I left an editor's note for myself towards the end of this chapter. It makes things a bit jarring, but if you could disregard it, that'd be great. Thank you.
I’ve had an idea. The whole walk home I spend turning it over in my mind. When I’m done scouring it for holes, I move on towards foraging for a plan. By dinner, it’s all fleshed out in my head, ready to roll.
It’s the kind of idea that could get someone killed. But it’s also the kind that could get someone not-killed, so to speak. Frankly, it’s the kind that someone should’ve thought of well before I did.
After we pick our plates clean of spaghetti, Grandma and I shuffle off to bed. “Goodnight!” I call, watching her retreat into the back of the dark hallway. Her door clicks shut behind her. I find myself rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet. Quickly, as though there is someone judging me, I stop fidgeting and straighten my back.
At school, I never got points for creativity. I always followed instructions to their precise specification. I prided myself on saying exactly what teachers wanted me to say. I didn’t know whether this plan of mine would change that, or if it was just a culmination of a long string of unoriginality.
I don’t bother getting dressed- my pajamas are warm and fluffy and should protect my arms and legs from stray thorns and branches. They are an abhorrent shade of flamingo pink, like they were cut from a crazy cat ladies bath rug. But it’s not like anyone is going to see me in them, anyway.
I do slip on my sneakers, soaked through entirely by mud. I take a moment to mourn their once pristine shape before I enact the first stage of my plan.
There’s a screen door leading to the back porch at the end of the hallway. I sneak through the shadows towards it, feeling very much like an action hero. I brush the curtain aside, and slowly slide open the door. I freeze, as it shrieks against the silence.
I listen, but I don’t hear Grandma stir.
Emboldened, I slip silently through the small crack I made, and close the door shut behind me. Quicker this time, to rip off the band-aid. It’s only then, when the summer air hits me, that I realize what I’m doing. Where I’m going.
To meet my dad.
I feel jittery. It’s not cold, but I’m quivering. Henry could have all the answers, or he’ll just be one more adult who abandoned me.
The backyard leads straight into an uphill slope. As soon as I step off the rickety porch, my toes are pointing up towards the sky. I clamber up it, stumbling only once, my pajamas soaking up dew drops on the grass. I grit my teeth, already considering turning back and grabbing proper clothes.
From the top of the hill, you can see the whole roof of Grandmas house. It’s almost camouflaged against this pocket of swamp.
I turn and am faced with the woods.
Cold dread wraps it’s icy fingers around my throat, and it takes me a minute to remember why- I nearly tumble back down the hill, and have just enough sense to stutter forward, preventing that from happening.
Undead infest this forest, and I need to know why. My dad having any answers is a shot in the dark, but it’s one more reason to try and do this.
Get a grip, I tell myself, my nails digging crescents into my palms. This is easy enough. Just take the first step.
I comply. I shake the worry from my mind, like I do cobwebs from my bike helmet, and push onward. Everything looks different, in the dark. The trees twist into weird, half truths of themselves. My feet know where they are going, though, so I let them lead the way.
I don’t see the hill; I feel it. The slow climb upward begins, and I barely realize it until I’m above the tree line. The gravestone is silhouetted against the night sky. All in all, it’s very cinematic.
Lightning bugs dot the hill, like the stars flew over to say hello. There are so many, more than there ever were at home. They are a blizzard of green fire, bathing the hill in an unearthly glow. I can read the gravestones epitaph perfectly well.
I sit, criss cross apple sauce in front of my fathers gravestone. “Hi,” I say, because I feel a proper greeting is in order. “I’m Kimberly. Though you should call me Kim. I’m your daughter.”
I extend my hand, as though there’s a ghost to shake it. Of course, there isn’t- not yet. I drop my arm to my side and incline my head.
“You’re dead. And, I think that kind of sucks. It makes Mom sad, anyway. And Grandma too, probably.” I twiddle my thumbs, “And, me too, I think.”
There’s a shuffling behind me. A hushed voice whispers, “I told you she was crazy.”
I jolt shoots up my spine and I whirl around, “Who’s there?” I demand.
The brush rustles with indecision, before Jasmine and her cronies reveal themselves.
“What the heck are you guys doing here?”
[insert a totally legit explanation here, curtesy of editor me]
“Wow,” I say, “That is a totally legit explanation, thanks a bunch.”
“Back to what you’re doing, witch.” Says Jasmine. Even in the dark, her sneer is prevalent. But there’s something about the way her face glows in the fireflies light. It dawns on me- at possibly the worst time in the history of ever- that Jasmine is very pretty.
I stand up, and position myself firmly in front of the grave, “It’s none of your business what I’m doing. You all should go away before you get yourselves hurt.”
I don’t actually think they’re in any danger- but they’re all clearly at least a little afraid of me-The redhead looks in danger of toppling over from fright- so a little bit of intimidation can’t exactly hurt.
Jasmine narrows her eyes at me, then at the grave. She crosses her arms, and says, “Well? Go on then. Show us.” She glances at her friends, some of whom have already backed partway down the hill, “Show them.”
A chill runs down my spine, “What do you mean?”
“You’re a necromancer, just like your grandmother. You told me so. So-“ she points at the grave, rather petulantly, “Show us!”