The ancient metal door is a dark brown, ruddy mud-color, streaked by metallic liver spots of verdigris oozing chemical pus down its face. Blotches of orange and rust complete the patina rainbow, nestled in pale gray stonework like a tiny temple or castle, a heavy and squat structure, a miniature museum. But it’s not a storage facility for history, it’s a mausoleum. I don’t know whose family is rotting in it, but the crypt has been here a long time. Cracks web and splay up the rough stones of the facade, chased by ivy and creeping flowering plants, tendrils coiled and snaked over every surface as they stretch toward the eaves, stained with water spots from decades of weather.
My shadow stretches toward the stout little building. It’s bigger inside than it looks, if memory serves, but I’m not certain it does. I did a nifty job of trying to drown it last night, after … well, that’s why I’m here.
I’m trying to piece together the “before” parts. I did such a thorough job of trying to forget, I can’t even remember what happened beforehand. I know it sounds like a hokey sort of crock to sell, but it’s true. I can’t remember how we got in. Maybe, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t want to remember how to get in. Then I can call the whole thing off and forget it. Let the dead lay.
But I can’t do that. I don’t know what happened but I know this is the last place I remember being, and before it goes any farther I need to figure out what happened.
I keep saying that, have you noticed? Yeah, me too. I don’t know why I’m repeating that statement, but I keep coming back to it. Maybe so you’ll understand, or believe me, or I’ll convince you. Or maybe I’m trying to convince me. I know what we all saw, but I don’t know what happened. I know I’m alone today, and there were six of us last night.
Six. Now one.
I’m guilty, I know that. Survivor’s guilt, I guess. Maybe that’s compelling me to be here, to do this. Maybe that’s what keeps the expression on my lips, keeps me saying I want to know what happened. If I say it often enough, you’ll tell me it’s okay, it’s not my fault. But you can’t do that, can you? You don’t know if it is or not, because I haven’t told you what happened.
All the other little stones, some larger than others, some smaller, some white, some black, some gray, some brown, all stare as if in reverent worship of the large, gabled mausoleum, the fluted Grecian columns bracing sentinels on either side of the wide steps ascending to the entrance. Weeds crowd the foundation and push through the expansion joints in the concrete, a ragged reminder that nothing is permanent. The mausoleum is a reminder that death is.
I take a halting step forward.