The scent of decay clung to the air. Elizabeth sensed the decomposing leaf debris and grey slush borders of the cemetery access road were not the only source of the smell. She hurried towards the outlying boundary wall that winked at her through an avenue of skeletal trees. Behind her were the cemetery offices and two identical chapels of honey-coloured stone and differing denominations. The inhabitants of the community, divided even in death.
Despite the gloomy sunlight and chill of winter, the morning held no fear for her. At least a third of the crumbling gravestones stood guard over the remains of distant relatives. This knowledge and the sense of comfort it conveyed helped to enforce a feeling of strength and belonging.
Stepping off the road and across several scattered graves, Elizabeth caught sight of Paul and Gemma waiting up ahead. She was beginning to suspect they were joined at the hip. Tashriel was nowhere to be seen, despite his assurance that he would be joining them.
Elizabeth smiled a greeting to the gruesome twosome and continued in their direction, avoiding eye contact as much as possible by focussing on the expanding moorland beyond. Paul was the first to speak.
“Hi, Lizzie! How’s it going?” He enquired as sweetly as poisoned candyfloss and positioned his not-quite-corporeal self between her and Gemma like some attempt at a token barricade.
About as useful as a chocolate fireguard
“Me? I’m fine... No thanks to you and Tinker Bell here, though,” Elizabeth replied sarcastically.
“Tinker Bell?” Gemma asked, her curiosity seemingly piqued.
“This is the spot where the barguest attacked,” chirped Paul, pointing to his right and attempting to change the subject.
Elizabeth was distracted by a presence on the horizon. It was moving fast, low to the ground and heading in their direction.
“There’s some kind of beast in the distance behind you," she informed the others. "It seems to be running along the boundary wall.”
“I don’t sense anything,” Gemma commented, turning to observe the line of the wall.
“Are you sure?” asked Paul.
“I think it’s our barguest,” Elizabeth said, reaching into her shoulder bag and retrieving a weighty package. She felt the moving presence stop. The sense of urgency emanating from it appeared to be moving away from them.
“It’s stalking us,” she informed them tentatively.
Gemma frowned, “Are you sure you’re not just imagining it? I’m not picking up anything at all. I would if there was anything out there.”
Elizabeth glared and restrained herself from rolling her eyes. She had been hoping for the opportunity to clear the air between herself and Gemma before she did anything else, but that was looking less likely with each passing second.
Paul made another effort to divert them. “The police seem to be pretty certain that it was a shooting accident. The bloke just tripped and blew his own head off. He probably imagined anything else in his last dying seconds, Lizzie.”
“There’s something out here and I’m pretty certain it’s an animal of some kind.” Elizabeth stated emphatically, gripping the package ever tighter. “I’ve no idea why Tinks can’t pick up on it, and frankly I think that’s the last of our worries. What’s more, if you call me Lizzie again I’ll make Grispheran seem friendlier and more innocent than Sponge Bob!”
The presence started to move. This time Elizabeth noticed Paul had felt it too. It was still heading in their direction, only slower.
“Either of you two had an encounter with a barguest before?” Elizabeth asked calmly.
They both shook their heads, eyes fixed straight ahead.
“We don’t know it is one yet,” Gemma commented, though sounding a little less sure of herself than earlier.
“What would you call that, then?” Elizabeth quipped, inclining her head towards an enormous black-coated beast bounding across the graves before them. “Lassie?”
Labels: Billy, Elizabeth, Present Day, Refuge of Delayed Souls, Web Fiction