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Chad Higgins wrapped his arm around his weeping wife and pulled her close. She put her arm around him, leaned her head against his shoulder, and covered her face with her other hand. Within a few minutes, the wetness of her tears soaked through his shirt, but he didn't mind. He had waited nineteen long years for this day, the day he'd say farewell to the one he dubbed the "devil's mistress."
As he looked around the funeral procession, Chad noticed few were mourning the loss of Barbara Christiansen. Neither of his children looked teary-eyed and not even her husband of forty-eight years was crying. And who could blame them? Not Chad. His mother-in-law was a cold, calculating woman who belittled everyone around her--especially him.
My daughter's too good for you. She deserves better, he could hear her say, her jarring tone filled with discontent. The sound of her whiny voice was like nails on a chalk-board. He loathed it. Loathed her. She criticized everything he did; every step he made, she was there to question its validity. He believed she took great pleasure in making his life a living hell, but now he took comfort in hoping that's where she was now. She had a way of making him wonder if Martha, her daughter, was worth it all, and he hated his mother-in-law for that, because Martha was worth it, and then some.
However, despite his mother-in-law's best attempts, there was a time when Chad's life was marital bliss, and though that time was short lived, it was at the forefront of his memories. He hoped this was the turning point to returning to that place of happiness. A time when he and his wife lived in Virginia and his in-laws lived thedream in the Sunshine State. Those were the days, he recalled, before hurricane Jon tore its way across Florida and destroyed all that his in-laws had. Without hesitation, he welcomed them into his home; after all, he liked his father-in-law. Teddy Christiansen knew how to have a good time, and Chad thought for sure his mother-in-law would be so appreciative she would see the error of her ways and treat him properly.
What an idiot, he thought, as that had been far from the case. Now that he thought about it, he couldn't recall ever getting a single thank you. Not even when the living arrangements became permanent after the Christiansen's insurance company folded, leaving them and a hundred others destitute.
When his father-in-law caught Chad's gaze, he nodded and turned back to the mahogany casket being lowered into the grave.
Farewell, you old hag, Chad thought while trying to fight back the smile threatening to make an appearance. He would never hear the end of that one. May you forever burn in the fires of Hell.
A knock echoed in the air.
"What was that?" Martha asked, raising her head and looking toward the grave. "Did anyone else hear it?"
"Is this some kind of a joke?" Chad asked.
Buddy looked at him. "No, I heard it, too."
"There it is again," his daughter said and this time, there was no denying the sound.
The chain holding the coffin shook as the banging increased.
"She's alive." Teddy stepped toward the open grave.
"That's impossible." Chad ran with his wife and children to investigate. Most of the other spectators looked on wide-eyed while a select few inched backward, stepping away from the phenomenon.
"Quickly, raise it up," ordered the priest, and the groundskeeper nodded in compliance.
No. No! This can't be happening, Chad thought. She's dead! Let her rot.
When the casket was placed on the ground before them, the thumps became more frantic and urgent. Chad's family immediately set to opening it, each one attacking one of the turn-style locking mechanisms--but Chad just stood back. This was blasphemy. Desecration. You left a coffin as it was.