I've briefly spoke about the necessity of a horror author writing something for Halloween every year. That notion was the spark that created "The Gravedigger's Apprentice".
A couple days before Halloween in 2010 I set out to write a dark story fitting of the special time of year all horror authors revel in. I had finished in time for the big day, and even posted a blurb of it here on the blog. About six months later, I saw a call for submissions from NorGus Press centered around undertakers, gravediggers, and the like. A natural fit for the anthology, I sent it in and not only was it accepted, it was published almost exactly a year after I first wrote it in time for Halloween 2011.
Below is the intro to "The Gravedigger's Apprentice" a tale, or yarn as they used to say, about respecting your elders, especially those no longer with us.
“Forget everything you know about us. We shouldn’t even be called gravediggers no more. More like esscavators, cuz thass what we use. No more diggin wit’ shovels like we used to.”
“Then why do you still carry one around?” John thinks it was an innocent enough question, but Cecil’s reaction proves otherwise.
“Why? This job don’t end juss cuz the body’s inna ground. Lissen Chuck…”
“You’re name’s Chuck till I tell you otherwise.” Cecil’s following statements are more to himself than to anyone, “Damn youngins think they can come n take my job. Hell no! I’ve been doin this too long.” He unzips his pants and rests a hand on a nearby tombstone.
“Whoa, hey old man, what are you goin?”
“Whass it look like Chucky, bout to drain the dragon.” What follows is a sickly laugh hidden behind the cough of a man who’s been smoking longer then John’s been alive.
“You can’t piss on a grave. Don’t you care about the people dead here?” John turns, refusing to look at Cecil.
“Lissen youngin, when I started this I cared, but damn long years taught me but one thing. Dead people is dead, and it don’t matter one bit if they was good, bad, or pissed on graves; we all rot.” Finishing up Cecil zips up and pats the tombstone, “Ingrid here, she died drunk driving, killing her own daughter. You tellin’ me she don’t deserve ta get pissed on?”
“Well, um…” Stammering for the right answer, “Is that even true?”
“Hell if I know, I don’t know bout any o these people ‘cept Old Man Higgins top o that hill.” The two take a few steps closer but don’t actually approach the grave. “He’s the oldest stiff here.”
“What makes him so special?”
“He died in the war of 1812 and is the only survivor…” more laughing/coughing “…of the original cemetery.” Seeing the confused look on John’s face, Cecil explains, “The old cemetery ran out of room, so’s they had to start gettin’ rid o people. Slowly but surely over the years, the original class was gone ‘cept for Old Man Higgins. See that on his tomb stone?”
John takes a couple steps closer and sees a quick glint of light reflecting off of something bronze. “I see it, what is it?”
“Thass his bell. Back in the day people was buried alive all the time. So’s they put these bells with strings on ‘em, so if ya woke up down there you could ring the bell.” Producing a flask from his pocket-less pants, Cecil continues after a quick swig. “’Cept the damned things so rusted over it ain’t rang since ‘fore Eisenhower was in the office.
“Matter a fact, next Friday you gotta clean up his site, cuz he’s a local hero a couple towns west o here. They the ones that keepin’ him round. The Saturday after they’re honoring him or something.”
"The Gravedigger's Apprentice" is published in Undertaker Tales: What They don't Teach you at Mortuary School and can be purchased at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or as always at the AzarRising Mobile Bookstore (trunk of my car)