This is an extract from a short story I’ve thrown together for Halloween. It’s inspired by Hackney Park – a park built over an old graveyard. The graves were dug up and re-buried circa 1894. There are headstones lined up against the wall, dating back to the 1700’s. They’re all clumped together in piles. Even though it’s been well over a 100 years… I thought it slightly disrespectful. I stood by the railings, watching everyone run around and play in the park, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they could be running over someone’s grave! Thus…this story quickly wove in my mind.
She was there every Tuesday.
Like clockwork he’d jog down the narrow path, winding around the church at precisely five past two in the afternoon. There she was. Standing beside the railings overlooking the park, watching the dogs and toddlers chase each other around the open space, revelling in their short window of freedom.
It was a late October afternoon when Tim decided to pluck up the courage to talk to her. He changed route – instead of carrying on down the narrow path – he diverted, jogging toward the park. Toward her.
His trainers crunched on the papery leaves, the air was thick with moisture – and a slight whiff of dog shit.
He began to catch up to her, slowing down his momentum. Tim swallowed, his mouth run dry. She stood beside the railings, her hands dug deep into the pockets of her duffel coat. A woollen cap was pulled over her head, covering her dark brown strands which hung limp against her shoulders.
She didn’t even glance at him. Tim inched toward her, one hand on the railing. He bent his leg back, pretending to stretch. His eyes kept sidling toward her, hoping she’d at least throw…some kind of acknowledgment his way.
Should he say something to her? But what?
Nice weather? That was a lie. Dark clouds loomed over head, carrying a strong promise of rain.
What classified as a good ice breaker these days? Maybe – ‘hi, I see you here a lot.’
No. No way. Too stalkery.
Tim surveyed his attire. Perhaps it was the spandex that warned her off. Was he bulging in all the wrong places?
“I wish they’d stop running over my mother.” She said, her voice lined with despair.
Tim’s head snapped toward her.
“What – I’m sorry?”
“Those idiots… they’re running over my mother.” She huffed, her eyes still not meeting his. “I wish they’d stop. Or I shall have to make them.”
Wide eyed, Tim looked at the children and dogs racing around the park.
“I – I don’t think they’re running over your mother.” Tim said, backing away slightly. Why did he have to drop himself into these situations?
“No they are!” She responded, her tone fierce. She glared at her hands – the flicked her head up toward him.
“My mother is buried under the park.” She said, her voice now gentle. Her cheek twitched into a smile.
Tim gaped at her. “Sorry? Your mother is buried under the park?” Oh God, who was this woman? Is this some kind of murder confession he was witnessing? Why – why did he have to drag himself into this mess?
He turned his attention back to the park, to the people, running through the grass without a care in the world… probably unaware that they were running over someone’s grave.
“Is there a body under there?” He asked, his hand snaking into his pocket, grasping the cool plastic of his phone. Should he need to emergency dial 999, the comforting opportunity was always there.
Should he hit the record button? No. He was way too amateur for this. He wasn’t some undercover detective, he was an architect for God’s sake. A junior one at that.
The woman turned to him, finally meeting his eyes. A shiver dripped down his spine. They weren’t warm and inviting like he’d anticipated. They were grey, cold and lifeless.
“Yes.” She replied, calm. “There are several bodies buried under that ground.” She pointed, a skinny finger poking through the railings. “So many people buried under there. So many graves being walked over. Such a shame. We should do something about it.”
“We?” Tim stared at her, “I don’t think I have much to contribute.” He started to turn away, hoping to run as far away as possible, preferably out of London.
She grabbed his arm.
“No you can’t leave!” She said, her grey eyes frantic. “You have to help me!”
“Help you with what?” Tim tried to shrug his arm out of her grasp but she clung on hard.
“Help me dig up the people.”
“You – you want to dig them up?” He echoed, his thumb stabbing the emergency dial.
She nodded. “Meet me back here tonight. After the park has closed. Then you’ll see I’m not crazy. You’ll see.”
“I’ll see what?”
She smiled, a chilling smirk. “You have to wait and see.”