Mort dropped the shovels at the head of the grave. The scrape and clatter of metal on stone reverberated through the open space. A murder of crows took flight, ejected from a nearby willow by the unwelcome noise. They gave a disgusted squawk as they passed overhead.
‘Ssssshhh! Do you want them to hear you?’ Rav hissed, swiping at his partner’s head.
Mort ducked beneath the blow.
‘It’s dark!’ he said in defence. ‘How was I supposed to know there was a stone?’
Rav shot him a look, ‘it’s a graveyard, idiot! There’s stones everywhere.’
The ground was harder than they’d expected. Unusually dry despite the recent rain. Each spade-full of earth they lifted was filled by the disturbed soil around it, faster than they could dig.
They’d barely passed three feet when the sucking clay claimed the first of the shovels. Its handle snapped to an unworkable length. Rav cursed, hurling it onto the sodden grass.
He cast a glance at the sky. The horizon was beginning to pale in the first of the sun’s rays.
‘Hurry,’ he snarled at Mort, crouching to continue the dig with his hands.
Mort looked up. His eyes opened wide at the sight of the impending dawn.
The pair redoubled their efforts.
By the time they’d located the casket, the sun was already cresting.
The second shovel had followed the first, but not before its clumsy operator had claimed two of Rav’s fingers. They lay like fat worms on the grass beside the discarded tools. A large crow picked at them.
‘This one better be fresh,’ Mort whined. ‘The last one stank.’ He waved his hand under his nose for emphasis, dropping it sheepishly when he noticed Rav glaring at its fingers.
‘Get it open. The sun’s almost up.’
They fumbled at the box. The heavy pine lid refused to budge. They’d brought crowbars but their long handles made them impossible to use in the narrow hole.
Rav gave a snarl and spat.
‘Now what?’ Mort asked, kicking at the lid.
The wood splintered with a dull crack.
Rav smiled. A hungry smile.
Another kick, then another.
The top of the casket fractured. The stench of rotting meat, heavy and cloying, filled the grave. It hung in the air, clinging to their muddied clothes.
The pair coughed and stooped to survey their prize though the hole.
Inside the coffin, a woman rested on dirty, white silk. Her pale, waxen face set in a manufactured visage of peaceful slumber. The work of skilful undertaker, deft-fingered with a needle and thread. It was almost a shame to ruin her.
Rav took a knife from his belt. The blade was mean and sharp.
He leant in to slice two strips of meat, one off each cheek.
His teeth ripped at it. Mouth salivating.
The other he tossed to Mort.
Mort sniffed it, nibbling at the edge
‘This is foul,’ he grumbled.
‘Yeah,’ Rav agreed. ‘But, at least it’s organic.’
G is for Ghoul
A ghoul (from the Arabic ‘ghul’) is a monster or spirit that consumes human flesh, typically that of the dead. They are associated with graveyards and are often classified as the undead. In ancient Arabian folklore, the ghul is one of the classifications of jinn.