Brianna, aged 21, is a 2nd year creative writing student at Bath Spa University. She is writing her first YA novel. She is a Ravenclaw (If you know, you know) and vegetarian.
That evening there was something strange about the cemetery. Stranger than your regular ghosts and ghouls. Birds circled the grounds. Pure white birds soaring. For an October evening, the sky was abnormally bright. Eclipse bright.
She had to squint her blue eyes upon looking up. That’s when she saw it.
Flying high with the flock was a larger creature. Much bigger than an eagle. Much bigger than any other bird she’d seen before. It had the most extraordinarily purple wings. Strikingly beautiful against the crystal blue sky around it. It appeared to be guiding the flock of white birds. It flapped its wings slowly, like a glitzy ballroom dance.
Lux half expected gravity to do its job and pull the creature to the ground. It defied every law of science. The white birds were speedy, flapping furiously. They flew in continuous circles, scaling the perimeter of the cemetery grounds.
Lux intended her visit to brief. Please readers, do not think her a weirdo with a fascination for cemeteries. She walked through the cemetery often, not to visit a gravestone like you may expect. People normally go to cemeteries to pay their respects to the dead, and whilst Lux does have dead relatives there, that’s not the point. She enjoys the quiet. Especially walking through during autumn with the leaves changing into blazing oranges, yellows and reds. It is awfully mesmerising. Lux relishes in the quiet, leaving her gossipy town behind. The wind brushed the leaves up off the pavement. Her feet pounded beneath her, although sometimes she tip-toed. She believed the dead could hear her.
She followed the paths around the cemetery, feeling free, relaxed and separated from the normalities of her life. Lux, morbidly, felt smug walking around knowing she was living above the decaying bodies below. Somehow, through some twist of fate or circumstance, she was still alive. Heart beating, pumping blood. The dead buried six feet deep were long gone, travelling to the next life. Lux found it soothing. A reminder that she had got this far.
Lux walked to her favourite tree. Although it was the same as all the others. She singled it out as her favourite. Perhaps it was the positioning, dead centre of the cemetery that drew her in. Like herself, it was the odd one out. When she stood underneath it, she could see every section of the cemetery. That evening, it was just her, no visitors. No visitors laying flowers. But god, the flowers. The sheer amount of them was astonishing. Flowers of every colour. Large bunches, smaller ones too. One stone stood out to Lux, the one with the single yellow rose. The saddest stones were the barest.
Did nobody care? Didn’t they have any family, or friends? Were they the last of their legacy?
She sat on the outer edges of the tree, the branches barely covering her. She watched the birds. Her neck began to ache. They were still circling. Circling their majestic leader. Lux was intrigued.
There was a commotion. A collective squawk. Loud and brash. Lux looked up to see the creature making its descent. Plummeting faster than its flying speed. The white birds still continued circling. Loyally on guard.
She stood to get a better look.
It was a good time to mention; new plots had been added to the cemetery. Freshly dug holes with fresh corpses.
Lux blinked repeatedly. The creature was headed straight for the new plots.
The creature landed. Lux moved closer, cautious not to attract the attention of it – avoiding the crunchy brown leaves and fallen branches. She focused on her breathing. Inhale… Then exhale…
But careful! Not too loud young Lux for the creature may hear you.
The town does not need a repeat of Halloween 1976.
Lux now a mere ten feet away from the action could see the creature clearly. Around its neck and a few inches down, its feathers were the colour of plums. The rest of its feathers were lilac, like they had been diluted in water as it skimmed the nearby lake. The creatures build was incredible. Never had she seen a bird so large, if it could even be categorized as a bird.
She watched as it dug its claws into the soil. It was furious. Digging and digging. She swore it growled. The noise emitting from the creature wasn’t natural and it wasn’t what anyone wanted to hear, especially not in a cemetery. It gouged deep into the plot, desperate to get at what lay beneath. Lux was crouched down behind a gravestone, peering out.
