The man in question (Clarence Ruth) was a “man of his times” and his methods of archeology study aren’t really kosher. (Some would call it outright grave robbing… read The Maifan-San’s blog to find out more.) The Maifan-San (aka Anthroslug on his blog) wrote about how the regulations of archeology have changed over the years and a bit about Mr. Ruth…. But then he related the creepy supernatural occurrence that is said to have happened at the moments of Mr. Ruth’s death.
Since The Maifan-San’s intent with the blog post and retelling the death bed moment was more academic, the story came off a bit short, brusque, and remarkably not frightening or creepy.
Which is all find and well… but I have been jonesing for fiction and I decided to “sex it up” a bit… make the story dark, make it creepy, make it a nifty ghost story.
So I did.
Below is my random retelling of what may or may not be how Clarence Ruth spent his=is final moments on the earth. Obviously, this is a work of fiction… the only real facts I had were that there was a man by that name, that the man died, and that he was bald. The rest in sheer speculation and fairy tales.
The room is dark. The light from Clarence’s bedside lamp make feeble attempts to penetrate the gloom but to no avail. Propped up on his pillows and racked with a cough that seemed to pull itself with tumultuous pain from his chest, he lie exhausted staring with unseeing eyes at the few people who had bothered to brave the rain in order to be present. The night nurse sits dozing in a creaky rocking chair, her hair fallen forward to cover her eyes. Jack and I stand nervously at the foot of the bed, unsure of what to say, unsure of what to do.
The fact that he is dying is well known, the question remains only of the when.
Another racking cough and he sits up heaving, the bed shuddering under the movement, the veins in his neck suddenly florid and bright against his dusky skin. The nurse opens one eye and then goes back to her thoughts. Jack moves forward and reaches for the glass of water on the nightstand when suddenly Clarence’s hand shoots out and he latches on to Jack. I can see his nails biting into Jack’s arm and I watch in silent horror as the glass slips and shatters on the wooden floor. The nurse sits up with a gasp and Jack cries out more in surprise than anything… but Clarence doesn’t seem to heed the sound. His eyes are suddenly very round and white, jutting from his skull like glowing orbs of madness. Rivers of sweat flow over his bald head and his mouth opens and closes as he struggles for breath.
“The dirt… the graves… the scent of the….” His whispers are loud and Jack doesn’t look him in the eye as he tries to untangle himself, but Clarence holds on, his fingers tightening bunching the fabric of Jack’s coat into a ball. “I can see them all…”
The night nurse is up now, a look of dogged determination on her face. Roughly she pulls at Clarence from the other side of the bed muttering about his need to rest. Together they pry his fingers away and force him back down against the pillows only to move backwards as another coughing fit seizes him convulsing his body up in a spasm that lifts his chest towards the ceiling. It seems to go on forever, until I think there simply cannot be anything left inside him to cough up, no more air, no more blood, nothing.
When it finally subsides, his body seems to have shrunken. He lays quietly, still blinking stupidly up. We stand suspended, the room suddenly hot and crowded. I feel the need to cough myself, to somehow force air into the stagnate space that seems to wrap itself around us.
He speaks, his voice raw from the coughing, “They won’t let me go quietly into the night.”
Against my own judgment I hear myself ask, “Who?”
There is a moment of silence and then he sits bolt upright, eyes wild, hands clasped in front of his chest, “They’re coming, They’re coming! They drag themselves from the dirt, they know where I am…”
We surround him, touching, pleading, cajoling, the nurse’s eyes are bright and Jack’s breath is ragged, but he will not be quieted. His voice increases in pitch, in fervor and he glares in terror at the empty corners of the room. “They don’t understand… you don’t understand… I never meant to hurt anyone…. No, please no… Don’t Take Me!”
He is weeping now, face slick with tears and sweat and snot, his body wound tight and his muscles clenching. The nurse fumbles in her kit for a needle, something must be done to quiet him but he fights us off and screams at his ghosts.
“To Hell, then, to hell… you long dead apparitions, you who have come to drag me…” Gleeful laughter bubbles up from his cracked lips and his eyes roll back into his head, their whites a sharp contrast to his now flushed pallor. Again the nurse struggles with the needle, again he fights her off.
“You can’t take me, foul ancestors! I won’t let you… You can’t… Oh God, Please don’t let them… NOOO… I BEG of you… Leave Me In PEACE!...” and then with a high pitched wail that chills the very marrow of my bones he collapses.
We stand frozen, the nurse with her needle posed, Jack with tears on his cheeks, me open mouthed and shivering.
Dead, his features are frozen in a look of abject horror. His eyes refuse to be closed and I finally just pull the sheet up to cover his face. The wind howls against the house and I think I hear an echo of his final cry. Stumbling we turn to leave, but I can feel him there behind me. I knew his eyes in death are still open, staring at the ghosts he had disturbed in life.