Log in / Register



Monthly Archives:

Recent Comments:No recent comment found.
Spooky Halloween book series

All The Dead Are Here - Pete Bevan's zombie tales collection

Popular Tags:

WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

OF DUST by Laura Jeanné Sanger
July 30, 2007  Short stories   Tags:   

When the Cloud came it brought life to those who ought not have it anymore.

So Edwin Prace naturally headed off towards the cemetery.

He had three cans of free flowing salt with him, seventy-eight ounces in all, not counting the handful of little packets collected in his truck’s glove box from the drive-throughs of various fast food restaurants.

He hoped it would be enough. He said a little prayer, just in case. It serve well to be caught without enough salt when the Clouds came.

Edwin Trace didn’t consider him an especially religious man, but he did know all the Psalms by heart, his mother singing them when he was little.

“Confitemini Domino,” she would sing, washing the dinner dishes, or walking the babies that came after Edwin. “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord has punished me sorely, but he did not hand me over to Death.”

His mother had been a hard-working woman, never having much
in the way of luxury. She had talked sometimes about moving to the
city, the ease that would be hers if she had more money, but it never
happened. She never seemed to mind that too much, tending to her

It was her grave Edwin Trace was driving towards, salt
secured on the passenger seat next to him.

There was no way he was going to let his mother’s body become a damned zombie.
He listened to the radio as he drove, the announcer talking about the Clouds between country songs. Somehow talk of zombies fit in okay.

The Clouds were officially of unknown origin, although Edwin
suspected that somewhere, someone knew more about them than they were
telling. Things like the Clouds very rarely spontaneously generated

Like most evil, Edwin suspected that human hands had created them.

The Clouds themselves were beautiful to look at, in the way
lightning storms are awesomely beautiful, when one has the
opportunity to view them from a safe vantage point.

The Clouds were almost lavender. Majestic and large, they soared like
thunderclouds into the heavens. They rained a kind of rain, but it
was not water. The substance was not reported to have any ill effect
on the living. This was according to a study conducted with research
grant money awarded by the tobacco industry.

Edwin took those findings with the proverbial pinch of salt.
The substance from the Clouds seeped into the ground. It
would combine with dead human tissue, reanimating the remains; the
dead would claw their way out of decaying tombs.

That is, if they were lucky enough. Those enshrined in well-built or
new coffins writhed inside their prisons. In the large corporate
cemeteries, the groundskeepers had to break open the cement seals and
dig up the perished.

Just as the dead attempted to rise, salt would be thrown on them, and
they would slip back into the quiet sleep of death. Television
scientists postulated that the salt interfered with the reanimation

Edwin had never studied much chemistry, so the analyses meant little
to him.

Edwin had seen a number of informative shows on the Clouds.

The bodies they summoned arose mindless and desperate, hungry and in
despair. Not hungry for human flesh – that was B-movie mythology. The
body hungered for something it no longer had. Something the body
remembered, even with nothing human left inside it.

The bodies lolled around the Earth, like wayward cattle. They were
disruptive and frightening, but fundamentally harmless. They were
like deer, the prey ironically more dangerous than the bears that
stalked them. For while bears on rare occasion killed an unfortunate,
and often careless, camper, deer caused traffic accidents when they
darted into the quiet, dark roads. The latter death toll far exceeded
the former.
Sometimes a zombie went rogue, actually seeking out human flesh. Those were the ones you had to watch out for.
They looked just like all the rest of the zombies.

Luckily the Clouds that created the zombies were predictable. It was a weird new aspect of
life, keeping up with where the Clouds were, rushing to stop the dead
from being roused from their sleep.

Edwin Trace arrived at the cemetery, as this Cloud approached.
The wind rushed through his thinning hair. He wore his old
field clothes, made of closely woven cloth and fitted at the cuffs.
He could still smell the dusting sulfur on them, placed to keep the
chiggers from crawling up his limbs and biting him.
The monstrous Cloud was on the horizon. It tracked towards the
graveyard, as if it knew that the dead were there. Kind of like tornadoes and trailer parks. Edwin had to figure there was something to intelligence working in the universe.

Edwin parked his truck by a low rail fence that kept vehicles
out of the cemetery. There had been problems with vandals a few years
earlier, driving through the hallowed grounds. They tore up the grass
and tipped headstones. Probably kids, bored with life in a sleepy
rural town.

Edwin had cleaned up the graveyard, put up the little fence
to make it a less easy target for idle destruction.
Edwin’s mother had always said it was a blessing to do
something for the dead, because it was true altruism. The dead could
not pay you back.

He thought disturbing the sanctity of their final resting places must
be the opposite. What good could come from that?

