Death’s Apprentice – Part Ten

So, this is part ten of my writing experiment. I’m not planning this story at all so I’m really outside of my comfort zone being a plotter. I’m enjoying the ride though. But, please be warned, as I’m writing this as I’m going along, there will be mistakes and plot holes. Lots of them! 🙂

Death’s Apprentice – Part Ten

Azrail vaulted from his seat at the front of the carriage onto the wet ground with a speed and grace that shouldn’t have been possible for a man of his age. He disappeared to the front of the horses as Joe carefully jumped from his seat. He landed on the floor but felt unsteady, his legs feeling like jelly, his stomach doing cartwheels from the speed of the journey. He looked up as Azrail came to stand in front of him. He grabbed the small lamp, lit by a single candle, from its hook at the front of the carriage. His fingers reminded Joe of old brittle branches that looked as if they’d snap if he held anything heavier. He spun on his heels and swept over to the large gates. Joe could see Azrail’s grey wispy hair peeping out from under his top hat.

He was sure Azrail had just snapped his fingers and the padlock had willingly fallen to the floor without being touched. The chain slithered from around the gate like a snake and the gates swung open with a loud creak.

He turned to Joe and said, ‘Come on then,’ before he turned and strode off into the darkness of the cemetery.

Shit, thought Joe. He was used to being out and alone at this time. His mum didn’t give a toss about where he was as long as he wasn’t under her feet but in a cemetery? Alone? With a strange guy, he’d only just met. And when Joe had just imagined that the gates had opened with a snap of Azrail’s fingers.

But a deal was a deal. And no one was going to say Joe Bones ever reneged on a deal.

He put his hands in his hoodie pockets to disguise the fact that they were shaking ever so slightly. If you’d asked Joe at that very moment Joe wouldn’t have ever told you that he was scared. Joe never admitted to being scared, He’d learned not to admit to anything, good or bad. Being stripped down to your boxer shorts at the age of eight by your stepdad and being made to stand there in the junk-strewn garden whilst being bombarded with cold water because you admitted to being scared kind of made him not admit to anything anymore. But, let me tell you, Joe was very scared as he stepped over the threshold and into Angel Gate Cemetery.

Azrail had been swallowed up by the darkness. All Joe could see was a small pinprick of light that bobbed up and down. With no other ideas, Joe followed the light into the depths of the cemetery.

A crow called from somewhere in the darkness making Joe jump. The branches of the oak trees that lined the small road into the cemetery bristled as he passed. Joe pulled at the collar of his hoodie. The long limbs of the trees reached out over the top of his head making him feel claustrophobic. He could just make out the faces of angels peering at him through the darkness but they didn’t feel like guardians to him at that moment, more like malevolent beings waiting for him to trip up.

He continued down the road, following the swaying spot of light. What if it wasn’t Azrail at all? What if it was one of those Will-O’-The-Wisp things that his Nana was always going on about and it was luring him to his death?

His heart began to pound in his chest like a drum. Joe really wished Lola was there.

‘Finally,’ said Azrail, stepping out of the darkness, illuminating the inky blackness with his candle lamp. He was standing in front of a large marble tomb that reminded Joe of a Roman temple. It was the size of a large garage with a huge triangular pediment astride two ornate pillars. Ivy crawled across its walls and across his roof. There was a strong gust of wind that shook the oak tree neck to it, making its gnarly limb hit the roof of the tomb like it was playing a drum.

Joe clutched at his chest. Azrail’s voice made him jump. Joe noticed that the light he’d been following was still moving away from him in the distance.

‘Take this,’ said Azrail, grabbing a spade from where it leant up against the front of the tomb.

Joe did as he was told. The wood was rough in his hands.

‘A spade, but…?’

‘Well done, you know what a spade is,’ replied Azrail shaking his head.

‘I mean,’ said Joe, aware that his anxiety was giving away to his pride and anger, ‘I know what a spade is -‘

‘Good, I’m glad you do. You wouldn’t last long in this job -‘

‘I mean,’ said Joe a little louder, ‘why do I need a spade, in a cemetery, at night? Isn’t that illegal? To dig in a cemetery?’

Azrail shook his head. ‘Over there, the anonymous grave in front of Sissy Simmons, the one with the wooden cross,’ he said with a point of his crooked finger, ‘dig.’

‘You want me,’ said Joe, his voice becoming awkwardly high, ‘to dig up someone’s grave?’

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Death’s Apprentice – Part Three

I’d got no cash on me, so I ran down to the cash point on the corner of Archer’s road, leaving Lola at the vets in case I “did one” without paying. I punched my pin number into the machine and groaned as it flashed back that I was now only five pound off my agreed overdraft limit. I clicked on the thirty-pound button and waited for the machine to vomit out my cash. I needed a job, and quick, especially now that I’d been kicked out of school. And I needed to get Lola out of that shit hole.

Somehow.

Easier said than done when you had the surname Bones and the shithead for your stepdad.

I stuffed the money in my pocket and turned to go back to the vets just as the sky gave up its load again. Shit. I began to walk down the street as bus trundled past, its wheels hit a pot hole and sent a shower of filthy water all over me.

‘For fuck’s sake!’ I said, jumping to the side as the water cascaded over me. I was red hot inside, boiling anger simmering in my belly. Water had collected in a dip on the path. I aimed a kick at it and water shot into the air and splattered on the window of Crow’s Funeral Home. There was a small sign sellotaped to the inside of the glass which read:

Help wanted, hours variable, apply within.

Maybe God did exist after all.

I had to get Lola first. Couldn’t take the chance of the vet reporting us; that would mean a good kicking for Lola if the RSPCA came round and talked to shithead. He’d probably go for Mom too now that he knew I’d fight back.

I ran down the street as quickly as I could, handed the money over to the receptionist and waited for the printer to eventually churn out the receipt. And then waited for the vet to bring Lola out. Her tail started to wag as soon as she saw me. I thought it might fall off. She looked brighter now, but even so, the vet seemed reluctant to give her back. His hand hovered mid-air, holding her lead tightly.

‘Joe.’

‘Yes?’

‘A dog isn’t a toy. They’re not playthings to take our frustrations out of, do you understand?’

I stared into his blue eyes. My heart ripped in my chest. Tears threatened to spill like the rain outside.

‘I would never hurt her,’ I said, ‘she’s the only thing that’s ever shown me love.’ I grabbed the lead from his hand and ran out of the door before I betrayed myself any more. Real men don’t talk. Real men don’t feel.