Adam Wurst

     There used to be a graveyard across the street from my apartment. When I first moved in, I didn’t even notice it as there was a tall, thick hedge between us.  One night recently, however, I peered outside of my fifth-story window, over the hedge and onto smooth stones and grassy terrain. I thought of all the people hidden just out of view and how one day, maybe one day soon, I would be hidden too. 

     The dread of such a thought kept me awake, shocking me with an existential insomnia. I’d get up from my frameless bed and pace around my small wooden box of a bedroom, thoughts screaming like an unmonitored child: Who will be the one to find your corpse? I’d take a sip of water from the glass on my nightstand. Where will they find it? I’d do a breathing exercise I learned from my sister, who learned it from her therapist. What will be done with what little remains? I would go back over to my bed and scream into my pillow. Even though the pillow greatly muffled the scream, I still held back. I ultimately feared being a nuisance over much else. Who was I to impose myself on others, especially so late at night? Though, when this happened, I never knew exactly what time it was. Ten at night or four in the morning, it didn’t seem to matter. The graveyard kept me awake.

     These episodes of death terror attacked for a week straight. It became a fear that crept into my daily life. Would tonight finally be a night of rest or just another night of restlessness? I tried moving around the furniture in my room, separating my bed from the window. I tried buying thick curtains to cover the glass. I tried sleeping on the floor, face down. Nothing could guarantee a good night’s rest. A single glimpse of a headstone was all it took for me to spiral. I felt like I had been cursed by a ghost from the graveyard, even though I knew that I was simply cursed with my own anxieties.

     One day, the Monday after my week of longing for sleep, I decided to go for a walk in the graveyard, hoping to recontextualize the place as a venue of celebration and memorial, rather than one of death and decay. After I got home from my job, doing data entry for a car manufacturer, I walked around the outside perimeter of the graveyard, looking for a proper entrance, an old gate, or even just a break in the tall wall of hedge. I found nothing. There was a completely uniform casing of dense foliage, all the way around. I lapped the graveyard two, three, four times, looking for any point of entry. But there was no clear way to get inside. There was no clear way of even telling it was a graveyard from ground level. Only from above. Only from a fifth-story window across the street could someone, anyone tell that it was a graveyard at all. It felt like a secret hidden in broad daylight. 

     Later that afternoon, I asked my neighbor if he knew anything about the graveyard. He looked at me as though I had said something stupid and told me that he never thought about it, that he hadn’t really known it was a graveyard until I told him. His face betrayed a mixed look of concern and confusion. He then receded into his apartment quickly. I stood still for a moment and stared at the peephole in his door. I was almost certain that he was staring back at me, waiting for something bad to happen, either to me or because of me. I simply went into my own apartment, locking my deadbolt. 

     There was little to say about my apartment at this point. My “living room” was furnished with an old, cushionless couch of a once-white color, an old box TV that was perched on a wooden stool, and a rug that had the color and texture of burlap. Most of my bedding was strewn across the couch, as I had relocated myself in an effort to have a successful night of sleep. It was a vain effort, as the window in this room also peered into the graveyard and was actually bigger than the one in my bedroom. A small part of me had hoped that maybe my sleeping issue had nothing to do with the graveyard at all, and its solution was to simply sleep in a different room. I could say with confidence that that was a failing theory.

     The kitchen, which was for all intents and purposes the same room as the “living room,” aside from a flooring shift from sticky hardwood to stickier tiles, boasted a similarly unimpressive collection of bare necessities. On the counter sat a picture frame set face down and a growing pile of barely-read mail. Next to it, an off-white fridge held little more than the vague idea of a meal at any given point. On that day, the meal would have consisted of ketchup, week old rice, and a pickle-looking cucumber, unless I went grocery shopping, or, more likely, got take out. 

