Once Upon a Time in a Graveyard

A Patchwork Fantasy Snippet full of found family and ghosts.

Two long dead best friends find an unusual visitor in their graveyard.

(Content warning for child abandonment, but also child finding.)


[Soft, mysterious music]

Laura: Hi, you can call me Laura, and you just stumbled upon a Patchwork Fantasy Snippet. I hope you’re ready for some found family ghosts.

[Music fades]

Mina – well, the grave stone said Wilhelmina, but it had been just Mina for almost a century – liked to think of herself as a sensible sort of person. The kind of woman that kept her wits about her, and she was, most of the time. That didn’t mean she couldn’t be cautious though, and the strange noises coming from behind the crypt had absolutely scared the translucency out of her.

Which was why she had immediately gone to drag her friend Elizabeth out of her grave. They had been neighbours in life and now they were neighbours in death, their graves most conveniently side by side.

“I am sure I heard something scream, Bess,” Mina insisted. The graveyard attracted all sorts of unseemly creatures –ghouls, demons, vandals – and Mina had no desire to face any of them alone. Older graveyards, the ones that still had a grim, never seemed to have these problems.

“Likely it was some bird or other,” Bess hummed, not looking remotely worried, but squeezing Mina’s hand in comfort all the same. “Or a— Wait, what’s that?”

Mina’s eyes widened in the dark. In the shadows of the crypt a small shape lay curled up against the dark stones.

“Oh,” she breathed. “You don’t think it is a myling child, do you?”

Bess clicked her tongue. “We hardly see those anymore, not since people stopped putting so much stock in baptisms.” She let go of Mina’s had, stepping forward.

“It does look like a child though,” Mina insisted.

“Sure does,” Bess hummed. She could see it clearly now, a head of dark hair and little hunched shoulders. “But too big by far for a myling.” She frowned, squinting slightly. “…and too corporeal.”

By then Mina had also seen her mistake. The child looked very pale, but their form was certainly solid. This, considering they seemed to be sleeping all alone in a graveyard, opened up a whole new selection of worrisome thoughts. But Bess, unlike Mina, rarely stopped to be concerned about things.

With her usual straightforwardness she made her way through the low iron fence and kneeled beside the resting form. “Hullo there, where have you come from?”

The child moved, and a startled little face looking up at the both of them.

Oh,” Mina gasped.

“Well there we are,” Bess hummed.

“Who’re you?” the child asked sleepily and between the fangs and the red shine in their eyes it was impossible to doubt what they were.

Mina found herself puff up with angry indignation. A vampire child, all alone, and they looked hungry too, so pale as they were!

She drew closer immediately, but Bess put out a hand to, well acquainted with her friend’s rare fits of temper.

“My name’s Bess and this is my friend Mina,” she answered the child, who looked a little more awake now and was staring up at Mina’s suddenly approaching form. The red eyes flitted back to Bess.

She nodded.

“And who are you, little one?”

“I’m Rachel,” she replied, and then rather pointedly added: “And I’m nine and a half.”

Bess snorted slightly at that, because this little miss would be nine and a half for a long time yet, but she nodded and put out a hand. “Nice to meet you, Rachel.”

The little girl shook it and Bess’ handshake was so firm that the small hand was only barely visible through her fingers.

“Hello, Rachel,” Mina smiled, crouching down at well. Her skirts were phasing right through the iron bars of the gate, but she didn’t even notice it.

“Hello,” Rachel replied, still a little wary. She looked back at Bess again. “Do you live here?”

“Suppose we do,” Bess said.

“Weird place to live,” the child muttered.

“Well, where do you live?” Bess asked.

Rachel frowned. “…I don’t know.” She looked rather distressed by the fact.

“How did you get here then?” Bess pressed. She must have gotten here somehow.

“I don’t know,” Rachel repeated helplessly and from her position mostly inside the fence Mina knew she could have felt her blood boil if she had had any.

