Teaser Intro 5: The Gravedigger's Apprentice
If you've know me for any amount of time, or even simply took a minute to peruse my website, it's easy to tell that I'm a fan of the wrassling. So when I came across a submission call for a book titled after my favorite wrestler, The Undertaker, I knew I had to contribute.
At the time, I hadn't been published long, and I was eager to get as many stories out as possible, not caring who the publisher was (I've since become more discriminate). This also meant, that often times, my second draft, was also my final draft before subbing a story. Not so with this one.
It took me several ideas to find the right story to tell, and even then the writing didn't flow from me like when I know I have a winner. One prevailing idea that I knew I wanted to have in the story, even if just a superfluous detail, was a safety coffin. The thought that people would get buried alive so often back in the days that they had to tie ropes and bells to the deceased to ensure they were in fact dead, is so ripe with horror elements.
Finally, I found the right story to tell, and I'm happy with the way it came out. On to the teaser!
“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 is 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 doin’?”
“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.”
That morning Cecil had a fitful sleep, plagued with nightmares of being chased by piss-soaked zombies.
Over the next week each night Cecil gets to work more drunk than the previous night. Until that next Friday night when he arrives more drunk than he is awake. Surprised to see John reporting to work already, “What you doin here so early Chucky?”
“Early? It’s after midnight. Our shift starts at 11. Where were you?” Thinking twice about his question and the possible answers, “…better yet, I don’t want to know. I’m going to clean Old Man Higgins’ site, try not to desecrate anymore graves tonight.”
Cecil shoos John away with an uneasy hand, and formulates that another drink will steady it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. However, the fact that John is on his way to clean the old man’s site finally sets in and grants Cecil momentary clarification.
The whole week he’s been telling John about the superstitions surrounding graves and cemeteries, and most importantly the bell on Old Man Higgins’ tombstone. John had even tested the bell during the day to see if it is indeed rusted over like Cecil claimed. What John didn’t know is that Cecil had jammed the hinge and removed the clapper.
While John collected the tools for the job, Cecil rushed to return the clapper and remove the piece of metal jamming the hinge. He waited on the other side of the hill, where he had hidden a line connected to the bell.
Cecil had driven the superstitions far into John’s mind, causing him to cautiously approach the tombstone, keeping his eyes focused on the rusted bell. Just a few feet from the tombstone, with the wind at a dead still, the bell rings TANG! Once, twice and a third time, TANG, TANG!
The sudden ringing startled John enough that he let out a yelp of fright and lost his footing, tumbling down the hill. Cecil got to the top in time to hear the thud of John’s head smack into Ingrid’s tombstone. The sound of a bag of flour slamming into a shallow puddle.
“Oh no, no, no.” Cecil runs down the hill, but slows as he sees the dark spot on the tombstone. “Come on Chucky, I’m too drunk for this.” He takes a few steps closer, “I’m sorry Chucky, I was juss messin wit you. Wake up Chucky.”