Long Black Veil
An excerpt from the forthcoming short story collection, Shy Ghosts Dancing: Dark Tales from Southeast Alaska by Mark Zeiger
All content ©2010 Mark A. Zeiger. All rights reserved.
On nights like this, when storms rage in from the ocean, she visits her lover.
When the glass drops and the hour grows late, she steals from her marriage bed, bundles herself in her dark woolen cloak, secrets her identity in a long black veil, and walks the harbor road to the cemetery. There she finds the place they laid her lover to rest.
Unseen, she settles, resting against the massive stone. She mourns his passing in silence, longing for the feel of his body next to hers, the warmth of his breath in her hair, the sweetness of stolen hours.
On many of these visits she watches, with an amazing detachment, other activities in the graveyard.
Creatures beyond imagining come down from the forested mountains, into the cemetery. They take advantage of the same covering storms that allow her to visit her lover’s grave. The howling wind and the hiss of driving rain mask from human ears the wild laughter, cries and scrabbling of a hideous mob of beings.
Vaguely human in shape and deportment, they differ as markedly from mankind as they do from each other. She has roused herself from her mourning to observe them closely. Some have long beaks and black, shining eyes, like monstrous cousins of the ravens that haunt the region. Others sport fangs of startling length and sharpness, shining from wide, flat, noseless faces. Some are hirsute, others obscenely naked, fishy white in the light of the riding moon that peeps from scudding clouds. Some individuals she can never quite see, her whole attention being arrested by their large eyes that seem windows of pure evil. Others, she believes, have no eyes at all, or squint like moles. They seem dressed, such as they are, in moldering casts-off, mixtures of clothing styles and eras as astonishing as the variety in their physical appearance.
Their errand among the dead is hideous. Descending upon this or that grave, they attack the earth, upending headstones, cracking crypts, digging with their claws until the soil is piled high all around. Once they have unearthed their victim, they give themselves over to orgiastic feasting. Snapping with tooth and beak, they tear the remains of the dead asunder, devouring the decaying flesh and bones.
They are ghouls, feeding on the unfortunate dead.
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Thank you for reading this excerpt! To read the rest of this story, and others like it by Mark A. Zeiger, order Shy Ghosts Dancing: Dark Tales from Southeast Alaska.