     As I talked to the pizza guy on the phone, I asked him if he knew anything about graveyards in the area. He said no. The call dropped. I tried calling back, but the line was apparently busy. The busy tone, though otherwise normal, sounded like it was getting quieter and quieter, or further and further away. I didn’t try calling again, and instead listened to the tone as it seemed to fade into nothingness. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any quieter without ceasing entirely, a loud knock at my door made me jump. My pizza had arrived. I opened the door, thanked the delivery person, handed them a fistful of cash, and grabbed the pizza. The exchange happened so automatically that I didn’t even process their face. It could have been my sister in that uniform for all I knew. It could have been a faceless demon, working for minimum wage. Or the ghosts of my parents. As I took my first bite of pizza, I stared out of the window, at the graveyard, asking questions of it as if it were a person. Why are you there? Who put you there? Why doesn’t anybody else know you? My eyes focused on a single headstone, trying to make out any names or dates etched in its side. I was so engrossed that I bit my tongue. I tasted blood. My head felt like it was full of air. I sat down slowly and then very quickly. The slice of pizza fell out of my hand and landed face down on the burlap rug. The back of my head hit something sharp and wooden. I smelt red.


     The next morning, I came to in a heap on the floor. Flies buzzed around the cold, uneaten pizza by my feet, and my mouth tasted like a doorknob. Still in a daze, I peeled myself off of the floor and began cleaning the mess I only slightly remembered making. There was a crack in the wooden frame of the couch that poked through the upholstery, a splinter of wood sticking up at an angle. There was something pink about the fabric surrounding it. I threw all of the wasted food into the garbage and used water, dish soap, and a sour-smelling sponge to try to scrub out the grease stains now in the carpet. After minutes of frustration, I stood up and walked to the kitchen sink to get more water. I looked out of the window for the first time that morning and saw something strange in the graveyard. A tall object covered in blue tarps was sticking straight out of the center of the graveyard. I stared at it. What is that? I went back to cleaning, but periodically checked to see if it was still there. And it was. Barely taller than the hedges and barely bluer than the sky. Like a construction project or a monument or a joke. There was a pounding in my head whenever I stared at it. It was different from staring at the graveyard before. Whatever it was, under the tarps, it was staring back.

     I spent what felt like hours vaguely cleaning and staring at the object before my phone buzzed. It was my supervisor. I was late for work. I threw myself together and ran out the door, which caused me to bump into my neighbor who was coming home from the gym. He tried to drum up small talk to lessen the awkwardness of our collision, talking about “The Eyesore” that had popped up overnight. I later learned that he was actually talking about a new billboard for a car accident attorney, placed kitty-corner to our building. At that moment, however, I thought he was talking about the object in the graveyard. I responded plainly and ran, still desperate to get to work, but his comment rolled around in my head. I passed by The Eyesore as I walked quickly toward the office. The blue tarps flapped in the autumn breeze, waving goodbye.

     When I returned from work, The Eyesore was waiting for me. A visceral part of me wanted to touch it, to feel it, to know that it was physically there. I decided to start that process by throwing a rock at it, as the hedge still kept me out of the graveyard. As I walked on the sidewalk, searching for throwable pebbles, I mused about the true purpose of both the graveyard and The Eyesore. Perhaps the graveyard was the private plot of a rich family, boldly placed in the middle of a crowded city as a display of class superiority, though closed off and mostly private, as most rich people are. The Eyesore, then, could be some ostentatious monument, built in remembrance of a billionaire. Or, the graveyard was an art piece, a commentary on the openly concealed nature of death; The Eyesore would then be a marker of a highly publicized death, one of a celebrity or political figure, begging to be looked at, yet still covered, obscured. Or, the graveyard was a figment of my imagination, and The Eyesore was a figment of my imagination, and my neighbor’s comment was a figment of my imagination, and my insomnia was simply a figment of my imagination.

     I found a smooth pebble, perfect for throwing, balanced delicately on the curb. I picked it up and felt it in my hand. It was cold. I looked up at The Eyesore and saw it glow with the warmth of the late-afternoon sun. The blue tarps reflected the light, showing sporadic patches of white on their surfaces. In an instant, I threw my arm back and then swung it forward, flinging the smooth pebble with all of my strength. Just as the pebble was about to hit The Eyesore, a pigeon, coming from seemingly nowhere, flew between the pebble and The Eyesore and took the blow. The pigeon fell into the graveyard, sinking below the hedgeline, out of sight. I stood very still, trying to process the brief murder I had just commited. The back of my neck felt hot. A gust of wind made the tarps on The Eyesore shudder and made the leaves of the hedges tremble. A cold, not unlike that of the smooth pebble, blew into me, and the warmth of the late-afternoon sun seemed to immediately chill into an evening dusk. I glanced at my phone, looking for the time. My eyes failed to glean exactly what time it was and reported back to my consciousness only that it was later than it should have been. A feeling of fear and guilt started blooming in my chest like a freezing ice crystal, frigid structures demanding room inside of me. The Eyesore loomed over me, now looking fifty stories tall. The blue tarps became patches of skin, haphazardly stitched together in the hopes of concealing an even worse horror underneath. The night was corrupting this otherwise inoffensive structure. Or maybe I was. 

