Whispers of the Grave



Chapter One

Adjusting my sleeping bag so it covered my frozen toes, I snuggled closer to the headstone holding my mother's name. I knew the reading by heart:

Here lies beloved wife and mother, Rosie Madison. B. June 5th 1964, D. May 1st 1999.

I bit back a sob as the wind chaffed my pale skin, weathering the stone I leant against without a thought for who lay below. Shivering, I huddled down further, into the lee of the stone. My raven hair peeped out the top of the covers whilst the rest of me bathed in the warmth my shell provided. I had not had a good day.

With no living relatives nearby and a new family unit at home, I felt closer to my mother than anyone. I wasn't ashamed by that but neither was I out in the cold by choice, no. I'd been forced out of my home by a sultry brunette my father picked up one night at a bar.

With the amount we argue, I often call the graveyard my home now.

* * * * *

Hours later, I awoke. I blinked and opened my eyes to a sodden sleeping bag and clammy skin; the material clung to my clothes like glue. I shimmied my arms and shoulders free and stretched my limbs to the limit of muscle before letting loose a long, wide yawn. Finding I had to squint through built up sleep to see, I rubbed my eyes clear. They widened and shrunk into their sockets. I couldn't believe what I saw.

A hellish creature loomed over me. It possessed savage black eyes, sunken in tightly stretched skin, which pierced my soul with countless barbed knives. My scream cracked off into croak and, tearing my covers to rags in a frenzied madness, I ran for my life.

I ran without thought for where I was going. My feet performed small miracles and bore me safely through the maze of headstones. I can only guess it was familiarity with my surroundings that kept me upright in the dark.

Long minutes elapsed before conscious thought returned to me and corrected the potentially fatal errors total panic makes. Now, I was running in the right direction.

My hair spiked to points of steel behind me and even as my feet swept the dewy grass and the wind whipped me onwards, I still dashed across the cemetery far too slow. I could feel the monster's eyes fixated on my back, their predatory gaze searching for the fattest, fleshiest piece of meat. Its breath burned the base of my neck, arousing the thin hairs to attention.

Unable to resist the primal urge, I wound round my head to check on my pursuer's pace. I blinked once, twice, emerald eyes too wet and pained from sweat to make out the monster behind me at first glance.

Its matted hair gripped the skull, long enough for me to assume it a girl, and her bony limbs were moving at a supernatural speed, considering her lack of muscle tone but what scared me most was her mouth. Half open with thick drool coating her rotting teeth, it truly fit the image of a blood drinking, flesh eating fiend. Spurred on by Satan's own blood child at my heels, I dug deep and found a reserve of energy I didn't know I had.

Soon after, I reached the exit. I'd run swifter than I'd ever be able to match again, I felt sure, but I didn't allow myself time for a pat on the back. Without pausing, I dived down leering alleyways and dashed round bends in two blinks of an eye, so desperate to be free of the tireless zombie that even these disreputable back streets held no threat.

My heart beat double pace and the streets passed by in a blur of dingy light, smashed windows and cracked brick. I cursed the echoing thunder of my feet as they pounded the ground and wished for the silent paws of a cheetah on the prowl.

But as the run cleared my head, I realised something strange. I could feel the monster as a physical sense, clawing at my innards. I stopped in my tracks to debate why this was but then shook my head in anger and ran faster still: it was probably just a device to hold me where I was. Despite the need to run on, I felt sure my legs were in league with the monster. They ached all over with a throbbing heat, causing me to wonder why I was still moving, how I was still moving. I simply wasn't this fit.

The repetitive pattern of stride thump, stride thump, breathe had finally taken the edge off my second dose of confused panic and I realised, though I could "feel" the creature on my heels, I couldn't hear it. I'd gained enough of a head start to aim for home without undue danger of being followed.

Armed with this new discovery, I could have leaped for joy but, having gotten this far through hard work, I refused to leave the rest to chance. Instead, I forced myself to take the sensible approach and added a few misleading turns into my usual route. I hoped these would confuse my stalker and taint my scent but when my goal finally came into view, even though I'd done all I could, I hesitated before opening the door.

