Monday, December 31, 2012

Pushing Up Daisies - Part Two

Let's not even talk about how late and utterly crappy this is (it's not edited so don't kill me for mistakes)

It's still 2012 here so hey at least it's still in the same year.

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Thalia lifted her eyes. A middle aged woman floated about three feet above her head. She was a pearly, swirling white color. Beatrice flashed Thalia a wicked grin.

“Hello dearie. You called?”

“I...” Thalia blinked. “I guess I did.”

“Of course you did. Of course. You know, it's been a long time since anyone's called me. I've missed scaring the pants off of anyone who says my name. It's so very entertaining. And you!” Beatrice pointed wildly at Thalia, grinning. “Your reaction, it was...it...” She faltered. “...Was unexpected.”

Thalia smiled comfortingly. “Performance issues. You're not the first ghost I've met, Trix.”

“Really? That's disappointing.”

“It happens.” Thalia shrugged.

“Yes...yes, I suppose it does.” Beatrice floated closer and narrowed her eyes. Thalia's nose filled with the smell of dust, mud, and old-lady perfume. “Say, are you the young lass who's been throwing her mind about the graveyard all day?”

Instead of answering, Thalia put her hands on her hips raised her eyebrows. “'Young lass'?”

“Well, how old are you?”

“Hmm...” Thalia began humming sarcastically and ticking off fingers. “One, two, five...eighty six,” she deadpanned, dropping her hands.

Beatrice was unfazed. “Ah, to be so young again...”

“How old are you?”

“Don't you know better than to ask a lady's age?”

“No,” Thalia chirped, then laughed.

Beatrice harrumphed and floated down a little, crossing her arms. “Well, in my day, all the young lasses would be properly trained in the art of being proper. And they would all know how rude it is to ask a lady's age. Now, what do you need help with?”

Thalia opened her mouth to laugh again, then a squeaking noise came out and she closed her mouth. She blinked. Once. Twice. Three times. “What?”

“You asked for help when you called me. What do you need help with?” Beatrice explained patiently.

Thalia looked down at Beatrice's moss-covered grave, thinking carefully. Ghost were never completely trustworthy. That was just ghost basics. There was a reason that the dead didn't leave, and because they couldn't do much themselves, they got the living to do it for them.

“I need...” Thalia said slowly, still uncertain if she should trust Beatrice, “A way into the restricted sections of the graveyard.”

There was a long silence as Beatrice stared blankly at Thalia.

Eventually, she spoke. “I thought you were cleverer than that, lass.” She shook her head slowly. “You're a mind reader. Use that mind of yours.”

With that, Beatrice floated back down into her grave, waving a cheerful goodbye.

Thalia's mouth hung open.

“God damn it.”


The man who ran the cemetery stood at the window of his office. The dull, gray haze of rain hung over the graveyard. He didn't like this weather. It made the graveyard more foreboding than it already was. The mist hung low to the ground, and when you walked along the twisting, cracked-stone paths of the cemetery, it seemed to go on forever. The dead became more agitated. If you looked close enough, you could see their shapes floating aimlessly through the headstones, could hear the scratching on the lids of coffins. It was October Twentieth. This is was not a season for the living.

It was the time of the dead.


The monster Fredrick whose name was not actually Fredrick stopped in his tracks. He tilted his head, slowly. There was something different in the air. Something smelled off. There wasn't a scent of the freshly buried overlaying the smell of rot, like there usually was in his home of three months. That worried Fredrick. It worried him very much. And monsters do not worry easily.

He was not unused to there not being new burials for a few days. He would just go somewhere else to get a meal, the round trip taking about two weeks, and by the time he got back, more people would have been buried. And he would eat them. It was a perfect system.

But there were no new burials now. No freshly dead meat for Fredrick to eat. He shifted from massive foot to massive foot, uneasily. He sniffed the air again. Living people. Rotting dead. Mud. And something else...


The graveyard was, more or less, a very large circle. The front of this circle was barred by a wrought-iron gate and a large fence. This fence then trailed off into the distance and eventually stopped, but the cemetery continued to sprawl on through the fields and hills and forests for acres. It was a very large cemetery, but it had not always been.

