"Songs of the Dead" - Christine Chang

Joelle didn’t know how long she had been walking. This was a new area of the cemetery she hadn’t explored yet, and it seemed like there was more land than she had anticipated. Even though the sky was overcast, there was enough light for her to make it home in time for dinner.

A few buildings loomed ahead, still shrouded in the fog. Gravestones appeared more and more weathered until all Joelle could see were massive lumps of rock that might have been magnificent structures many years ago. She paused in front of a statue and looked at its face. The details were difficult to see, but the impression of an angel standing guard and overseeing the field was still there.

Joelle shivered and moved on. The buildings were closer now, and reminded her of the museums in the city, all grand and aged. But the structures in front of her looked older, and a little forbidding. Much like a cross between a cathedral and a castle — the carvings around the windows and gargoyles certainly suggested as much.

The fog hadn’t dissipated, and continued to swirl around her feet, covering the ground from view. A slight breeze blew and the sound of leaves swishing could be heard, even though the trees around the area were dead and dried from neglect. No sign of wildlife could be found; Joelle noted with amusement that all that the picture needed was a few crows here and there.

A loud creak sounded above her head and she jumped, looking up. Black eyes stared back at, and the crow began to preen itself, unconcerned with her. Giving a shaky laugh, Joelle moved on, more cautious of her surroundings now. Even with the light wind, the fog refused to budge from the ground, moving with the wind instead to make billowing pillars that put a haze against the background.

As Joelle walked, a small light floated in front of her, within arms reach. She froze in place. Her mind reasoned that it was probably a natural phenomenon, but a small corner of her brain screamed at her to go home, go home, it was late anyways, just go home oh my god –

It stopped in front of her, resting just in front of her chest, bobbing up and down slightly. And then disappeared. Joelle gave a sigh of relief and looked around, before turning the way she came and walked back. Thankfully, the sun hadn’t set yet, but the gray skies were growing dimmer and the fog seemed to increase. Unaware, she picked up her pace and focused on leaving the cemetery.

The back of her neck prickled all the way, as though dozens of sad faces were gazing at her retreating self. Some other day, she’ll return and explore.

Some day.

Christine answers to many things, due to the many nicknames and proper names she has collected in the past. She’s a freshman and a bit new at this “having things published thing.” She lives off of hot chocolate and obsesses over jackets, suits, and coats.