A Vampire’s Funeral
by matt miller
A funeral. Cold, misting rain extends its skeletal fingers past coats and hats and layers of clothing, down to the bone, penetrating skin and chilling soul. Grey, naked trees stand in silence against the freezing wind like solitary ramparts, guarding the way to the empire of the dead. A small group of mourners in black are trudging their way down a mushy gravel path, between countless rows and lanes of vaults, mausoleums, and monuments. All of the stone withers, grey and mossy, unkempt, for this is the oldest part of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Here, in the ancient center of the massive City of the Dead, the vaults are less tended, less washed and painted, less beflowered and befriended, as the memories of the departed fade like Greek shades in the minds of those who knew them, those who themselves are also dying, misting away like a New Orleans fog hovering over the Mississippi River. The dark funeral party reaches the oldest vault, directly in the center of the cemetery, and halts. The priest, himself garbed in black stole, turns to face the meager crowd of seven or eight people. His face is as pallid as the weather, and creases formed long ago by mysterious pains channel through his skin, little rivers of sorrow. He does not look holy. He does not appear pious. He looks ragged and scarred, a broken man, wounded by years of whatever his eyes have seen. He begins his speech, and his voiced is cracked and grizzled, not at all the celestial song the mourners were expecting. His words are trite and unconcerned, a canned sermon, though he knew the boy for years. He may as well have written the sermon for the random funeral of a stranger. Something is on his mind. The dead boyâ€™s parents are not happy with Father Erin. â€œAshes to ashes, dust to dust,â€ mumbles Father Erin as he crumbles a bit of moist sod on top of the lowering coffin. And that is it. The funeral is over. The mourners in black hug each other, whisper their little meaningless sayings that do nothing to comfort anyone, and slowly find their way back out of the maze that is the St. Louis Cemetery. But Father Erin remains, protected from the cool drizzle by his black wool overcoat. It is cool in New Orleans. That is unusual.