Originally, when the town was first settled, they hadn't buried their dead. It was during a plague, and everyone who died was burned, in large, heaping piles of people who were no longer people, were just nameless spreaders of disease. When the epidemic finally died down, the town's population had decreased by three quarters, and so the graveyard was small because there weren't many people to bury, but buried they were. Nobody knew who was buried there anymore, though. Records were not kept and the near-constant rain and wind had long ago weathered away the names.

It was this original graveyard and all the other graves over two hundred fifty years old that were the restricted section. It was surrounded by a high stone wall that looped around the hill that the section was on. It was a good-sized section, from the outside. Nobody knew what it was like on the inside, no, not even the man who ran the cemetery.. The only people who could be granted access were those who could prove their lineage to someone buried in there, which was nigh impossible. And so no one was allowed in. And, more importantly, no one was allowed out.


The stone wall was slick with rain, and the edges of the stones cut into Thalia's palms. She was not good at climbing rock walls. Never had been. But it seemed to be the only option, seeing at the gate to the restricted section was guarded by an intimidating looking man in a wife-beater (the guard hadn't been there before. Thalia suspected that the man who ran the cemetery had put him there after their conversation three days ago. He was also refusing to meet with her). She needed to do this as quietly as possible. So up and over she went.

The rain was more a mist than rain at this point, but it was chilly and got in your eyes. Thalia's arms shook as she tried to haul herself up the wall. Her boots scrabbled at the slick wall and the wind bit at her face. When she tried to reach for another handhold, her fingers slipped and slid and lost their grip. Thalia shrieked in surprise as she tumbled to the ground that was all of two feet below her. Then she rolled over onto her face and groaned.

The next second, she jackknifed to her feet.

Thalia spun around, stormy eyes darting everywhere. The mud underneath her slipped and gave way, and she fell to her knees. Thalia grunted but didn't bother getting up again. She let her mind slide away from the bubble she'd been keeping it in, threading out through the trees and gravestones, feeling for that conscience again. She didn't panic this time when she found it, even though it felt strange, some delicate mix of animal and human. She'd felt it before.

“March.”

The wind whispered around her, and that was all.

She thought it this time, projecting into the other mind. 'March.'

A small, gray Maine Coon cat padded out of the woods. It wore a disgruntled look on its face as it tiptoed lightly through the mud. As it neared, its skin rippled and shimmered, and then March Pathway was standing there, frying pan and all.

March reached a hand down and pulled Thalia to her feet. Her scarlet hair blazed brightly and out of place against the gloom of the cemetery. The two looked at each other for a long time.

“You look older,” March said, finally.

Thalia laughed awkwardly, trying to break the tension. “Rude! Not all of us can look any age we want whenever we want, shape shifter!”

For probably the first time since Thalia had known her, March didn't smile at that joke.

“You age slowly, Thalia, even for a mage. It's been, what, twenty, twenty-five years since I've noticed that you aged? And now I don't see you for a year and a half, and you look older.”

There was a question hidden underneath the last sentence. Thalia heard it quietly in her mind.

'What the hell happened?'

She pursed her lips and looked away – away from the probing eyes of her friend, away from the cemetery, away from the black mud that was slowly sucking her deeper into the earth. The events of the past year flowed back out of the deep cracks of her memory, and March saw her visibly stiffen.

“That's not something I can answer now.”

“Thal-”

Not now, March.” Thalia's eyes blazed furiously. March blinked and opened her mouth to speak, then pressed her lips together in a tight line.

“Fine.”

Thalia nodded. “Okay.”

March let out a long breath and gazed around them. “Cheery place you've found here. Mind telling me what you were doing climbing up that wall?”

“Hmm?” Thalia tilted her head quizzically. “Oh, I was trying to climb over.”

“You always could have gone through the gate, though,” March said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, but there's a guy over there. You know how I am in social situations.”

“Let me guess,” March said with a laugh, “you're doing something you're not supposed to be.”

Thalia smirked. “You know it.”

March looked to the side, and the laughter died on her lips. “Well, I hate to break it to you, but you kind of blew your cover when you called a cat out of the woods who turned into a freaking person.”

Thalia followed her gaze to the face of the young undertaker-in-training who was staring at them in shock, mouth unhinged, eyes blown wide. “Oh snaps.”

The boy, realizing he'd been caught, snapped out of his stupor and let out a little shriek, before taking off down the graveyard path, towards the gate and the guard. Thalia sprang into motion, but March was quicker. Something large and fast whizzed by her face, and she skidded to a halt, watching. There was a flurry of red feathers and then there was the undertaker, curled up on the ground, with a big, angry, crimson bird of prey pecking on his head.

