The ancient cemetery was guarded on all sides by crumbling iron and stone walls. It encompassed one entire side of the street, and she could see one of the many canals which transected the city, prettily paved over with red and gray brick to make a grand walkway to the graveyard. The place was too overgrown to track the canal after that, but if the smell meant anything, the urban planning hadn’t extended much farther than the wall.
The lack of graffiti on the stone walls was also promising. The metal bars were rusting badly, though they seemed to have been painted black at some point in the distant past. No one had taken care of the place in a long time, but the local trouble makers chose to avoid it. The juxtaposition between neglect and care was enough to endorse it as a possible ghoul habitat. If she’d asked around during the day, people on the street probably would have informed her that the place was haunted.
Pulling up along a nearly empty street, she parked and let Edgar out, keeping her hand on his head to keep track of him. She didn’t need him bolting after a cat or anything. Besides, the streets might be deserted, but that didn’t mean someone wouldn’t see him from their home if she took off the tarnkappe before they were safely out of view.
Unlike the park-like woods where he’d just scampered for a good four hours, he showed no interest in straying from her grasp. In fact, as they approached the cemetery, he whimpered softly. The gate was padlocked with heavy chains to keep people out, or possibly to keep something in. She jumped up on the bars, pulling herself up and over with ease. Reluctant though he was, Edgar quickly followed her, landing with a soft thump in the long grasses.
The cemetery had seen better days. Not that it was desecrated or mistreated in any way aside from negligence. No stone was out of place; every statue firmly stood its ground even if some of the faces had been effaced by time and lichen. Unlike some of the newer cemeteries, it seemed no one was brave enough to vandalize the graves of their great grandparents’ grandparents.
As Edgar bumped up against her leg, she gently tugged the tarnkappe away and tossed it over her shoulder. He made an unhappy chirp, looking up at her with his eyes wide and almost pleading. She wondered if she’d made a mistake. Maybe like some apes, ghouls ate their orphaned young.
Wading through the long grasses, she could see the faint haze of what she hoped was the open canal. Unless there was an open grave, and she doubted very much that the ghouls would be that careless, the stink alone was a dead give away that there was an open canal somewhere in the vicinity. They were so wide and plentiful throughout the city, there was no sense in building sewers. The city simply paved over the once beautiful canals and used them instead.
And like many of its kind, this canal had once been beautiful. Glory barely managed to stop on the edge, the grasses growing around it and even in it obscuring its presence until it was nearly underfoot. Several yards from the wall, the canal opened up again like a tunnel to Hades, only a portion of it paved to allow it to pass under the wall and street beyond. Once she spotted the ancient watercourse, it was not hard to follow its graceful curve through the graveyard and note the decorative brick border that was starting to break and fall from tree roots and time. There was even a bridge farther along which stretched over what had once been a lovely little watercourse in the midst of the cemetery. Like Victorian graveyards, people had probably come here to picnic among the dead in the distant past. Now the canal was overgrown and nearly choked with weeds. What water still flowed into the dark tunnel, did so as a sluggish and stagnant stream.
Sliding down the refuse and weed strewn bank, she was confronted by the dark opening to the ancient canal. The city had been founded in the early 17th century, and the canals had been dug then. Some historians insisted that many canals had already been present however, the legacy of some mystery colony that had disappeared before the actual settlement of the peninsula where Sybar City now stood. It was as mysterious as Roanoke Island, and in fact, some people insisted that survivors of Roanoke had settled at the very tip of the peninsula for a short while, digging the canals to ward off whatever doom had found them on Roanoke. Though if water lapping on all sides of an island hadn’t protected them, it was hard to see what good a system of canals would be. Maybe the canals were meant to be a maze for some aquatic monster, rather than something land based? It was enough to make her wonder if the Lenape Indians who had sold the land to the settlers had been eager to be rid of it, or the settlers.
Well, it was a purely academic curiosity, and she had better things to do than conjecture over the now mostly walled up canals. The heat of rotting matter deposited in the canal from a hundred homes exhaled a dismal mist into the air around the opening. The only reason it hadn’t been paved over fully was likely because whatever spring supplied water to the canal ran into the opening rather than out, making it clean by comparison to most of its sibling waterways.
“Edgar… you haven’t said a word of English or otherwise, not that I’d know if you were speaking ghoul, ghoulish, or whatever your language would be called, but if you can call your people, I suggest you do so now. It would definitely save a lot of time.” He looked up at her sadly, like a rejected puppy, even letting out a little mewling sound as if he could dissuade her from leaving him.
A barking chuckle answered from the dark opening. “The pup knows he’d be better off with you,” said a husky voice, followed by more queer laughter, like the garbled yelp of a hyena. “You’ve been feeding him.”
A ragged figure sidled from the hole, covered in layers of what could only be discarded clothes. It could have been a homeless person on any street throughout the city. Perched in a door way or huddled beside a dumpster, no one would even be able to tell it was a person if it didn’t choose to move. As it got closer, it sniffed the air carefully, letting out a crow of amusement.
“Sausage… some steak…” she admitted uncertainly.
“You fed him fresh meat!? I don’t suppose you brought any along? Hell, I’d go home with you for a BigMac. I’d even settle for fries. They cook them in a special meat flavored grease you know,” he, she, it laughed. “Even if you manage to leave him with us, he’ll find his way back to you. He’s your changeling moppet now.”
“But… what am I supposed to do with him? I mean, no offense, but he‘s very noticeably not human. I can‘t keep him cooped up in the house like a pet. That wouldn‘t be fair. And I rescued him from Miskatonic University. They were torturing him.”
Mention of torture gave the ghoul pause. It peered at her curiously before slowly announcing, “You’re Glory Lewin.”
“Ye-es?” she said, taken aback by the sudden identification.
“Wait here.” Without explanation, it shambled back into the tunnel, disappearing with significantly more speed than it had appeared. Intermittently the sound of splashing and ‘meeping’ echoed back to her from the dark hole. Edgar’s ears twitched with every odd chirp and bark from the darkness, obviously recognizing his language, even if he refused to speak it.
to Book 5, part 3, page 9