     I began to quickly walk back to my apartment. The Eyesore now had a tilt that followed me like the eyes of a portrait, always leaning toward me wherever I went. I made it inside the building and climbed up the stairwell. The slate gray stairs and the stark white walls remained uniform as I circled my way upward, feeling as though it would never end. I burst onto the fifth floor and immediately jammed my key into the lock. It didn’t fit. I flipped it and tried again. It still didn’t fit. I kept jabbing the key into the lock, hoping that divine intervention would grant me access to the only place I could go. 

     The doorknob turned from the inside. I froze. The door opened. My neighbor stood in front of me, looking at me with a furrowed brow, confused and slightly frustrated. I leapt backward, hitting the door across the hallway, my door. My neighbor asked me if I was okay. It felt like a threat. I successfully jammed my key into the lock and opened my own door. I tried to stammer out an apology as I receded into my apartment, but all I could muster was a pitiable look and a pathetic, awkward half-smile. I closed the door behind me and looked through my peephole. All I saw was blue. Someone had covered the outside of my peephole with blue tape. I was too mortified to go back out and remove it. I sank to the floor.

     As I sat there, I looked out at The Eyesore through my window. It no longer looked like a stitched-together abomination. It no longer leaned toward me, threatening to crush me with its weight. It looked as it did when I first saw it that morning. Strange yet normal. Out of place yet rightly situated. A part of the ever-changing always-the-same landscape that surrounded me. A part of my turbulent, stagnant life. I spent the night staring at the floor and the ceiling and out of the window. The fear I had felt that night, brought on by the pigeon, the wind, the graveyard, had melted, and was now a puddle of unease. What sort of change is happening right now? Why is it happening at all? From the hallway came a knock on someone else’s door. Who taped over my peephole?


     The next morning happened to me without warning. Like a lightswitch being flicked into the “on” position, harsh sunlight suddenly streamed into my apartment. I hadn’t slept at all. I looked out of my window, slightly squinting due to the light, and saw The Eyesore. It had changed. Covering it now was a giant purple curtain, and its height had nearly doubled, making it practically as tall as my apartment building. The curtain was looser than the previous tarps, obscuring its already unidentifiable figure even more. I looked at it for too long, my heart beating rapidly. The curtain, though loose, was perfectly still. The added height of the thing gave me hope that this was not some private venture, but rather a thing meant to be public, a thing whose purpose would be explicitly exposed. It was far too thin to be a building, and now too tall to be a typical fixture of the graveyard below. It was impossible to be certain, but the development, the change, was interesting.

     I surveyed my apartment for the first time that day. It seemed to be in even worse shambles than before. The couch had turned from a dingy off-white to a decided yellow; the burlap carpet was fraying all over; the stool on which my box television sat was now tilted, the TV precariously close to falling onto the floor. On the kitchen counter, the red words on the envelopes burned into my eyes. The picture frame remained tipped over. I sighed at the sight of the disrepair and fled to my bedroom to avoid it. There, things were worse. A stain on my ceiling that I had previously assumed was a mark from past water damage had grown into a clump of black mold. The comforter on my bed had always had a small hole in its edge, but the hole now spanned the entire length of that edge. The windows were covered in a greasy film, like a giant toddler had wiped its grubby hands all over them. I could still see The Eyesore clearly though. I sighed and journeyed over to my bathroom, the final room of my apartment and the last hope I had for solace inside it. The lightbulb had burned out, so I sat on the toilet in the dark. 

