This story is for my cousin, Amanda Marie Kieffer, February 10th, 1991 – September 17th, 2010. The back story is true, the combining with Pet Semetary is not. Today is 5 months since she passed away, and I know she would understand this story. We both LOVED Pet Semetary, and as morbid as this is, I know she would understand, she would 'get' it. She loved my writing, she was ALWAYS my biggest fan, and she would love being in one of my stories. This is for you, Buddy. I will love and miss you always. Best Cousins Forever 3 3 3
I made the drive from PA to Maine with all the windows in the car up. The smell was just about unbearable, but I couldn't risk airing the car out and having someone else smell it, smell her. The stench of my cousin's decomposing body. It had been a few months already, since she had died, and the smell was sickening, billowing off her in waves. Like raw meat left outside for a week in the middle of summer. The fact that the sickening waves were coming off my cousin, my best friend, had my nerves ready to short circuit as I made the 10 hour drive alone.
My hands trembled on the steering wheel and tears coursed down my cheeks. "It's alright Buddy." I warbled into the silence of the car as twilight approached. I had just taken the Bangor exit off the highway. In less than 20 minutes I would be in the little town that had once served as Ludlow, Maine. There was still a lot of work to do. Walking. Digging. And the ground would be stony, very stony. I was perfectly certain of that. "We're gonna get this fixed Buddy, fixed right up. You'll see." A shiver ran down my back and my hands tightened on the wheel spasmodically. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I wouldn't stop it. Maybe I couldn't stop it.
My cousin, Amanda, had died a few months before, in September. My God-Sister. My best friend. She was 19 years old when she died. Only 19 years old… I tried to go on without her, but life was pointless. For as long as I could remember, everything we did we did together. We were going to go on this cross-country road trip, to California. Swim in the Pacific Ocean. Get an apartment together. Raise our kids together. I was going to be her Maid of Honor, and she was going to be mine. But, she died. She was just a kid, but she was a dead kid now.
"It wasn't fair!" I screamed suddenly, slamming my hands down on the steering wheel and blinking back tears, trying to make the road in front of me clear. I knew that whatever had led me to find out the place was real would get me there alive, but I was struggling to keep some semblance of sanity together. "It wasn't fair, Amanda, not fair… You didn't even get two decades. You didn't get to graduate, to drive a car. To drink. Legally." This last bit made me smile slightly, but any humor had been robbed from the expression. It was an expression of lunacy. And what exactly did you call someone who took a 10 hour drive with a five months dead corpse, if not a lunatic?
Yeah, me and my cousin were close, thick as thieves. Yeah, you betcha. When we were teenagers, Amanda ran into some issues, and by issues I mean drugs. Just about every kind you can imagine. The really bad one she met up with when she was about 16, and that one she liked to call dope. I just call it Heroin. I, didn't. I was too much of a goody-goody to get involved with anything like that, and for awhile she went her way while I went mine. For her, things got bad, fast. For me, life was just lonely. I never really had friends, just my cousin.
I turned onto a road, a rural highway sort of deal. It was small, but there was a chemical plant at the far end of it, and the Mack trucks ran back and forth on it constantly. I found myself wondering if perhaps there had indeed been a small boy killed by one of the incessantly droning bastards. Or, maybe it had really been a little girl. I hadn't bothered to look. I hadn't honestly cared, hadn't really cared about much of anything or anyone since my cousin died. I had just cared about the fact that the place was real. The Pet Semetary.
After Amanda started using Heroin, she spent a good three years in and out of rehab, and we spent a good three years talking and then not talking. She got into doing her thing, and she didn't have time for me, and I didn't have time to watch her kill herself. I don't know why I didn't do something, anything, to try and help. I was only a kid too, but Hell, I could, should, have done something. When Amanda was 19, and I was 20, we both ended up living with my Grandparents. She was out of chances, out of stays at rehab. I was desperate to have back the cousin I loved so much. It was just like old times, for awhile.
I pulled the car over into the trees. I recognized the house. Behind it would be a small path, winding into the woods. It was the place beyond there that I was interested in, the place that just might give me my Amanda back. That, or something unspeakable in her place. I shuddered again, shying away from that thought. I knew the track record, but that was a horror story. Maybe exaggerated, you know? And I couldn't not try, not if there was a chance to bring Amanda back, any chance at all.
I bit my tongue and craned my head away from my cousin, away from the overpowering stink of her. Starting up the gently sloping hill towards the path, I did my best to fight down the queasiness in my stomach and to ignore the odd texture of my cousin's body through the tarp. Balanced on top of her body was the shovel and pick I had brought. "Gonna bring you home Cuzzie, wait and see, I'm gonna bring you home." An idiotic giggle bubbled up from deep inside and I fought it down. If it started it would never stop, and I would still be on that little path, in laughing and screaming hysterics, when someone found me and carted me off to the booby hatch.
