The Gravedigger's Son - Darynda Jones
One Thousand and One Dark Nights
Once upon a time, in the future…
I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.
I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and
the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast
library at my father’s home and collected thousands
of volumes of fantastic tales.
I learned all about ancient races and bygone
times. About myths and legends and dreams of all
people through the millennium. And the more I read
the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered
that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually
become part of them.
I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher
and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I
would not be telling you this tale now.
But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off
One afternoon, curious about the myth of the
Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to
see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar
(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then
sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written
and I had read that by the time he met Scheherazade,
the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand
Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived
in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged
places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had
never occurred before and that still to this day, I
Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have
taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can
protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to
protect herself and stay alive.
Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.
And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a
point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.
And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that
he might hear the rest of my dark tale.
As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new
one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before you now.
If my calculations are correct,
I can retire five years after I die.
There aren’t as many demons roaming the Earth’s surface as one might think. Or, if one is a skeptic, there are a lot more. It all hinges on one’s perspective. One’s beliefs. But if Amber Kowalski’s suspicions were correct, the bespectacled departed man standing over her was at least part demon. Half, maybe. A third, at the least. Anyone who woke up before the sun had to have a modicum of devilry in them.
“It’s just, you have a big day ahead, Ms. Kowalski.” He pushed his round glasses up with an index finger. “Lots to do.”
Amber pulled the bedspread over her head. He tugged it back down until she could see over the edge. “Kyle, I finished the Wilkerson job last night.”
“Did you get the money shot?”
“If by money shot, you mean did I take a picture of Mr. Wilkerson taking the trash out at midnight so he could sneak into his basement and watch porn? Yes. Yes, I did.”
“He’s not cheating?” Kyle sank onto the bed, disappointed.
“Nope. Not unless you’re one of those people who think looking at porn is a form of cheating.”
“I thought for sure he was cheating.”
“You think everyone is cheating.” She flipped the bedspread down and gave him a pointed look. “What happened to you?”
He snapped out of his thoughts. “Never mind. It’s time to get up.”
“Nooo.” She covered her head again.
He tugged again.
“Kyle, I didn’t get to bed until two. Wake me at seven.”
“It is seven. Past, actually.” He looked at the clock on her nightstand. “It’s 7:14.”
“What?” Her lids flew open. She glanced at the clock and scrambled out of bed. Her left foot got twisted in the sheets, and she did a hop-dance to get it out before hurrying to her bathroom. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
“I did.” He followed her but stopped when she slammed the door in his face. He knocked softly. Not all departed could do things like that. Tug at sheets. Knock on doors. But Kyle had been dead long enough to have learned a few tricks. “You have a client waiting in your office.”
“At seven in the morning?” She shouted to be heard over the running water as she heated the shower.
“Yes. She died last night.”
Amber cracked open the door and stuck out her head. “A departed?”
The pay sucked with departed clients, but this was her big chance. Her opportunity to make her mark on the world. Or the afterworld. Either way. Building her departed clientele was proving more difficult than she’d hoped.