The Grave Digger’s Cottage

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Alice said goodbye to her friends and started to run home. Now eleven, her parents let her walk alone but she was only allowed a certain distance. To school a few streets away, the park next door and the corner shop.

She laughed loudly, excitement spilling out as she went. School was over for another day but also for summer. There was a whole two months of playtime and adventures waiting for her.

Alice lived behind the village church and across the graveyard. Her house sat on the back edge of the cemetery, over shadowed by a massive weeping willow tree. It was a small cottage with a yellow thatched roof, red brick chimney, small frosty windows and set apart from all the others in the village. It was called the Grave Digger’s Cottage.

There many routes she could have taken home, but Alice took the quickest. Cutting across church grounds and the straight path that ran down the centre of the graveyard. Opening the gate of her front garden, she skipped up the gravel path, lined with bright summer flowers then opened the front door.

‘Hello, grandpa!’ she shouted.

‘Hello, Al!’ the distant echoing voice of her grandpa called back.

Giggling, Alice took off her shoes and left them with her schoolbag in the hallway. Downstairs there were only three rooms; the front parlour, living room and kitchen/dinner. Upstairs there were also three rooms; a small bathroom, her parents bedroom and her grandpa’s room. Another staircase led to the attic which was Alice’s bedroom.

Alice went down the hallway, through the kitchen to the back door and stepped out into blazing sunshine once again.

Her grandpa was in the back garden, sitting on a stool next to a low table and he was putting together flower bunches. His skin was tanned a deep brown from days spent outside and his figure was stooped from years of being bent over digging. He had a thin cloud of white wispy hair and rough outline of a white beard. His eyes were blue like the colour of the sea lit by the sun.

Alice had been told she looked like him but she had never been able to see it. Yes, they had the same colour eyes and once grandpa’s hair had been chestnut brown like her’s was now. Alice’s skin though was paler and definitely not wrinkly!

‘School is finally over!’ Alice cried.

‘Is it really?’ grandpa questioned.

Alice nodded, ‘are mum and dad home yet?’

Grandpa shook his head, ‘your dad’s watching over an evening exam at the university and your mum had a late meeting to go to in the city. It’s just you and me till bedtime.’

Alice smiled, spending time alone with grandpa was the best. He told awesome stories, let her do want she wanted and allowed her to stay up late.

‘Would you like a hand, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘I’m almost done,’ he replied.

Alice sat down on another stool and watched him wrapping green garden twine around the bunches of mixed flowers. Alice knew he had grown them himself and when the flowers were ready, grandpa would cut them and put them together.

‘There we go. Right, would you like to come with me, Al?’ Grandpa asked.

‘Yes, please!’ Alice said.

Grandpa give her some of the flowers to carry and he took the rest. Together they went out into the cemetery. At a handful of headstones, they placed the flowers into the vases and grandpa did some cleaning and weeding if needed.

Countless times they had done this and Alice knew the stories of all of the headstones they visited plus many of the other ones in the graveyard. Grandpa had known a lot of people buried here because they had come from the village and the graves they visited were of family and friends. Grandpa had also buried some of them.

Alice looked back their cottage, the roof could just be seen through the trees and wild growth. Alice sat down on one of the tombs, the stone was cold against her bare legs but she didn’t mind.

‘Grandpa, tell me the story of our house again.’

He looked up from pulling weeds out from around a Second World war grave of his uncle.

He smiled and began chatting away, ‘when the new church was built in the eighteen hundreds after the old one burnt down, they also built a cottage for a grounds keeper to leave in. The man and his son who first lived there were also grave diggers and that’s how the cottage got it’s name.’

Alice nodded.

‘From that day on, every man who lived in the cottage – expect your father- was a grave digger and also church grounds keeper. We had to make sure that nature didn’t take over and the paths clear for visiting people. We had to help plot out the cemetery, decided where to bury people and dig those graves. Then when the headstones arrived we had to plant them in the ground over the right grave.’

‘And what else, grandpa?’ Alice demanded.

‘And we were night watchmen too! Back in time, grave robbers would come and dig up fresh bodies to sell to doctors for science. People would also try to do cheap burials by doing it themselves and we had to stop them! Then there’s tramps and teenagers who muck around and make place untidy. We had to get them out by dawn so visitors wouldn’t see ’em and get a scare!’

Grandpa clawed his hands and made swatting movements in the air. He growled low like a bear before coming over and tickling Alice, who broke into giggles. Then he sat on the tomb next to her and they looked out over the cemetery.

‘Did you ever see a ghost, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘Plenty!’ grandpa cried, ‘I saw the ghost of little girl once, way younger then you, and she was running along the path just there. There’s the woman in blue who walks around the church, crying for her lost lover. A black dog with red eyes that’s spotted in the bushes and shadows of the trees. He’s said to guide souls away.’

