Here’s a snippet from the project that I’ve been working on for the past nine months. It was supposed to be a short piece I thought I’d knock out in a few months–a respite from the rough draft I’d just finished while I took a break before rewrites–but it’s ballooned and I probably will have the rewrites on my novel finished before this “short project.” This scene is simple–two twelve-year olds talking as they plan a horror movie they want to film.
“How can a cemetery be abandoned? Have the dead left—they’re still here, obviously. Whenever my Aunt Christi describes where our house is located, she always refers people to the abandoned graveyard on the edge of town. I always have to stifle a laugh, because I envision all of the dead leaving in mass exodus. Imagine,” Katie swept her arm across the graveyard. “All of these dead uprooting themselves—skeletons and bodies in varying states of decomposition, I bet some of them are even mummified, and shambling through the gates and down through the city to somewhere else. Some sleek, chic cemetery with laser-engraved headstones and perfectly manicured grass where people will come with fresh-cut flowers. They won’t have to worry about foxes digging their dens into their graves or trees growing out of or upending their headstones or lichen blotting out their names. Though, if I was buried here, I wouldn’t want to leave. It’s got the right feeling for a graveyard—crumbling and mysterious, a gothic aura around it. The perfect place for a movie.” She smiled, her blue eyes agleam with a curious blend of mischief and innocence—just what you’d expect from a twelve-year old trying to keep one foot on the solid banks of childhood while probing the shallows of her approaching teenage years—and the much deeper adult years, out farther, but there, waiting dark and deep like the Mariana trench—with an outstretched toe.
Rusty stared at her, eyes wide and mouth agape. It took enough for him to come to this old graveyard that everyone was sure was haunted, but now, to hear this story about the dead rising and strolling helter-skelter not just past their gravestones and tombs, but through the city—even possibly down his street and past his house—he was already afraid of the nightmares he was going to have. “Girl, what are you tryin’ to do, here? You’re gonna be givin’ my nightmares nightmares, and I don’t wanna know what they’re gonna do to me.”
He saw the graveyard through new eyes: in the late afternoon shadows spooks skulked behind lichen-covered headstones and there in that stand of scrub oak a creature of rags and bones and a whistle where its words had been. He strained his ears to hear the sounds of his mother calling him for dinner, though he knew he couldn’t hear her, and it was still at least an hour away.
He backed up towards the gap in the stone wall through which they entered the graveyard. It was closest to Katie’s house, and easier than going around to the entryway. Leaves crackled underfoot–or were they the dried-up joints of the dead bending and flexing, preparing to extricate themselves from the ground to feast on flesh? Rusty’s imagination, once lit, quickly blazed into a bonfire. “You know, Katie, this was a great idea and all, but—“
Katie laughed, and suddenly the spooks were gone and the sun shone brighter, and the smell of fresh-baked pumpkin pie wafted over from Katie’s house and freshened the smell of leaves and grave dust. “Rusty, c’mon, the dead aren’t going to hurt us. They’re dead. And besides, if we run into anything, I’ll protect you. Now, let’s get to planning this movie.” Katie hopped up onto one of the tombstones, balancing on one foot and then sprang from it to the ground and then rabbited through the gravestones.
He watched her, mesmerized by her smile, her sprightly manner, and the strands of hair that stuck out from her Chicago Cubs baseball cap, and then realized she left him standing alone in the graveyard. He raced after her, ignoring the thought that beneath him, feeling his feet pounding across the earth, were hundreds of dead bodies like desiccated earthworms or cicadas cocooned and waiting for the right time to shed their coffins and burrow up into the air.