Saturday, October 28, 2023

“Graveside Dining” • by Angelique Fawns

Alma Smith’s stomach made somersaults as she rolled down the car window for some fresh air. The façade of the centuries-old cathedral cast long and wavery shadows on the driveway into London’s oldest burial grounds. 

Hopefully, all the ghosts of Nunhead Cemetery stayed quietly underground, where they belonged. She stuck her head out the window and inhaled decomposing leaves mixed with the sports car’s exhaust.

Angus's fingers drummed on the wheel of his Mercedes.

“This is where you’re taking me to lunch?” She asked.

Angus nodded. “Only displaced spirits talk to you, right?” He pointed to the mossy gravestones. “Isn’t everyone here in the right place?”

Some tension left Alma’s shoulders. “No one thinks to hide a murder victim in a graveyard, do they?”

A smile peeked through Angus’s beard. “One picnic to go. Complete with wine, avocado, and Kosher salt.”

“Avocado and salt?”

Angus winked. “My favorite snack. This looks like a nice spot.” He pointed to a sycamore tree sheltering ivy and bramble-covered tombs.

She surveyed the ancient, leaning stones, the mossy patches, and the beam of sun dancing through the trees and nodded. “For graveside dining, it’s perfect.”

They laid out a checked blanket and she accepted a glass of white wine.

Alma giggled, as the big man tried to get comfortable sitting cross-legged. He self-consciously pulled at the crotch of his jeans.

He shrugged, pink rising in his cheeks. “This might be the first time I wish I was wearing a dress.” He took a swallow of his own wine and wiggled closer. “It’s also the first time I’ve ever heard you laugh.”

Angus leaned in for a kiss and Alma closed her eyes…

The air turned frosty. Alma gasped as black smoke curled out from behind the mossy gravestone. Her knees trembled.

“Alma, are you okay? What’s happening?” Angus asked, jerking back. “I thought old souls in graveyards left you alone?”

Her teeth chattered. “I don’t know what, or who this is, but it's not normal.”

Angus tried to put his arms around her shoulders, but Alma shook her head. “Please don’t touch me, that makes it worse.”

Angus wrung his hands as Alma rolled onto her hands and knees. She fought for breath as the dark mist swirled around her, thickening and morphing into a figure.

“What can I do?” Angus asked. “I don’t see anything. Tell me what’s going on!”

She shot him an anguished look. “I’ve never experienced pain like—”

Alma swallowed her words. She could no longer see Angus or the cemetery. Her surroundings faded to a grey, gloomy street circa 1880. How did she end up in the Victorian era?

The dark mist was now a tall figure in a long black coat. With every minute that passed, he became more solid.

“Thou art a fine beauty, aren’t thee? Would ye be looking to make five shillings?” The man’s face was shrouded in shadow, and his tone was gravelly and wheedling.

“I’m not a prostitute. Go back to your grave.” Alma slowly got to her feet. “I don’t know who you are, but your soul should have moved on centuries ago.”

He gnashed stained teeth. “Look at the gown you’re wearing, only a woman of certain proclivities would be in the streets dressed as such.”

The figure gained more substance, and Alma could make out a mustache and serpent eyes.

“You’re not real!” She made the sign of the cross.

“Ahhh, too much of the poppy hath given you delusions. A moment in yonder back alley will have you back to sorts.” He took a step towards her, slipping a gloved hand into his pocket.

She saw the glint of steel and screamed.

“Alma, what can I do for you?” Angus’s panicked voice sounded like it was coming from the end of a very long tunnel.

The cloaked man grabbed her arm. “It’s been so very long. You shall keep me company. I love the ladies of disease and desperation.”

She gasped and spun out of his grip. Fury creased the apparition's face.

“Angus. What is the name on the tombstone? The old, mossy one?” She strained her vocal cords, hollering into the mist.

She tried to back up a step but couldn’t move.

Angus’s thin voice echoed though distorted time and space. “I’m trying to read it, but the name is so faded. I can’t tell!”

Alma felt the blood drain out of her face. She addressed the ghost. “Who are you? Why is your soul so malevolent?”

The apparition gave a chilling chuckle. “Everyone doth ponder that. Yet I remain a mystery.” He swiped his knife at her throat.

She dodged the blow and screamed up to the sky. “Angus, pour your salt around the grave! Be quick.”

Every second she remained in this hell world, the setting became more real.

The lanterns were brighter, the buildings more solid, and the handsome lines of the killer’s face grew sharper.

The ghost, more solid now than even a few seconds ago, flung his arms around her and hoisted her to his chest. “Let’s continue this parlay in the alley.”

Alma struggled but she was no match for the mad soul. He shoved her against a damp wall and placed his knife against her throat. She felt the sharp edge pierce her skin...

She shut her eyes and felt warmth wash over her. She spun out of the Victorian dimension with a sickening lurch, worse than the descent of a roller coaster.

Falling onto the picnic blanket, she heard the ghost’s enraged yowl as he dematerialized into a dark mist and was swallowed back into the tombstone.

Angus encompassed her in a massive hug. “Are you okay? That was crazy.” He brushed her sweaty hair off her forehead, his gaze filled with concern and panic.

“I’m okay. You put salt around the tomb?”

He nodded and she saw the ring of kosher grains encircling the ancient marker.

Alma got to unsteady feet. “That should keep him in place for a bit, but I think I’ve lost my appetite.”

Angus took her hand and the two of them climbed back into the Mercedes.

“I’m so sorry--”

She cut him off. “What are we doing for our second date?”

He grinned sheepishly. “I’m assuming you’d like to avoid cemeteries?”

Alma laughed and rubbed his knee. “No cemeteries, but please bring lots of salt.”

Angelique Fawns is a journalist and speculative fiction writer. She began her career writing articles about naked cave dwellers in Tenerife, Canary Islands. Her stories have only gotten stranger since then. She spends her day job creating promos for reality shows like Big Brother and Survivor, and lives on a horse farm with her family. Though she has no idea how she finds time to write, it often involves hiding in a dark corner of a pub, sipping on Chardonnay, and letting her nightmares spew onto paper.  Find her work in DreamForge, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and Stupefying Stories, to name a few. If you dare, check out her podcast, Read Me A Nightmare, or her blog at


Made in DNA said...

Novel material! Loved it!

Robert Stahl said...

Way to go Angelique!