It was Monday when they started digging my grave.

When I pulled down the driveway, I saw the first one, shirt sleeves rolled up, hair sticking to his foreheads, spade digging into the ground again and again. The edge of the grave was just on the other side of my property line, and not very big. And anyway, on Monday, the hole wasn’t big enough for me to be worried.

Tuesday, there were two of them when I came back from the office, my skin smelling like fabric softener and my breath like artificial mint. Their curls were matted to their heads with sweat as they dug, dug, dug, throwing clods of dry clay beside the hole. They stood up to their knees in the hole, which doesn’t sound very deep, but their knees were taller than most people’s.

By Wednesday, there were three of them, and they had been digging through the night. I had heard the scuff, scuff, scuff of their shovels outside my bedroom window as the blades bit into the dirt. I knotted my tie and tied my shoes and went to work in my office that was ten feet away from a window. On Wednesday afternoon, they threw my potted plants into the hole. The ones that sat outside my front door, that I’d gotten on sale at Home Depot. I mean, I couldn’t be sure they had taken them, but the plants were missing when I got home, and I knew the pots had been there when I left in the morning. But by now the hole was deep enough and the diggers were tall enough that I didn’t want to ask. Plus, it was just flowers. I’d only bought them to make the stairs look better for the party I’d thrown for the sales reps.

Thursday, there were four. They kept digging. They didn’t look at me when I came home, and so I knew they had thrown something else in the hole. I was right. The tall lamps from behind my sofa were gone, and so were the wine glasses. There was something different looking about the dining room, too, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I thought possibly there had been some framed prints on the wall, but I couldn’t remember what they’d been if they’d existed. Mountains, possibly. My parents might have given me prints of mountains. If I had my way, I’d have plastered the entire house with movie posters anyway. I thought about confronting the diggers about it, but there were four now, and the hole was getting big enough to make my mouth thin and silent.

I knew there would be five on Friday, and I was right. The front door was closed, but the table was gone, and all of the furniture from the guest room, and every candle that my ex-girlfriend had bought. I wasn’t sad to see those go, though I was put off by the disappearance of the stereo system. It hadn’t seemed like the sort of thing they’d throw in the hole. But it was gone, and the rugs too. At least I thought I’d had something covering the floor. The floor looked fine without anything, but a little naked. I went to turn the TV on that evening, but it was gone too. Without the TV or stereo, I went to bed early and fell asleep to the sound of their shovels.

Six on Saturday. I had a meeting at the office, though I wanted to call it off so that I could watch the house. Their eyes, barely visible at the edge of the grave, followed me when I pulled back into the driveway. My tie felt tight around my neck. They were not digging. I walked into the house, their gaze heavy on me, and found it empty. Everything I owned was in the ground now. Well, not everything. My guitar, dusty and untuned, sat in the middle of the kitchen floor. The kitchen looked a lot more open, because they’d taken the island as well.

I sat in the middle of the kitchen floor and took the guitar from its case. Pulling it into my lap, I tuned it, slowly, laboriously. The strings were rusted up near the ends. Near the — what were they called? nut? I couldn’t remember. I put my fingers on the frets, pressed down a chord, but I couldn’t remember any songs. It had been a very long time.

I sat for a long time in the kitchen, my fingers pressed onto a chord that had been infinitely important one time, a long time ago, to another me. I sat until the windows were dark and finally, I remembered that I had an awards brunch for work tomorrow and I ought to get to sleep. They had taken the bed, so I curled up beside the guitar case and slept on the kitchen floor.

On Sunday, there were seven, and the guitar was gone. The only thing left in the house was me, and the empty guitar case laying open on the floor. A coffin for a victim that had gotten away. They watched me as I carried the guitar case out of the house. My car was gone; they’d taken it too, while I slept, but it didn’t matter. They watched me and they put their shovels in the mound of dirt. I heard the whisper of dirt falling back into the hole right before I stepped into it.

Author’s Note: suburbia kills.

