Beyond the Grave Collection

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

January 10, 2024

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Grave-ity Bill Engleson

I sense her still, a presence of a sort I had forgotten.
There is usually no one by my side.
Neither to the left or the right.
Much is in the past of me.
She left early. Before the 1970’s had even wound up.
Mother sent me the obit.
A clipping.
It was in the hometown rag.
Why?
There were hints.
You know the type.
She’d been living in the city for a few years.
So had I.
Our paths had never crossed.
It was big city.
No reason they would.
Finally, they crossed when I visited her grave.

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Candy Cane by Sarah Brentyn

I reach my mitten to clear the dusting of snow off her gravestone, but pull it back. The flakes form a white filigree that sparkles in the last strands of sunlight.

I nestle a candy cane in the powdery doily. She is, at last, allowed to have this. I take a photo with my mind because actually taking a picture would lead to a decision about whether or not to delete it. Now, I cannot. Not ever. I sigh a cloud into the frigid twilight, stare at the numbers etched in granite. Only one year hides between the dash.

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Mortal Contemplation by JulesPaige

The small cemetery sits within the clover leaf of an exit of the main route. Not easy to get to. Someone maintains it. This year the fence around it is painted white – there is a new sign that I have not yet gotten close enough to read. Years ago I parked, and walked to it with a bunch of flowers, to leave for those resting bones.

I wonder about where the stories of some loved ones have blown… not all bones get buried. I have to believe that all souls rise.

solstice pass
lengthening days shine
on cold stones

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Dad’s Beauty Was His Wisdom by Carole Warren

On the first anniversary of my father’s death,
Dad stands before me.
In my dream, his gaze on me is clear,
Not the vacant look before he passed.

Daddy’s beauty was his wisdom,
That resonates still today.
He always spoke of lessons learned,
Without ever sharing his whole story.

In my dream, I ask for his blessing,
“Encourage me for my choices.
I’ve jumped off my path so many times,
Nothing looks the same anymore.”

He replies, “In my final place of rest,
there is no more change.
So make those brave choices,
Embrace unique challenges while you can.”

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Beyond Death by Sadje

The journey of life can end suddenly.

For a Muslim, the motto is to be prepared for death at all times. Those who are dying in the war in the Middle East, Gaza are embracing death with open arms because for them death is just the start of a beautiful life in heaven. Young children, babies, and those who were born premature, all killed in merciless bombing by those who have left their humanity behind.

The lives cut short in this barbaric way aren’t lives wasted. These people will be granted heaven as a just reward by Almighty Allah!

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A Melody for the Dreamers Heart by Rockstar Girl


The melody crossed the line to the end of the song I played the story like a harp I dreamt of you in me in
a house down south it had a balcony along with a gazebo attached to the house and a guest house in the
backyard but most of all a writing studio for our creativity to be expressed throughout all of the abilities
whether artistic or written works.
I love most of all that there is a swimming pool along with a hot tub to melt our stress away and tunes
out the world in music.

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From Beyond by Shari Marshall

Time is not a promise.

You live in my heart and my memories. You’ve been gone for years, yet your absence affects me the same with an emptiness and a longing to feel your parental embrace. I talk to you in those moments when I need a parent. My understanding has changed. Often in real life, I felt as if you failed to listen or answer me—but now I always hear your voice. It’s a whisper of the values and knowledge you instilled in me. The beauty of your unique love speaks to me from beyond the grave.

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From Beyond the Grave by Joanne Fisher

One night there was a tapping at my door. There was Paige looking radiant.

“Hello my love.” She said.

“But you died. I watched you being buried.”

“I have survived my death. May I come in?”

“Sure. You’re so beautiful.”

“Thank you. We should be together forever.” She said wrapping her arms around me. The next thing I knew we were lying on my bed.

“Close your eyes. I have a surprise for you.” I said. She closed her eyes. I produced a wooden stake and drove it into her chest. I knew a vampire when I saw one.

