Tombstones in the night

Today I have a curious topic from my sister, Sarah, who was helping a friend get ready for her wedding. Garters. Well I guess this story will have to move to a Victorian location for a bit then…

(If you are joining Emmeline’s story today, welcome! It might help for you to begin here.)

Tombstones in the night. J R Manawa.

“Emmeline? Wake up.”

Someone was shaking her shoulder. She jumped and sat up, realising that she had fallen asleep in the back of the cab, slumped against Charon’s shoulder.

“I’m so sorry!” she said, horrified that she had been lying against him. “Where are we?” She looked out of the fogged up window, rubbing it with the back of her sleeve so she could see.

“Abney Park Cemetery, miss,” the cab driver said, peering through his window at them. Emmeline realised with surprise that he was the same cab driver who had picked them up the night before. She didn’t bother to ask why or how. They got out of the cab and he drove off without any payment from Charon.

“I hope you are going to pay him,” Emmeline said.

Charon nodded, “I promise you he will choose his payment when we are done with him.”

“By the time we are done with him we may not be here to pay him, well, I don’t know about you, but I may not.” Emmeline said plainly, as she followed Charon up to the gates of the cemetery. She’d had a good twenty-four hours to consider her fate, and it was now the morning of the third of January. There were two days and one and a half nights left before the full moon. The moon would be full just before 5am on the fifth of January, according to google.

It was now 5am on January the third. There was forty-eight hour clock ticking over Emmeline’s life, and although the events at the Highgate mansion already seemed a life time ago, the truth was that Emmeline knew he was coming for her. The monster who was her father had not waited twenty one years to find Emmeline again and miss his chance.

Emmeline grimaced as she considered all this.

“You are very tired,” Charon observed, as they walked up to the locked cemetery gates.

“Yes I am – more human than you would think – apparently,” she replied half-heartedly. She didn’t even have the energy to ask Charon why he had brought her to a cemetery in the early hours of the morning. She only hoped that his idea of a safe place to sleep wasn’t sharing a coffin with a vampire.

The padlock fell away with a touch from his hand, and the high iron gates swung open with a deafening screech. The light in the upstairs window of the house across from them flicked on as Charon pulled her through the gate and into the shadows.

“Wake the whole neighbourhood then,” Emmeline suggested, though she knew it was really too early for sarcasm.

“Sorry,” he whispered.

“All this magic-ness and you think you could make a gate stay quiet,” she added as they waited a moment until the light went off again.

“I didn’t think of it,” he admitted, as he stepped out and onto the snow-walled path. Without asking, he took her hand and dragged her down into the cemetery.

One of London’s ‘magnificent seven’ Victorian cemeteries, Abney Park was once a sprawling woodland, but in the mid 1800’s it became a solution to Victorian London’s growing burial needs. Quickly outgrowing the woodland space, the burial ground grew to accommodate an overwhelming two hundred thousand interments.

In modern times the cemetery had been left to ruin and decay, a gothic wonderland of tumbling tombstones and weeping stone angels, all shrouded in overgrown wreaths of tenacious ivy. In some places, space was so limited that the tombstones shuffled up together like dominos, the names in between impossible to read. All paths through the graveyard led to the centre, once a natural woodland glade where the trees parted and now gave way to the ruins of a great mortuary chapel.

It was here that Charon led Emmeline, as dawn began to throb into the sky, and the spires of the abandoned chapel were left pointing toward the last remaining stars.

“Where are you taking me?” Emmeline asked bleakly, as they came into the shadow of the gothic ruins. The darkness beyond the empty arches and hollow windows made her shudder and clutch his hand just a little bit tighter.

He smiled at her, pleased with himself. “I’m following the magic. Can’t you feel it now? Like when you came to Highgate? And tonight at Angula’s club?”

Emmeline could feel it. Once they passed the ruins and walked back into the thick of trees and rows of tombstones on the far side, it grew stronger.

“It’s cold,” Emmeline whispered, pulling away from Charon to rub her arms for warmth

They were about to pass the beautiful statue of a Victorian woman in mourning. Up on her raised pedestal, her eyes were cast down and away in deep sadness, her hands lifting the stone carved folds of her dress in anguish to reveal the edge of a garter on her leg. Each fold of fabric delicately carved and draped elegantly over her form, frozen in time.

The statue was so beautiful and heart-rending that Emmeline found herself pausing for a moment to look up at it.

“Come–” Charon tugged on her arm.

Emmeline took a step to follow him.

The statue blinked and turned its head toward her.

Emmeline screamed and stumbled backward, letting go of Charon’s hand and falling over a gravestone. Scrambling to her feet as quick as she could, she looked up at the statue again.

The angel was now crouching on its pedestal and leaning forward to peer back at Emmeline with unblinking stone eyes.

“Pythia, please don’t do that,” Charon said calmly.

The appearance of the young woman changed, flicking from stone, to greying skin, to wrinkled flesh and back again. She turned and glared at Charon, and then suddenly came down from the pedestal in one fluid movement.

Emmeline flinched as she moved, terrified by the living statue.

“Please don’t be difficult Pythia, this is Emmeline, she is the granddaughter of Geras, and we need somewhere to shelter for the night.”

Emmeline had never heard anyone refer to her grandfather by his first name, and she was surprised Charon knew it.

“The night is done,” said the living statue, looking to the east and the dawn, “and this child does not bear his blood.”

“The night is done but we have not yet slept. Geras dedicated his life to protect her. Will you not show the same mercy?”

Suddenly, the living statue became an old woman. An old woman with a beautiful face, eyes that shone a clear grey in the morning light, and hair so silver it sparkled. “Geras is dead,” she said sadly.

Charon offered his arm to her, and she hobbled over, taking kindly to leaning on him as she led him on down the path.

Without knowing what to say or do, Emmeline followed them.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. anne fletcher says:

    brilliant work, that cemetery is so scary and beautiful at the same time you wrote it well, love the garter bit can picture that quite clearly freaky as 🙂

    1. jrmanawa says:

      Hehe thank you so much! It was such a relief to have the energy to write and focus tonight!

  2. dreamtym says:

    Quite hauntingly beautiful Jo…! You have taken some beautiul photos eher, eh..!

    1. jrmanawa says:

      Thank you! I’ve had some stressful moments finding the right photos for these blogs, but i am enjoying it, and this is one of my favourite photos!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s