The Salted Earth

The sky was a sickly pale yellow. Twilight came early, which meant there was no time to waste.

The men worked in teams, moving through the rows of headstones with grim determination upon on their faces. One of the older men, a man named Sully, told the others that this would mark the twenty-fifth year he’d performed this ritual. 

The preacher came, and his prayer was brief. With bowed heads the men listened, hearing the words often read from Psalms. The blessing was more for the living brethren than the dead. It was fortification for the job at hand. 

When the preacher was done he went back to sit down in his car, an old silver beater. He did not go anywhere. 

It was unspoken, but his very presence made the men feel twitchy. He sat in his car with the windows up, Bible in hand. No one wanted to think they’d need his services again. 

Sheriff Drake stood just beyond the graveyard. Rifle in hand, eyes shaded by dark glasses, he waited. 

It was almost like a dance: the men performed, working in sets of two. One took a list of all the names as the other applied the mixture to the top of each grave. It was a simple formula, but as miraculous as any drug: one cup of sand, one cup of water, one cup of salt. 

Sully’s wife mixed up the brew into a paste the might before, as she had every time the full moon was coming, for many years. Grandma Sully had done it before her, and perhaps three or four other unfortunate Sully brides before that. There were specific instructions that at least one cup of the mix be placed onto each grave, smeared onto the dirt. They used an old measuring cup and patted the paste down with a shovel. 

The Sheriff removed his glasses and looked skyward. The sky grew a shade darker, as if something large had passed before the sun. 

He tensed, and pulled the safety off of his gun. . 

It happened, not every moon, but often enough, that the men missed a grave, or that the moon rose too fast for them to complete the task. Maybe a drop less of the salted earth was placed, one drop too little to stop the Rising. 

Sheriff Drake heard a dull keening, a moan, and the unearthly crunch of something rising, pulling itself from the ground. 

Drake yelled for his men to fall back, and they did as they were told. Forming a line at the entrance of the cemetery, the policemen drew their guns. 

As the Undead rose, Drake and his men shot them back down to the salted earth. 

  • Copyright: © 2008 Lori Titus
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