It was a dreary, cold, gray day. It was the sort of day that always seemed to accompany death. There was a light drizzle that seemed to slick and coat every surface with a heavy wetness. Nature was mourning. The animals were silent, the sky was brooding, the trees wore black. A low, haunting dirge filled the air. The funeral procession marched to a grimly slow beat. No one and nothing dared to be quick or jolly on that day.
Victory felt each of his steps slap the wet ground with a heavy heart. He had known Ganyu for less than a month. Somehow it seemed a greater tragedy to Victory to lose someone you hardly knew. It seemed worse to have someone die before you could get to know them than long after you'd gotten to know them intimately.
The funeral procession began to flow into the church as they reached it. The rain pitter-pattered on Victory's head as he stood outside the hearse. Along with the other five pallbearers he hoisted Ganyu's coffin out of the black vehicle and struggled to walk it up the steps of the church with dignity.
The old Bulgarian had been a widower. Before his wife had died, however, they had conceived five children together, and every one had married and had at least two children. The size of Ganyu's family was very impressive, but despite the dozens of children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews, and so on, Victory had insisted that the Fellowship take care of his funeral. Victory had paid for most of it himself, but the other Fellows had chipped in as much as they could.
The small assemblage of Fellows stood out in stark contrast from the rest of the drably clothed funeral party because of their light blue tunics. A black armband was tied around the right arm of every Fellow. They had discussed in a small committee what to wear to the funeral, and had come to the conclusion that the blue jackets would signify their respect for Ganyu's contributions to the Fellowship, and the black armbands would signify their respect for his death.
Though Victory hadn't wanted the funeral to turn into a promotional ploy for the Fellowship, he knew it would be giving his group exposure. The hundreds of family members, friends, and well-wishers which had showed up would now know about the existence of the Fellowship.
As the priest’s sermon wound down, the first eulogy began. It came from Ganyu’s oldest son. It was brief and sad, and he lost his composure about halfway through and had to stop.
“Mr. Halov?” the son managed to choke out between sobs, when he was finished.
As they crossed paths while the son was coming down from the pulpit and Victory was going up to it, Victory stopped to shake hands with the man.
“I’m very sorry,” Vic said sincerely.
And Victory took his place by the altar.
“I, uh…” Victory said, and then he coughed, “I only knew Ganyu Yovkov for a short time. In that time he deeply affected my life. He helped me to open my eyes. He helped me to see the world as it really was, not the way I wanted it to be.
“Ganyu was, first and foremost, I think, an intellectual. He brought valuable knowledge and experience into the Fellowship that I don’t think anyone else really could have. He was…a good man.
“I don’t know,” Victory said, and then he scratched his head, “I couldn’t really think of a good way to show my appreciation to Ganyu. He’s dead now, so it’s too late to thank him. I just wish I could have had the, uh…forethought to thank him while he was still with us.
“I want to offer my condolences to Ganyu’s family especially, but his friends as well. He was really a very…good man. The world will be a bit of a sadder place without him. So, goodbye Ganyu.”
After that brief hesitant speech, Victory sat back down. He thought back to the last time that they had spoken together. Ganyu had said, “A leader needs to be an orator.”
Sheepishly, he stuck his hands in his pockets. It was something he rarely did because he usually didn't carry a wallet. He was surprised to find a small wad in the bottom of one of the pockets.
He removed the wad and found it was a ball of paper. Undoubtedly this pair of pants had been through the wash several times since he had first put the paper in his pocket and forgotten about it. He carefully uncrumpled it and was struck again as he realized that it was a faded grocery receipt. It was from some little market he had never heard of, and had certainly never been to.
It is a strange trait of human beings that when they are puzzled by something they look around in a most futile manner. Usually it's pointless to turn a piece of paper around, or upside-down. Victory did this, however, and found that it paid off.
There was an old and nearly indistinguishable address on the back of the receipt. Somewhat more visible, because it had been penned in with a firmer grip, was a name. The first half had been obscured by so many times through the washing machine, but the surname was very clearly written, and underlined. Victory nodded, and came to a resolution.
That name was Cain.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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