Death was palpable in the city.
Like undertow, it forced its way through, unseen but irresistible. Silent. Invisible but for the lives it twisted and distorted to its rhythms. But here in the graveyard there was peace. Death had no more work to do here. These final resting places are islands this dark current flows under and around, but then leaves behind, quiet, all voices spent.
Father Clark had lost himself to weeks of burying his parishioners, consoling their families, closing down the rubble that had been his church, and trying to hang onto his faith. Now he stood by freshly-turned mounds and looked off across the graves, across the water, to Miami in the distance. He and Death worked closely together; and would until the day they joined hands, and it carried him back home to his Creator.
The priest knew Death intimately; how it ebbed and flowed, surged in and held back; and what he felt this day disturbed him dearly. He sensed it biding its time somewhere very near; holding back just offshore, resting and gathering strength.
It was lying in wait out there. Watching for some dark signal; from above, or below.
Then it would come thundering in, pouring down over everyone, tearing souls loose in devastating masses. What he’d witnessed in the church had been just a hint of what was to come.
So just this once, even on his island sanctuary, its icy hand reached him, and the good priest shuddered.
At that same moment, deeper into the graveyard, lost among a dense and sorry gathering of mournful old crypts, long-crumbling and sagging in toward each other, a man’s hooded Chemsheath peeked out from the thickly shadowed doorway of an ancient caretaker’s shack. After a long moment of detailed search, testing his fate, the rest of him slipped out into the gray grit of morning.
He held there then, and nothing moved.