Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The shrine was carved into the hill, a hollowed boulder containing an open, wooden box with faded black characters written on the back, and small bits of paper hanging from the top that made it look like a diorama.

He stood silently at the entrance. A light rain fell, and he leaned his head forward so the drops wouldn't hit his glasses. The graveyard behind him was small, off a winding dirt path that lead away from the village. The plots were old, headstones askew and worn out by time and water and wind, their names and pictures fading away.

An older woman stood alongside him, wearing a white bandana around her forehead and thick red jacket. He couldn't remember her being there before. She glanced over at him, and then walked under a faded, splintered red arch and up three stone stairs to the shrine.

She pulled out a small coin and dropped it into a rusted metal box that sat on a rock at the shrine's side. She bowed deeply in a slow, jerking motion, and then stood upright and clapped her hands three times. The sound surprised him with its strength, as it hit the rocks and echoed backwards over the cemetery.

And then all was silent, except for the growing patter of the rain on the leaves of the trees. The woman hardly made a sound and didn't look up as she descended the stairs, walked past him, picked her way through the plots, and disappeared down the trail.

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