Eternities : Fig Tree Lane

Fig Tree Lane runs along the south-western boundary of Waverley cemetery; or else its brief unwinding thread of grey is a road into the land of the dead. At night the massive sandstone blocks of the high graveyard wall lean forebodingly down over the narrow way and the mausoleums of the great dead—Archibald, Freeman, Lawson, Trumper—loom invisibly beyond like mansions of ruin. It is a No Through Road and there isn’t anywhere to turn around either; the only time I was there the car, while I was backing out, veered unaccountably several times towards those dank walls which, in the warm moist half-dark, looked as if they were dripping ancient gore. I thought I might be able to use the opening of a lighted garage about half way down as a turning space but when I came abreast and had a look there were two people within, a very tall man and a slender woman, possibly a girl, both dressed in white and standing heads together over a cluttered table, completely absorbed in some task; which I assumed to be the construction of another entity to add to those with which the chaotic interior was already littered. Or adorned. No doubt they were puppeteers and those beings characters in their theatre; but as I looked into the light-box of the garage it seemed to me they were actually assembling vessels in which spirits of the dead might be captured; thence to be released, like genies from bottles, at the command of the puppet master. I had this thought just before I took my foot off the brake and allowed the car to continue back towards St Thomas Road; and as I did both man and girl, as one, looked up and out at me and I knew that I was wrong: his doomed cadaverous face, hollow eye-sockets and black-pit mouth told me so; while she, with her manic gypsy skip and malicious tinkle, her fantastical eyes, I saw was not just his and the puppets’ mistress but Queen of all the Dead who thronged that antique laneway, haunted those dripping walls and teeming invisibly in the necropolis up above; even, perhaps, with power of coercion over any among the living unwary enough to linger longer than a nanosecond in the fatal incandescence of her gaze.

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