THE PAUPERS GRAVEYARD
It is the sort of noise that wakes us in the dead of night. A vague sound from somewhere within the house that sets the heart racing. We lie in the dark, alert and waiting for it to come again, panic is barely contained, while seconds tick by like hours, and beads of perspiration break out all over our body.
Gathering strength, we reach for the bedside lamp and, once its comforting yellow glows dispels the dark, it is safe enough to rise and move from room to room, checking locks and window fastenings. Only when closets and under the bed have been searched, to rule out the presence of a knife-welding maniac or sharp-toothed monster, does our heartbeat begin to regulate. Finally, silently, cursing the night and our own stupid fears, we climb under the warm covers again and turn off the lamp. With a little luck we will soon fall back to sleep, and by morning, the nightmare will be over, forgotten.
Timmy woke to such a sound. At first he thought someone had called his name and he lay in the dark, waiting. In days gone by, it would have sent him scurrying to his mother for comfort. Strangely, though, his heart was not pounding as he imagined it should be. It did not seem to be beating at all. There were no beads of sweat on his brow. He was cold, freezing cold. He should have been afraid, and yet he was not.
It was only when the sound came again, a child’s voice crying out in terror, that he became aware of the weight on his chest, and the terrible taste in his mouth. He tried to identify the dry powder that coated his lips, but his tongue refused to move. It felt alien and heavy, and then he realised that it too was weighed down by the same substance. Still he didn’t panic, didn’t try to take what could have been deep suffocating breaths. Instead, he quietly, accepted that he was lying there covered by the earth.