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By Davidc

Mark perched himself stiffly under the elderly oak, He had tried hard to make it his place. It was somewhere he could place his perfectly ironed napkin on his lap. It was a sanctuary where he could eat his geometrically sliced sandwich.

It had been his therapists’ idea to find a safe place within a hostile region, and to then endure everything that screamed at him from outside of it. Mark's assessment of this was, that it was a wholly ridiculous notion. But his compulsions about authority were stronger than his dismissal, and this was enough to make sure that without fail he always held to his regimented vigil.

Before mark could settle fully, he searched the area. His eyes darted back and forth as he scanned the cold sea of graying tombstones. The only thing to be seen was a funeral with bright yellow flowers this made mark feel calm as it was his favorite colour. Mark as always hoped desperately that this meant his worst fears would never become reality. That the dead would always be that. Never the less he resolved himself to the fact he was safe for now and he converged his attentions on his lunch.

The bench, mark had made his asylum soon creaked softly under the weight of the man who slowly sat down beside him. The outsider had seemingly popped up from nowhere, and unwittingly imposed himself upon mark's sanctum. The sudden inconvenience of the stranger was annoyingly unavoidable. Never the less without knowledge or effort the stranger had defeated marks defenses, without so much as a fight.

Mark swiftly retreated in to himself, he turned his body away slowly making every effort to keep his gaze adverted. Appraising that this was the best way to avoid unwanted conversation. He bunched together his belongings tightly on his lap, wrapping himself in to a much smaller and safer insular bubble. Despite his efforts, marks breaths had now become short and heavy, and all he could think to avoid the onslaught of the panic attack, was that he just wanted to get through another perfectly routine, uneventful day.

"What a bloody lovely day." The stranger remarked joyfully and casually. Completely unaware of his infraction.

Mark's heart sank as the voice hit his eardrum, he realised his failure in evading contact. the sun was radiating at full strength and Its heat was only broken periodically by a small weak breeze. But it only truly served as an effective way to transmit the aroma emanating from his unwanted guest. His scent was a strong mix of soil, damp and an unfamiliar sickly aroma. Mark defiantly refused the itch of temptation to look up and completely ignored the stronger one to run away, to just give up his place and move. He was determined to complete his normal day. To calm his screaming mind, he constructed the not so elaborate assumption that the stranger must have been the gravedigger. Even so and much to marks annoyance the unbearable scent easily over-powered the taste of his lunch. With a great deal of trepidation, he discarded his lunch in to his napkin and saw no option out of social conformity, but to respond to the stranger.

"Ye- Ye-Yes." Stuttering, struggling to get the word out. mark hoped the interloper would sense his unwillingness to converse. he hoped this would be the end to a short-lived conversation, but it was to no avail.

"A weird place to eat your lunch fella." The man retorted his voice gravely and horse.

"It’s part of my therapy, my dr says I should 'face my fears'." Marks stomach sank as he proclaimed he had a peculiarity about himself to a stranger. Mark always wondered if there was actually anything wrong with his phobia. It had always seemed like a remarkably sensible phobia to be honest. He knew the problem for his family was when he couldn't leave the house for the fear of seeing one of them, which even for mark seemed like an extreme over-reaction.

"Therapy! What’s up with ya boy, not one of them queers or schizos are you." The man said flippantly. Followed by a little chortle, as if it was a complete social norm to use such derogative terms.

"No!" Mark responded without hesitation. "Not that there is anything wrong with either of those things though." He said quickly as not to seem disgusted by the accusation, but to make sure he highlighted his repulsion of the stranger’s comments. They had irritated him sufficiently enough for mark to ponder when this guy was born. He thought maybe the fifties, perhaps, but just how old could a guy be before digging six foot holes in the ground just wasn't feasible. But even these thoughts weren't enough to peek his curiosity. almost defiantly not enough to get the better of his anxieties. So, he kept his eyes fixed firmly at the graveled path way.

"No offence meant mate, I think my nephews’ sons one of em. so, it’s in the family ain't it. any way what’s up with ya." The stranger said seemingly apologetic.

"I have Kinemortophobia." Mark said in a very matter a fact tone

"what’s the flipping heck that when it’s at home"

"a phobia of the un-dead. basically, I’m scared of zombies " Mark laughed, this had been the first time he had said this out loud and it was comical.

"Oh right, that’s odd mate, well I think I’ve had enough fun for today, time for me to get back to the dirt

“ok thanks " mark said feeling strangely confident his anxiety had subsided noticeably

"no problem mate." The stranger said as he reassuringly placed his hand on marks shoulder, his touch was unexpectedly icy cold and as mark looked up to the hand perched on his shoulder it was covered in the filth of earth. The soil under his nails was dark and fresh and his skin was gray and tight. It allowed his bones and tendons to protruded through its tissue paper consistency. Marks hair stood on end as he stared up at the man’s gaunt face. The man walked away it was now obvious what he was. The back of his suit was missing it allowed a clear view of the figures mottled and decaying flesh. The stranger turned to wave good bye, mark could have sworn his eye had popped out of the socket. It swayed rolling on his cheek.

Mark waved back automatically without thinking the thing that was before him made his skin tingle and his brain fire on overtime. he watched the figure disappeared silently in to a pile of loose soil. Mark sobbed and he laughed quietly an ambiguous mix of fear and happiness. He stood slowly, the contents of his lap tumbled to the floor. Mark made no attempt to stop them he just walked aimlessly in the opposite direction of the walking corpse had done. His sobs had now turned into a mutter inaudibly to all but himself his strides became increasingly irregular he wobbled about without thought of direction or obstacles as he made his way through the gate the last thing mark heard was the honk of the horn and the crunch of his bones echoing in his ears as his body crumpled neatly underneath the number 34 bus.

With that it turned black. when he eventually opened his eyes mark was back under the old oak , sighing with relief mark realised he must have fallen asleep. He must have dreamt It, he looked over at the funeral now and watched as the mourners began to leave the grave side. He watched as the sobbing woman moved closer, she became more familiar and before long he recognised her. his heart sank with the realisation of who it was and his eyes began to blur. He stood up walking towards the woman, he shouted her name, but she did not responded she looked straight through him. mark fell to his knees and buried his head in his hands and sobbed how was this possible how could his wife not have recognised

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31 Aug, 2017
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