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An old gravedigger lays his dearest friend to rest.
While dusk drained the colors from the sky, the old gravedigger tossed the last of the loose earth on the grave. For many years he dug the resting-places for the dead. He figured them all to be the same--just another hole in the ground, but now he realized they werenít all the same. Now he buried his old and dear friend, a fellow gravedigger. He never thought digging a grave could hurt, but it did. Not only did his old bones crack and pop, or his thin wiry hands ache, but his heart cried out in agony. Even in death their friendship would not fade, the gravedigger knew that. They had been companions since their youth when the cemetery had been nothing more than a few unmarked graves of travelers to now with its now present state of hundreds of tombstones and elaborate mausoleums.
He stuck his shovel in the earth and braced himself on the tool. He wiped his dirty face with his sweaty forearm. He watched while one of winterís small snowfalls came down from above spotting the cemetery white. The death of his friend seemed fitting to the old gravedigger. Most of natureís creations perished in winter; no fruits grew, flowers withered, water froze. He had died in winter and, in that, his death seemed natural, part of the season, but he knew when summer came new life began to spring up. The gravedigger knew his friend would not return with the new season. A cold wind swept through the cemetery, taking the old gravediggerís slight feeling of comfort with it.
Murder wasnít natural.
The seasons, they were natural--not murder; to have your throat cut in the streets isnít natural. The people in town didnít care. None of them came to his funeral, and he and his friend had been at every one of theirs. It wasnít right. Life wasnít right. The old gravedigger sat down slowly eyeing his friendís grave somberly.
"There you are, old friend," he said. "Best resting-place Iíve ever done if I say so myself. Fit for a king, but made for you. Oh, yes, old friend, I guess this is the end, eh?"
The old gravedigger coughed and his entire body shook. "My old boneís arenít what they used to be, I say. I canít lift a shovel like I used to. It takes me twice as long to dig a hole, but someoneís gotta do it, right?" He paused, almost expecting a reply from his departed friend. His heart sank to his stomach; his hands started to shake as he remembered his last moment with his friend. With teary eyes the old gravedigger said, "Iím sorry about fighting with you before you left for town. Iíd take it back if I could, but I canít. Iíve gotta live knowing I hurt you, and how long that is I donít know exactly. It canít be that long. My body is about to give out soon, I can feel it." He rose to his feet as best he could, wobbling as he did so. "Iíve been around death my whole life," he said, looking around the cemetery. "Dug a lot of graves, but never did I get accustomed to it. I donít think anyone could." He paused, unconsciously expecting a reply again. "You used to talk so much, always talking, most of the time about nothing. You were louder than those drunken dwarves that are always walking around town, remember them?" He chuckled aloud. "I used to wish that youíd just bite your own tongue so youíd be quiet, but nowÖ" the old gravedigger wiped the tears from his eyes, choking on his next words. "Iíd do anything to be able to hear your voice again. You were my only friend, and this is where I have to say goodbye for good."
The old man freed his shovel free from earth, covered in dirt and aching all over. He kneeled down and kissed his old dear friend goodbye.
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