‘And there’s also the headless man!’ Alice shouted.

Grandpa laughed and spoke, ‘that’s one of your favourites, Al.’

Spots of rain began to fall.

Grandpa pointed out a large bank of grey cloud coming over to them and declared it time to go home.

‘But you will tell me, won’t you, grandpa? The story of the headless man,’ Alice questioned.

Grandpa helped her down from the tomb. Hand in hand they walked back towards The Grave Digger’s Cottage.

‘Of course, I will! As long as you promise not to lose your head with fright!’ Grandpa replied.

Alice laughed and shadows grew long on the ground.

Zemblanity #AToZChallenge

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Zemblanity; the inevitable discover of what we would rather not know. 

I stood by his headstone and re-read the words written there. They revealed a secret I  never wanted to know about.

For years, mum and I had thought dad had abandoned us because he was depressed over the death of his brother. I told myself that story so many times it had become truth but now I knew it wasn’t the whole truth.

Dad had moved countries looking for peace in the aftermath. However, in Spain he had found more then that; a new wife and children.

The headstone told me I had a younger step-brother and step-sister but I didn’t ever want to meet them. Their father wasn’t really the same person my dad had been to me. I’d rather not know anything about his new life or family, all of that could stay with them.

I had just wanted to see where my dad was buried and the gravestone prove he was gone.

The Secret

Free stock photo of bricks, wall, garden, door

My mother had been buried under the gardeners’ compost heap just like my step-great-uncle had always told me. I could see bits of creamy bone and scraps of dark red dress coated with damp soil and roots. Her death wasn’t a secret any longer but now I was about to join her.

(Inspired from; http://sachablack.co.uk/2017/07/05/writespiration-123-52-weeks-in-52-words-week-27/ with thanks)

 

Untimely Death

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We had been gathered around the new grave in silence for sometime when granny spoke out, ‘well it was a stupid thing to do.’

We all looked over at her, a few of us even gasping.

‘Granny!’ Isabella scolded and squeezed the old woman’s hand.

Great grandmother and great granddaughter looked at it each other then joined us in silence once more.

Slowly, people began to drift away as they do when a funeral is over. Their whispering voices commenting on the flowers and service drifting across the cemetery.

I looked down at my older sister’s grave. It was but a hole in the ground with the edges of a pink coffin peeking through the dirt and no headstone to name her yet.

Granny had been right though. My sister should never have trusted that flashy magician or his Amazing Invisible Sword trick.

Gates

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The iron gates were open again. The vampire paused before the archway looking through in puzzlement. It had been forced, he could see where someone had bent the metal aside to get in. Grave robbers? No, not in this century. Vandals then. He glanced over his caped shoulder, scanning the close by gloomy headstones of the Victorian cemetery.

Nothing seemed out of place, but now he was aware, he could smell the recent humans. It had been a group of young men with some sharp chemical spray. He had seen the red and blue paintings before, nights ago now, on some of the gravestones at the back. Blurred and run together English letter shapes and faces with crosses over the eyes and a tongue sticking out. He had not been sure what they had meant, expect for death. Crosses always meant that.

He stepped under the gateway, just to be safer and gathered his ground touching black cape about himself. His tall, lean form molded into the darkness as if he was one of the shadows upon the stone brick wall. Instinctively, he knew he should leave the cemetery all together. The humans had returned too many times now and though it seemed impossible that they would get into the crypt, he could not put anything passed this generation.

The vampire looked back with longing. The grounds had been his home for a hundred, possibly even more, years. And where would he now go? There where no safe places left from the ever bright lights and searching footsteps. He lived in fear of discovery like never before. Maybe, it was time he went to sleep again? He could easily entomb himself with the dead here, just like he had done before.

He fought with the idea and the risk of discovery deepened further. No, he finally decided, it would never work. What he needed to do was to become a part of this world in human pretense. Perhaps, it was time he found a companion.

 

Photo prompt and image from: https://scvincent.com/2016/09/15/thursday-photo-prompt-gate-writephoto/ with thanks.

Too Soon

Angel, Cemetery, The Dead, The Tomb Of, Death, Funeral

Life was so brutal. That thought spiraled in my mind and sink deeper inside me, coming to rest in my heart. Someone put their hand on my shoulder, patting it and I felt a slight warmth through my thin white blouse. I couldn’t look up. I couldn’t stop staring at the silver and diamond topped band on my left hand.

My throat and mouth felt stuffed with cotton wool, almost as if I had eaten cotton candy that wasn’t melting. I swallowed, but it didn’t move. I placed my other hand over the ring. Breaking the contact, I rose my head and tried to thank whoever had patted me. They had all ready moved on though and were paying their respects.

