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The original story can be found here.

When my wife and I got married, we spent our honeymoon in Honduras. While we were there, we did the usual purchasing of mementos and postcards to give to loved ones. It was in a small shop that sold curios and knick-knacks that my wife found an exquisitely crafted, crystal egg. When she showed it to me, I knew it would be a perfect gift for my mother, who had a modest collection of little crystal sculptures. Looking through the egg, most everything was a blur, but I could make out the shapes of people walking by and my new wife smiling at me.

My mother was in her eighties, under the watchful eye of a good live-in nurse ever since my father had passed away. She lit right up when she unwrapped the egg we had brought back for her. She held it up to the open window and the room was filled with tiny rainbows from the light refracting through the crystal. I felt like a good son.

Weeks later, we got a call from Ms. Fieldman, my mother’s nurse. She didn’t want to alarm us, but was concerned that my mother may be beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, or possibly dementia. She explained to me how she had overheard my mother talking in another room, and peeked in only to find my mother holding the crystal egg up and talking to it. She called it “John”, which was my father’s name. We agreed that it might be a good idea to have my mother’s routine checkup pushed up some so a doctor could see her sooner. A week later, Ms. Fieldman called again; the doctor had found nothing wrong with my mother.

The last time I went to see her, she was merrily humming to herself and going about her house, tidying things up as usual. Every now and then I’d see her get the crystal egg out of her pocket, hold it to her eye and look around with it. One time I watched as she smiled and then seemed to blow it a kiss before tucking it away and hurrying off. As we were getting our things together to leave the next day, I spied my mother tucking something into the pocket of my coat. I went over and pulled out the crystal egg.

“Mom, why are you trying to stash this on me?” I asked.

“Oh I won’t be needing it anymore,” she said, and suddenly she looked very sad, but tried to hide it with a smile. “But you’re going to need it.”

“Mom, I don’t—” but she didn’t let me finish.

“Hush now, and take it,” she said and gripped my hand with the egg in it tightly.

The next day, Ms. Fieldman called to tell me the bad news: my mother had sneaked some extra sleeping pills into her room before bed, and had passed away long before Ms. Fieldman had gone in to wake her that morning. I let the phone drop, walked mindlessly into the den, took the crystal egg off the hutch where I had left it, hugged it to my chest and cried.

I spent the evening lost in the egg. I just held it up and looked through it at everything around me. Something about it had driven my mother insane, I was sure of it. All I could see was light and shadow; a dancing blob was the TV, a dark, flitting spot was my wife coming in to see how I was doing. I could see her shape in the doorway, watching me with sadness and concern, but when I looked up, she wasn’t there. I went back to looking into the egg, determined to see what it was my mother saw. I closed one eye and pressed the crystal to the other so that everything directly in front of me was in clear focus, ringed by the haze of a million refracted images.

My work gave me a few days of bereavement leave which I spent unshaven, not leaving the house, just wandering inside, looking through the crystal egg. I was sleeping odd hours, spending my time sitting at the window watching people walk by outside. I distinctly remember one man who walked by very slowly, seemingly with no particular destination in mind. The expression on his face was dour and gray. He turned and looked at me and naturally got a confused expression on his face. He started to walk onto my lawn toward the window I was sitting at, and I closed the curtains on him. I could see his shadow through the curtain as he stood at the window. I stepped back, a little unnerved by his expression. I put the egg in my pocket and when I looked back at the curtains, he had apparently gone on his way.

I had been in almost a trance the past few days, but that weekend my wife helped me clean up, shave, get on my nicest suit, and drove us to the cemetery where my mother was to be buried. The car pulled past the cemetery gates and we crept down a small road toward the site for the funeral. As we turned past a crypt, I pulled out the crystal egg and pressed it to my eye to look at the things passing by. Just a few headstones away, I spotted a group of people standing together and nudged my wife.

“Over there,” I said, pointing to where the people seemed to be congregating. We pulled over, and I got out, walking over to the group of people who were clearly dressed for a funeral.

“What are you doing?” my wife asked from behind me. Several of the people looked up at us.

“What’s wrong?” I said, turning to look at her. She was frowning. She’s wondering why I’m looking through the egg, I thought, so I put it in my pocket and took her hand.

“Come on,” I said, turning back around.

The people were gone.

I stood there a second, confused. My head felt light and my hand trembled as I reached back into my pocket and took the crystal egg back out. I closed one eye and pressed the egg to the other. There were the people. And as slowly as the skin on my body had just started to crawl came the dawning recognition that these people were dressed for a different funeral— their own. One tilted his head slightly and blinked. Two of the others began to walk menacingly toward me. Each one had an expression of curiosity on his or her face. My mouth went dry, and I turned quickly to get away, pulling my wife with me back toward the car.

They were everywhere. Some stood by their graves, others trudged aimlessly along the paths and the middle of the road. Most were oblivious to our presence, but even as I felt a scream welling up in my throat, they all collectively turned and looked in our direction and began to shamble toward us. I shoved my poor bewildered wife into the car, then got in, cursing at having to adjust the seat, started it up and gunned the engine, kicking up a mess of gravel. My wife was shouting at me but I couldn’t for the life of me understand her. I rolled down the window as we passed the gates and hurled the crystal egg out of the car. We did not attend my mother’s funeral that day.

I don’t go by graveyards anymore. There’s one on the route to our daughter’s daycare, but I’ve found an alternate way to get there that avoids going past it. I know it doesn’t do much good, but I breathe easier with the thought that maybe they can’t pass beyond the gates. Sometimes, when the sun is out but the curtains are drawn, I’ll think that I can see a shadow standing outside the window, trying to look in.


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