     Seconds or hours passed before I both heard and felt a rumble. Construction? Earthquake? Rapture? My phone was vibrating in my pocket. My supervisor was calling. Late for work again. I told him I was sick. He said he felt sorry for me. After the call, I continued to sit in the dark, trying to make sense of the bruise-colored curtain now on The Eyesore. Another rumble came. My sister was calling me. I declined the call. She had a tendency of overreacting whenever I did that, but she would overreact over text, which felt more manageable than talking to her directly. Surely enough, a flurry of vibrations followed my decline, some messages paragraphs in all capital letters and others single words. I didn’t relish in her fury. On the contrary, it made me uncomfortable to see her so desperate for a response. Ever since our parents died, she had become volatile in every interaction. Thus, I became cold. Had I answered the initial call, I would have undoubtedly been met with a screaming voice, chastising me for doing something wrong in our little game of siblinghood. After that first barrage, there was a quiet, what I thought could be a surrender. But no. One more text, one more vibration came through. The message contained two photos, one of a purple curtain and one of a headstone, possibly our parents’ headstone. My chest felt tight. I scrolled back to read her prior texts, but they had nothing to do with the pictures. Musings and lectures about our relationship and what I still owed her, what I was supposed to do. My head felt heavy. I messaged her back, trying to get a sense of what she meant by sending those pictures. She didn’t respond. I couldn’t handle that.

     I burst out of the bathroom, discarded my phone in the kitchen sink, and left my apartment as quickly as possible. The Eyesore poked at my periphery as I threw on my old sneakers, standing as still and tall as ever. When I entered the outside hallway, I noticed that someone had put a purple piece of tape over the blue piece of tape that was covering my peephole. I tried to pick them off, but my hands were drenched in sweat. I quickly gave up and entered the stairwell. I nearly fell down the stairs in my rush, which would have been fine so long as it was faster than walking. Once on the sidewalk outside, I started walking away from the apartment. It was not about reaching a destination. It was about creating distance. I didn’t even see The Eyesore itself while outside, just its shadow that briefly cast over me. I didn’t have time to look at it.

     My journey brought me nowhere. Stretches of streets and sidewalks and building after building passed as I worked to separate myself from my sister’s torment, her refusal to elaborate on the pictures she sent. As I walked, I thought back to when we were kids, to when she and I were best friends. We would cut our hair in jagged patterns when our parents weren’t around. We would sing along with songs on the car radio, whether we knew the words or not. We would eat pizza together; she would always give me her crusts. But the reality of now hit me as I noticed a purple curtain in a shop window. I hadn’t seen her or my parents in years. She and I had communicated only occasionally over the phone since then, though more frequently as of late. I reflexively reached for my pocket but quickly remembered that I had purposefully left my phone behind.

     I kept walking, unsure of what else to do. The sun began to set, and the chill of the evening air was sharp. I looked around for a place of refuge. An old bench sat on the sidewalk. I sat on it. It creaked in protest. I looked around and realized I had no idea where I was or how to get back to my apartment. None of the buildings around me looked even vaguely familiar, and my non-linear path left me clueless as to how to get back home. I had stranded myself, and the sky was now completely dark. On this island of a bench, I sat and waited for something to happen, for someone to save me.

     I began to cry. My tears started as lone drops like those falling from a leaky faucet, but soon, the dam broke. I waterlogged myself. I shook in heaving sobs and uncomfortable cries. I felt free to relish in my gnarled sadness, as there was no one to bother or wake up; at night, everyone else had a place to go. My mind and my body were destabilized by the flood. Everything began to ache and exhaustion consumed me. I was going to drown. 


     The next morning, the sun’s cold warmth pricked the back of my neck as I was lying face down on the ground. I had collapsed, fallen off the bench, from the emotional upheaval of the preceding night. I thus spent those dark hours laying on the concrete, leaking tears, and loathing my sustained consciousness. I got up from the sidewalk and was struck with my persisting problem. I was utterly lost. I desperately scanned my surroundings, hoping to see something that could lead me back to my apartment. And I did. A tall, red spire stood far away in the distance. The Eyesore. I walked toward it, transfixed, not certain that it was in fact what I thought it was, but at the same time confident that it couldn’t be anything else. My gait started as a brisk walk, but the closer I got, the faster I moved. There was an urgency sourced from deep within me. All the people I pushed passed on the sidewalk were blank to me, non-vessels created to take up space. My body felt heavy, my lungs and heart not big enough to power it. It was thus not determination on my part, but an inherent magnetism that kept me on track toward The Eyesore. There was a deep connection I suddenly felt with that strange obelisk; all of the time I had spent staring at it and thinking about it was justified in a cosmic or deeply internal way. 