Thoughts rushed through my mind like water whispers through rushes on the Nile. Was it right to inflict this fiend on what little family I had left? Would it somehow claw its way inside the house? Had I really lost this thing and, if I had, what would it do to the rest of the town now it's free to roam?

I shook my head empty of its burdens and let myself into the house, turning the key in its slot and closing the door with as much subtlety as I was able in my current state. My hands still shook from the build up of adrenalin in my system and I didn't see them stopping for some time yet but I couldn't wake anyone. Then I'd have to explain where I went and I hated listening to my dad apologise: it gets old. I know the second the apology has left his lips he thinks the subject is over and dealt with. Nothing ever changes.

Not keen on holding any responsibility for endangering other people's lives by negligence, I made a compromise to my guilty conscience and resolved to read up on accounts of fiendish creatures attacking the unwary in cemeteries, if I could find any.

Most of it would be rubbish but at least I could say I'd tried. If I had to I could even skip school and go to the local library. No one sees me enough at school to miss me. I'm practically part of the decor at the local library. School only sees me for exams.

Sighing, I did my best to banish those thoughts till the morning and climbed the stairs with weary, muffled footsteps. The bed squeaked in protest as I threw myself onto its welcoming springs and folds of fabric. Trembling arms wrapped the protective duvet around my frozen body and I blocked out the world.

As soon as my head hit the pillow and my body lay motionless, muscles lax, I plunged into a deep, painful sleep. I dreamt of stalkers, demons with big, black and bludgeoning eyes. They promised death in their scratchy voices. Those coarse sounds carried the scars of torture and torment greater than I could imagine. Savage teeth glinted and winked from the darkness, waiting for their chance to tear me into bite sized pieces.

My body hit the panic button and shut down.

I collapsed onto the floor, having lost the use of my legs. I curled up into the foetal position and began to rock back and forth, my heart racing, hammering on the inside of my ribcage as I tried my best to convince my mind monsters don't exist.

I tossed and turned in my bed, fighting off the restraint of my duvet in mirror image to my dream self fobbing off monsters. They swarmed my defenceless ball of heaving flesh. Sweat poured from my body and was absorbed into the waiting cotton sheets, ensuring my skin remained clammy to the touch and waxy to the lazy eye.

My mind willed my dream self to wake up with the tiny conscious part of my brain left to me, my eyes flicked back and forth under my eyelids, a physical sign of my inner fight, but my counterpart didn't awaken. I wrenched myself to my knees and became one with her, using my bare hands to shred the creatures of hell tormenting us. They fell back in their droves, taking a few precious seconds to plan their revenge. It was time enough for me to gather my breath and prepare for the next onslaught of teeth and claw.

They regrouped and attacked as one relentless force, line after gapless line of demonic death givers. They wouldn't stop: they didn't need time to recover from each backhanded lash. I received little compared to what I inflicted but even so, my strength was slowly being sapped from my limbs.

I gasped out for more energy with every swipe of my open palm and thrust of my flailing foot. I couldn't keep this up much longer. I was going to give in. I was going to be overrun. I dreaded to think what would happen then.

I was so weak now the demons were no longer shredded but torn. Then, as more time past, they weren't torn but bore shallow marks doing nothing to stop their attacks. Eventually it got to the point where I was no longer on the offensive but just trying my best to survive. I blocked and counter blocked, defending myself against all hits, then I compromised and defended only my more vital areas before, finally…

I woke up.

Jolting upright in a lightning fast convulsion of muscle, I looked around me. Eyes wide open with horror, I gazed into the rescinding darkness, searching for anything untoward. Meeting nothing new, only the usual red wallpaper and clothes covered carpet, I decided that, this time, a dream had just been a dream after all.

Sighing, I took in the torn duvet and wondered how I'd explain that one to my dad's girlfriend. She wouldn't be pleased. Knowing I'd get no more sleep that night, I brushed myself free of the scraps and donned my slippers, heading for the stairs.