting an answer.
Branches creaked overhead as the wind intensified. He extended a crystal vase toward her grave and smiled. “Lilacs. Your favorite. I hope you like them.”
Words Gary had spend hours mulling over were etched in the glass. In a steady voice he read them out loud. “You brought joy to my brokenness. When you said yes my heart danced. I will love you now and forever.” He gulped in air. “Gary.”
Pinching his eyes shut, he breathed in the flower’s sweet scent, remembering the same fragrance in her hair as he lay in bed next to her. “I know you disapprove of my research, but I’m doing it for you—sin is destroying the world, but I’m going to remove it.”
Dropping to his knees, he ran his fingers over each letter of her name. The mysterious car’s engine whirred to life, but the vehicle didn’t move.
Run you idiot.
Nerves frayed, he breathed in deeply to calm himself.
No. I need to finish this. I owe it to her.
Through chattering teeth he said his marriage vows, but omitted the last five words. Until death do us part.
Gary stood and turned his head toward the dark sedan. The lights flashed on.
Heart pounding, his chest lurching for air, he reached his car and his numb fingers fumbled with the remote. The high pitched car alarm exploded through the air.
His fingers found the right button and he sighed. In the silence a car’s engine revved, but a small hill blocked his view.
Are they coming after me?
He jumped into his car and smashed his head on the door frame. Stars exploded in front of him and he blinked back the pain. Groaning, he reached for the wound. “Ow!” He looked at his bloodied fingers, and the world went black.
His eyes burst open. A shrill sound bombarded his ears. He moved his head from the steering wheel and the noise stopped. The cemetery, he’d gone to see Mary.
A trickle of red dripped from his head and on to his leather seat. He cranked the engine and slammed his foot on the gas. His Lexus bolted forward, spraying gravel and dirt, as it fishtailed across the road.
Blowing through a stop sign his car continued to accelerate and reached over ninety down a remote section of highway. A gas station sign popped up over the horizon, giving him an opportunity to make a clean escape. The car went airborne over a small hill and thudded back to the ground.
He lost his grip on the wheel and his car careened across the road, spinning to a stop facing in the opposite direction.
Heart pounding, he sat gripping the wheel. He took a deep breath, drove into the parking lot and behind a building, watching, waiting for the dark coupe to fly by. It never did. He sighed and pulled a napkin from his glove box to wipe the blood from his forehead.
Fearful he still might be followed. He pushed the pace down a bleak stretch of highway before turning on to industrial boulevard. A faded yellow triangle full of holes obliterating the word END greeted him. DEAD remained, spared the onslaught of some angry man’s bullets. An ironic reminder of what happened here, why he hated this place.