When my cousin came back the last time, things were good, really good, for awhile. For a couple months. We got close again, closer than ever, and this time her girlfriend came along. The three of us really made a great crew. For the first time, I had a gang. Than the pot smoking started up. I didn't like it, but I wasn't willing to lose my best friends over some weed. But, with drug addicts, one thing leads to another, and of course it did. One thing falls and it all starts coming down. Ecstasy. Aterol. Wet. I don't know what all, but it ended up back at Heroin again before too long. Dope. I didn't know, I just knew about way too much ganja smoking, but that was what had happened. I guess I should have picked up on it, known better, but I had never been around drugs. I didn't know what the warning signs were. And I trusted my cousin, I believed her. Maybe it's just excuses to try and make myself feel better now. To get rid of some of my guilt, some of the responsibility I bear for her death. I don't know. All I do know is that, consciously at least, I never knew she got back into her old habit. That she was a dope fiend again.
Once I got far enough into the woods, maybe a mile or so, not so far from the first place, the Pet Semetary, the giggles were gone. I was serious as death itself. And I was scared, more frightened than I ever would have believed possible. The nervousness was gone, however. From the very start, from the time I dug her up back home right around dawn, there had never been an option of turning back. But, there had been a possibility of being caught. Now even that was gone. Even if my car was discovered, even if someone had come looking for me, I was too far ahead now. They would never stop me before the deed was done. One way or another, Amanda would walk again. Or if nothing else, her body would.
Amanda died on September 17th, 2010. She overdosed, and I personally still don't know on what exactly it was that she overdosed. From my understanding, it was Methadone and Xanax. Could have been other things in addition, could have been other things entirely. But I heard it was those two. She died two hours away from home, and it took almost 12 hours between her time of death and when the Coroner was called. But that's what happens when you die in a house occupied by people who are high on drugs. She really came down to her last chance, for the last time. I was the first one in the family to get the call. I'll never forget it, that sobbing cry. "Amanda's dead!" If you've ever seen the movie Pet Semetary, when Rachel is telling the story about Zelda, and she is saying over and over "Zelda's dead! Zelda's Dead!" That's what Amanda's girlfriend sounded like when she called me to tell me. Only more hysterical, and with infinitely more emotion, infinitely more grief in her voice. Amanda's dead. And my world was changed forever.
It looked exactly as it was described in the book. The concentric circle. The pile of bleached-bone wood. It was this latter that I approached steadily and didn't pause to inspect more closely. I knew what to do. "You just keep going steady. You keep going, don't rush, but don't stop or pause. It's like your feet know the way, and they'll pick the right path if you let them, and don't think about it too much. Never look down. Deadfalls are mean. They'll bite you if they can." My voice echoed around the clearing. It didn't sound like it was mine. It sounded to me as though the woods were speaking to me, instead of me speaking aloud, more or less to the woods. Or maybe I was talking to Amanda.
Amanda died on a Friday. She was buried the next Thursday. At Resurrection Cemetery, no less. Ironic, isn't it, all things considered now? She had a two day funeral. Wednesday night, and Thursday morning. Funerals are Hell. Two Day Funerals are worse. You go through it all, and then you have to leave them there, all alone, at that Funeral Home. Then you gotta go home, have some dinner, get a good night's sleep. And do it all over again the next day. Except the next day is just a little bit worse. You're not saying 'See you tomorrow' the next day. The next day they close up the coffin and plant them in the ground, and you're supposed to say good-bye. Yeah, funerals are one of the worst kinds of Hell. Especially two day funerals. Especially a two day funeral for a kid, with her whole life still ahead of her. Especially when that kid means more to you than anything else in the entire damn world.
I don't know how long I walked that night. Through the woods, through marshes. I heard some things, but they were just loons. I saw some things, too, but that was just St. Elmo's Fire. Or, that's what I told myself, and Amanda. And the woods. If you want the truth, I knew better, but I didn't care. If I had seen the Devil himself I would have told him where he could stick it, I had business to do for my cousin. I guess God would have gotten about the same reaction at the time. He had taken the most important thing in my world away from me, after all. We weren't exactly on speaking terms at that point.
