I came back around to the start of the graveyard and looked out once again. I could see the tracks I’d made in the long grass. My brain puzzled over that same last line and I tried to shrug it off as nothing but there was something here! There had to be a reason why it said ‘we hope they have gone to rest’ on all the headstones.
A rumble of thunder sounded over head, blocking out the music from my headphones for a few seconds. I looked up at the sky and saw it darkening with thick clouds. Time to go home. Going back the way I’d come, I put the route into my mind map. Rain began to fall and I pulled up my hood and hurried on.
Luckily, the storm held off until I had reached a place to shelter. I’m not a fan of rain or storms. I entered the little cafe and sat down at an empty table. It was busy as it seemed other walkers had been caught out by the rain too and huddled inside. I looked over to the small pocket like window and saw a flash of lightening.
I got a cup of tea and a slice of cake. My mind worrying that they might ask me to leave if I didn’t order something. I moved tables to this little one in in a back corner which had a huge bookcase towering over it. I watched other people looking out of the windows and heard them commenting on the sudden storm. The thunder was super loud and I’d kept my music on but I could hear the rumbles over the techno beats.
Forty minutes later and the storm still hadn’t stopped. The rain was now lashing at the windows and the wind threatening to blow the place down. I sighed and hating myself, I call my mum to pick me up and drive me home. At least, I got home safe and dry and had a chance to ask her about the graveyard.
‘I think once there’d been a village there,’ she replied, ‘but I don’t really remember. Gran would know.’
The storm raged most of the night. Highly unusual for England. I slept on and off, my thoughts drifting back to the gravestone and that inscription. Finally at around midnight, I got up and turned on my computer. With just the noise of the storm and the PC fans in the background, I researched the place.
There was little to be found. There had been a village, built for the servants and their families who worked in a manor house close by in the mid 1800’s but it had been bombed in World War 2 by a lost German plane.
Disappointed, I went back to bed and next morning got up and went to see my gran. She lived a few doors down from us. She had been born in this town and never left. If anyone knew about the graveyard and lost village it would be her.
I used my key to her house and let myself in, calling out to her as I opened the door. The smell that hit me was a strong reminder of childhood; mints, faded tobacco smoke, dying flowers, coal fire and old things. I walked into the living room and found her there, in her favorite arm chair, watching TV.
‘Hello, gran,’ I said and hugged her.
She patted my arm, ‘hello, Neil. It’s so nice to see you. Cup of tea?’
I helped her up and give her my arm as we walked into the kitchen. Once the tea was made and the biscuits gotten out, we went back into the living room and I started with my questions.
‘I found an old graveyard yesterday, out in the moors and all the headstones had the same last line on them; We hope they have gone to rest. Mum said there was once a village up there. Do you remember it?’
Gran thought for a good few minutes before replying, ‘yes. I never want there. Only heard about it.’
‘It got blown up in the war,’ I added.
‘Yes. That’s what all the stories said but we always thought differently.’
I paused and waited for her to go on.
‘There was some kind of disease, more like a plague, that everyone in the village had. No one knows where it came from. Some say the manor family had it and passed it on to the servants, who then passed it on to their families. Or perhaps, one of the servant’s families had it. It was called The Restless Plague.’
‘The internet said nothing about that,’ I said aloud.
‘No one said anything about it,’ Gran cut in, ‘we were not allowed too, but everyone knew not to go to the village or the manor house.’
‘So everyone died of this plague?’ I asked thoughtfully.
‘That was always the story. You see, it wasn’t a normal plague. Once a person had it they carried on living but they were different. They weren’t all together there,’ she said with a tap to her head, ‘when they weren’t working or sleeping, they would wander around a lot.’
I frowned, not fully understanding. I had another biscuit and a few more sips of hot tea.
‘I saw some of ’em a few times. They’d just be standing, staring at nothing or shuffling along not going anywhere. Everyone was told to keep away, lest you caught the plague too. I saw this one man, once, dressed up like a farmer and he was just moaning at a tree. Another time, there was this child screaming and screaming, until she was carted away,’ Gran said with a shake of her head.
I couldn’t think of any straight questions to ask, my brain was trying to process all of this.
‘Thank goodness they’ve all gone now,’ Gran spoke out, ‘more tea, pet?’
‘No, thanks. What about the headstones, gran?’
‘They all had to be buried in another place. No one wanted them at our church.’
‘And those words? We hope they have gone to rest?’ I pressed.
‘They had no rest in life so maybe they’d find it in death? Who knows…..I’ve some angel cake left,’ gran said getting up,’ You want some? You love angel cake, just like your mum.’
She hobbled to the door then paused and said, ‘there’s a good boy. No more talk about this now.’
I nodded and sipped more tea. My brain felt better that the puzzle had now been solved. I part of me was eager to find out more but what else was there to say?