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Oct 13 2012

Saturday Storytime: Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance

Sometimes as a writer, you step back and say, “Wait. What did I just write?” I have to assume that, as both a writer and editor of horror erotica, Carrie Cuinn has the occasional interesting reaction when she does that. There’s not even a tiny sign of self-consciousness in this story, though.

Mrs. Henderson, the poor widow who lived next door, helped Mrs. Herbert to her feet while Mr. Herbert searched for the right words. “Not to be rude, sir, but aren’t you meant to be dead?”

Mr. Liu blinked. “I am dead.”

“Ah, but what I mean to say,” Mr. Herbert countered, “is that aren’t you meant to be buried?”

“I was buried,” Mr. Liu acknowledged.

“Right, yes, of course,” Mr. Herbert replied. “I was there, you know. Fine ceremony. One of the last we had at the old cemetery, before we dug that new one behind the church. It’s just that … I believe that you were meant to stay buried.”

“Dog took his arm,” Mary said again, helpfully.

“Yes, exactly. The dog took my arm,” Mr. Liu said. “I don’t think that’s the sort of thing one should just let stand.”

“That would be hard to ignore,” Mrs. Blackstone, the schoolteacher, said. The crowd murmured, nodding their heads.

“It’s agreed that we understand why you … rose up, as it were,” Mr. Wenzlaff, the village’s mayor said. “Now, in the interest of civic peace, what can we do to get you to go back?”

“Back to being dead?” Mr. Liu asked.

“No, it’s clear that you’re still dead,” Mr. Herbert said, glancing down at Mr. Liu’s rotting clothing and missing arm with a frown, until he caught the dead man looking at him. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“I think they mean for you to go back to your grave, sir,” Mrs. Henderson said quietly. As a young woman whose new husband had gone off to war and not come back, she knew a thing or two about being unwanted in this village.

“You can’t send him back without his arm,” a voice called from the back of the crowd. There was some commotion as the villagers backed away from the speaker, until everyone could clearly see the strange man who’d spoken. His face had rotted away, leaving only a few bits of skin and hair atop his ivory skull. Bare skulls were notoriously hard to identify in those days.

Mrs. Herbert moaned and fainted again, slipping from Mrs. Henderson’s frail arms like a sack of potatoes.

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