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In Dreams We can Go by Duane L Herrmann

I’ve visited, in dreams, several people significant in my life (one who was unkind), and learned their reality more clearly than in life: my grandparents tending flowers with wings outspread, a friend gaining mobility, my father saying I did not need permission and, the other, not near equal to myself. Those are just the ones I remember. Were there others? I can only imagine so. Each showing, to some degree, “the form that best befitteth its immortality and is worthy of its celestial habitation.” I’m certain that separation is only temporary and we continue beyond what we can see.

(quote from Baha’i scripture)

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The Dream by Margaret G. Hanna

Abner gasped. Alice. The other Alice. The Alice he had pulled from the rubble. She was standing at the foot of his bed. Holding a baby.
The baby turned its face to Abner. The baby had his face.
“No!”
Suddenly, he was running. Buildings exploding and burning all around him. Searching for something. Or running from something. He couldn’t remember.
A wall blocked his route. He turned, back against the wall. Arms splayed out. Alice stood before him, holding the baby. But now she was Sylvie.
“I didn’t do it!” Abner cried.
He awoke. His past had found him.

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The Meat Market for the Meatless by Anne Goodwin

I used to protest with a placard, but perspectives change when you’re dead. It’s senseless to say it’s a meat market when the lineup is nothing but bones.

I’m honoured to judge Miss Was-World for beauty beyond the grave. In the Skeleton Round we rate for blanching, solidity and the musical rattle when they move. The Halloween Round is about creativity, colour and the capacity to send a shiver down the spine. But the Legacy Round is the most important. What did the contestant gift to those left behind? Material wealth scores zero. Compassion and justice get the prize.

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From the Disturbed Dirt by Kerry E. B. Black

As unmoving as the surrounding statuary, Becky stared at the fresh-carved words in the cold granite slab. Loving husband. That hardly summed up their fifty-one years of marriage nor their three year courtship. How he couldn’t keep his hands from her slim waist, even at the end, or the way they’d embrace at every opportunity. The sharp definition of the words threatened to cut emotion from her until tears softened their edges. The mound over the plot hadn’t settled, but from the disturbed dirt, tiny buttercups burst like an entreaty from her love for a joyous reunion one day.

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When Water Fulfills Dreams by Nicole Horlings

The power of water is its ability to take any shape. Water spirits can mimic other creatures, and keep their memories from stagnating through the flow of time.

There once was a girl who imagined an adventure and whispered her dream to a wishing well.

Years later, a traveler would dive down to an underwater cave and meet an odd, blue-haired girl and her blue-furred animal companions who were on an adventure to rescue a princess from an evil dragon. Their journey didn’t conclude as expected, but the dream-protagonist did discover a recollection of the one who invented her.

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Beauty Beyond… by Reena Saxena

“Would you like to take something with you?”

It is a choice not offered to all.

“A memory eraser.”

“Granted. Let’s start moving.”

They were moving rapidly through a dark corridor, and then a peaceful white light welcomed them.

Thoughts have come to a standstill. There is no scope for memories – bitter, sweet or vengeful. There is no baggage, but perhaps, Karma follows her.

There is no stress, as everything is beautiful out here. Walking into oblivion is only a dream for self-discovery.

It’s happening now.

“I don’t want to go back”, she exclaims soundlessly.

“You have attained Nirvana.”

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Beauty Lives On by Sue Spitulnik

Our house was always a mess. Craft projects lying on the table, unfolded blankets on the couch, a dirty glass wherever it was set. Cat toys on the floor.
The cemetery is so neat, the flowers blooming, the stately stones, and peaceful with only the sounds of nature. What you longed for in life, but with a large family it wasn’t to be.
I bring my grandchildren here to visit with you. They can’t see you and don’t understand. I tell them they are your beauty beyond the grave, your eyes, and your auburn hair. I miss you, Mom.

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from the grave by Melissa Lemay

You are from the grave – but
where, branded into
thin air. Waiting, wondering what next? For me
to understand, I guess
that’s not. You, beyond

the grave, I breathe you in
birdsong, sweet sunlight.
Peace washes over me. Fortune favors no
man, and you lingered next
in queue. This frame breaks

as I knock about this
speck of universe.
Biding time one more year. I think of your grin,
and lie down, laughing, for
I am from the grave.

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Requiem by Michael Fishman

The rough shagbark, a dark sentinel, guides my way.

