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Ghosts in the Graveyard

Author(s): Lyra Marlowe

Henry Lake sees dead people.

He didn’t always see them. He used to be a perfectly normal guy who worked a boring job to support his girlfriend while she finished college. Then the girlfriend dumped him, brutally. He lost his job, and he got behind on his rent. So he was happy to be hired as a night watchman at Cherry Hill Cemetery. At least, he figured, it would be quiet, and he wouldn’t have to deal with people.

But Cheery Hell is full of ghosts, and Henry can see them all. Worse, when he touches them, he becomes them. He sees and feels everything through their eyes and relives their memories as though the events were happening to him. Since most of the ghosts’ favorite memories are about sex, things get interesting fast. The ghosts have all been laid, but not to rest, and that’s just how they like it.

Henry never wants to fall in love again. He doesn’t even want to think about it. But his new friends make him relive the best romantic and erotic moments of their past lives. Even the most shattered heart is bound to soften.

And there's something very attractive about the sweet ghost girl in black…

Henry may have given up on love, but the ghosts aren’t about to give up on him. While he protects the cemetery from drunks, vandals, and his crazy ex-girlfriend, the ghosts in the graveyard help Henry regain his shattered faith in true love.

Excerpt


My second night at Cheery Hell started out just like the first. I locked the gate behind MacGruder, made a pot of coffee, and got settled in. At eight I started my rounds. Everything was quiet. Same at nine. At ten, when it was dark, my newlyweds were back.
Costume play, maybe, I explained to myself again. Some of Stacey’s friends had been into cosplay. But somewhere in my sleep, I’d figured out what they really were.
I waved as I strolled by. “Evening, Helen, Jeremy.”
I thought they hesitated, but I was already past them by then, and when I looked back, they were tongue wrestling again.
There were two young women climbing all over a guy in Section Three. There was a lot of giggling.
My hippie friends were in Section Five again. There seemed to be more of them than last night. The guy with the guitar was playing some Cat Stevens song. He was not, thankfully, singing. But given the quantity of pot smoke that surrounded them, it wouldn’t be long.
I could see the smoke, but I still couldn’t smell it.
The Smoking Man was all alone in Seven. He had his back to me. I don’t know why, but I had the idea that he knew I was there. I went off the path and between the headstones until I was right beside him. He was tall and slim, with silver hair, cut short. He wore a dark suit. He had one foot up on the base of a headstone, and he rested his elbow on the top of it. He looked like a model posing for GQ. Smoke drifted around his head. I hoped to hell he was holding a cigarette I couldn’t see. MacGruder hadn’t given me any instructions for dealing with a trespasser on fire.
I stood there for a minute, thinking about it. I wasn’t as fuzzy now as I had been the night before. Stacey hadn’t been whispering her sweet poison in my ear; I could think half-way straight. Touching him seemed like a bad idea. But then again, I didn’t know why I shouldn’t.
I reached for him, and then stopped and put my hand down. “Excuse me, sir,” I said firmly, “but the cemetery is closed after dark.”
He turned around slowly. Where his face should have been, there was a gleaming white skull.
It was the wrong time of year for Halloween decorations, but Stacey and her damn drama professor probably could get or make really good ones. If she knew I had this new job, she would totally…
Looking at this elegant skull in the half-light in the middle of an old cemetery, I knew it wasn’t a fake.
For one thing, the smoke from his cigarette was wafting out of the eye holes.
“Shit,” I said.
The skull grinned. “Now scream and run away, boy.”
For a guy with no skin, he had a really deep voice.
He was right. I should have screamed and run away. I should at least have been scared out of my mind. But somehow I wasn’t. I was face-to-face with a ghost or a ghoul or something. I wasn’t normally a brave person. But I wasn’t afraid.
What could he do to me, anyhow? Carve my beating heart out of my chest with his boney fingers? Good luck to him. Stacey had already torn my heart out and stomped on it with her boyfriend’s big leather professor shoes.
I don’t think I was actually suicidal. I hadn’t thought about ending my life. But right then, if Boneface wanted to end it for me, I wasn’t going to put up any fuss.
So I shrugged and said, “I’m kinda out of shape for running.”
The specter laughed. His teeth chattered just a little, bone-on-bone. “You think you’re out of shape? Son, you’re nothing but skin and bones.”
“You ought to talk. At least I got skin.”
He laughed again, a big rich belly laugh. Then he took a pull on his cigarette. The smoke leaked out all over, his eyes and the hole where his nose should have been and his ears and between his teeth. “Not scaring you, huh?”
I shrugged. “Sorry.”
“Ah, hell.” He turned away, and when he turned back, he was flesh-and-blood again. Or at least he looked like he was. He flicked his cigarette away. The butt glowed in the air and then vanished before it hit the ground. “What’s your name, son?”
“Henry.”
“Henry. That’s a good name. Henry.”
I had hated my old-fashioned name since the first day of kindergarten. “It was my grandfather’s name. He didn’t have any sons.”
