A Graveyard Visible

A Graveyard Visible

by Steve Conoboy

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781785356681
Publisher: Lodestone Books
Publication date: 04/27/2018
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 5.37(w) x 8.57(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

With two kids, three cats, and a job in care, for Steve Conoboy writing fantasy fiction is a quiet respite from the madness of normality. Steve contributes tokidliteratureauthors.com, an initiative designed to encourage young readers and parents to promote books for children. A Graveyard Visible is Steve's second published YA novel, with his short story credits including Polluto magazine, Voluted Tales, and Kzine. He lives in North Shields, UK.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

There's a graveyard visible from his bedroom window and it grows a little bigger every day. On the hillside it lurks, lurching over the rise and disappearing beyond it, bound by the iron ribs of rusting railings. This graveyard is drawing breath, and ribs are flexible. They expand. It's bigger today than it was yesterday. Not by much, but it's bigger.

Caleb hates it. He hates a lot of things, and he hates the graveyard most of all.

Sometimes he thinks the tombstones could be the teeth of some huge underground monster, biting through the tough ground with its slow, ancient mouth. He imagines its fat tongue, calloused with the passing of ages, licking the underside of the ground where mourners kneel with their flowers and tears, desperate to taste them, hungry for their misery. Other times those stones are the brittle fingernails of a surfacing demon, digging its way into our world, consumed by its lust for hot blood. On less imaginative days, those stones simply are what they are: markers of the dead. Here lies so-and-so, died of natural causes. Here lies another, killed in an unfortunate accident. And yet another, sinister circumstances. And another. Another.

Caleb's mother lies up there in her own cold hole, up there with all the other dead, up there amongst the flowers.

He watches a spot not far from her grave, a collection of blurry scratches smudged by thin, damp shards of rain. It's useless to squint through the watery slashes assaulting his window, but he does anyway, trying to count the living souls all the way over on Daisy Hill. There aren't many mourners. He would guess that there are fewer than ten. Weather does not normally keep the bereaved from a freshly dug grave, so Caleb assumes that the deceased was not widely liked, and not important enough for people to show their face for the sake of appearances. Maybe nine, maybe eight, maybe seven souls to remember and mark the passing of an existence. So few to signify something as great as the end of a life. Some of them might only be there out of a sense of duty. The rest? Will the memories they keep be good or bad? The bad ones hold tighter, Caleb knows.

But they all go eventually. Time sees to that.

It's not the first time he's seen such a pitiful turnout. It's the third time in a week. One is sad. Three is odd.

It shouldn't be too hard to find the new grave. Should be pretty obvious. A fresh mound of earth, a stone he hasn't seen before.

Caleb needs to go now. Rain won't harm him. He won't notice it much. And it'll be gone soon, pushed back by the ceaseless summer sun. Every day is the same routine: bright mornings warming quickly, then clouds bundle together for the downpour, then sunshine steams it all away. Every day. The same.

Except, perhaps, up there on Daisy Hill, something different is happening.

He'll stop in the garage on his way out to find a tape measure.

CHAPTER 2

But first there is a sigh from his father. It is omnipresent, that sigh. It precedes everything his father says, it accompanies everything Caleb does. No mere exasperation, this. It is resignation that he must speak to the boy again. 'Are you really that dumb?'

Caleb can't remember the last time he referred to this man as 'Dad'. It's a word that seems to imply a closeness that lies cold and eaten by worms. A vague grunt is the most Caleb can muster – a sound that commits to nothing. It doesn't matter what his response is. It will always be wrong.

'If you hadn't noticed, it's pissing down,' says Father, granite-face ghastly in laptop-glow.

'I noticed,' says Caleb, pulling on first his coat, then his least-favourite baseball cap.

The keyboard taps sound hollow-flat in the quiet living room. 'So it doesn't matter to you that no normal person would go out in that?'

