Victorian ghost story! XDJojo's Bizarre Adventure (is the weird and wonderful creation of Hirohiko Araki)
Title: An Honest Day's Work
Characters: Dio and Dario
Summary: There's a graveyard. And um.
He motioned the boy for the lamp, forgetting that in this pitch darkness the boy was unlikely to make out the gesture. Covered to avoid their being detected by wandering constables, the lamp illuminated only a ragged circle of the ground and their feet. The night was damp, and cold; there was no moon and clouds obscured the stars. They'd made it this far following a path he knew by heart, one which wound like a drunkard's through the crowded, unordered plots of the pauper's graveyard. The air between them hung heavy and still, filled with that scent peculiar to lower-class cemeteries, of cheap pine and well-churned earth.
Dario was not a man prone to reflection, but on nights like this he often found himself considering how the world was all of a piece. On the hill, the bodies of the rich lay in stately isolation, each separated from its neighbor by a proper respectful distance. Here below, in land too muddy to be good for anything else, the poor lay jumbled together, their final resting places approximated by small stones with inexpert engravings. As we are in life, so we go in Death
. He doubted the preachers had had this
"The lamp, boy," he hissed. "Give me the lamp!" He held out his hand and felt the chilled metal of the lantern's handle pressed into it. Without a word he snatched it away. Bending, he thrust the light over a stone that looked more recent than the others.
"Saaaa...chhhh....damn these Germans, anyway!"
"It Schowalter, father," the boy said in his crisp light voice, pronouncing it show-vaulter. Dario groped until he found the top of the boy's head, then drew his arm back and punched him hard enough to knock him over. He landed in the mud with a muffled gasp and squelch.
"Don't you condescend to me," Dario told him. "You think you're better than your old man? ...This is the one we want. I'll stand guard. Well, what are you waiting for? Take the shovel and start digging."
The boy's voice, when it came, floated softly out of the darkness. "Mother will have a difficult time getting the mud from these clothes," it said. Dario tensed, wanting to hit him again but held back by the note -- he couldn't be sure he'd heard it, but by the note of quiet menace in that voice, the subtle vengeance it seemed to be promising.
He shook himself. Letting the atmosphere get to him -- him, an old pro! Nonetheless, he said gruffly: "Nevermind, boy. You've got the sharper eyes. Hand me the shovel and I'll dig." Without fully understanding what he was doing, he placed the lantern on the ground like an offering. After a long tense moment, the sound of the boy leveraging himself up from the mud sounded out like salvation; when the shovel was pressed into his hand, he let out the breath he hadn't known he'd been holding.
"Hold the light so I can see, and don't let anyone come up unaware," he said, louder than he'd intended. Before the boy could reply -- or not -- he turned and stuck the shovel viciously into the mud by Schowalter's burial stone. Soon he fell into a steady rhythm of thrust and pull, all thoughts of the boy driven from his mind. The work was soothing and familiar to him -- others, those with less experience, perhaps driven by momentary hard luck or a bad turn at the cards, gravitated to the hill, to a quick twenty or fifty pounds plundering the gold and jewels of the well-to-do. Such work could yield momentary reward, but the final result always the same: discovery, trial, and a trip to the gallows. Men killed in this way often ended up here, in the pauper's graveyard. In the end it was Dario who prospered from their efforts. He smiled, cheered by the thought. It was almost enough to drive away the discomfort, the smell, the cold, the creeping fog.
His shovel struck wood. With a final heave, he cleared the dirt from a two-foot space on what he guessed was the upper end of Schowalter's coffin. His client, a naturalist, had only specified a skull, not caring whose it was. But Dario knew that Schowalter had two gold teeth, which he intended to remove before delivery. Absently passing the shovel up -- the hole, though by no means six feet, was perhaps a good three or four -- he crouched to brush the last clods of dirt from the surface of the coffin. Sometimes the deceased had enough saved up with the neighborhood undertaker to afford more than a plain box. In those cases, Dario's job was easier -- the presence or absence of a clumsy "family seal" told him if he'd gotten the direction right, or if he'd have to clear the other end as well. In this case, a seal was plainly visible, the charring so recent he could still smell burned wood. Dario grinned, in the best humor he'd been in all night.
"Pass the shovel, boy!" he said. "A quick smash and slice and we'll be away with what we came for!" He glanced impatiently up, eager to finish the work and be home where it was warm and dry, and didn't smell quite so strongly of rotting flesh.
He was brought up short by the...vision
of what was above him. Dio had placed the lantern on the ground and partially uncovered it, crouching to block the light that could have given them away. The candlelight caught in his hair, that unnatural, shining gold hair Dario recognized nothing of himself in. His face, lit in flickers from below, seemed to Dario to hold the expression of a demon. And his eyes, though in shadow, seemed to faintly glow
with malevolence. He held the shovel in his left hand -- the devil's hand, Dario thought, forgetting in his fear that religion was mere superstition, and had no power over him. For one truly terrifying instant, he feared for his life -- feared the hatred and violence he saw in his son's eyes.
Then the boy passed him the shovel, and the moment passed.