“What were his words?” the man asked.
Bob gave him a long, blank stare. The mason was an old fella with a patchy beard and hunched shoulders. His hands were weathered and swollen. The hat on his head, lost of all color thanks to years of dirt, had a permanent sweat band soaked into its base. Bob wondered if he would become that man someday. Some thin, broken haunch that spent his last days sloped over dead stones carving the dead words of dead people into markers.
“Well? Out with it then. Did he say a’thing before he passed?” The stone mason squinted from under his large hat.
All Bob could remember were Brian’s eyes. They were bulging and red with strain when he passed. The veins on his face pulsed violently and his skin went from red to purple to blue, finally blue. Bob thought the Brian’s head was going to explode right there in front of him. He still heard the choking, the gurgling—
The mason poked Bob on the chest. “Sonny? Ya need to rest a spell? You be lookin’ paler than the stone.”
Bob sat down without realizing. His face was slimy with sweat. His eyes were tired. “What was your question?”
“His words, sonny, his words. Did your man have ’em?” The mason planted his bony elbows onto the granite in front of him.
“Oh,” Bob said. “Yeah, that.” Bob looked at his hands. They were trembling. Across his right palm was a dark, red line from where he’d drawn the blade of the knife for the blood ritual. Burnt in the palm of his left hand was the branding of a pentagram. “He said he wanted my soul next,” said Bob.
The mason leaned his head back. “How’s that?”
Bob closed his hands together. He tried his best to forget those bulging eyes that were nearly bursting from Brian’s face, the blood-shot red that turned to black, but it was all he could remember. “He just said he wanted my soul next.”
The mason rubbed a hand absently at his chin. He looked Bob up and down. “How about we say he was a good man?”
“Oh, yes, that will work just fine,” said Bob.
The mason muttered an agreement. “And how will ya be payin’?”
“Oh, coin isn’t a problem.” Bob dug his hand into a small pouch and pulled out a grip of silver coins. “I can pay as much as you like.”
The mason slowly reached for the small, glimmering pile of silver resting on the stone. He plucked a coin by the edge and examined it. There was a small stain of blood.