It was a small cemetery, abandoned by its owners decades
before. The large conglomerate funeral home and cemetery companies provided
most of the burying services now, in large modern graveyards located
closer to the more affluent suburbs. All with pretty names like Forest Meadows, or Tranquil Acres, like the living didn’t know what got you there.

Only a few people remembered the little, old cemetery even existed.

Those that did tended the grounds and the graves. The preachers still
came here, when called, to inter dead. They weren’t supposed to, but
anyone in attendance at the funeral was also someone who would never
tell about its happening. It was something to be at a clandestine funeral, something wonderfully holy and sinful at the same time.

Luckily the modest character of the cemetery meant that the bodies
were not over buried. There were no concrete seals, just dust
becoming dust again; simple wooden coffins lowered six feet into
consecrated clay.

Throwing salt on the ground would suffice to secure their tranquility.
Edwin stepped over the small fence and walked towards his
family plot. The Clouds moved slowly, but he had to apply himself to
the task at hand.

He stood over the graves of his father and mother, and his
older brother, William, who had died in Vietnam just before the fall
of Saigon. There was a fourth stone already in place,
inscribed “Edwin, faithful son” along with his date of birth and a
dash, carved into the pale gray stone.
He almost regretted having the
engraving done already. It was disconcerting to have two-thirds of
the information pertinent to his passing already etched in marble. Like he had always been two-thirds dead.

He sprinkled the salt lightly over the ground and around the
headstones. It did not take a lot, just a few grains to be effective
against the Cloud’s unsettling rain.

He went to the next graves. Mr. Witkins and his wife. They
never had any children, and Mrs. Witkins had spoiled William and
Edwin, baking them pies almost every day. It was a tribute to the
metabolism of growing boys that they had not been massively

Edwin threw pinches of salt over their plot.

He figured three cans of salt would be more than enough for the
entire grounds. He poured the salt into a leather-lined basket that
he used for sowing seeds. Then he went down the rows methodically,
gently tossing out the white crystalline powder.

In the strange light of the Cloud, the salt glistened as it fell,
like a rainbow of tiny faceted mauve beads.

Edwin had heard that the salt was just as effective against
risen flesh, but he did not want to test that hypothesis. He had not
desire to see dead bodies, still or moving. He had heard that many of
them were like soap, thanks to the embalming process. Squishy, slimy,
saponaceous corpses covered in the garish make-up the mortuary used.
The very thought revolted him.

Hidden in a grove of weeping willows at the border of the
graveyard’s property was The Garden, where the babies were laid to
rest. Most of the grave markers bore only one date, making him feel
ashamed he had discounted the gift of having two dates to inscribe
upon his own headstone.

There was an unfathomable sadness to the little garden. Stillborns,
and other infants who didn’t make it very long, were buried amidst
little whirly fans, small toys, and little solar-powered nightlights.
Mrs. Klinghoffer tended this part of the cemetery, and was raising
her daughter to take the chore over when Mrs. Klinghoffer herself
became a resident of the graveyard’s soil.

Mrs. Klinghoffer even performed the grisly task of scooping out the
little bodies from the biohazard dumpster behind the family planning
clinic, picking up the sawed up little limbs and faces in their
bloody bags. She placed them in tiny boxes, gave them names, and dug
holes in the ground for them. She would laminate index cards to serve
as their only identity on Earth.

If the city council objected, they kept quiet, because Mrs.
Klinghoffer also helped bury the homeless, the Jane and John Does
from the morgue, and anyone else who happened to die in the county
without a name.
Edwin looked up.

The Cloud was at the perimeter of the graveyard, its sickly sweet
wind – like rotting citrus – beginning to roll in. He sprinkled salt
in The Garden, not wanted the sweet innocent bodies rising from their
tiny graves. He didn’t even want to imagine that.

He moved to another separate section, in the older section of
the graveyard.

The misguided days of segregation had reached even into the society
of the dead. In the past, non-Caucasians were buried in separate
sections of the cemetery. Edwin spread salt over the graves of the
dead buried before the civil rights movement had erased the odious
practices of separation.

Pharaohs and paupers, his mother had taught him. We’re all the same
again, once we’ve been put back in the ground.

He placed a handful of salt carefully over the graves of Mr.
And Mrs. Kirby.

Mrs. Kirby had taught him how to play the piano, filling him with the
energy of Southern Gospel. Edwin’s mother used to sing while Mrs.
Kirby played, even before the rest of the city understood that their
friendship transcended how much melanin they had in their skin.
The melanin ratio had always been changing anyway, he recollected:
Edwin’s mother had tried summer after summer to acquire a sultry tan
on her Celtic skin. Every time she ended up looking like a lobster
straight from the cooking pot.

The Kirbys had two children before Mr. Kirby died. Edwin had
gone to school with them, and been friends with each until their
lives diverged after graduation.