     When I finally reached the hedge barrier surrounding The Eyesore, I could see how it had once again changed. It had grown even taller, and was now wrapped in red wrapping paper. I was in awe. Unsure of what else to do, I simply stood still and bowed my head in reverence. The wind cut across the back of my neck, opening a wound and spilling warm blood that trickled down to my heels. I fell to my knees. After millenia, I slowly stood up and headed toward my apartment. Before I entered, I looked back once more at the towering behemoth. It was a gift.

     My neighbor met me right as I got to the fifth floor. He asked me how I was doing. I said that I was better. He asked me where I had been last night. I said I was visiting my family. He said he was sorry for my loss. I thanked him half-heartedly and entered my apartment.

     Everything was rotting. The couch was splintered and stained. The TV was on the floor, its screen in shrapnel shards across it. The stool was a pile of broken wood. The burlap rug was a heap of decaying fibers. The walls and floor and ceiling of the “living room” all were sagging like old flesh, and the kitchen was no better. The fridge was melting and the mail was mounting and the picture frame was still face down. I went to grab my phone from the sink and was met with a colony of cockroaches, scurrying in errant patterns. I plucked the phone from the swarm and checked to see if my sister had attacked again. She had. As had my supervisor. Thirty-two missed calls and “99+” messages sat on the screen before me. I swiped away the notifications and called the pizza place. The phone rang then clicked then emitted a low hum. I said my order out loud and the phone clicked again, this time off. After what felt like seconds, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to be greeted by a decidedly faceless pizza person who handed me a pizza. Before I could give them money that I didn’t have, they disappeared with a click similar to the one on the phone. I stood for a moment, heard knocking coming from the inside of my head, and closed my own door.

     I sat in front of the window facing The Eyesore as I ate. It took a few bites for me to realize that my mouth was completely dry. I got a glass of water from the kitchen sink and stared back out at The Eyesore. The wrapping paper covering it was somehow even more obscuring than both the tarps and the curtain before. There was a lot more texture with the wrapping paper: creases and folds and bunched up sections. There were probably dozens of layers of paper covering it. All I wanted to do was rip into it. I felt that at this point I deserved its truth. Our deep connection was still somewhat surface level, as I didn’t know what The Eyesore truly was. How did it keep growing? How does it fit into the context of the graveyard? How has it been covered by so many different things? The questions filled my mind. What does it mean? What brought it here? What am I supposed to do for it? A headache began to materialize behind my eyes. Why do I feel this way toward it? Why was it created in the first place? Why do I want it to fall? The final question hit me in the back of the head. 

     After I finished the pizza, I threw away the box. I felt the grease on my hands as I got more water from the sink, and realized my face was just as oily. I went into the bathroom to take a shower for the first time in too long. The light was still broken, so I fumbled around in the dark as I bathed. The water was cold. Then hot. Then very cold. Then barely warm. My shampoo looked like it had curdled but still smelled fine. I nearly slipped and fell while trying to wash my legs. After an hour of standing under the running water, thinking about The Eyesore, I snapped into a simple motivation and started drying myself off with a towel. I stepped out of the shower and into the bedroom. It was entirely covered in black mold. I went back into the bathroom to put on the clothes I was wearing before, but I couldn’t find my shirt. I picked up my phone and used its flashlight to scan the bathroom. A red slime covered most of the walls and pooled in various cracks and crevices. I found the shirt balled up near the sink. I put it on and flashed the flashlight in the mirror. I saw the image of myself briefly. It was something near-human. There was an emptiness in the eyes. The long hair was wet and limp. The lips were cracked. I didn’t dwell on the image, but still it stuck itself to the back of my brain.

     I went back to the “living room” window. The Eyesore stood still. Part of me was waiting, willing for something to happen. But nothing did. The Eyesore stood still. After hours of stagnance, I broke my focus away from the window and looked around at my apartment. The reality of the carnage sunk into me. What a mess my life had become. What a change to happen so suddenly. My eyes landed on the face down picture frame. I approached it with caution. I picked it up and looked at the framed picture. A family portrait. Our last family portrait before I left. My mother, my father, my sister, and me. All of us with the same brown hair. Smiles wide and genuine and warm. My heart twisted into a fist, and I set the picture back down. 

