The tombstones were so old that the epitaphs—if the graves had ever borne epitaphs—had been worn down to nothing by time and the elements. The pale markers looked like ancient bones only partially uncovered. Madi imagined that if she dug, she’d find that the cold stones stretched deep into the earth, like roots.
Tears burned in Madi’s eyes.
This was a lonely place. Madi might have been the first living soul to set foot in the cemetery for decades. The people who were buried here were forgotten by their family and friends. Looking out across the bare gravestones, Madi felt a terrible sadness weighing her down, as if her bones were frozen and caked with ice.
Up until now, Madi had not noticed the mist. A cool, shifting cloud of vapor crawled between the twisted trees surrounding the clearing. It rolled in from all sides, as if moving with intent. Thick fingers of fog scrabbled silently along tree trunks and across the ground. The mist oozed slowly around the headstones, inching closer
“On certain nights,” Madi remembered, “the mists roll in, thick as cotton, creeping into every crevice and corner, reeking like dead things.”
The air grew suddenly colder, and as Madi gasped, mist erupted from her lips, uncurling into the night air to mix with the fog. She clasped her hands over her mouth. She feared that if the mist tasted her breath, it might try to draw more of it from her until it hungrily ripped it from her lungs, suffocating her.
She took a step, ready to bolt for the trees.
The fog seemed to react to her movement. It withdrew, pulling away from her for a second, then billowed out again, coming ever closer, closing in around the girl.
The voice of the dead boy’s skin hissed.
Something moved in the fog. At first Madi thought it might be a trick of the weak moonlight playing through mist. As she watched, though, figures started to take shape. The hazy outline of men and women and boys and girls materialized in the gloom. Their “flesh” was the color of the fog, and their bodies… their faces… were featureless. They moved silently and with an ease that told Madi that their feet did not touch the ground. The fog carried them, carried them out of the darkness, carried them into the graveyard. The faceless creatures drifted closer, and as they reached the graves, each one took a spot looming behind a tombstone.
These were their graves, Madi realized, and as the names and epitaphs had faded from the stones, so too had the faces of poor souls buried here faded away. Madi wondered if the spirits even remembered who they once were.
Although they had no eyes that could be seen, Madi knew that the ghosts were looking at her. She felt their fathomless gaze piercing her to the very core of her being. The faceless grave-wights watched her silently, their heads shifting slightly, curiously, as if waiting for the girl to speak.
“Not alone,” the dead boy hissed.
Madi’s took a breath, and she felt cold mist rushing down her throat.