The ground was moist from recent rain, but she’d brought one of the thick, wool blankets from the old cedar chest and it was enough to keep her dry. She sat down on the folded fabric and pulled the thermos from inside her cloak.
There was barely any moon, just enough to let the gravestones show as reverse silhouettes – pieces cut out from the surrounding dark. Pieces that seemed to exist in a world where the light never reached.
Or maybe that was her grief speaking.
It had been years since she’d lost him, not to any plague or pandemic, but to the very mundane condition of extreme old age. He’d admitted to being ninety; she had been certain he was over one hundred when he died.
Not that it mattered anymore.
She lit a candle and placed it on top of his stone. Then she opened the thermos and poured steaming liquid into the cup that was also the lid. The first pour, she gave to the ground, and the scent rose around her: cinnamon, cloves, alcohol, damp earth.
The second pour was hers to drink. She lifted the plastic vessel toward the gravestone in a toast and forced a smile. “I brought your hot toddy, Granddad, just like always.”
Spiced tea, honey, and bourbon warmed her from the inside out. Between sips she told her grandfather what had changed in her life since her last visit.
When the candle flickered out, she drained the last of her drink, replaced the lid, and rose to leave. Folding the damp blanket over her arm, she bid a final. “Good night, Granddad. I love you. See you next year.”
She walked away, unaware that, beneath the bourbon-laced earth, frail, fleshless hands were reaching upward, and a withered, rasping voice was speaking.
“Love you too, kiddo.”
Written for the October 2021 #Creativefest. Prompt: silhouette.
Special thanks to Fran H. for a line suggestion.