     I sat back by the window and stared at the still unchanging Eyesore. Then, I closed my eyes. I slowly began to feel myself drift into a sea of darkness, one that I knew well in times of storm and harsh waves, but now, the waters were still and quiet. My mind became sodden and my body drenched, but I knew that I was closer to drowning in my own tears than whatever liquid now engulfed me. There was nothing left to do or say. All I did was float.


     The next morning came about gradually. I woke as the world outside slowly got brighter and brighter until the sun made itself fully known. At some point during the night I had turned myself around to face the inside of my apartment. In the morning light, the detritus looked less critical. Things seemed not as rotted or broken beyond repair as the night before. I got up from the floor near the window and cautiously checked my bedroom. The black mold, or what I had thought to be black mold, was gone. Things were disheveled but not destroyed. I went to the bathroom. I flicked on the lightswitch. The horrible, sickly fluorescent emitted a dim hum and a quiet light. I was shocked. I ran back out into the kitchen and looked in the sink. All that sat there was my glass from the night before, not even the faintest sign of insects.

     I continued to look around, trying to find any other miraculous fixes that might have occurred. My eyes caught a glimpse of the outside. There was an absence. The Eyesore had disappeared. I went over to the window and peered in the graveyard. It looked exactly the same as before The Eyesore had sprung up. It was completely gone.

     I ran out of my apartment, desperate for a closer look. Upon reaching the door to the stairwell, I glanced back at my apartment door. On the peephole was a piece of red tape over the blue and purple ones. An unexpected fury lit inside of me. I marched myself over to my neighbor’s door and knocked. No answer. I knocked again, harder and faster. No answer. I reached for the doorknob and shook it. It made a quiet clicking sound and barely turned. The door swung open. My neighbor now stood in front of me, wearing boxers and a stained t-shirt.

     “Why do you keep taping over my peephole?”


     “You know what I’m talking about. The blue, the purple, the red. Why are you doing it?”

     He laughed.

     “Why are you laughing?” 

     “I was just a prank, dude.”

     “Why? Why did you prank me?”

     “To lighten things up a little. You’ve seemed so doom and gloom recently, I thought I’d play with you a little bit. Snap you out of your funk, help you act normal again, I don’t know.” He leaned against his door frame. “Look, I know you lost them only like a week ago, but come on. Some of the stuff you’ve been doing is just, creepy, man. Gotta get back into the real world, y’know?”

     I looked at him, feeling every emotion my brain could conceive. Before I could muster a response, something sparked within him.

     “Oh, I’ve got something for you!”

     He ran back into his apartment, ducking into another room and leaving the front door open. From the doorway, I saw his place for the first time. It seemed mostly normal, with sparse furniture and minimal decoration, but there was one centerpiece that threw the space into question. A very large taxidermied head of a deer was mounted on the wall, centered over the couch. It looked like it was staring at the TV across from it, watching a video left on about chicken butchering. I took a deep breath. This apartment smelled like mine.

     He emerged from a different room with a sympathy card. He said that a woman on our floor had heard what had happened and wanted to give me this, but she was only around when I was at work. I thanked him and closed his door behind me, tucking the card into my back pocket.

     The mention of work struck a chord of dread within me. I called my supervisor, ready to apologize after a week of showing up late or not at all. Upon picking up, he sounded surprised to hear me. He stopped me quickly after I started apologizing, saying that I had requested the day off a week earlier. I responded with confused agreement and wished him a nice day before hanging up.

     I walked toward the stairwell, still wanting to get a closer look at The Eyesore, or the absence of The Eyesore. I descended slowly, my mind now in a fugue from the two strange interactions. When I reached the lobby, I accidentally bumped into someone. It was my sister. She wore a black coat, black sweatpants and sunglasses. Her hair was dyed blond, though the third of it closest to her scalp was a natural brown. It was hastily pulled back into an off center ponytail.  Her face was pink and looked mostly how I remembered it. Her nose was red and frequently sniffling. She took off her sunglasses upon realizing that it was me that had run into her. The heavy bags under her eyes made her look much older.


     “Hi. What, what are you doing here?”

     “You wouldn’t return my calls or my messages. What else was I supposed to do?”

     “Well, to be fair, you didn’t respond when I asked you about those pictures you sent.”

     “What pictures?”

     “The curtain and the headstone.”

