I get to go to work with my dad tonight. I imagined this moment every time I watched him disappear behind the large iron gates at the end of our backyard. Friends in school always made fun of me for where I lived and what my family did. Kids would point and whisper the words creepy Adam as I walked through the corridors to class. My dad always told me his job was an honour, bestowed on our family by the town three hundred years ago, and one day it would be my job too.
We lived in an old house, at the edge of the largest graveyard, in our town. As I got older, the monsters I’d imagined lurking on the other side of the big iron gates didn’t seem as scary. Every night I would watch him trundle down the footpath and wait for the clunking of the gate to sets the dogs off, howling at the night sky.
I never understood what he did in the graveyard or why he worked at night. I imagined the monsters being scared of my dad since he always came home with a smile on his face as if he’s been up all night playing games. Lately, he’s been coming home battered and bruised as if he was in a bar fight. I found him one morning nursing a black eye, and when I questioned him on it he joked he had gotten in a fight with a ghost.
I was gripped by nervous apprehension as we walked down the overgrown path to the gate. My dad beamed at me as he put the key in the lock. “I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since I walked through these gates with my dad. Today son, you become a man.”
A layer of mist covered the ground like a blanket keeping the sleeping souls protected from the cold chill in the air. We wandered deep into the eerie darkness of the graveyard. My heart was beating with every step. I tried to hide my nervousness from my dad but screamed like a girl when a dark figure emerged from the shadows. I gasped when the figure stepped into the moonlight and shot me a crooked smile. “Don’t be scared. That’s Allan, the gravedigger.”
The moonlight dimmed behind a passing cloud as we reached another set of gates. “Behind this gate lay the souls of the town’s forgotten children.” My dad pulled out another set of keys and placed them in the gate. “Whatever you hear or see, try not to be frightened.”
An eerie silence filled the air after the gate clunked shut behind us. Tiny unmarked graves littered the small corner of the graveyard. My dad stopped dead in his tracks as the sound of giggling emanated through the air. “Dad, did you hear that.” My dad shot me a mischievous look. “You need to be on your toes with these two rascals.” Suddenly I found myself falling to the floor and hitting the ground with a thump. Two ghostly figures ran past me, laughing as I picked myself up off the cold ground. “That’s the twins Ronnie and Theodore. They’re a mischievous pair. So watch your back with them.”
A rumbling sound came thundering towards me from a large crypt in the centre of the graveyard. A ranched stench washed over me as the sound got closer. “That’s Trevor. Whatever you do, don’t let him sit on you. Do you remember the time the house smelled like someone died for a week?”
I looked at my dad in disbelief. “I’m blowing your mind right,” he said with a smile.” I had a million questions but couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. I was terrified but at the same time amazed. “These children are the remnants of our town’s dark history. A lot of these kids don’t even have names.” A sudden chill ran up my spine. “You mean there’s more of these ghosts.” My father left out a laugh. “There’s a couple more, some you can see, others just walk through like a winter breeze.”
My dad stopped at one of the crypts as I carried on walking. The sweet sound of a girl singing drifted out from behind one of the graves. The heavenly sound led me deeper into the graveyard. A little girl suddenly appeared sitting on the floor with her legs crossed rocking back and forth. She gazed up at me with her mouth opened wide as the heavenly music emanated from deep within her throat. As I got closer, the music suddenly stopped, and sadness filled her eyes. She took to her feet as tears streamed down her face. She opened her mouth wide, and a blood-curdling scream filled the air as she ran at me. I braced myself for the impact, but she went through me like a cold breeze before disappearing into the mist.
I heard my dads’ voice cry out to me from the darkness. “I’m here, dad. I’m alright.” My dad suddenly appeared with a worried look. “I see you met Izabella. I wouldn’t worry about her. She barks louder than she bites.” My dad seemed uneasy as he talked. His eyes scanned the darkness with a concerned look. “I must warn you about something.” A sudden chill shot up my spine as the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. A crackling sound echoed from all corners of the graveyard. “Not all the spirits here are peaceful. Some have taken all the pain of their past lives over to the other side.”
A dark shadow suddenly appeared behind my dad. “We don’t want to play with you anymore,” shouted the voice of a disgruntled child. Suddenly my dad was lifted off his feet by his neck. The dark figure tightened its grip around my dad’s neck. He fumbled in his pocket as he struggled for breath. He pulled a big red ball from his pocket and threw it at me. Throw the ball. You need to play with them.”
I threw the ball, and a rush of air passed through me as my dad fell to the ground. My dad ran for the gate, locking me inside with the ghostly beings. Fear gripped me as I ran to the gate, pleading with my dad to let me out. “I’m getting too old to play with them. I’m not fun no more. Now it’s your turn.” My dad smiled at me as the giggling sounds in the darkness got closer.
“These kids are the forgotten souls. They were alone in life as they are in death, and it’s our family’s job to keep them entertained.”
The red ball I had thrown rolled out from the darkness and landed at my feet. “If we don’t play with them, they’ll get angry. And we can’t allow that to happen again.”