“What do you make of that Padre Simonstone?” Joyce picking up a previous conversation after distracted at the counter asking which milk for the tea.
“I’ll give him his due; he’s tidying up that abandoned cemetery far end of the parish.”
“Aye, caring man giving back to those forgotten souls. Always was attracting vandals and the like.” Joyce thinking whether charged right for the cost of these drinks.
“Well, ’bout time something was done. It’s a right mess and I’d heard some horrible nasty goings-on.”
“Oh, pray tell…”
“C’mon Joyce, surely you’ve heard. I can’t believe you’ve not, story plastered all over last week’s Telegraph.”
“Aye, well I wouldn’t, would I, him indoors lines the new dog kennel before I’ve had time to read them. I’m not speaking to him at the moment.”
“Well I’ll show you. I’m taking some fresh flowers down there given by the friends of the forgotten.”
Joyce shivered. “Oh, I don’t know… I always avoided that place, gives me the spooks.”
“Give over, come on we need people to help and return it to its proper state. A place of peace for the dead to rest.”
“Well let me finish my tea, I’ve paid for this and at these prices I can’t afford to waste it.”
Longside Cemetery remains quiet, from clearly what’s been an array of busy activity, returning it to former dignity. Still sends a chill over Joyce, she’s not totally oblivious to the stories told about this place. Anyway in the daylight it doesn’t look so bad, a lot better since her last visit.
“They’ve done a lot of work, looking tidier.” Joyce scanning across the gravestones.
The site is a mixture of edifices and old statues as well as moss green tombstones teetering back on themselves.
Catching the eye, the statue of Death. Tall and stately, and such a looming presence.
Joyce not wanting to catch its dead stare, main reason she didn’t want to be here. As if to look on it would mark you for its cull, and even tormenting herself with a worrying thought – did she look at it in the corner of her eye?
“Awe, look at that Joyce.”
Both take a closer look at the latest spray left on No 31. ‘To Mr and Mrs Garnett – forever in our hearts – Rest in Peace – All at No. 66’.
“Sixty-six, that’s that big family mausoleum over on the newer side. That’s where the money people go. I wonder if they were in service to them. Bit of a mystery…” She glanced over at the plinth of Death’s statue.
“You know those wreaths never last more than a day by that statue. Some beautiful deep red almost black velvety roses, wither in a couple of hours. You waste money putting a wreath there.”
Joyce didn’t look, she’d ventured out across a grassy track. “What about this one.”
She bent low to replace the card on number 33.
“Looks like the ink’s run, feels like a piece of wallpaper. I think… the name’s Michael… What’s these numbers for? Are they markers?” Joyce asking aloud.
They both walked along tidied pathways minding the odd stray briar rose whipping across on a stray breeze.
“Joyce, I’ll go and get the carpetbag I’m borrowing and bring the flowers over. You wait here, I won’t be long.”
She was very unsure if wanting to be alone but kept her doubts quiet. She’d her back to Death, but could sense its shadow and felt the cold shiver prickle her flesh with goose bumps.
Joyce was ready for something warm to eat when returning home.
“Joyce, is that your house?” pulling the car into Melrose Street.
The paramedics in and out of her home.
Joyce raced out of the car running into the arms of a police officer and in the following minutes learnt upsetting news…
Him indoors, suffered a sudden heart attack while lining the dog’s kennel with newspaper. It had been the dog’s howling alerting neighbours to investigate and leading to the tragic discovery.
Over Longside Cemetery dusk cast far-reaching shadows stretching far. One appearing to stand out from the rest in its spooky way.
Death’s shadow spread across the ground reaching that spot where Joyce had thought she’d caught its dead stare from the corner of her eye.
story by John Riley