The Doctor took his customary evening stroll. It was a pleasant walk and as usual the butterfly was behind him.
It landed on his hat and unsurprisingly it fell right through. He brushed it away with his hand, silly thing!
He had been dead for 160 years and so had the butterfly, but still it hadn't quite got the message.
He remembered that day so clearly. It had been warm and he had been very tired. The cholera had ripped through his patients, scything young and old like so much straw.
He had done what he could for them and the families had been grateful, but it did no real good. His beloved Mary and his own boys had been among the first to go.
He didn't even have time to grieve for them before he was dealing with another case.
They all had been there when he had returned for a clean shirt the night before. The house was an empty shell by the time the setting sun had lit the parlour windows for a final time.
He carried on until he just could not do any more. Exhaustion they called it, some said a broken heart.
He hadn't been able to hear them. A great black wave had broken over him as he sat in his chair and he moved no more.
But here he was, still carrying his bag and welcoming strangers who came to rest in his little patch. There were fewer these days, just the occasional one for a family vault.
Mainly it was the living that came. They studied the graves and wrote things down. Sometimes they took strong liquor and passed out on one of the stones.
The tomb of a man named Perkins who had made his money in mattresses was favourite. It was shaped like a double bed and surprisingly comfy.
Occasionally a couple would come seeking privacy, with no idea that their lustful actions were observed by the ever watchful eyes of the dead.
The Doctor nodded to a figure leaning on a spade. The old man tipped his cap, he knew everyone and everyone knew him. As parish gravedigger for 60 years he had put most of them into the ground.
Someone else had to dig for him when his time came, but they gave him a lovely plot.
He continued, waving to anyone he saw until he reached the end of the path. There they were arguing as usual.
The three of them were just as animated and opinionated in death, as they had been in life.
The Colonel red faced and blustering under his huge moustache was sitting on his own tombstone.
He had wanted to die a hero, at full charge on his horse with the guns blasting in his ears, but it hadn't happened.
He had departed peacefully in bed surrounded by his adoring grandchildren and it never ceased to annoy him.
Mr Chalmers dashing in his white suit sat on the grave next door. A big game hunter in life he had met his end falling down the stairs.
He had tripped over his wife's poodle, and in a final touch of irony had speared himself on the head of a large rhino he had once shot.
It was laying quietly in the hall awaiting a stepladder and a few large nails!
Finally there was Eddie, Aldermaston Eddie the other ghosts called him.
He had choked on a sandwich during a protest march, hot Bovril running down the front of his duffel coat. Eddie loved a fight and they argued constantly.
“Evening lads” the Doctor said, but they were far too busy to hear him. He walked away with the words “and you can shut up as well-your lot shot all the tigers!” ringing in his ears.
Later it would degenerate into name calling and Eddie would probably say the phrase ‘Imperialist oppressor of indigenous people's’ at least once!
Finally they would agree that the current lot were a shower of ‘spoilt degenerate whingers’ and that previous generations had got it right all along.
They all enjoyed it enormously.
The Doctor walked off smiling. Mary and the children would be waiting for him back at the grave. It occurred to him that people never really changed, they were in death as they had been in life.
Just as stupid and bigoted as they had always been. Why should six feet of earth and a wooden box make any difference?
People were still people when all was said and done, the dead ones and the living. They were what they were and that never really stopped. The human spirit just carried on.
Silly to think that the sour faced old biddy up the road would be any less sour faced in the next life than she had been in this one.
He reached home and made ready to turn in. All was right with his little family of souls. He cared for them all as he had done in life, and that was his own destiny.
He stuck his fingers into his mouth and whistled high and sharp. Two small boys very obviously twins, appeared laughing from the tangled grass where they had been hiding and raced ahead of him.
Finally there was the butterfly. It was said that they could change the world with one flap of their wings, but this one just fluttered and followed him into the tomb as always.
He took his place beside Mary and closed his eyes. A butterfly life lived in just a few days, or one of a hundred years it was all the same in the end.
Great or small we all have our part to play and death takes everyone sooner or later.
He went to his rest peaceful in the knowledge that he had done his best and that all was well for another day.
The sun went down and he dozed. Outside, the lovers loved and the drunks finished their bottles and took a nap on Mrs Perkins, who never seemed to mind that they preferred her side of the bed.
That was the thing about eternity he thought as he drifted off, there was always another day to get it right.