     “I never sent you any pictures. What are you talking about?”

     “You, I swear you did.” I pulled my phone out and began scrolling through her messages. I reached the top of our conversation history without seeing the pictures.

     “See. I never sent pictures.”

     “But you… did.”

     “Are you okay?”

     “I’m… It’s nice to see you. It’s been so long.”

     “You too.”

     A silence sat between us. The air felt dense.

     “I think you know why I’m really here.”


     “You need to be there tonight.”


     “Because they’re our parents! Because they loved us and cared for us and would want you to be at their funeral!”

     “Would they?”

     She stared harshly into my eyes. Her eyes filled with tears.

     “Please. They missed you, they really did. I mean, you know that they were driving to see you when they—”

     “I know.”

     “Right. Sorry. I just, I need you. Okay? It’s stupid, we’re both adults now, but it’s hard to be so alone, right? And if not literally, then emotionally? What the fuck are we supposed to do?”

     I looked at her and saw the reflection of myself in her glossy eyes. I hugged her. She hugged me back. My entire body let out a breath. The fist of my heart unclenched.

     When we broke apart from the hug, she asked me if there was anything I wanted to do together before the funeral. I looked through the window of the apartment lobby, at the wall of hedge and the empty space above it.

     “Sure, if you’re up for it.”

     I led her outside into the morning air. It was slightly bitter but windless. The sky had nothing to say. The sun was bright but cold. We were face to face with the tall wall of hedges that no longer surrounded a monument, just a graveyard. The leaves of the hedges were starting to yellow and brown from the fall cold. In some barren places, it was possible to catch glimpses of the graveyard. A pathetic plot of mostly dirt it seemed. I looked up again, half expecting to see The Eyesore appear suddenly, as it did when I first saw it. But all I saw was a blank sky. My sister asked me what I was doing, and I told her that I was just admiring the sky. She smiled. I told her that I wanted to go inside of the hedges, to see the graveyard that had been depriving me sleep. She suggested we look for an entrance. Even though I was unsuccessful before, I took her around the perimeter of the graveyard. As we walked on, I felt a stinging pain on the back of my neck. There was a small horizontal cut that had yet to fully heal. I couldn’t remember how I got it.

     On the side of the graveyard plot that faced away from my apartment, there was a gate. It was small, rusted, and chainlink; it seemed ill-suited to successfully keep anything out, if that was even its purpose. I reached out to touch it, to verify that it was actually real. It was cold. I pushed it open. It screamed in protest but easily gave way. The hedge was connected over the gate, so I had to duck in order to get into the graveyard, and told my sister to do the same. The branches of the hedge brushed against my head as I, for the first time, stepped into the place I had so long thought about. 

     It was a square patch of dirt. Garbage bags layed haphazardly around. I had mistaken those garbage bags for headstones. In the center of the patch was a circular, shallow hole in the ground. The place where The Eyesore should have been. An impression left by a barrel or garbage can. I stood in the hole and looked up. I couldn’t even see my apartment window from there; the hedges were too tall. 

     “You really thought this was a cemetery?”

     “A graveyard, yeah. I don’t know why.”

     I sat in the circle and looked around at the refuse as my sister walked around the plot and inspected the garbage more closely. I felt lightheaded. I had given so much attention to this place. And it was nothing. I was nothing. But before I had the time to fully spiral, my sister screamed. I jumped up and went over to her. She stood over a dead pigeon and a smooth pebble. The shock of seeing the dead bird pushed her into tears and hyperventilation. I told her to breathe. She shook with rasping gasps. To try to calm her down, I suggested we bury the bird. She snapped into a simple motivation at the suggestion, and began digging a hole in the circular impression. She carefully placed the pigeon into the hole and covered it with dirt. I placed the pebble on top of the burial site, as a headstone. It was warm. 

     We sat in silence for what felt like forever. But after that eternity, out of nowhere, my sister tilted her head up and screamed into the sky. I would have joined her, but the back of my neck hurt when I tried to tilt my head back, so instead, as she screamed up, I screamed down. Into the dirt, into the sky, into the grave, into the heavens.

Adam Wurst is a current Senior at Northwestern, studying Theatre and Creative Writing. He has a particular passion for playwriting, short fiction, and poetry. He hails from Roseville, Minnesota.