"Jeff, I don't know how to tell you this."

That was when it all started. From the moment I heard Officer Bart Grandin say those words, I haven't had a moment's peace. I don't know how much more of this I can take. That's why I need you to help me. You need to hear my side. You need to hear the truth.

I remember swallowing hard. The look in his eyes was strange. He seemed seriously distressed. Of course, now I know why.

"Tell me what?" I asked.

"We've had a report come in from the cemetery. It's about Concetta's grave."

My head was spinning a mile a minute. What could possibly have happened to my wife's grave that would require police involvement? She'd only been dead a week, and buried for far less than that. Hell, I'll bet the dirt hadn't even settled in on her casket at that point. But something had happened, that much was clear. I had to know what.

"Just give it to me straight, Bart," I said.

He took a deep breath. "I'm afraid Concetta's grave has been... disturbed."

All of the air left my lungs. A tingle ran up the back of my skull. "Disturbed?" I don't know what I was expecting him to say, but it certainly wasn't that.

"I'm afraid so," he said. "It looks like someone... got in."

"Got in?" The idea was absurd. I couldn't imagine who would do such a thing. If only that had been the worst of it.

Bart went on. "Now, I need you to prepare yourself for what I'm about to tell you, but the news is not good." He paused, as if he were waiting for me to give some signal that I was ready. I gave him nothing. He went on anyway. "Jeff, I'm afraid she's gone."

The true meaning of the words didn't register at first. "What do you mean she's gone?" I demanded. "Of course she's gone. She died a week ago. You were at the funeral."

Bart took another deep breath. "That's not exactly what I mean, Jeff. I mean she's gone, as she's not in her grave anymore."

My chest took another blow. My muscles tightened and I could barely loosen them enough to ask my question. The words came out shrill and childlike. "Well, where the hell is she?"

Bart shook his head. "We don't know, Jeff. But it looks like they might have taken her into the woods.”

I didn’t even make an effort to respond.

“I'm sorry,” Bart said. “We're going to do everything we can to bring her back."

It was too much to handle, especially so soon after Concetta's death. Numbness set in. I became a zombie seated at my kitchen table. "Oh. I see," I droned. "Well, thank you."

Bart rose and placed a hand on my shoulder. It startled me and I flinched, but he didn't seem to notice. "Don't worry, Jeff," he said. "We'll get to the bottom of it. I promise I'll keep you updated."

"Thank you," I repeated, staring straight ahead. I was past the point of taking in or giving out information.

Bart patted my shoulder with more force than I would have liked. "I'll see myself out," he said before setting his coffee mug in the sink and lumbering heavily out the front door.

I sat there for a long time. It was as if every part of me just refused to work. It didn't seem right or fair. Concetta was dead. The funeral was over. The mourners had come and gone. I thought I'd never have to think about her again.

To our friends, family and community, Concetta and I seemed to have the perfect life. We had a house of our own in a nice part of town and appeared to be very much in love even after the years had rolled by.

But a marriage isn't always what it looks like.

To call my marriage strained was an understatement. The truth is she was abusive. She would tear me down in every way she could find. Often it was with her words. "Useless fuck" was her favorite pet name for me. "You're worthless," she would say. "I hate you." I wish I could tell you that was all, but there were even times when she raised a hand to me. For the better part of twenty years, she dealt blow after blow to my body and spirit. I could hardly call myself a man after all that time. She could not have emasculated me more if she had castrated me on the Thanksgiving table in full view of our friends and family members.

Needless to say, the shame I felt was crippling. I withdrew from society, became a shut in. I devolved into a rat, scurrying around my own home, running from the crack of Concetta's whip.

It was such a mercy when she died. Mind you, I had nothing to do with it. The death was entirely accidental. That’s what they said. They said the amount of that sleep aid they found in her system was only just enough to kill her. So you see? Accident. Proof positive.

But, even so, I was worried that people would become suspicious of me. I was concerned that I couldn't fake being sad well enough, or for as long as I would need to. Another mercy came when she was finally buried and her funeral came to an end. Now, I thought, I can finally begin to pick up the pieces of my shattered life.

And then Bart Grandin showed up with his news.

I don't know how long I sat there before I heard the backdoor creak open. It took the anxiety a minute to fire up. By the time I was on high alert a new sound had found its way to my ears.

Footsteps.

Someone was in the house. This was not what I needed. Not now, after the day I'd had.

I jumped to my feet and turned toward the kitchen door. A long, dark shadow stretched into the room from the hallway. I watched it change shape as its caster shuffled ever closer.

"Who's there?" I demanded. My cracking falsetto was far from threatening.

The footsteps stopped. Silence fell. And then, there came an answer that made my blood run cold. The words came out in a breathy, snakelike hiss.

"Usssselessss fuck!"

The intruder was on the move again. In seconds, she appeared in the doorway.

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It was her. Concetta.

Her hair was tangled and matted with dirt. Milky eyes stared blankly in my direction. Her jaw hung open as if the muscles that worked it had failed. Her body was both limp and rigid at the same time, and she dragged one foot behind her as she shambled into the room.

"I hhhhate you," she hissed. She moved toward me with a sickening combination of jerks and slides. Her hands grasped stiffly in front of her. From clear across the room, I could see that her nails were broken and caked with dirt.

All at once, my muscles kicked into gear. I dove across the room for the cordless phone we kept on the counter. Frantically, I dialed 9-1-1.

"What's your emergency?"

"She's here! She's here! Send someone quickly!"

As I pleaded with the dispatcher, I watched Concetta from the corner of my eye. I was too terrified to question it when I saw her turn suddenly in the middle of the room. She no longer seemed to be heading for me, but for the door to our bedroom which opened into the kitchen.

With Concetta out of sight, I decided to make a break for it. I raced from the room and out the front door where I practically threw myself at the first officer to show up. I've never felt relief so sweet. Unfortunately, it wouldn't last.

The next thing I know I'm getting cuffs slapped onto my wrists and being loaded into the back of a squad car. They had found my wife's missing corpse, they told me. She was lying on my bed, perfectly positioned, right where they said I'd placed her.

Of course I tried to explain, but no one would listen. I realize how it sounds. It's ridiculous, but it's the truth.

I hear them talking about "the sick fuck who stole his dead wife from the cemetery." I hear them speculating. "I guess they can't say no if they're dead," they joke. They sicken me.

Look, I know what it looks like, but you have to help me get out of here. You have to believe me. You have to believe that her hatred was so vindictive that she would drag herself out of her own grave just to cause me more pain.

No, I don't know why she would do it. I don't know why she hates me so much.

And I don’t know what you’re suggesting. What could this possibly have to do with the way she was---I mean---her death? I already told you. It was an accident.

Honestly, it was.



Written by Jdeschene
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