From the author: “This story is loosely based on a real person, and when I first heard of the real-life “Tommy” I couldn’t help but think the dead would show their gratitude if they could. I’m a huge fan of Tales from the Crypt stories in which nefarious evil-doers get their come-uppance, but I also wanted to show — and then erase — the artificial lines society uses to divide human beings into varying degrees of worth.
In the first draft, my outstanding critique group of David Powell, Vanessa Reid and Tony Sarrecchia, all pointed out I’d given my Tommy no reason for his compulsion to attend the indigent funerals. I found that reason in the pandemic and its heartbreaking stories of people dying alone in the ICU with no family or friends there to comfort them. I then had PseudoPod alum and ER/trauma nurse L’Erin Ogle read the revision to make sure that scene was accurate. Ultimately, the point of both the story and how it came to be is that none of us should have to do any of this life – even the end of it – alone. We all deserve to have someone give a damn. And while the motivation for the real “Tommy” differs starkly from the fictional one, I take comfort in knowing he is out there, tending his field.”
By Nathan McCullough
Tommy found the graveyard peaceful.
It was a strange feeling to be sure, especially given what they were there to do, but with the world on fire, an afternoon with the dead seemed a welcome respite.
The slightest of breezes puffed up his long black hair a bit but did nothing to cool him off. It was a hot Georgia day, about the only kind this part of the world seemed to have anymore. Between the four months without a haircut (the COVID cut they called it) and the cloth covering his face, he felt like his head might burst into flames. His body was only slightly more comfortable. He’d drawn the line at a suit jacket today and instead wore a short-sleeved button-down shirt and a tie. He felt like an IT guy in a bad TV movie.
He stared just beyond the gravesite, ignoring the activity to his left. Where his gaze fell, the dead rested, though most of the living didn’t know they were there. Hundreds of unmarked graves lay shoulder to shoulder holding Atlanta’s unknown, unclaimed or down and out. And their footprint on this patch of Palmetto earth was about to grow just a little bit bigger, like kudzu creeping into the road but stopping just where the tires pass by. (Continue Reading…)