Thalia nearly fell over laughing. March lifted her feathered head for a moment, blue eyes flashing proudly, before she returned to slowly pecking her victim to death. Still chortling, Thalia made her way over, and suddenly she recognized the pained face of the boy on the ground. She'd met him once before.

“Hi Billy,” she said, kneeling down next to him. Billy looked up at her in panic, whimpering. He was about a foot taller than she was and twice her girth, dressed in clothes that were way too big for him. They were supposed to be fashionable and he probably thought that they made him look cool, but they didn't. Poor kid. He had a gentle, soft face that looked utterly terrified. March gave him an extra hard peck. He winced.

“B-beggin' your pardon, miss,” he stammered out, “but how did your friend do that? Turnin' into a bird, an' all.”

“My friend is a very talented lady when it comes to such things. But you know what else she's talented in?”

Billy shook his head as best he could, eyes wide and terrified.

She smiled. “Pecking people until they bleed, Billy. Now, that can be avoided. Just tell me where you were dashing off too, and why you were spying on us, okay?”

Billy gulped. “You must believe me, miss, truly I meant no harm. I'm...I'm on your side, miss, you know! I was goin' to distract the guard, miss, so that you'd have an easier time of gettin' in! I'm tellin' you the truth!”

The lie screamed out so loudly from his mind that it tasted bitter in Thalia's mouth.

“Now Billy, I think we're a bit past trying to fool each other at this point.”

“I'm not tryin' to fool you!”

The smile dropped from her face and her eyes turned to steel. “I'm a tolerant girl, Billy, but I don't abide liars. I suggest you stop digging your own grave.”

Billy stared up at her, eyes wide. To stress the point, March pecked him in the ear violently. Satisfied, Thalia continued.

“Now, kid, you listen to me. Tell me were you were going and why you were here, and then answer any other questions I have, got it?”

“What's the second option? I didn't hear one.” She was impressed with his audacity.

“You didn't hear one because there isn't one.” Thalia rocked back onto the toes of her feet, balancing, and spread her hands with a dramatic flourish. “I have all the time in the world, Billy, and you don't. You have other places to be, and I don't. Now, let's start again. Where were you going?”

There was a pause as Billy and Thalia stared each other down. She could have easily pluck the answers from his brain, but she had a strange respect for him, so she didn't. More importantly, though, if he became scared enough to give the answers willingly, then he'd be less likely to tell anyone about this encounter. But even if she didn't show it, Thalia felt embarrassed that she had originally thought Billy would be intimidated so easily into giving her information. He was scared, yes, but he was loyal to his masters, and loyalty goes far.

But so does the stubbornness of Thalia Jane. The minutes slowly ticked by, and eventually the defiance drained from Billy's face.

“I was goin' to tell the guard that you were here, miss.”

“Why?”

“Because those were my orders if I saw you 'round here.”

Thalia tilted her head. “Why were you here? Surely you have better things to do with your time than stand around in the woods?”

“Because I was ordered to keep watch an' make sure that you weren't coming 'round here.”

“Why?” She tilted her head the other way.

“Dunno, miss, and that's the truth.” Billy looked at her imploringly. It was quite the feat, considering that he was still huddled on the ground with a large scarlet bird perched on his head. “It really is, this time. It ain't my place to question orders, y'know.”

Thalia nodded agreeably. He was, indeed, telling her the truth. She asked, “Who gave you those orders?”

“Mr. Winston did, miss.”

Thalia opened her mouth, then closed it. She squared her jaw. Sucked in her lips. Narrowed her eyes. Looked to the side. Looked back at Billy. Released her lips with a popping sound. Bit her tongue. Looked away and back again. Pursed her lips. Tilted her head again. Then, finally, she said, “Who?”

Billy looked at her in disbelief, raising an eyebrow. Even March, who was currently a bird, rolled her eyes, as if to say, Wow Thalia. Wow. Really dropped the ball on that one. In fact, that was precisely what she was saying. In her mind though, of course, not out loud, because she was still a bird and everyone knows that birds don't talk, that would just be weird. Thalia heard her though and pointed a finger accusingly.

