It's available to download to your iPhone or iPad from the Ether Books app, should you want it easy access to scare folks tonight.
I know a couple of people have been keen to read it and don't have an i-whatsit, so here it is. Thanks for reading and a HUGE thanks to all who downloaded the story originally through Ether Books.
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P.S. Thanks to the brilliant Sarah Logan from Cake Short and Sweet for the title inspiration!
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Dawn of the Diners
Digging and shovelling. The metallic sounds of the spade sliced through the ground.
The gravedigger was a little later this year with his annual job of unveiling the graveyard. ‘Early bird catches the worm’ was his mantra, even if his clients preferred a more substantial diet.
Her eyes still closed, Marjorie ran her tongue along her teeth and smiled. ‘Not lost any this year,’ she noted to herself, not without a sense of pride. She’d always had good teeth. Rotating her aching ankles and rolling her shoulders, she readied herself for some freedom. Marjorie had been cooped up in her rotting abode for far too long; she needed some fresh air. Fresh food. Her breathing was shallow, having woken from an extended hibernation. The thought of the forth-coming feast only quickened the process of the re-awakening.
Autumn was her favourite time of year. Unlike most of her kind, Marjorie took in the surroundings while she was on the rampage. The leaves gently crunched under foot; every year it was a softer sound than she recalled. Birds welcomed winter, singing songs of encouragement to their families to begin the migration south. The sun shone a shine which would have made for a deliciously hot summers day, had there not been a biting wind. It was a beautiful morning to start anew.
Scraping and scooping. Marjorie could hear the gravedigger shuffling around a few inches above her head. He was getting closer. Six feet under is quite a way down to dig. Some of her older friends took great pride in showing their age in explaining this was due to the spread of the 14th Century Bubonic plague epidemic. The depth of the graves certainly made life more difficult for the caretaker of the ancient churchyard around Halloween. At least it prevents foxes digging them up – every zombie’s worst nightmare, an unpleasant early wakening for the dormant dead.
Marjorie loved her job (with 364 days annual leave who would complain?!) and couldn’t wait to get started. She enjoyed the reunions, the celebratory feasting, and the frantic ways her friends lived out a full year in a day. You can probably imagine, there was not a lot to catch up on gossip-wise as the vast majority of her decomposing friends had been snoozing for 12 months. However, there were always the newbies to meet, the stories from the more intrepid day trippers, a lot of sex, and some of the more house-bound caught up on their Dexter box sets – all alongside almost constant feeding. It was a full life, as far as the ‘living’ could be described. All they had to do was make sure they were back in their graves before November arrived. It was a busy day, by anyone’s standards.
Cutting and sawing. It sounded like a freshly oiled tool to Marjorie; perhaps she was first to be seen to this year. She could hear grunts from the effort it took to saw through the thinning, rotting wooden box. Marjorie wondered how many more Halloweens the old man would see. The gravedigger would retire one day, or hopefully join them underground. The church would probably recruit a replacement. Marjorie couldn’t imagine what that job description would say and how much of the role would remain ‘unofficial’…
Marjorie’s breathing was returning to normal. She reached up to smooth her 105 year old hair as best she could, and examined her rotten fingernails. Such a contrast from when she was Living. She missed feeling clean and ladylike, but one could only do so much with such a decaying mess of a corpse.
A final brush down of dirt. A stilted upwards wrench of the lid, splitting in the damp. The coffin was going to need a new lid in a year or so. A sudden burst of daylight caused Marjorie to squint. Still lying on her wooden bed, she lifted her arm to shield her eyes until they readjusted. With a small nod to his friend, the old man, silhouetted against the sun, shuffled off to the next grave to continue his work. “Paul Peterson,” the headstone announced. He was a relatively new addition to the graveyard. Marjorie privately hoped he’d remember her from last year’s festivities.
Marjorie groaned; eventually she convinced her putrid body it needed to stretch its legs. Being held in a horizontal position with no wiggle room for 12 months meant that her first few achy steps proved to be awkward. Arthritis wasn’t exactly a typical problem of the living dead, but her creaking limbs had seized up after a year of rest and it was painful to sit up.
She limped off down the overgrown cobbled pathway, partly hampered by her sore joints, and also by her worn heels. They’d never been very suited to the annual stumble towards the town. Marjorie was, as she suspected, the first one to wake this season. She glanced around the quiet churchyard, noticing a couple of new shrubs in the border by the chapel’s entrance. There were also a couple of gravestones marked ‘2012’. The flowers were fresh and the grass laid on the grave was peppered with footprints – always a telling sign. The older graves rarely got visitors.
‘Before long, this place will be full!’ Marjorie thought. Being a zombie wasn’t how it used to be. It was much more fun when there was less competition. Reaching out to open the gate, she noticed the fresh coat of paint it had had. The world had moved on since last year.
‘I’m getting too old for this,’ she thought.