December 7, 2014

His Cemetery Doll: Chapter One

Somebody was shaking him.
Gravekeeper...fallen soldier...
There is someone in the graveyard, Conall.

Conall Mackay woke with a start. Outside, the wind gave a haunting, low moan. He could hear the rustle and creak of trees in the graveyard outside.
He'd dozed off in his chair by the small cottage hearth, and the fire had long died down to sulky, smoldering coals. His daughter Shyla, bleary-eyed and wild-looking with her short blonde hair sticking up at all angles, shook him by the shoulder, mumbling sleepily.
"There's a strange woman, Dad. Outside."

In the dim light, Shyla's pale cheeks and her white cotton nightgown glowed, turning her into a little candle-flame girl in the dark.
He rubbed his hand over his stubbled jaw, then reached out to comb his fingers through her messy tresses, trying to tame them down. "What do you mean, lass?"
"I told you." She paused to yawn, then said, "A woman."
Her big, bright eyes—one blue, one green—were heavy-lidded. Her voice muzzy with sleep. Conall studied her, then patted her shoulder.
"You're dreaming, Shyla. There's no woman."
"Yes, there is," she insisted quite matter-of-factly. "She's in the cemetery, by Maya."
Maya. The angel statue Conall had carved from stone, which stood in the center of the graveyard.
"Shy, you can't even see Maya from your window."
"I did," the young girl answered. Her eyelids drooped and she swayed a little on her feet. Conall stood, scooping her up to carry her back to her room.
As he tucked her back into bed, she settled into soft, faint snoring. Absentminded, he tried to straighten her hair, then picked up a small stuffed dog from her old, mostly-forgotten toy box, tucking it in beside her.
Almost thirteen years old, Shyla had recently sprung up into a lean, gawkish tomboy. Like this, though—curled in her bed, face soft and thoughtful with whatever dreams she'd slipped into—she appeared so much younger. His little girl.
"Sleep well," he mumbled. Then he retreated, mindful not to trip over any piles of books or the small desk chair she'd dragged out to the center of the room.
Back in the hall, he stood at her doorframe, watching her. Then his gaze drifted past her to the window, which faced the cemetery.
The night outside crept close in dense fog. Gray veils drifted, slow and ponderous, beyond the glass. Even if Shyla had a view of Maya, she couldn't possibly have seen anything out there tonight.
Yes, he thought. Just dreaming.
Those drifting grays...dancing whorls, like silk ribbons on the wind.
No. He told himself. Fog, is all. Nothing else out there.

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