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GRAVE CONCERNS • by Oscar Windsor-Smith

George likes playing hide and seek. Running with the children of the village through meadow grass, among the mounds and hillocks, chasing along the timeworn runs of fox and rabbit through the ruins. Donna is his best friend now. So many years, so many generations since he first arose, a victim hidden without blessing, a boy of twelve forever —

A document appears in a plastic sleeve pinned to the wooden stump that once supported a lych-gate. It sets out formal notice of development, affordable housing for local families. The planning notice says archaeologists must investigate the ancient site before construction work begins. Soon the children see a motley crew arrive in assorted vehicles. The new arrivals set up camp with tents and boards, wheelbarrows and spades amid much chatter and laughter.

“What are you doing?” asks Donna.

“Digging up the past,” says a smiling archaeologist.

“You mean like Time Team?”

“Yes, young lady, but without a TV crew and with no more time.”

Alongside piles of fresh-dug soil, fragments of stone and china appear separated out in plastic trays. Men with metal detectors sweep the spoil and place the odd coin, button and buckle in plastic bags, tagged and logged. Some trenches yield broken coffins and old graves. The archaeologists set up special white tents and lift the human remains with care and dignity.

“Where are you taking them?”

“To a place where they can rest in peace.”

“Will they be blessed?”

“Well — ” he hesitates. “We always say prayers in our hearts, but we don’t know what these people believed. This is an ancient burial ground.”

“George and I will bless them too.”

The archaeologist looks around and then back at Donna. He shakes his head and smiles a puzzled smile.

Twilight on the final day and most trenches are back filled, vans are loaded and equipment stashed away.

Only one small trench remains, a bending figure troweling rapidly within. Most children hurry home for tea, but in the lengthening shadows Donna waits.

“Look, here!” an urgent cry. The whole team gathers around the trench.

“A ritual sacrifice?”

“No, it’s too recent, perhaps two hundred years.”

“Could it be murder?”

After moments of examination, excited discussion, the bleep of a detector and more muted cries, Donna appears among the group.

“Is that the knife, the one that killed him?”

All eyes turn on Donna.

“How did you know it was a boy?”

“I just do, that’s all. May I see him?”

“I think you’re too young — ”

“Donna, my name is Donna, and I must see him.”

The circle parts and Donna kneels beside the curled-up bones. She kisses her fingertips, reaches out and touches the forehead of the skull.

“Goodbye,” she whispers.

The police forensic team has come and gone, the sun has set and the archaeologists are dropping Donna home.

“Goodbye, Donna, it’s been good to meet you,” says the smiling archaeologist climbing back into his car.

“Goodbye,” Donna waves.

He leans out from his driving window. “Donna, where’s your friend — George?”

Donna smiles. “Oh, he’ll be home safe now.”


Oscar Windsor-Smith was born on the Wirral, UK — that’s the sticky-out bit below Liverpool and above Wales — but drifted to various points of the compass and finally settled in rural Hertfordshire where he lives with one wife, three cats and a Volvo 480. He has had non-fiction articles published, had a novel long-listed for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook centenary novel competition and has accumulated various short and flash fiction competition credits.

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GRAVE CONCERNS • by Oscar Windsor-Smith, 4.8 out of 5 based on 4 ratings
Posted on March 6, 2009 in Fantasy, Stories
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  • http://nowplayinginseattle.blogspot.com/ kcball

    Very nice, Oscar. George and Donna get a five from me.

  • Gerard Demayne

    The start was strong but it lost its way a little towards the slightly woolly end. Overall I liked it though. You could have done more with it if you weren’t constrained by the word count, and I think I would have enjoyed reading it in a longer form.

  • Paul Freeman

    Excellent stuff! A high five from me!

  • JohnOBX

    The leap from P1 into the rest of the story was a bit abrupt for me. It felt like it was going in one direction then the story restarted.

    I’m didn’t understand how, if George was a ghost, he was going to do any blessing, particularly of his own remains.

    Dialogue tags in parts might have helped understand who was speaking. Three lines starting with “goodbye” in the last part was a bit much.

    Overall, this story was okay.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Thanks for your comments, all. I see your point about the ‘goodbye’ lines, too, John. Funny how these things don’t hit you at the time of writing/editing, isn’t it? Thanks.

    ;) scar

  • http://Gmail Pawas

    Wow…What A Story…..i think you should have made a bit clear that George Was A Ghost

    So many years, so many generations since he first arose, a victim hidden without blessing, a boy of twelve forever –
    Many People wont understand this…

    HIGH FIVE FROM ME

    Keep Writing Such Stories

  • Jen

    Oh, George was a ghost! that makes much more sense than what I thought happened, lol. Great stpry just the same.

  • Kate Thornton

    Very good – the essence of this story is a winner – high five from me. I had no difficulty in following the story and the meaning was quite clear, but it was the sensitive touch and the well-defined character – in so few words! – of the child Donna that made this works so well for me.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/catherineedmunds/ Cathy Edmunds

    Touching tale, beautifully written.

  • Rob

    Well written, but a little dissappointing in its abruptness because there was so much more you could’ve given us with more space. (But then, I guess that’s the best compliment- the readers want more of what you wrote)

  • http://robcurtis.wordpress.com/ Rob

    Very nice piece, Oscar. Lovely writing.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Very well written in a restrained, delicate way. Excellent flow. A top addition to the “Kiss of Death” genre.

    Added thought: It’s she who kissed the past, not George, the rememberer of former days and the very present “runner through the meadow grass.”

  • http://canyonsofgray.blogspot.com dj barber

    Great job, Oscar. A piece you might legthen into a short story at some future point.

    –dj

  • http://www.jonathanpinnock.com Jonathan Pinnock

    Lovely story, Oscar. And welcome to EDF!

  • Mark Tomlinson

    A lovely little understated piece Oscar.

  • http://www.sjhigbee.com sjhigbee

    I thought it was completely clear that George was a ghost – and I love your delicate, subtle writing style. The only way I felt you could have made it a bit easier on your readers, was to have had a couple of asterisk’d ‘action breaks’ to denote the passing time and shift in viewpoint.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Thank you everybody for all your kind words and feedback. I see your point about the breaks too, sjhigbee. Thanks.

    :) scar

  • http://backspace.blog.me.uk Sylvia

    I think this story would be fascinating if you forced yourself to stay in the archeologists viewpoint.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Interesting though, Sylvia. Thanks.

    ;) scar

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    That was of course meant to be ‘thought’, not ‘though’. Apologies for my banana fingers.

    :) scar

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