I heard laughter among the dead.
I’d been following my nose for a good fifteen minutes when I heard the laughter of children. Being in a cemetery, the sound made me pause for a moment. Laughter in a cemetery in the Hollow is generally something to be wary of.
Then, of course, there’s always the exception that proves the rule.
This was the latter.
I came upon a family sitting within the confines of a fenced-in plot. They had a small table well decorated with food and good, fine food at that. My mouth watered, and my stomach growled, a sound that alerted the diners to my presence.
The laughter trailed off as all five turned their attention to me, and I saw wariness in their eyes. These weren’t fools, and I liked them for it.
I folded my arms over my chest, keeping my hands well away from the Colts. This seemed to relax the people a bit, and I nodded by way of greeting.
“How is this place?” I asked.
“Safe enough,” the oldest woman replied. She adjusted her shawl. “So long as we remain in here.”
“The plot?” I asked.
As one, the residents nodded.
“You don’t leave?” I inquired.
“Not unless forced to,” the oldest woman stated.
“And father will not allow that to happen,” the youngest child added from another woman’s lap.
I glanced at the headstone and the plague upon it, but I couldn’t decipher the language.
“My son keeps us well fed,” the oldest woman informed me. “And when we must, we hide.”
I went to ask another question, but something nearby spooked them, and they vanished before me.
A look around revealed a tired old hound who sat down beside me. “They’ve been dead close to ninety years, Blood. It’s the great-grandson who comes now and lays out their food. Makes sure it’s fresh each day. Someday, they might understand they’ve passed. But no one’s forcing it. Will you?”
I shook my head. “I make enough ghosts.”
“Aye, that you do.”
“Will they be back?” I asked.
The dog nodded, scratched behind one ear with tired grace, and let out a sigh. “Soon as I leave, they will. I bother them, though I know not why.”
I gave the dog a pat on the head and left.
It was not my place to steal the food of the dead.