Mr. Kirby had died at Okinawa, in World War II. The Army
chaplain who attended to Mr. Kirby in his last moments had retired,
and told the story of those fateful minutes. How as Mr. Kirby lay
dying, among so many others, the chaplain made his grim rounds,
giving last rites amidst the carnage. He had sat next to Mr. Kirby,
holding his bloodied, war-stained hand.
At the end of his recitation, the pastor looked at Mr. Kirby and said, “God bless you.” Mr Kirby, with so few words left, smiled through the pain and grime and
replied, “That’s the first time a white man’s ever blessed me.” The
pastor stood in awe, for he could not tell anything about the
bloodied, battered man, except that he was dying.

Beneath blood, we’re all the same, Edwin’s mother had
added to the story.

Men like that should be allowed to rest in peace, Edwin
thought, as the salt fell from his fingertips.

The Cloud had reached the edge of the graveyard. Its strange
rain fell upon the ground, making little spitting noises against the
salt. Even where there was space between the grains, the little
almost purplish drops exploded into minute puffs of smoke, as if
proximity alone was sufficient to defeat them.

Edwin headed back to his truck, a few teaspoons of salt still
remaining in the last jar. It had been close, but he had figured the
quantity necessary with a respectable degree of accuracy.
Before he was close to his truck, he smelled an offensive
odor in the air. Like burning hair.

Then he heard a rattling noise, like popcorn popping inside
rusty cans.

It wasn’t a pleasant sound.

He followed the noise to its source.

Between him and his truck there was a small columbarium, its
little walled recesses holding ashes. Edwin froze in place.
He had forgotten about the ashes.

Edwin moved very quickly towards his truck.
The rattling grew more intense, little cracks fracturing the
faces of the stones over the compartments in the columbarium. The
sepulchral structure shuddered, a squealing wind ripping it apart.
Ashes exploded outwards, congregating in the air. Hissing like angry

They noticed Edwin.

He started to run, as fully as his aging legs could carry

The mass of ash aimed itself towards him, hurtling itself
like a corporate arrow towards his form.

He stopped, realizing he would not reach the truck in time.
He stood his ground, a tiny fistful of salt in hand.

He threw a handful of salt into the air; the cloud of charred
remains shrieked.

The little crystals convulsed inside the ashen cloud, and little
sections of the cloud fell out in unordered succession.
Individuals, he thought, watching the ashes fall in concert,
random pattern after random pattern. Each wave of falling ash.


In the end, one set of ash remained, suspended in the murky
air, trying to reach him. He threw the last salt from the jar at it.
It gyrated briefly, and then fell to the ground.

The Cloud’s mauve shadow slid over the silent headstones.

Edwin walked back to his truck, dusting himself off. He
unlocked the door, and sat inside. After locking the doors he
retrieved the small packets of salt from the glove compartment. He
had a way to drive back to town, and he passed some undeveloped
forest on the way. He worried that if there had ever been a body lost
or secretly buried out in the woods, the Cloud might have gotten to

It seemed a wicked trick to bring such despair back again.

He surveyed the little graveyard once more before he left,
the sunlight coming in low over the horizon, painting it a pretty
gold. There was no motion. It was still and quiet.

He said a quick prayer before he left, just because it seemed
the right thing to do. What had Martin Luther said? The fewer words
the better prayer. Mrs. Kirby had taught him that.

Edwin Trace looked out, his eyes glancing over the Kirbys’
graves and the Garden, until he found his parents and his brother.
He cleared his throat, figuring anything worth praying about
was worth saying aloud. “May the blessing of peace and the promise of
life come true, and let us say: Amen.”

It was part of a prayer he heard Mrs. Klinghoffer say when she buried
the discarded little ones, her head bobbing back and forth as sacred
poetry left her lips.

He started the car, and turned down the road, listening to
the radio. They would mention the Clouds when they announced the
weather forecast. The Clouds were hardly headline news anymore. The
media had newer, more grotesque darlings to focus on.
The Clouds had lost their novelty, unless one spawned some
sensational image, or raised a celebrity from their grave. Then the paparazzi would swarm, flashbulbs exploding in the lifeless eyes of someone everyone else had to reminded of who they had been.

The cemetery had become too much of his life, Edwin thought.

A living man shouldn’t be so at peace with Death.

He should look up Mrs. Klinghoffer, see how she was doing. And take
the time to reconnect with the Kirbys’ son and daughter. He needed to
share something with the living, the people he remembered.

Perhaps, he thought, that was what the raised flesh was trying to
do, in its frustrated, mindless way: Trying to remember what it was to be alive.

As he drove past, something moved by the side of the road,
dragging itself out of a shallow grave. He slowed down, watching the
matted mass of dried flesh struggle towards the asphalt.

Edwin readied a small packet of salt, tossing about half of it out of
the window onto the hapless corpse. It stopped, like a wind-up toy
that had ended its short run.