There's a whole bunch of people out there, is what Caleb can't be bothered to say. A whole bunch of not-normals. 'I've got stuff to do,' he mumbles, and it is a pain to him that between his bedroom and the outside world there exists this, the rest of the house. Passing through these rooms is nothing but a grey misery.

Father shakes his head like he's never heard anything so disappointing, and Caleb waits, but there's only another one of those sighs, and doesn't it pull at that place near the top of his lungs and the base of his throat, that pressure pocket where raw anger bubbles?

There's nothing more to be said here. As always. So Caleb goes out into the rain.

CHAPTER 3

Drenched and breathy, he arrives too late. He's on the opposite side of the road as a pair of estate cars, one black, one blue, pull out of the northern gates, leaving brief thick tracks on the slick tarmac. Rain makes the windscreens hazy, obscuring details of the sombre suits within. One car turns left, the other goes right, and the rain washes the tracks away. He feigns nonchalance, not certain why, feeling only that he should. He acts like he was walking up this path all along, past the graveyard with no interest in it, until both cars are gone from sight Then his heels squeak in a slippery about-turn, and he jogs into the graveyard. There's an urgent blip to his pulse, a thrum of anxiety, like he knows he's doing something wrong, like the mourners might decide to come back.

'Shut up, stupid,' he spits at himself. Past the wrought-iron gates he goes. Between the twin chapels that face dawn and dusk respectively. Along the central avenue, then up the steadily rising hill. He flits along pathways he's followed a hundred times and more, going off-gravel for short cuts, kicking up mud and never once setting foot on a grave, never disturbing a flower. The rain paints the world in greys, and he cuts through it all, a blaze in his orange raincoat.

Mum's grave is up there, over towards the oak trees. The mourners were more to the west, and Caleb slows down, scanning the lanes for anything new. He doesn't worry about looking a little suspicious. There are no other visitors in this weather, no one to look up from their quiet rituals and frown at his presence.

Just a boy and the dead.

Three minutes of trudging along the alleys of the interred, and he doubts himself. This isn't the spot. This is nowhere near the spot. He might as well close his eyes, spin round, then walk in a random direction. That's how high he feels his chances are. A sigh. It sounds nothing like his father's. Nothing. It is irritation. It is wishing that ideas worked out in real life the way they did in his head.

Near the top of Daisy Hill he looks back and out towards the town he's lived in for nine years, sees his house that was once a home, the window into a bedroom that is sanctuary from this cold, grey world. In that small space he is in control. Small, but it is his. It changes only when he changes it.

He should give this dumb hunt up, take his measurements, get back to his room. It was a burial with a small cloud, third in a week. So what? And if he's heard nothing of deaths in the area ... Again, so what? He never listens to anything anyone says, and Father has no care for conversation.

There was nothing to be suspicious of.

But still.

Still.

It comes to him then. He's not quite high enough up the hill. There's an elevated area with older graves that needs checking. He trudges up, socks squishy, left trainer squeaking. His momentary loss of conviction is forgotten.

He finds the spot quickly. There aren't many plots here, and they're dotted about, no regimental lines of the deceased. No vases of lilies for these fellows. The weeds keep them company.

This grave stands apart. Recently dug and filled in. He's not sure why it's odd. He moves a shuffle closer to read the inscription, chewed as it is by Time.

EASTON UNTIL THE DAY DAWN

The sparseness, that's what's odd. Five words. No first name. No dates. The appearance, that's also weird. This headstone has been here for a while. The recently turned soil indicates that the buried has not. Why bury someone in what is clearly an old plot?

Odd.

Prickles run through the hair-wisps on his neck. Someone is near. His stomach plummets. He really has been followed. One or more of the mourners has come back for him.

His crazy-foolish boy mind screams of horror to come: he is next for someone else's old grave, and no one will ever know what became of him.

He's ready to run. He's ready to try to escape.

He tenses. He looks.

