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17th April
posted by amber

Spectral Angel

Above the town, on the hill brow, the stone angel used to stand. Wings rampant, brow furrowed, one arm raised as though to strike down damnation upon all and sundry. Yet very few people had ever seen her.

My friend and I had. The first time we saw her, we’d snuck up to the old graveyard; we were nine years old and venturing far beyond the parts of town permitted to us. So as not to be seen going into the graveyard from the prominent front gateway, we came in from the back, from the hillside above.

Immediately, I was attracted to a small stone grave with a cherub atop – the grave of a child.

“Let’s go look at that,” I said to Emily.

“No, I want to see the crypt.” We’d been told about a large family crypt, disused for decades, with broken walls and bones visible through the breaks. It stood like a gothic monument on the other side of the graveyard. I was afraid to look at it, but Emily was bolder.

“Okay, let’s meet at the front gate.” I’d glimpsed the magnificent stone angel there and wanted to see her up close, but was content to leave her for a final treat after we’d explored everything else.

I wandered through the newer part of the graveyard, weathered stones from the early 1900’s, the writing nearly erased by time, barely readable. On Emily’s side, the stones were much older, worn to nubs, sculpted lambs or urns or pedestals now like melted candles, mere suggestions of their former shapes.

When I saw that she’d left the haunted crypt behind, I joined her in the ancient avenues of death. I wasn’t enjoying this as much as I’d thought I would, so I was relieved when she said, “Let’s go see the stone angel, and then leave.”

“Okay,” I answered and we headed toward the front gate.

And found no sign of the angel. Yet we both were certain we’d seen it earlier.

Frightened, we ran out of the graveyard and back down to town, not caring if anyone saw us. And later, when I woke in the middle of the night from a terrible dream, I confessed to my mother where I’d been and what I thought I’d seen.

“It is there,” she told me, which reassured me until she added, “But not everyone can see it. People might tell you that if you see it, you’re going to die.”

Now I was even more terrified, but she went on, “However, I’ve seen it many times, and I’m still alive, so don’t you worry. I’ve heard it was built as a memorial to a woman who was burned as a witch, and that no sooner was it erected than the church officials had it torn down, but women of unusual sensitivity can see it still, if they don’t look at it directly. So I suppose you are going to be a woman of unusual sensitivity, but for now, you’re still a girl and I don’t want you going up there any more, you hear?”

It was not a difficult promise for me to keep.

For two or three years, anyhow.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

The first line of this story came, of course, from Margaret Lawrence’s The Stone Angel, with a nod to an experience my friend, Darlene Dyck, and I had in a graveyard in Wales.

1 Comment

  1. mary bond

    Spooky little story – nice treatment of a familiar first line. Time is ticking off on your blog now. What a good job you are doing.

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