The dead don’t moan.
Dirt-packed and clod-mouthed, they stare silent at earthen skies.
Rain gutters down the slate tiles and the stained-glass windows. It bubbles down into the drain gratings, down through the salt-leached soil. down amongst the dead, where it sits brackish black and silent in the cheapening pine boxes.
Yew roots curl around the sleeping dead, whose wayward ivory pates are held soft in wooden elbow crooks and bark fingers. The shifts and shivers of the topmost branches do not trouble the subterranean silence.
Above the loam horizon, sounds abound. The wind keens around the gable ends in the village, the barns and the byres. It sends soil skittering across the gravel in the little graveyard. It threads through the slats in the church tower and sings against the brass bell, nudging it soft in the bat-fluttered darkness.
Further down from the church, the wind blows sea foam into the moonlit sand, sand into the tufted dunes, the threads of marram grass onto the hillocked moorland. Here, uninhibited by consecration, the dead lie less easy. The sliding streams and the fly-skated peat pools do not make for comfortable resting places, particularly when temptation lies at hand.
On nights such as these, when bells sound unrung and soil and sand roam unchecked, those who have not had the luxury of hymns sung and of psalms spoken look to better their lot. This is the realm of the lost, the murdered, the bastards and the broken.
In the hours before dawn, those on the periphery of the village begin to stir. A crofter, cruise lamp burning low against the whistling dark. A fisherman, pulling on boots and thinking of boats tugging on ropes in the bay. They think that amongst the bogs and the hills they are safe, far enough away from the village to avoid drunkards and thieves. Amongst the scattered homesteads there are no locked doors.
They think that silence is their friend, that any travellers will be heard long before they are seen.
They have forgotten that, soil-streaked and peat-mouthed, the dead don’t moan.
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, Writer’s Egg, Idle Ink, The Wild Word, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0