From the Journal of Ambrose Sykes, Aspiring Writer & Poet
The Curious Case of Storms in Graveyards – 1849
The graveyard blazes to life in a brief flash of white light, and all at once, the lightning seems to inhabit every space–each imperfection on the silent sentinels keeping watch over the dead. Angelic faces weep. Crosses burn in the heat of it. It is chaos in an instant and no more. When it dies, darkness returns. Layers of the blackest ink spilled–spread across the dotted cemetery, fleeing the long, annoyed groan of thunder as it mutters and curses to have been so inconvenienced by such brightness.
Those who inhabit the graveyard, of course, are immune to all–such is their lot in death. Bones have no care for the rattle of thunder. Skulls with their hollowed out sockets are blind to the startling transformation of night to day and back to night again. What care does the dead have for storms? Seasons change, skin and organs decompose, and the burdens of those beloved lives lost grow lighter as the years gnaw away a life once lived. All regrets, joys, sorrows, fears, wants, and needs soak into the ground like rain during a storm.
But for the living, a storm in a graveyard has all the right makings for disaster. Not only does one find themselves out in the elements–dangerous to the lowliest pauper as to the richest king–but to be alone in such sacred, solemn space. To find oneself surrounded by so many and yet no one at all. In the daylight, even if during a storm, it would be no issue. The darkness, however–and a curious darkness, one black as pitch if pardon can be given for such a common phrase–creates illusions in the mind. Shadows of a resting oak turn to reaching, skeletal fingers. The hoot of an owl can be confused for the wailing of spirit. Oh!--the cliché of it all! When we find ourselves caught in cliches–is that not the most unfortunate disaster of them all?
And yet, here I am. Caught in a cliché. Faced with a storm, a graveyard, and the horrifying thought that one day, I will join the rotting corpses beneath my feet. I am crouched in the archway of an ancient mausoleum with only my journal and pen as protection. The rain beats down as if punishing the earth for some wrongdoing while lightning and thunder trade insults above me (lightning the more violent, obviously, and thunder, quite wordy). I am keenly aware that it is high time I take my leave but find all rational thoughts being ignored. My feet are incapable of movement. I am as the statues here in this cemetery. What can I do but write about it? My pen (and, daresay, my mind) is the only thing I have leave to use.
I shall wait it out. The storm will pass. For what is time to the dead or I, their reluctant guest?
New Harbor Police Department
Time: 6:03 P.M.
Date: AUGUST 8, 1849
Nature of Incident: BRAWL DURING FUNERAL
Arrests: THREE MALES, TWO FEMALES
Injuries: ONE FEMALE SUSTAINED A BLACK EYE. THE OTHER HAD FINGERNAILS DUG INTO HER ARM. MALES ALL HAD BRUISING ON ARMS AND LEGS.
During a funeral, a fight broke out between Mister Mark Dickson, male, 46 years of age, and Mrs. Sarah Nelson, female, 52 years of age. Mrs. Nelson assaulted Mr. Dickson by kicking him in the shin. Another female, Mrs. Janet Dickson, 38 years of age, hit Mrs. Nelson in the eye. Mister Amos Dickson and Mister Cecil Nelson attempted to break up the fight and received hits to their arms and legs as a result. All five persons were arrested and taken in for questioning. The three major offenders (S. Nelson, M. Dickson, and J. Dickson) claimed to be “possessed by something unknown” during the incident with very little memory of what started the brawl. Mr. Amos Dickson and Mr. Cecil Nelson provided positive character statements about the assailants. All made amends and were released shortly thereafter.
During the arrest, Miss Paula Sampson approached Officer Daniels with a journal. Journal was wet from last night’s storm, but still legible. Blood stains were found on the pages. Several pages have been removed. The journal appears to belong to a Mister Ambrose Sykes. Further investigation is required.
POLICE SEEK HELP
New Harbor, August 9–Local resident Ambrose Sykes was reported missing by his sister three days prior. A journal of his was recently discovered by mourners in Holy Family Cemetery and handed to the police. Foul play is suspected. Any information the public may have on the whereabouts of Mister Sykes, please contact the police or the Sykes family. Time is of the essence.
New Harbor Times, 1849
BODY OF MISSING LOCAL MAN DISCOVERED
Tragic Accident Takes a Life
New Harbor, September 2–Twenty-seven year old Ambrose Sykes, son of prominent business owner Bram Sykes and his wife Beatrice as well as elder brother to Miss Rachel Sykes, is believed to have passed away on August 7, 1849, during one of the worst storms in New Harbor’s history. The time of death is not known, though he is believed to have passed during the pre-dawn hours of the morning. Mister Sykes was announced as missing on August 9, 1849, and his body was later discovered in Holy Family Cemetery on August 30. Mister Sykes’s decomposed body was found by Mrs. Margaret O’Donnell at approximately 11:15 A.M., near the rear plots of the cemetery. Police do not suspect foul play, but rather believe Mister Sykes passed after slipping on the wet ground and making contact with a headstone. An accidental blow to the back of the head was determined as the cause of death. The victim’s blood was found on both a nearby headstone and the journal police discovered weeks earlier. Arrangements for the funeral have not yet been made.
New Harbor Times, 1849
August 7, 1850
Please allow me to convey my sincerest gratitude for the statue of my brother you placed in Holy Family Cemetery. As you knew my brother well, you know that he did not have many friends and preferred the company of his journal to that of people. He wrote many fantastical stories and poems and enjoyed visiting the very cemetery where he now rests to gather inspiration.
I do not know if my note will ever reach you. I will place it on this statue in hopes that you, like I, visit here to remember my brother. You must have known him very well to create such a likeness. When I touch the cheek of your statue, it is as if I am touching the skin of my brother’s cheek, though the coldness of the stone is nothing like the warmness of his laugh. A year without it has made me very cold indeed.
Perhaps you and I will one day meet, but I fear you, like Ambrose, prefer to make your way in the world without the comfort of others. I pray Ambrose has comfort now amongst the dead in this cemetery. I pray that these eternal friends of his give him rest and peace and show him the way to Heaven. I pray that though, even now as I scribble this message to you, I feel eyes upon my back, wishing me ill.
Perhaps my brother's likeness will ease the malevolence of this place.
Yours in gratitude,