There’s no beauty beyond this grave. Darkness and pain, forever cold. Your legacy, my inheritance.

And I wear it well.

Standing in the shade of the hickory, picking the scabs of memory, feeling the stitches pull. Nothing changes.

The spurge and chickweed are happy in this patch of desolation. They like the dry soil and thrive in the cool of the granite. I drop to a knee, eye level; bend forward and pick the weeds. I stand and toss them up into the wind.

It’s the least I can do.

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Survivors by Ann Edall-Robson

May 18, 1907

Dear Mother
Our cops and garden are planted. Now we wait for the rain.

The spring wildflowers look lovely in the vase you gave us. They will make a nice addition to table on Sunday when our neighbours come for lunch. I’m making a small cake; and wearing Grandma’s broach, in celebration.

Your loving daughter,
Elise Graison

A museum plaque beside the letter and broach, read, “Survivors – 1907 Flood.”
The handwriting was identical to other letters she had. The broach she knew from pictures.The cemetery dream guided her to find family beauty beyond their graves.

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The Dream Catcher by Colleen Chesebro

In my dream, I see her. She’s just a scrap of a girl with blond hair and brilliant blue eyes—the kind of eyes that stare into your soul. I don’t recognize her, but my blood runs through her veins. Deep down, I know we’re related.

I watch as the child walks through a meadow filled with wildflowers of every color. A halo of light shines around her, as if the sun shines through her. I feel her warmth, and I smile.

When I wake up, I’m dazed. I realize I’ve just met my mother from beyond the grave.

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Beyond the Sun and Moon by Rockstar Girl

The sun lies beyond the ocean

where some stories may be bleak

but while others are a blank full of mysteries

one’s I wish I gotten the chance to read in between the lines

but I know that beauty beyond the grave is as much as the light beyond the truth

where the veil may be thin between I do and I don’t

but I know that love is complicated

but it’s a chapter I wish I read sooner

before getting lost in the pages beyond the beauty of roses

and the sky between the sun and the moon.

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Your World and Mine by D. Avery

You read the news and still can’t know

Your eyes won’t see what they’ve been shown

?darkest depths swirl with denial

?complicit souls denounced, defiled

Your ears distance-dulled to deaths’ moans

Crowded in life, in death also

As in life, we’ve nowhere to go

?Mass graves for us, heaped in a pile

??Your world and mine

Bloodred poppies already sown

Imagine peace now help it grow

?Every person is some One’s child

?Forgiveness now, and mercy mild

Let peace flower, let’s help it grow

??Your world and mine

howling winds

whip

drawn lines

in blood-

and tear-soaked sand

olive trees

take root

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Beauty Beyond the Grave by D. Avery

“Thanks, T.J.”

Tom’s father only nodded. He caught Tom’s eye then both looked away.

“I could still be on my father’s ranch. He said it was my ranch, if only I’d stop.”

“Stop what?” Tom asked.

“Being myself. I told him I couldn’t live that way, his way. He said I was dead to him. Guess when I left home that very day I was leaving my grave.” Prince smiled quietly. “There’s so much beauty beyond the grave.”

Then he was on the dance floor again, swaying in his holey socks, twirling his lariat to a slow, sad song.

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Yet She Walks, In Beauty (Part I) by D. Avery

“Nick! Stop pestering Ilene about her leg! She clearly doesn’t want to tell you.”
“Now, hold on, Marge. We could show him.”
“Too far. Besides, the marker will be snowed under.”
“What’re you talking about?”
“Ilene’s leg is buried, Nick, in a graveyard.”
“Buried?”
“In the family plot. My leg’s grave has a marker with dates and everything. My mother expects me to rejoin her and my leg there some day.”
“Really?”
“Yes, Nick, really,” Marge said.
“But I won’t.”
“Won’t what?”
“Be in that family plot.” Ilene grew silent, mourning unspoken losses.
“Okay, but how—”

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Yet She Walks, In Beauty (Part II) by D. Avery

“So, you’ve seen this leg grave, Marge?”
“Yes, back when Ilene and I made that road trip to her mother’s house. We planted her mother’s ashes then too, right next to it.”
Ilene smiled. “Remember, Marge? You helped me plant the Harry Louder walking stick too.”
“What? You also buried a walking stick?”
“No, Nick, a shrub. We put in Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’; some call it corkscrew Hazel.”
“Oh.” Nick couldn’t picture it, but guessed it must be a beautiful plant.
“On the contrary, Nick. No, the only thing beautiful about either of those graves is me, walking away.”