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33 thoughts on “Buried

  1. oh, bliss. I love your stories. (I’m not entirely sure they’re supposed to make this happy, but.)

  2. You just creeped me right the frak out. I’m so glad I read this in the daylight!

  3. You know what, we have so much stuff. Half the things we own we don’t use, and then complain about having no money because we’ve brought crap we don’t need or use. We don’t pay attention to each other or our homes. Our houses are too big, we don’t like being crowded, and then we wonder why we don’t understand our children. They’ve been living down the other end of the house while we waste time not noticing our stuff. We have clothes that we never wear, because we have favourites, but continue to buy more. No one notices.

    This bloke had a chance. They left him the guitar, because long ago he played because he enjoyed it. He’s drowning in apathy, boredom, and I’ve-forgotten-how-to-live. I’d climb in the hole too.

    I’ve got a new puppy resting on my foot – I love it. Its raining – I love it. I look up and see things I love. I feel alive, I’m sad – I love that too. I can feel the wooden floor, the fish behind me, the folded clothes that need putting away – my favourites, my daughters favs too.

    I’m reading your story – love that.

  4. Wow. Really, wow. This is as good and as thought provoking as King’s best short works. I particularly love the last section describing the guitar and it’s coffin/case. This was creepifying – mostly in it’s relevance.

  5. I love it when people get the point of the story! Thanks, Simon, this is exactly how I feel. Exactly!!

  6. I’m jumping on the “that was creepy” bandwagon.

    Also I have never thought of a guitar case as a coffin before. Now, I will always think that when I see Natalie’s cello case. Heheheh.

  7. Aaagh! For the past two days, there’ve been workers digging at the house across the street–that guy has no idea what he’s in for!

  8. Because I’ve been prepping for a month of Shakespeare posts, your story brought this immediately to mind:

    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep;
    No more; and by a sleep to say we end
    The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to — ’tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
    To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,
    For in that sleep of death what dreams may come . . .

  9. Ooh, this story has such a great, gentle creepiness to it, especially the last paragraph. It’s so easy to feel like you’re going to be buried like that sometimes…

  10. Oh, beautifully done. Beautifully, beautifully done. Working so hard to learn a chord, and then, later, forgetting the songs you worked so hard to play. Things once infinitely important dissipating like smoke.

    Wow. Way to make me want to go out and do something non-suburban and slightly dangerous.

  11. I was just telling my brother that all of my novels and stories tended to have a subtle undercurrent of anarchy. ;p

    And thanks SO much.

  12. Lovely. Makes me think of a Tom Waits song for some reason.

    I particularly liked “my skin smelling like fabric softener and my breath like artificial mint” but it would have been great to have had the fleetingest hint a hint of the real “I” buried beneath the desk job and the potted plants in the beginning (something to prepare us for the guitar).

  13. Yay! Thank you, Yoda!

    And yeah, I was just talking to Tessa about how this story really could’ve benefited from me dedicating more than 24 minutes to it. I should’ve written it PREcopyedits on BALLAD, not post.

    Also, this was not supposed to be the story of mine that you saw when you came here. Why couldn’t you have come on one of the weeks when I posted something desperately impressive?

  14. Really eerie. Especially that, as they’re digging it, he feels himself fading.

    And… the author’s note. Heh, suburbia. /That/ is why I’ve become a little bit desperate. I’m launching war against my rural-trained habits. Read the newer entries on my journal. 😉

  15. psssst hes good looking. Maybe he can be a prize in a sisters comp. I’m sure he’s busy, but he could critique 10? pages, or lye still long enough so we can roll on him, like a puppy rolling on something yummy.

  16. There will be no puppy-rolling at Merry Sisters. We are anti-puppy. Unless they are being used for bloody, angsty, or dysfunctional purposes.

    The rest of that I ain’t touchin’ with a ten foot pole.

  17. I initially was going to go crazy-arse funny on this one, which may explain the amusement factor — I mean, they are throwing his stuff in a hole.

  18. That’s what I thought was funny–the stuff throwing and his not caring. And the little eyes watching him from the hole…

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