“Ah.” He flicked his wrist and a new cigarette appeared between his fingers, already glowing.
“And you are?”
“Oh, yes, sorry. That was rude. I’m so used to people running and screaming, I’ve forgotten how to have proper conversation.” He gestured to the headstone he was leaning on. “John Warren Frazier. But you can call me Jack.”
I looked at the headstone. John Warren Frazier had died in 1963 at the age of fifty-one. For a guy who’d been dead for almost as long as he was alive, Jack looked damn good.
I looked back at the ghost. He was definitely taller than me and thinner. His face—the fleshed-in version—was skinny too. He had a long chin with a big dimple in it. No, not a dimple, what was the right word? My mother’s word. A cleft, that was it. His chin had a cleft. Far more manly than a dimple. The ridge of his eyebrows was sharp, too, and his eyebrows themselves were bushy and rather stern and damn near met in the middle. It was a memorable face, unique if not precisely attractive. He looked like he could be truly terrifying when he was angry. But he wore a sort of half-grin, and his eyes seemed to think I was funny.
A ghost, I thought again. He was right. I should have been running and screaming. Instead, I gestured toward Section One. “The couple, up there…
“Oh, good Lord, are they at it again? Just ignore them.”
“They’re, um…”
“I know. Welcome to Cheery Hell. Live while you can, die when you must, and expect to get laid. But not to rest.” He grinned. “They were killed on the way to the train station for their honeymoon. And they’ve been making up for it ever since.”
“How long has that been?”
He looked up at the stars and considered while he puffed on his cigarette. “They were here when I got here. Seems like they’d been here a while then. You could check the stone. Figure they got here within a year or so after they died.”
“They didn’t come right away?”
Jack shrugged. “Some do. Others, it takes a while. You have to believe to be a ghost, and a lot of them don’t.”
“A ghost.” I already knew that was what he was. But hearing him say it, it seemed like a new idea again. “You have to believe in ghosts to be one?”
“Or to see one,” he answered.
“I don’t think I do. Believe in ghosts.”
“Really.” He raised one side of his unibrow. “Then you must be one.”
“I’m not dead.”
“Are you sure?”
I thought about it. I wasn’t sure. I might be dead or crazy. Or both. I’d been telling myself that Stacey had ripped my heart out. Maybe she really had, and I didn’t know it. Like in that Bruce Willis movie.
“You should get back to your clocks, son.”
I looked at my watch. He was right. “Yeah, I should go. But, um, will you be here? When I get back?”
He shrugged elegantly. “Got nowhere else to be.” He conjured up another cigarette and leaned against the headstone. He smoked well. That was a funny way to think about it, but it was true; he looked like he enjoyed smoking more than any man I’d ever known.
I hurried on down the path to the next key clock. Along the way I thought I saw shadows, other people—other ghosts. They didn’t seem to notice me. I wasn’t scared, but an odd thrill ran through me. The place was full of ghosts. Why were they here? Were they trapped here? Could they be freed? Did they want to be?
What the hell were the rules of being a ghost?
Did other people see them? Was that why the cemetery couldn’t keep a night watchman, because Jack scared them off? And why did he bother with the scaring? He seemed like a perfectly nice guy. For a dead man.
It occurred to me as I keyed the next clock that I was being pranked by the older guys at the cemetery. But the smoke through the eyeballs—no, that hadn’t been some elaborate make-up trick. Maybe Stacey and her theater-major friends? They could manage it, maybe, but why would they bother?
Besides, there were a dozen other ghosts moving among the headstones.
They seemed casual, peaceful, like people at a town picnic. There was a woman in a long bustled skirt—live with Stacey, learn about period costumes—talking to a boy with long hair and a John Travolta Saturday Night Live outfit—the white pants and vest over an opened-neck shirt.
“So this is where disco went when it died,” I murmured.
The other alternative to a prank was that I had gone insane. On reflection, that actually seemed more sensible than believing I was seeing and talking to ghosts. Maybe I’d drunk so much beer I was brain damaged. That seemed really unlikely; there hadn’t been that much beer in the house. Maybe I’d gone mad with grief over Stacey. I knew my landlady thought I had. Maybe I was just having an unusually long and detailed hangover dream.
Whatever it was, I was actually interested in something besides Stacey and being miserable for the first time in forever.
Dream, madness, whatever. Might as well make the best of it.
I hurried through the rest of the clocks. I saw the girl in black in Section Ten again very briefly before she scampered into the shadows. “I see you there,” I called out to her. “It’s all right. I won’t hurt you.” I didn’t actually know if I could hurt her, but she seemed frightened of me, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to say.
She didn’t answer or come out of hiding.
I shrugged and hurried back down through the headstones to see Jack again.

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 978-1-62916-052-8
Genre: Romance
Date Published: 01/02/2014
Publisher: Taliesin Publishing

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