He would radio the location in to the local police, so they could
investigate further.

The Clouds were helping solve many cold murder cases. Bringing
closure to missing persons cases.

He had heard a theory that the Clouds were the unintended byproduct
of research into finding dead people. That scientists had designed a
microbe to react with human flesh, making the decaying tissue
pulsate, so it could be located. The purple color was supposed to be
a marker, to indicate the dead flesh’s location in almost any terrain
or circumstance. Purple was an odd color against snow, woodlands, or
water. It was easy to see in city or country.

Some sort of body finding technology gone wrong. Edwin wondered who
would fund that sort of research.

Probably the tobacco companies.

It was as good a theory as any other he’d heard.

It did not really matter. The Clouds were here now, and they seemed destined to stay.

The radio announcer came on to warn the next city over that
the Cloud was coming their way. They needed to head towards the
cemeteries, especially any small community cemeteries or family plots
that might escape the attention of the authorities.

Edwin Trace threw a few of the remaining grains of salt he
had on himself.

He smiled. He was still moving.

Sometimes it was the only thing that reminded him that he was alive


  1. This was a very interesting take on zombies…I enjoyed reading.

    Comment by Mehnea on July 30, 2007 @ 11:37 am

  2. Great perspective–I liked it

    Comment by Max Smith on December 15, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

  3. That was a very quiet, lovely, story.

    I think that people who protest at abortion clinics are insensitive assholes, but I have nothing against people who bury fetuses. I personally believe, that an unwanted pregnancy is a tragic thing, so is forced birth or unwanted abortions. I basically view abortion as the lesser evil, because if there is a god who spares children in heaven, that it is a greater harm to bring a child that’s completely out of your hands to care for, into this dangerous world. An orphanage or the street is no place for children to grow up, and the foster system is messed up.

    In many homes, even when the parents feed the children first there still isn’t enough, and Free Enterprise U.S. doesn’t cover healthcare for children even though they certainly aren’t responsible for their own financial circumstances. Parents that struggle on minimum wage, working overtime, leave their children to themselves, and those kids roams if they have no parents.

    …and it’s interesting that in myths salt both wards of evil, and free zombies that are used as slaves by plantation owners. In the plantation version, voodoo raised zombies return to their graves in the end, though sometimes not until they have mobbed their ‘owners’ first.

    Comment by Mercurial Georgia on January 19, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

  4. Maybe in some future century, when the humans have forgotten what the Skull & Crossbone Toxic Waste Warning Signs had once meant, that end up guarding the Nuke Waste our Fed. Gov’t. will end up burying at Yucca Mountain– in the deep SALT CAVERNS, all that radioactive stuff will seep out, finally, escaping it’s Salty Tombs and get into the Ground Water. Then, those future humans may drink it and who knows, maybe there will be Zombies.

    This Story was the most impressive I’ve read so far on this website, really “deep”!
    The writer has an amazing way with words and the man seems very real. Sometimes when women writers “flesh out” a male character, it doesn’t ring true, here she really captures him.

    Story reminds me of the quality of brilliant works dramatized on the original Black & White “Twilight Zone” T.V. Series, with Rod Serling. In fact, almost all the Zombie stories on this website would make a great basis for a T.V. series like that!

    Comment by AtomicWarBaby on August 4, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

  5. Very cool. I liked the detail about the ashes, and the fact that most zombies don’t actually attack people, but instead mill about, trying to find something they don’t have anymore, but desperately want.

    Comment by Liam on July 12, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  6. I really dig this take.Such a serene story.Fantastic.

    Comment by fred on September 15, 2009 @ 7:23 pm

  7. It was cool that most zombies didn’t attack. Perhaps the ones that did were the ones who had been evil in life or who had died violently. The zombie ashes were really cool…I never thought about ashes being able to attack. Also, I loved that the police were able to solve cold cases when a corpse buried somewhere rose from the grave.

    Comment by Cherry Darling on December 4, 2009 @ 6:13 am

  8. I am at work bored this is one of my favorite sites so I decided to go back and read the older stories. I am not disappointed I really do like the authors take on the zombie epidemic. I feel a lot better with ur take that allows us a way to manage the epidemic without the use of the LOBO. Nicely done!

    Comment by ZOMBIELOVER313 on July 8, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

  9. B-E-A-utifull!
    realy nice story
    i love how gentle the charecter was in his way of life and the thoughts he had on the whole phenominom. the message was as touching as the sci-fi aspect was interesting.
    BRAVO 😀 x

    Comment by james glenn on April 13, 2011 @ 6:00 am

  10. Great story. Very unique perspective. I agree with some of the other posters here, probably the most serene zombie story I have ever read. I can’t think of another adjective that better describes this…serene.

    Comment by VJ on April 20, 2011 @ 9:28 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.