Nat Tyler sobbed over the grave of Elena Hainsley as he had every night for the nine months since her passing. Though he was 30 years her elder, his devotion to her was undying. From the moment he’d seen her across the hospital hallway, he dedicated every waking breath to trying to ease her pain and suffering, often stealing from the dispensary in order to give her the treatment her family was too poor to afford.
Nat had been employed as a nursing assistant at the institution for only a short time before Elena was admitted there for a rare form of cancer. Though he had no formal medical training, he was highly intelligent, and often snickered at the med students when they tried to make a diagnosis only to fail miserably. He watched how the treatments were given and was soon diverting medication from one patient to another, delivering his own concoction of meds as he fudged the charts so no one would suspect any wrongdoing.
Once Elena had been admitted, all of his focus and attention was on her. He knew the times her family members would visit, and he knew her complete treatment schedule. Though there was only small-talk between Nat and Elena for now, he was certain they would be together once she got better. And she would get better, he knew she would because he would see to it.
Elena began to make progress and the doctors seemed baffled because nothing they’d tried previously had slowed the cancer that was ravaging her body. Nat wasn’t surprised though, he had adjusted her chemotherapy and knew he was the reason for her ‘miraculous’ progress. With Elena’s new prognosis, he knew they would soon be together, so he began to converse more and more with her and her family.
After a couple weeks of improvement though, things took a turn for the worse. Elena inexplicably slipped into a coma; the doctors had no answers. Nat was at a loss, he stayed up night after night researching, scouring medical journals for a cause and cure to Elena’s sudden change in condition.
On October 25th, at 11:43 p.m., Elena succumbed to her battle and passed while Nat was away from the hospital. He’d gone into work late that evening with what he thought would be the answer only to find her room empty. Her family was with the case worker. Nat stood outside in the hallway and eavesdropped, sobbing silently along with the others. As he heard her family readying to leave, he turned and walked away.
That afternoon, he went into his supervisor’s office and quit. He knew he would be unable to return to the place where Elena had died. Though he remained at a distance, he followed Elena’s parents and brother around town as they made the funeral arrangements.
When the day of the funeral came, Nat could hardly bring himself to get out of bed, but he did. Though Elena hardly knew him, he knew she would want him there; they were soulmates whether she’d realized it or not.
The turnout for the funeral was small, maybe fifteen people huddled under umbrellas around the freshly dug grave. Nat remained several yards away from the family. Though they had met at the hospital, they wouldn’t understand the connection he had to Elena or his presence at the solemn occasion.
Once the service was over and the small gathering had left, Nat remained behind until a cemetery worker told him that he’d need to leave, but could come back in the morning. He acted like he was leaving and drove around the block, soon to return a short time later. He jumped the back wall and returned to Elena’s grave. A full moon rose in the sky as Nat lay on the moist ground, naked and sobbing. Exhausted, he fell asleep only to wake to a strange, yet alluring sound. He glanced at his watch as chills ran down his spine – 11:43 p.m. – the exact time Elena had died. A voice unlike any he’d ever heard was singing the most beautiful song. He’d never heard the song or the voice before, but he knew it was Elena. For the first time since her death, Nat felt at peace. The song eventually subsided and Nat left feeling more peaceful than he had in days. He returned every night after to greet the voice that also returned at precisely 11:43 p.m., for the next nine months.
One particularly warm night the following July, there was no voice. Nat glanced at his watch, 12:17 p.m., yet there was no serenade from Elena. He rested his ear to the earth atop her grave but still nothing; he became agitated.
“Elena! Please, my dear. Sing to me.”
He beat on the ground with his fists until they bled but the sweet sound of her voice never came. Sorrow turned to confusion as unfamiliar words floated through the humid night air.
“Take me home, my dear. Please free me from this grave.”
Nat cried uncontrollably as the voice repeated the words over and over. Nat gathered himself and left in a rush only to return an hour later.
Jumping over the wall this time proved to be slightly more difficult than normal. First, he lifted the wagon and dropped it onto the other side before tossing the shovel and tarps over, then joined his collected items. Once in the cemetery again, Nat placed the shovel and tarps into the wagon and made his way toward Elena’s grave.
Nat gently rested Elena’s body in the wagon and placed a kiss on her lips before he wrapped the rest of the tarp over her decaying form. After he returned the grave site to nearly the exact condition in which he’d found it, Nat carted Elena’s withered remains through the still night air; all the while the wheels of the wagon squished into the moist earth.
With modern medicine failing to save Elena’s life, Nat took it upon himself to ensure that she would remain with him forever. He brought Elena to his home and carried her over the threshold as he’d imagined so many times.
“Mr. and Mrs. Nat Tyler,” he announced as he carried her into the living room of his modest beach cottage.
He brought Elena to his workshop at the rear of the house and rested her on a bed in the center of the room. He then spent every day working to preserve his beautiful Elena. Her body had decayed to a point where her bones no longer held together at the joints, so he created a framework with coat hangers and wire to keep them in place. Her eyes were gone, those he replaced with large marbles that resembled her natural eye color. Her skin had sloughed away, to replenish her precious flesh, he used silk cloth and a patchwork of plaster where necessary. What remained of her liquefied organs he removed and replaced with rags and large bundles of fabric to give her body the shapely form she once had. During her stay in the hospital, he’d secretly collected large samples of her hair, now he used it to construct a wig that he placed atop her skull. He adorned her with jewelry, and changed her clothes daily.
The pungent scent of decay was a constant reminder of long ago death, but Nat camouflaged it with bottles of expensive perfume. He even used formaldehyde to slow the process as much as he could. Each night, Nat lay next to his beautiful Elena, and whispered promises he intended to keep.
The relationship lasted for years until one night, while lying naked in bed next to his bride, he woke unable to breathe. He bolted upright and grabbed for his throat, trying to relieve the pressure but an invisible hand gripped tighter, further constricting his windpipe. Nat flailed and fell to the floor, his eyes wild and confused, he searched the room for any hint as to what was happening but to no avail. Bright white spots burst into his vision as the room began to close in around him and an unfamiliar noxious stench filled the air.
An ominous silhouette appeared and stood over Nat as he struggled to remain conscious. He squinted trying to identify the towering form in front of him, the lack of oxygen made it impossible to think and he surrendered to the darkness, but not before the towering figure spoke in a booming, malevolent tone.
“You stole what was not yours to take. She is tainted now; she will remain yours forever as you so greedily desired.”
Police responded to reports of a foul smell coming from the residence of Nat Tyler. When they arrived, they found Nat, naked and decayed, his body entwined on the floor with the macabre corpse of Elena Hainsley. Though the scene was gruesome, authorities were intrigued and stunned to find Elena’s corpse in such a well-preserved state. Her body was examined by authorities before being returned to an unmarked grave where she was finally allowed to rest in peace.
~ Craig McGray
© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.