It was one of those organic things the human race is known for. A viral phenomenon, without the engine of technology that usually drives viral growth, causing something innocuous to take on a life of its own.
The wall stone divided a small RV camping park from a street of multi-million dollar beachfront homes. The wall stood on the private property of the house nearest the RV park. A gate at the end of the wall allowed homeowners keycard access to their street.
No one could recall when, or in whose honor, the first memorial tile was glued to the wall, but over the course of several years tiles and plaques commemorating loved ones appeared, until the entire wall was covered.
All of the remembered had cherished the beach, spending some of their happiest hours there. Some had died of old age, some fell under the wasting teeth of cancer, and some were taken by car and motorcycle accidents. There were memorials to lifeguards and surfers who lost their lives in the waves, a few memories of beloved pets, and the most horrifying of all — simple handmade tiles commemorating the short span of years for deceased children.
At some point, an artist who treasured the community feeling of the place sculpted a large brass hand and cemented it to the wall. Runners and walkers reached up to give the oversized hand a high five when they reached the wall, before turning to take the beachside trail back to the creek.
Seven years after the first memorial appeared, the homeowner began to complain that mourners had no right to take possession of her wall, defacing it with their grief. Local authorities refused to remove the plaques because the RV park was managed by the State Park system. The State Park authorities refused to address the issue because the wall was not on state-owned property.
Then, during a fierce winter storm, the RV park was closed for several weeks. When residents and campers returned in February, the the wall was stripped to its original stone. All that remained was the brass hand. The tiles that hadn’t broken during removal, could be picked up at a nearby church.
There would be no more memorial wall, but strangely enough, everyone whose loved one had their memory preserved on the wall still felt the warmth and comfort when they visited. The visual signs were gone, but the spirits of the dead remained, not unlike death itself.
The first few times that Mrs. Rogers approached the pristine wall in her car, she felt a sense of peace. She enjoyed driving up to the private gate, no longer experiencing the resentment that seethed through her when she looked at the hundreds of reminders of death. Her husband had been ravaged by cancer and she didn’t want to think about death. She wanted to care for him, and enjoy her lovely home and the beach without the torment of strangers.
The following winter, as she drove slowly down the curving hill to the road that ran past the RV spots to the gate, her windshield wipers thrashed at full speed and still it was difficult to see. The ocean was hidden in the darkness and heavy, wind-blown rain. She pulled up to the gate. Gordon wasn’t coming with her this time. His cancer was in remission now. He was doing well, better than ever, and he’d taken a short business trip to Chicago.
She wouldn’t tell anyone, but she couldn’t help believing … no, not believing, knowing, that her strength in obliterating the horrifying reminder of death, despite being demonized, had played some mystical part in his remission. He looked like a young man, as if he’d never been ill at all. Especially harmful had been the constant thoughts of untimely death, images of the dead assaulting her every time she drove up to a place that should have given a feeling of paradise — a spacious home, panoramic views of Monterey Bay, a lovely sandy beach, and gentle waves.
The umbrella wouldn’t keep her dry in this torrential downpour. She pulled up the hood on her coat, tightened the cord to secure it to her head, and climbed out of the car. She slammed the door and hurried around past the spray of the headlights to the card reader. Why they hadn’t located it in a way that you could reach it from a car window, she’d never understood.
After she jammed her card into the reader and pulled it out, the gate began its slow movement to the left. She hurried back to the driver’s side. A flash of something — not light, exactly — caught her eye and she stopped. It was so bright, it almost blinded her. Lightning? There hadn’t been a forecast of thunderstorms.
The light flashed again, carrying a pale blue tinge. It was so intense, she was forced to close her eyes for a moment.
When she opened them, it flashed again. Her coat was drenched but she couldn’t turn away from that incredible … something. It seemed to emanate from the wall. Slowly, she walked toward it.
She passed two small trees. There was another flash. It was coming from the area with that threatening, oversized hand that they’d said couldn’t be removed without structural damage to the wall. The artist had removed stones to make a space for the brass rectangular base that supported the hand.
Moving closer, she squinted, expecting another explosion of blue to blind her.
Why did everyone tap the hand? It seemed counter to the idea of mourning, more a sign of victory. She reached up and placed her fingers on the palm of the hand.
In an instant, the enormous, iron-strong fingers closed around her small hand. The thing yanked her off her feet with such force, it knocked the air out of her lungs. Her bones turned to liquid as the hand pulled her body into the wall, turning her soul into stone. When she could catch her breath, she screamed, but no one heard.