The entire plot was dug up in less than ten minutes. Lux kept a close check on time, her grandmother would be waiting for her soon. She took a few steps backwards, shocked. She tried to catch her breath but accidentally crunched a branch. The creature immediately looked up. It had seen her. She was staring at it. Menacing eyes full of hunger.
It snarled. An echoing vicious snarl. Lux’s presence didn’t faze it. It had seen her for a second before returning to the plot. She regained her posture, regulated her breathing and continued to watch.
The white birds swooped down and positioned themselves around the now gaping hole in the ground. Their wings flapped in unison. The creature loomed at the head of the hole. Suddenly, the coffin began to rise from the ground. Lux’s mouth dropped open. It had to be an animalistic ritual, she thought, dismissing the superstitions of her town. The creature then squawked with what appeared to be joy. She was close enough to think it had been smiling.
The birds, somehow, had summoned the wooden box out of the ground.
By the way, readers must know coffins can weigh hundreds of pounds.
The creature flapped one wing, a signal of such, and the white birds returned to the sky. Now it could claw its way into the box. Which it did. Lux could hear the scratching. Raw and painful, like nails dragged down a chalkboard.
She stumbled back a few feet again without realising. Her hands shook. Her legs jelly. It would be dark within half hour and she knew she should leave to go home. But she didn’t. She was curious. Something strange was happening. Lux had to wait.
“You’ve seen it too, then.” A gruff voice whispered behind her.
The last thing Lux expected was to see another person.
She jumped and let out a little yelp.
“Be quiet. It will hear you.” He whispered again.
She turned around to see a man wearing a creased navy-blue suit and a black top hat. Unusual, she thought. His hair was messy, fighting its way out from underneath the hat. He smiled. The corners of his mouth tightly curled. It was almost comforting for Lux, to know she wasn’t alone. There was another witness.
“W-what is it?” She whispered.
“I’m unsure if it has a name. It’s phenomenal, isn’t it?” The man said.
Lux stared at him. Confused and scared. She realised the man had seen this happen before.
“It eats them.” He said.
“Eats them? You don’t mean…” Lux paused, glancing from the creature to the man in the top hat.
“Don’t be naïve.” He smiled. “It eats the bodies.”
Lux was now transfixed on the creature again. It had clawed its way into the coffin. Held in its piercing claws were clumps of flesh. She watched as the creature brought its claws to its mouth and ate.
The man was right.
“Get closer.” Top hat man nudged her, as if it were a casual performance at the theatre.
The pair walked closer to the creature. Lux could see its large teeth, the size of one of her fingers. It tore at the bloodless flesh. She was glad there was no blood. After seeing her father murdered, blood brought back gruesome flashbacks.
“What does it do afterwards?” Lux questioned. Her voice a notch frightened.
“They put it back. Empty.” He answered.
“And no one ever finds out?”
“No. It’s quite marvellous. The creature and his birds” He pointed to the sky. “They put it back. No one suspects a thing out of place because the plot was new anyway. So, it looks a bit messy.” He finished.
“Have you told the gravedigger?” Lux peered at him, curious.
“Of course not. Do you think I’m silly?” The man suggested.
“N-n-no.” Lux said.
“If I told the gravedigger there was an unusual looking bird digging out the graves and eating the bodies, he would think me insane. And question why I was here in the first place.”
She could see his point. “Why are you here?”
“I could very well ask you the same question.” His tone had changed.
They said no more and watched the creature eat its meal.
“Should we shoo it away?” Lux said.
“Again, do you think I’m silly?” He returned.
There was a pause, Lux looked at him.
“Have you seen its claws and teeth? Whatever it is, it’s bigger than me.”
So, they watched in silence as the creature ate its meal. The sky now a deep charcoal grey, the moon slightly visible behind a cloud. Lux considered returning home but she was already late. What was the harm in being a little later? It’s worth considering her Grandmother would be full of worry, after the tragic demise of her parents.
As the man had said, the coffin was lowered back into the ground and covered up. Like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The creature and its birds flew into the sky.
The sky pitch black and clear, sparkling with stars. Lux forgot she had company.
“I must warn you not to tell anyone about this, Lux.” The man said.