The Urn: Flash Fiction by cam
Bob Lawson tossed five ones and a twenty onto the unmade bed of his one room apartment. He took off his shirt and pants, dropping them into a pile in the middle of the room.
“Cheap bastard,” he said to Hiram, his pet goldfish as it drifted in slow circles in the fishbowl. “Sure wasn’t worth all the trouble I went to breaking into that smelly, old mausoleum.” He had thought the urn would fetch him a few hundred bucks, but the clerk at the pawn shop claimed it was nothing special.
He turned off the lamp and climbed into bed. Light from the street shined through the window, illuminating Hiram’s bowl.
Hiram the Goldfish
“So I’ve been reduced to robbing graves in church cemeteries. Beats getting a job I guess.” He closed his eyes and saw the black interior of the stone mausoleum. The size of the thing is what had attracted his attention. Anybody with a grave that size must have had some money, was what he had thought. “Twenty-five bucks,” he muttered as he drifted off to sleep.
The red LED lights of the bedside clock hurt his eyes, but he could still make out that it was a little after 2:00 am. The mausoleum continued to haunt his memory. After breaking the lock with a crowbar, he had entered and seen nine crypts standing end to end around the perimeter of the room. A tenth was positioned in the center on which the urn stood. Bob had simply grabbed the urn, looked inside, then dumped the ashes on the floor. He hadn’t stayed in the structure for more than a minute.
He glanced over at Hiram’s bowl. Tiny lights were swimming around like fluorescent guppies in a bowl of turbid water. “What the hell,” said Bob as he rolled off the bed and walked toward the fishbowl. Halfway there he stopped. Hiram was floating on his side, slowly turning with the current created by the swimming lights.
Bob stumbled backward. His feet got tangled in the discarded clothes, and he landed on his back. One of the tiny lights rose out of the water with the fish following it into the air above the bowl. Bob grabbed his discarded clothes and headed for the door but stopped when Hiram’s body struck him on the forehead and fell, lifeless, to the carpet.
A single light drifted slowly toward him, growing larger as it advanced. Human features formed within the glow. Nose to nose it drew, circling, pondering flesh and blood it had once known, sensing fear. The other lights flew up and out of the dark liquid, joining the specter, but retaining their miniature form. They spoke in unison, male and female identifiable in the airy vocalization.
“Where is it?”
In no state of mind to answer questions, Bob crawled backward to the bed, cowering from the congregation of souls that was pressing in on him.
The lights circled the room in single file, then scattered. Clothing flew from the closet along with storage boxes and shoes. Blankets landed in a heap on the floor. Dresser drawers dumped their contents into piles and smashed themselves against the walls.
Bob curled into a fetal position on the floor and looked up to the one who had taken form.
“What do you want from me?” he whimpered.
Silence struck as suddenly as the storm had begun.
“The Urn,” they sang, in a unified chorus.
“I….I….don’t have it. It’s at the pawn shop.”
“Take us there.".
“The pawn shop is closed, it’s the middle of the night,” said Bob.
“You had no trouble entering our mausoleum," said one of the spirits. "Go now. We will follow.”
Bob drove in the direction of the pawn shop, he pressed the accelerator pedal down hard and sped forward. The spirit took form again outside his window and pushed its face through the glass.
“You truly are a fool,” it said.
Bob parked a couple of blocks from the pawn shop and walked the rest of the way down a dark alley as tiny lights floated about his head.
The rear door to the shop had a window and Bob found a stone on the ground.
“What about the alarm?” he said. “The police will come.”
“Do you fear the authorities more than the dead?”
Bob smashed the glass and reached in to unlock the door. The spirit lights shot in ahead of him and found the urn within seconds. Bob was already back in his car before the sirens could be heard in the distance.
He drove into the cemetery with his headlights off and parked in front of the mausoleum. Inside, he set the urn back in its place. The discarded ashes spiraled upward from the floor, circled Bob’s head, then settled into the urn.
Atop the crypt on which the urn stood, the shadowy figure of a woman took shape.
“Those are my ashes,” she said. “I am also the matriarch of these spirits you have offended, and I sentence you to a most horrifying death.”
Spirit lights surrounded him, driving him from the mausoleum but in the opposite direction from his car. He ran through the darkness, tripping over potted flowers, colliding with monuments and headstones, herded by the flying spirits into the far reaches of the cemetery.
The ground vanished from beneath his feet, and he landed in an open pine box at the bottom of an unearthed grave. Bob stared into the empty eye sockets of the casket’s original occupant. Dessicated gray skin cracked as the smile formed.
“I promised you a most horrifying death,” said the spirit mother. She reached to the mound of dirt piled beside the grave and blew soil from her open palm.
Thousands of beetles rained down into the coffin and the lid slammed shut. Above the din of his own screams and the laughter of the corpse, he heard the spirit woman's final judgment.