Chapter Sixteen

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The moon hangs in the sky, its milky-glow breaking through the oppressive darkness of the graveyard

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The moon hangs in the sky, its milky-glow breaking through the oppressive darkness of the graveyard. I walk through slowly, the dew-coated grass crunching under my boots. I'd never walked through a graveyard at night before. Outside of a Stephen King novel - who had? Fog drifts above the crumbling graves, the air biting and damp. My skin prickles. All I could smell was crushed grass, if underneath there was a hint of something acrid, something rotten, I try to ignore it.

I remember where Dad's grave is even though I hadn't been here for years. Dad had died nearly four years ago, and even then he was more of a memory than a person. I'd still been in primary school when he was sent to prison. Mum adored him, even if she hated what he'd done and how it tore our lives apart.

I see his name faintly through the blackness, the moonlight and the faint glow of my torch app enough to drag the carved letters from the stone. As I approach, I notice the neatness of the grave and realise Mum had been visiting. When I reach his stone I stand before it, suddenly frozen as I read the words, torn between anger and engulfing sadness. A lump grows in my throat, and swallowing gets hard. I'm breathing so fast as I strain to hold it all back.

I drop my bag to the ground, and a sudden flush of purposefulness pulls me out of the vortex of feeling. My small array of objects slips onto the grass, the dew soaking into the parchment fabric. I run the back of my hand across my face and feel the gritty tears wiped across my skin. I remember what Sophie had done, so I create the circle and place the objects in the centre.

"You don't need that, baby."

I stop what I'm doing and freeze. The whisper is coming from over my shoulder. I don't want to stand up; I don't want to see. Finally, I drag myself off the ground and turn. Standing there, leaning against his own grave like it's the most natural thing in the world is my dad. He smiles at me, his dark blue eyes crinkling in the corners.

He looks like any other person, just a little hazy around the edges. Not quite solid. If I focus hard, I can see row after row of graves behind him, the silvery stones faintly visible through his torso.

"Hi Dad," I whisper. And he makes this breathy sound, like a sob. He rubs his hand over his face, and lifts his hat. The same tweed trilby I always remember him wearing. He runs his hand through his pale wavy hair, before dropping the hat back on his head.

"I hoped I'd see you one day. Maybe not like this but... you look so much like your mother. You're beautiful, baby."

I look down at the ground, at my half-formed circle. The bloodstone in my palm remains dull, whatever was happening here, my ritual circle had done nothing to call him.

"Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you warn me?" My words crack, as does Dad's face. "Do you know how I found out? I brought someone back, Dad. I turned someone into a zombie."

I stare awkwardly at my feet and fold my arms tightly across my chest. I don't know what to do with myself. Even if I wanted to, I can't hug him. And I'm not sure I want to.

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