“You,” she snarled, “shut up. You-” here she pointed at Billy, who had the sense to shrink back a little “-tell me who Mr. Winston is. And stop looking at me like I'm dumb, because I'm not. I'm just not good with names, is all.”

March gave a sound that very much could have been considered a snort, except that she was a bird. Thalia gave her a warning look and then turned her attention back to Billy, who started blubbering.

“N-n-no offense meant by it, m-miss, honestly, I didn't mean nothin' by it. It was just surp-p-prisin is all', y'know, I m-mean, I thought you'd know, since you've been here a-a-a while, an' all. But, ah, m-Mr. Winston is the headman here at the cemetery, y-y'know. He's the one w-who gave you the job.”

“So he does have a name,” she muttered to herself. Billy and March exchanged a look. She snapped back to attention. “I mean, yes, of course. And Billy, my friend, he may have given me the job but he is in no way helping me complete the job. It's actually all starting to make sense. Now, Billy, do you want to know why you were sent to spy on me?”

There was a moment of silence as Billy considered this. He was a well trained pet, and he was very loyal, and yet...

“Yes miss, I do.”

“Do you promise not to bolt off if my friend lets you up? Don't bother lying to me, because I'll know.”

“Yes miss, I know. I'll stay right here.”

“Promise?”

“Promise, miss.”

“You know that we'll beat you up if you don't, right?”

“Yes miss, I know.”

“Okay, good, just making sure.” Thalia nodded to March. “Let the kid up.”

After administering one last peck, March fluttered up and then there was no longer a bird there, just another girl crouching by Thalia's side, smiling triumphantly. As Billy sat up he moved as though pushing his way through molasses, curled in on himself slightly so that he'd be ready for anything they might throw at him. By the time he had sat all the way up, March had shifted through at least five different kinds of birds back into a human, and Thalia was staring slightly off from them, frowning.

Something was trying to get into her head. Thalia knew the sensation. Normally she was on the other end of it, pulling at the unwilling minds of stubborn people, but she'd fought with other mind readers and Sensitives before, battles that were much less flashy but much more dangerous than the usual guns-and-explosions fanfare. It was a balancing act – break your opponents mind while protecting your own. Strike with everything you have but still keep everything protected. Don't stop attacking and defending even for a moment. If you do, you're as good as dead. Even the strongest thoughts can be penetrated with a well placed blow.

Luckily, this pull wasn't as strong as that. Still, Thalia drew her mind in close and brought out her mental defenses, just in case.

March nudged her with her shoulder. Thalia's eyes flickered back to them for an instant.

She rubbed her hands together. "Right, so. Mr Winston gives me a job. Well, only technically does he give it to me; I actually sort of intimidate him into it. That probably doesn't bode well with him. So, even though he knows I'm qualified for said job and know what I'm doing, he's going to be bitter about it, really bitter, so much so that even though he wants the job done, he starts to want even more to get rid of me. But he doesn't know how, because I am clever and dangerous and he knows that if he himself confronts me he'll get his ass kicked. So when I asked for access to the restricted section of the graveyard, I unwittingly gave him the perfect opening."

She said all of this very quietly and very quickly. Even though she was supposed to be talking to March and Billy, they had to strain their ears and lean closer just to catch the occasional whispered word. But when Thalia began nearing the end of her monologue, her voice began to rise in volume and pitch. March wrenched back, startled, but Billy's eyes grew wide and he leaned ever closer.

"How so, miss?"

"What?" Thalia jerked around and blinked at him owlishly, momentarily stunned from being pulled out of her thoughts. A blush began to crawl across her face as she realized she had been ignoring her audience.

You said you gave Mr. Winston the perfect opportunity to get rid of you,” Billy said slowly, as if talking to a very young child. “How?”

Because then he could deny me access to the restricted section, and I'd try to break in anyway, and then he could arrest me or have his guards beat me to hell or something like that.” She shrugged. “Easy plan to figure out, once you get some details.”

Billy bit his lip nervously. March caught the motion.

Spit it out.”

He stared at her. “What?”

What ever you're going to say, kid,” March said, “you better flipping say it now, or I'm going to bring down the wrath of the tumblr fandoms on you.”