The girl. Halfway down the hill, framed by the distant twin chapels. She holds a busted grey umbrella over her head in one hand, a black ball in the other. Her hair is bundled up in midnight clumps, held by pins. She is as colourless as the world around him, but her dress is layers of green and blue. The hem is soaked and muddy. She shakes the ball, lifts it, peers into it for a moment, almost drops the cumbersome thing; it doesn't sit comfortably in her small palm. One last look at Caleb. Not a hard stare, but a lingering gaze. Perhaps she is making a decision.

She walks away, disappearing behind well-tended hedges, and Caleb releases his breath.

A lot of kids have a lot of names for her. The ghoul. The crypt-creeper. Zombie-girl. Queen of the dead. Other stuff. Worse stuff. A real freak. This isn't the first time Caleb's been in such close proximity to her. A handful of times he's spied her, watching him from afar. Always she stands there until he's about to squirm in discomfort, until he fears that the worst of all possible things will happen, that she will come over and speak.

He suspects that one day she will do exactly that, and he's not equipped to deal with it.

That's a worry for another day. As is this whole headstone business. The only way to find out anything more would be to dig up whoever is down there, and he'd never ever even think about doing that.

He trudges back down Daisy Hill, a head full of questions.

CHAPTER 4

Measuring a graveyard is a longer job than he expected, but Caleb is patient and diligent and there's little else to do in the summer holidays. It's six weeks of trying to find ways to fill in the time. Forty-two days. He sleeps for eight hours usually, leaving sixteen hours per day to fill. Sixteen times forty-two. In the face of such numbers, graveyard measuring and mystery solving strike Caleb as excellent ways of using up time.

The tape measure is not endless. It stretches three metres. Another problem: his arm-span does not have a width of three metres. He has to hold the measure against the railings in stages. Pin it there, in the middle, against a railing. Hold it steady. Bring his left hand along to take over from the right. Keep a finger on that spot. Right hand to the end. Add three metres to the tally. Pull the tape measure over, and start again. Keep count. Three. Six. Nine. He's grateful for his baseball cap. It keeps his eyes clear in the continuing downpour. He works on. Steady, not wanting to mess up. Accuracy is important.

Being busy is good.

Twenty-four. Twenty-seven. Thirty.

'Morning, Caleb,' says Mr Sebastian, the old feller from the bottom of his street, a newspaper tucked under his arm. 'Should I ask what you're up to?' He twirls his brolly, spraying out a spin of droplets.

'I'm doing important research,' says Caleb, flashing a small, polite smile.

Mr Sebastian nods like he already knows that. 'You'll catch your death out here, young man.' He continues walking, whistling an optimistic tune.

Was thirty-six or thirty-nine next? A guess won't do. Back to the beginning.

It rains on.

CHAPTER 5

After he finishes the measuring, there is the hateful business of returning home. Father berates him at length; a monotone drone from the living room, starting from the moment Caleb opens the back door. He struggles with his waterlogged trainers, his soggy socks cling to skin as the voice reminds him that he's dumb and he'd better put everything straight in the washer and all the while Caleb holds numbers in his head. He's down to T-shirt and underpants while hearing all about immaturity and growing up. He's putting powder and conditioner in the drawer as he listens to Father warn against big messes in the kitchen and threats about what will happen if colds are spread, because he's a busy man and doesn't have time for all this nonsense.

Neither does Caleb.

He goes up to his room as the lecture carries on, fading to the faintest rumble as he closes his door. He has repeated the numbers rhythmically in his loudest thoughts since the moment he rolled up the tape measure, blocking out everything, including monotone drones. He writes them on the back page of an old jotter.

313.15m x 341.6m

There's great relief in seeing it written down, a peculiar but welcome sense of achievement. A big chunk of time and effort for those two measurements. A base he can work from. It will prove one way or another if he's going mad. If he actually is going doolally ... well, he'll keep that to himself. But if he can prove his suspicions are right ...

