The wind was howling, clawing, biting. The cold was frigid and intense, an enemy to heart and resolve. Breath misted on the air. It flowed and writhed into the myriad shapes of madness.
Hands stuffed in pockets, breath streaming from mouths, we wandered. This was not our place. We were intruders, interlopers. We were not welcome.
But there we were nonetheless. The place was pitch black. Blacker than night. Blacker than despair. There was no starlight. The clouds robbed us of that.
Graves loomed out of the darkness, pale and menacing. By the light of distant city streets names could be read. These were the graves of greater men. The great and good of a city lost to time. Some were recognizable, their names stolen for use in works of fiction. Others were obscure. Their deeds proclaimed loudly in worn down stone. Their memories carved in memento mori. Skulls, silent and gaping, ill-carved, competed with indistinct cherubs for attention in the darkling gloom.
Down gravel paths we walked, the air filled with inane chatter, hoping to dispel the gloom with human voices.
We failed. There was an edge beneath our words, a gap left by the animal hindbrain. The gap screamed out dire warnings of darkness, of doom, of fear and of fright. “Leave the dead to their rest,” it insisted.
Malice, all-encompassing, without focus, dogged our steps. Something was watching. Many somethings were watching.
This was their place. They hissed without voices, without words. We were not wanted. Shadows moved where no light cast them. Pale glows shone where there was nothing.
The trees, old and careworn as the graves they guarded, creaked with voices of wood and murder.
Black gates barred the night. Not to keep people out, but to keep things in. Some posed against the gate, daring, inviting.
Fools, but safe ones. No knives lanced from the darkness. No claws scraped their way through flesh. Just brooding anger, impotent and malignant.
I walked away. The group ambled along in my wake, not following, but moving in the same direction. Headstones yawned to either side of the path as feet crunched along gravel with gunshot sounds.
Here in this corner, I noted as we passed, had men died for their faith, their political beliefs. The two twinned in the fires of fanaticism. There were buried the men who had persecuted them, men of crowns, men of faith, men of death.
In another corner, so said the legends, waited a little dog for its master to resume his watch. Between them lay the graves of greater men, of lesser men, of all in between. All united in death. All made equal.
In the end we left the graves to their greater men, to their ghosts, memories, statues and shadows. We searched for warmer climes, for friendly light, from the realm of the dead into the realm of the living.