Truly understanding this threat was not something that Billy was capable of, but he was smart enough to take seriously any threat against his person that the scary bird lady made. “It's just that, misses, and pardon me, but I don't really think you are really understandin' what's actually, y'know, livin' in the restricted section, is all. I'm thinkin' that Mr. Winston might be tryin' to protect you, really, if you catch my meanin'.”

Thalia shook her head. “Not at all. Stop blathering, kid, it's unattractive.”

Wait.” March held up a hand. “While I agree about the unattractiveness of it all, he did say something interesting.”

What'd the kid say?”

Billy was getting really tired of being referred to as 'kid.' He was fairly certain that he was older than these girls. They both looked fairly young, while he was in his early twenties. They needed to respect their elders more.

March looked him up and down slowly, judging, before turning back to Thalia. “He said...he said that there was something living in there.”

The pull at Thalia's mind grew stronger. Oh.

Oh,” she said out loud. Billy and March both looked at her, Billy in confusion, March in alertness.

Thalia sprung to her feet, muscles tense. “March.” She said it too loudly, too high, voice cracking halfway through the word. “March, get back to the Manor. Take Billy with you. Get...get someone. Apprehend Mr. Winston. Find out everything he knows. Everything. Find out all Billy knows too. If I'm not back in three days, come after me. I'll be in the restricted section.”

What? Hell no!” March jumped up, eyes flashing. She pointed wildly at her friend. “I'm not running away, Thalia Jane Circe!”

That name. Billy's eyes widened and his mouth fell open. He knew that name.

March kept shouting. “I'm going with you, you got that? Do you even know what you're facing?”

No! And that's why –”

Exactly! Neither do I! It might be able to kill you, Thalia. You'll need my help.” March's nostrils flared.

Thalia had gone pale. Her arms were shaking. There was a cataclysm in her head, something wild and volatile running rampant in her mind. There were no words, but it was calling her. Just her. She had to do this alone.

Dammit, March! I don't have time to argue with you. Just...just do what I asked, please!”

March opened her mouth to shout something back, but Thalia was gone, dashing down the gentle slope of the graveyard hill. She considered running after her, giving her a piece of her mind and tagging along on something that was clearly going to end up being very dangerous. But then March remembered the expression on Thalia's face – fear, but the kind of fear that was mixed so strongly with anger and determination that it wasn't even really fear anymore. March sighed. Three days be damned. She was getting the gang, and then they'd storm this place.

But first things first. She whirled around and punched Billy as hard as she could across the face.


Thalia slowed to a walk as she came up to the guard. He caught sight of her and grinned. “Well, well, if it isn't our little renegade.”

She rolled her eyes at the attempt to sound intimidating. “Oh, shut up.”

The guard scowled and lashed out. Thalia ducked expertly under his arm and grabbed him around the waist. She planted her feet, leaned back, and heaved, flipping the guard up over her body and onto his face with a sickening crunch. He flopped to the ground as Thalia straightened up, brushing off her jacket.

Ah, the wonders of having a low center of gravity,” she mused. “Thank God I'm a woman.”

The adrenaline had cleared her head for a moment. Spinning around, she bent over and deftly plucked the key ring from his belt. Then she forward and unlocked the gate.

As soon as she stepped through the gate, the noise in her head stopped. Behind it was left silence. The silence, somehow, seemed even louder and more dangerous than the yelling.

"Well," she whispered to herself, "this is gonna suck."


Across the cemetery, buried down in the cold and the wet and the dark, Beatrice looked up and smiled.

5 comments:

  1. OMYGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH! I LOVE THIS! This is so PERFET! It was thrilling and funny and scary and just so superbly written, so artfully done! I LOVE IT! I can't believe the ending came so soon! *lets our a wail of grief*
    I hope that I may be able to read more soon!
    WELL DONE THALIA!
    *hugs tight* YOU ARE SO EPICA!!!

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  2. This is really awesome. I love how the story grips you and oh so slowly pulls you in before you even know it :)

    Can't wait for more.

    So nice to read more by the wonderful Thalia.

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  3. Kallie - Thank you so much my dear! *hugs*

    Octa - Thank you! *hugs* Hopefully it won't be so long between parts this time :')

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  4. Ha, wow, that was epic. I can just imagine the scenes in my head, and it's really cool.

    I love this story, Thal, WRITE MORE :3

    And I especially loved that part when Billy was thinking to himself that March and Thalia needed to respect their elders :P Nice xD

    ReplyDelete