In that instance, he has no idea what he'll do.

For now, Caleb waits for the weather to clear.

CHAPTER 6

The bruise from this morning aches. It's a pressure pushing out from her flesh. It reminds her constantly of its presence, enough to be uncomfortable, an annoyance. Her threshold for pain is high, physical pain, that is. The memory of the incident itself is close to insufferable. Heat flares up in her face. Embarrassment turns her stomach as she remembers the laughter, the name-calling, her own uselessness.

Why couldn't she stay on her feet? Just once. And if they all hated her so much, why did they come looking for her? For six weeks they could rest their eyes from the misery of seeing her in class. They could stay away, instead of cornering her over by the bins, pushing her around and shouting 'pass the ghoul' and calling her Chicken Peck. Her temper had stepped up. She'd shouted in Vic Sweet's face, right up in that pockmarked face, and in that moment she took control, she shocked them into silence, and she was walking away and her stupid lame foot gave out and she hit the ground hard. They had loved that, laughing like there was something dangerously wrong with them. There was a weight on her back and she thought this time it would be really bad, she wouldn't get out of it in one piece. Then there was a kick to her backside, and they were gone.

The tears were the worst thing. The burning shame of them. Those boys had got to her. She'd let them catch her out.

It was her own stupid fault.

They'd got her here. The graveyard. Her own territory. School is one thing, but here? Of all places, here?

The world hates her, and she can't figure out why.

She'd spent the rest of the morning in her secret places, some of which not even Grandfather knew, although he thought he knew them all. Hollow tree trunks and old sheds and more provided shelter from rain and people.

Then she'd seen that boy again. Caleb. Funny-looking kid. Indie type. Scraggy hair and baggy jeans. Always stood in a schlump, like standing up was a drag. He turns up in the graveyard often, and it isn't always to visit his mother. Sometimes he wanders around aimlessly. Sometimes he stops to read random headstones. Today he went snooping.

Caleb's lucky her grandfather didn't catch him. The old man doesn't like people sniffing around ceremonies. Respect is Grandfather's favourite word. He says it's the only thing that matters on these grounds.

She doesn't know Caleb. She's never spoken to him. He's just the only kid who's never called her a name.

Eight doesn't like him, though. Eight told her stay away.

Maybe one day Eight will change her mind. Maybe the time isn't right yet. Or maybe he's as bad as Vic and those other bastards. Yes. That's probably it. A vaguely pleasant face does not mean there's a decent person underneath. It usually means the exact opposite. They come at you with a smile, then ask you how many coffins you've slept in lately. Then they really stick the boot in.

She must accept that she's an outsider. But outsiders survive. They don't get caught by the bins.

Grandfather calls through the bathroom door. 'Misha, don't use all the hot water!'

'I'll be out in a minute,' she shouts. It's the third time she's shouted this, but she doesn't realise it. She remains sitting in the tub, skin doused in the warm downpour of the shower, long hair clinging to her body.

Eight is silent in her room.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "A Graveyard Visible"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Steve Conoboy.
Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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A Graveyard Visible 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
zbooklover More than 1 year ago
This book started off a little slow and was a little confusing at first. However, I was determined to not give up on the book and I kept reading. After the author got you all caught up on the main characters and got you up to speed in understanding everything the book picked up. I would say at about the third or fourth chapter this book took such a surprising turn I got to the point where it was hard to put the book down. I must say this was an interesting book that really kept my attention once it got going. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a suspense and halfway thriller with a lot of twists and turns to it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would read more from this author.
Amys_Bookshelf_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Chilling This book will make you want to close your eyes, but you can't, if you want to enjoy the horror that lies within the pages. It's scary and chilling, and horror buffs won't want to miss this one. Caleb still mourning his mother, finds himself lost in a world of death. It's a great story and it will creep the daylights out of you. It's intense, but not gory, and the storyline makes sense, in that death and beyond kind of way. Great chilling and creepy story.