“But where were you before?” Bess tried once more time, but now the girl’s lip began to wobble dangerously and Mina gently interrupted with a warmly spoken:

“Never mind, dear, you’re safe with us now. We’ll figure it out together.”

The little vampire opened her mouth to reply, but right at the moment one of the many bats that roosted in the little mausoleums decided to swoop out for some night air.

At the first flutter of wings Rachel screamed and Bess found herself with a howling child hanging round her neck while Mina shooed the bat away with her spectral shawl.

Bess was quite distressed by this division of labour, but Rachel absolutely refused to let go of her and by the time she had calmed down and both Bess and Mina had sworn to her they would not leave and that they would not anything with wings anywhere near her, she promptly fell asleep with her arms still around Bess’ neck and her head tucked against her faintly see-through shoulder.

“Well, that’s a fair fix,” Bess muttered, awkwardly patting the sleeping Rachel’s back. She was grateful at least that she was past the stage where children looked as if they might break if you looked at them hard enough. “What do we do now?”

Mina was already tucking her shawl around Rachel’s narrow shoulders. “We take care of her, of course.”

We?” Bess spluttered.

“You helped me raise Jon, didn’t you? Now I will help you.”

“But that’s what I mean,” Bess protested, hastily lowering her voice to an urgent whisper at Mina’s warning expression. “You’re the mother!”

“That may be,” Mina smirked. “But between the two of us, who looks more like her mother?”

Bess looked down at the sleeping little face resting against her faded tweed. “Well,” she grumbled. “Someone ought to look after her.”

“Quite right,” Mina chimed. “Up you get.”

She helped Bess to her feet, pondering that it was a good thing ghosts relied on strength of mind rather than body. Because Bess, stout as she was, would probably not have carried so easily if it had been reversed. Strength of will she had to spare, however, and as they were walking back she already sounded less nervous and more like her own self when she said:

“You say that ‘raise her’ but there’s not much ‘raising’ to do, is there.”

“Figure of speech,” Mina said airily. “Besides, there’s more to raising a child than watching them grow.”

“Hm,” Bess hummed, glaring at a pair of spectral eyes peering out of one of the old graves. People should learn to mind their business. “Finding her something to drink, for a start.”

“Yes,” Mina agreed. “That first.”

The two ghostly women strolled in between the graves, most of which were unoccupied.

Bess held Rachel close, making sure to stay as solid as possible. Nothing in her existence, not the eighteen years she helped out with Mina’s son, nor the many decades of ghosthood that had followed it, had prepared her in any way for a situation like this. At least that was how she felt. She was not the motherly sort. Never had been. She also felt, however, that at this moment, anyone that tried to take this sleeping child out of her arms would get such a spectral punch in the gut that they’d cough up bits of their soul.

Mina’s thoughts were pleasanter.

“We can’t stay in the graveyard,” she mused. “That’s for sure.”

“What?” Bess blinked.

“This is no place for a living child! Well, corporeal anyway.” She shook her head at the rows of headstones and slabs and then smiled resolutely at her friend. “We ought to find a nice little house to haunt. Something with a cosy basement safe from sunlight. I’m sure Jon would be thrilled with the idea, he’s always saying we should be living somewhere more aesthetic, and he begged so hard for a sibling when he was little.”

Bess stared at her friend and abruptly looked ahead of her again. “What a preposterous idea.”

They walked on a little further, Mina with her hands clasped, Bess cradling Rachel. It was a preposterous idea, she thought, getting back into a home after all this time.

Playing house with her best friend. Playing parent to a blood hungry night terror…

She hugged the blood hungry night terror a little closer. “There should be a garden too.”

Mina smiled at the rising moon. “Definitely.”

[Soft, mysterious music returns]

Laura: Thank you for listening, I hope you liked this Patchwork Fantasy Snippet. If you’re interested in more content like this, you should check out my tumblr: laurasimonsdaughter.tumblr.com. I post a lot of stuff like this there.

Until next time: always take care of the little ones, and be safe~

[Music fades]

Image of the Patchwork Fairy Tale dragon from the podcast logo.

Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.

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