Before I went in to the funeral home, they warned me, my family. They told me to be prepared, it didn't look like her. My cousin had an open casket funeral. But, that wasn't true, exactly. That, thing, in the coffin, it wasn't that it didn't look like my cousin, like Amanda. It just looked bad. I guess because her body sat for a good 12 hours before it got chilled. The make-up couldn't quite mask her coloration. She was purple. Her feet and her hands, her fingers, were all twisted up. Her face was sunken in, giving her these folds from her ears down around her chin, where it was like her face had settled into her skin. I guess maybe that was partially because she had lost a lot of weight recently, because of the Heroin. And she was sneering, almost like she wanted to show her teeth. She looked like a damn zombie, from a Romero flick or something. But, she still looked like Amanda, like my cousin. She still looked like her. You still knew it was her. I'll never forget how she looked, lying in that coffin. I see it in my dreams every night.
I don't know how long it took me to dig Amanda her second grave. I just know my hands were bloody blisters by the time I was done. I had wanted to dig her a Hell of a grave; she was a good cousin, a good friend. She deserved it. But that was one thing that was not an exaggeration. The ground was unimaginably thin, and stony. I reconciled the poor grave with the fact that at least it would be easy for her to dig her way out.
I didn't sleep the night between Amanda's two funerals. Not at all. I ran around with Amanda's girlfriend, the only best friend I had left. Took me another four months until I realized that girl was the devil wearing human clothing, or just about, but at that point I just wanted to be near her. She was the last little bit I had left of Amanda. I was exhausted for that second funeral. I did my cousin's reading at the church just about falling down from exhaustion, nerves, the whole lot of it. I nodded off at the church. I'm surprised I wasn't hallucinating, I was that tired, and with my nerves and all. I must have been damn close to that point. I slept through the entire after funeral 'party' but that was alright. I didn't want to be awake at all ever at that point, and I sure as Hell didn't feel like partying. I just wanted my cousin.
I don't remember much about the walk back to my car. I don't even remember coming back over the deadfall. If the Wendigo walked the woods that night, I was too tired to even pay attention. I had planned to drive back to Bangor, to shower, eat maybe, and get some sleep. God only knows how badly I needed the sleep. I had been awake for over 24 hours now. I had dug her body up on my own, driven for 10 hours. Carried her body and my tools miles through the woods. Dug her a second grave and filled it back in. Walked miles through the woods again. I made it back to the car, but that was as far as I got. I didn't even start it, just climbed in the driver's seat, paused to rest a moment, and was out like a light.
Deep in the woods, the shallow grave began to quiver. The small rock cairn piled up on it fell over. The quaking grew stronger, and a twisted, purplish, claw-like hand plunged up from beneath the gravel. Than another hand, followed by a head. The living corpse pulled itself up from the dirt and followed it's instincts to find the one who had called it. As it made its way through the woods, the caller slept uncomfortably, plagued by nightmares.
Things got a little easier, sometimes, as time went on after Amanda died, but they never got better. They never would get 'better', not unless she walked through the door. Then, I came up with my plan ne day while researching on the internet. That was the day I found out about Stephen King's real-life inspiration behind 'Pet Semetary'. A certain, myth, well known in a small town just outside Bangor, Maine. The Micmac burial ground was real. It was about 3 weeks between this discovery, and the day I dug up my cousin and took her there. To bring her back.
The smell hit me first. It was strong enough to wake me up. I didn't even have to open my eyes. I recognized the stench as being my cousin. I had spent 10 hours with it, hadn't I? Even longer, counting our walk. It was stronger, much stronger, now. I knew before I opened my eyes that she was back, my Amanda. But, I didn't want to look. I had felt like I was making a terrible mistake all along, but that felt like almost a certainty now. It seemed to take forever to force my eyes open.
She was there, standing outside my door. Her hands and feet were still twisted, just like I remembered from the funeral, giving her an odd stance. Her skin was still a strange pale color, still with a purple cast. Her face was right up against the window, and she was smiling. No, she was leering. Her lip was still curved in that strange sneer, except now it was showing off her teeth that had already begun to rot before she died, because of the drugs. And because she had ripped her braces off one night while high as a kite. That memory killed a little something inside of me. Her eyes killed the rest. They were the same old hazel, beautiful, long eye lashes. But the whites were yellowed, and the light in them wasn't my sweet cousin, but a dark cunning. The dark cunning was in her sly leering grin too.
The cousin-thing raised a hand and waggled her twisted fingers at me. "Hey Buddy." She said, and it was her voice, my Amanda's voice, but with everything that was her gone from it. "Ready to go home?"
My mind finally broke. There was no screaming, no fainting. Maybe there was the tiniest impression of a snap! I opened the car door and stepped out, and the cousin-thing, my Best Cousin, my Amanda, opened her arms as if to hug me. The stench washed over me. When my bones broke from that ultimate bear-hug, when my spine splintered, my organs mashed, I was thankful, and only hoped someone would kill her again before she caused too much damage. Than we would be together. And it was true. Sometimes, dead is better.