Whilst I figured out who they were, my mum handed me another tissue. I took it without thinking and dabbed my eyes. So much for the waterproof makeup, my overflow of tears had vanquished all the packaging claims. I pressed the tissue to my face and took a few deep breaths.

Everything would be over too soon and this moment I was desperately clinging too and also praying it had never happened at the same time would end.

Just like him.

Grave

Abandoned graves at the old cemetery at the Sanctuary of Sacromonte, Amecameca, Mexico State. Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia on Wikimedia Commons

Dear Hattie,

I hope this letter finds you and your family well. Sorry it has been such a long time since I last wrote to you. My daughter has been trying to get me into sending virtual letters on the computer and though I have made some progress, there’s still nothing like physically creating and sending a letter! To me it is a shame that the new generation might never send a handwritten letter in their lives. I guess everything is going to be ‘digitalised’ soon enough and perhaps it will make the world a better place.

I actually do have a reason why I’m writing to you and not sending this by email, it’s because I wanted to include these photographs, part of a land map and a letter I found the other day in my father’s deep chest. I’m sad to say the chest has been sitting in the attic gathering dust and being forgotten about instead of being put to some good use. It seems like much of the items from our time are being rejected by our grandchildren. Not like when we were younger and our grandparents’ relics fascinated us.

I was walking in the woods yesterday, just like I had done a million times before, it was for no reason, other than to get out of the house for a bit and away from the missus – she’s still fine and going strong by the way, but I leave much of her care in the hands of the nurses and my daughter. I find it much easier and less stressful. It felt like the first day of spring, with the sun in an almost cloudless sky, dappling through the just sprouting tree leaves. Grass and wild flowers peppered the ground, whilst the earth felt drier. I hadn’t planned a route; I was just wondering and reflecting.

Oh, you’ll remember how we use to run through the trees playing some game or just to cool down, laughing at everything and scaring all the animals away. We would paddle in the brook, play ‘Pooh Sticks’ on the bridges and gather wild flowers to take home for mother’s dressing table or the front windows. Those summer days seemed endless and we never thought we’d be so old like we are now nor have children of our own. Everything was easier, quieter and natural back then. Sometimes when I go into the woods now, I’ll sit on a bench or tree stump and imagination myself young again. I make myself believe we are playing hide ‘n’ seek and I am the one counting. My brothers, sisters, cousins and friends are all hiding and the air is filled with laughter and hurried footsteps. Those precious days.

I crossed the bridge you use to call The Fairies’ Bridge and sadly it has been replaced by a metal structure now, which looks nothing like the wooden steep arch we use to skip across and sing allowed to the fairies on. There used to be an old wall which ran alongside the path and no one could see over. Do you remember that? It would grab our curiosity for a few moments and then we’d be off on other adventures. Well, yesterday I found a gap in the wall, which is badly tumbling down and discovered what had laid behind it all this time.

I had to fight my way through over grown bushes and trees, then the ground became slightly different and nature less wild. A large space had opened up before me and trying to defend themselves against the ever encroaching nature were some gravestones. At first I thought it was just a pet graveyard or the resting place of one rich family. However, stepping fully into it and looking around, I spotted the sloping roof of the old stone building we had sometimes played in. Of course, I did actually know this until I had made my way over and further explored the area. I found what might have been the remains of other buildings too.

Going back into the graveyard, I wondered about and tried to look at some of the names on the stones. Most of them had disappeared and the few I could make out had no meaning to me. However I came across, what seemed to be the ‘newest’ set of the headstones and they could still be read. On three of them I found our family name and that of some other relatives. I jotted them down in my notebook and I’ll write them out for you now.

Mary Joneson, born 1882, died 1932.

Fredric Joneson, born 1878, died 1924.

Their son; Jimmy, born 1904 died 1910.

Bethany Joneson daughter of Mary and Fredric, born 1908, died 1948.

Her husband; Edward Joneson, born 1906 died 1939

Their son; John, born 1933, died 1948.

James Jonesson, born 1883, died 1920.

His wife: Elizabeth Jonesson, born 1885, died 1940.

I suspect that like me, you don’t recognize the names, but I did some more research and I did find out that they are from a branch of cousins who died out. Though as you can see from the photographs, it seemed that our parents and grandparents did know them as the names and dates match up. The map, you’ll find I’ve marked a few things on just in case you decide to take a look yourself- though please feel free to give me a call and I’ll happily accompany you. The stone building was actually a small village church. Though I never would have believed that without seeing the photos of it! As for the letter, you’ll find it as deeply interesting as I did. It was written by Bethany to our great aunt Eliza. I’ll have to see if there are any more in my father’s papers, though I fear they might have been lost when we emptied the house.

I’d be delight to hear any light you can shed on this. It has inspired me to keep digging and get a family tree made. I still can’t believe that we never knew about the graveyard, it looks like a place we would have just loved.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Arthur