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Star Dust ‘n Ashes (Part I) by D. Avery

“Ha! Thet’s a beauty of a prompt, ey, Kid? Kid? Why’re ya lookin so grave Kid? Look lively, Shorty’s got a new challenge out fer ya.”
“Ya gotta be dreamin if ya think this’s an easy one. These challenges is… is…”
“Challengin?”
“’Zactly, Pal.”
“Then rise up, like a zombie er some-such thang, an meet the challenge!”
“Holy shift, Pal! I don’t like graves. Ain’t feelin no beauty in this prompt. Tellin ya, Shorty’s killin me!”
“Try slowin down an playin, as Shorty suggests.”
“S’pose ya want me ta play dead?”
“Yep. Then roll over an smell the daisies.”

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Star Dust ‘n Ashes (Part II) by D. Avery

Reluctantly, Kid set out in search of a story, or leastways, some sorta insp’ration. Ended up in the branches a the Poet Tree. Found somethin out whilst up in thet tree.
Come ta find out, some challenge prompts spark shift-loads a ideas ‘mongst the writers, many more than they kin bring ta the page. Some a these ideas get snuffed out like sparks flyin from a campfire, starry ash mixin in the dust. Come ta find out, thet Poet Tree is growin outta thet star dust. An there ain’t nuthin more bloomin beautiful than the Carrot Ranch Poet Tree.

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Star Dust ‘n Ashes (Part III) by D. Avery

So now Kid knew thet insp’ration is all aroun, with stories jist waitin ta be nurtured.
“Whoa, Pal! Back up. What?”
“The stories an pomes you get at the Poet Tree ain’t all yers, Kid. They’s bits a ideas from ever’one else, come from the starry story-dust thet fertilizes the tree thet inspires you.”
“Bullshift!”
“It’s a beautiful thing. Stories never die. Buryin a idea’s like buryin a seed.”
“Dunno, Pal.”
“Whut?”
“I git confused. Am I the storyteller, or the story? The player or the plaything?”
“Reckon both, Kid; yer a animated image, full a life an potential.”

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Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

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8 Comments

  1. Colleen Chesebro

    What a fabulous collection! Thanks for all you do, Charli. ????

    • Charli Mills

      It’s great to work with you, Colleen, and find ways to expand our shared passion for literary art and collaboration. This is as much or me as it is for all. And a big thanks to all the help behind the scenes. Kid and Pal have been helpin’ in the collection barn.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        We have a great bunch of buckaroos here! WOO HOO! It’s my greatest pleasure. This is where I’ve honed my writing along with many others.

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Kid said it; this was a challenging prompt and sure enough, the ranch hands rose to it! Another lovely collection. Yep. Thank you Charli. Your challenges are wonderful carrots to move our writing mules. Here at the collection we take a load off and enjoy the company of the other teamsters. Okay, a strained metaphor, what do I know about mules or ranches- but I do like it here.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for helping make hay in the carrot barn, D. Great way to harness that mule and carrot metaphor. I’m seeing red…in such expansive ways! I love how the collections bring out something bigger than we anticipate.

  3. Sue Spitulnik

    Charli, I know the collection is your favorite part of Carrot Ranch. Seeing how we all come to share different images from the same essay. You are teaching us, if we take the time to read and “see,” to share in your delight. I always enjoy the stories and am often taken where my image making never thinks to go. Thank you everyone for sharing, and thank you, Charli, for this safe space to play with our craft.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for seeing the value in our play with craft, Sue. It truly is the enriching component of literary art. It is exciting to see the individual stories come to life and then, as living images, play together in a collective. I appreciate learning more about this creative magic alongside writers from all over the world. Amazing!

      • Sue Spitulnik

        We are only here to play because you created the playground. Thank you.

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