Ulie Want collapsed on the cot in his work shed. He had been digging graves for almost six hours. His hands were blistered and his back ached. The kraken attack on the city had left over three hundred people dead. Well, that was the number of bodies that had been delivered to the cemetery since the attack. Who knew how many more were yet to come? Ulie had heard from the driver of the last corpse wagon that the Seaguards estimated the total number of dead at almost six hundred, but at least one hundred of those had been washed so far out to sea that their bodies would never be found. That meant that another two hundred might be coming into the graveyard over the next days or weeks. Some bodies were buried under so much rubble that it could take months to get to them and by then the bodies would be severely decomposed.
To make matters worse, Ulie was all alone. His two assistants, Bobbie and his twin brother Robbie, had not shown up to work since the attack. Ulie knew that they walked through the harbor to get to the graveyard. He suspected that they have been killed in the kraken attack. But there would be no hiring of new assistants. All able hands were at the docks, digging through the rubble.
And so as the sun was starting to make its descent towards the sea, Ulie closed the gates of the cemetery and lay down on his cot for a few minutes. No one could begrudge him a bit of rest. The bodies could wait. They weren’t going anywhere.
He had just slipped into unconsciousness when he heard scraping and banging. Someone was trying to get into the cemetery? Probably the Seaguards with another wagon of corpses and body parts.
“I’m coming!” Ulie shouted as he pulled his aching body off the cot. He rubbed his eyes, stood and stretched, then stepped out of the shed into the sunlight.
His shed was near the gates of the cemetery. The gates themselves were set into a space between two wings of the great wall. These wings, like the Wall itself, were four stories high and filled with municipal offices. The two wings converged and almost met. The gate filled the space between them. The cemetery was a triangle at the foot of three huge walls. None of the Walls had windows looking into the space, and the sun could only shine on it directly a few hours a day. The most prized plots in the cemetery were those that received those hours of sunlight.
There was no one at the gate.
Ulie rubbed his eyes again. No. No one there. But there’s that scraping sound again. Coming from behind him.
Ulie turned around to survey the cemetery. It was in turmoil today because of the influx of bodies that day. Large communal graves stood open. Heaps of earth were scattered about. But the scraping noise seemed to be coming from somewhere beyond the recently turned earth. In fact it was coming from the mausoleum closest to the front gates.
Ulie made his way to the mausoleum. It was one of the most beautiful in the cemetery and one of the most expensive. It belonged to a rich family of cloth merchants who had purchased it some ten years ago from the city when the original owners disappeared. Or were they exiled? Ulie couldn’t remember. There was an official in the Wall that looked after those details. He just dug the graves.
There it was again. The scraping noise. And a light tapping. It seemed to be coming from inside the mausoleum. But that was impossible. The mausoleum had not been opened in years. Ulie was sure the last member of the family to be buried in it had died four years ago. And nothing could have gotten in the building since. It was made of solid granite, a small stone house with only one heavy door which could not be opened without the key and the help of several strong men.
Ulie looked at the mausoleum door. There was moss growing in the slender crack where it fit into the stone frame. It hadn’t been opened.
He pressed his ear against the stone door of the small building. Yes, there was definitely something in there scraping at the walls. An animal? Could a rat have somehow dug its way into the mausoleum? Ulie couldn’t remember but he thought the floor of the building was also a slab of solid stone. Perhaps it had cracked and something had crawled in.
But the scraping seemed too methodical to be made by animal. It seemed, somehow, intelligent.
With his ear still pressed to the stone, Ulie rapped his knuckles on the mausoleum door.
Immediately the scraping sound stopped.
Ulie held his breath as he listened.
The mausoleum exploded.
The stone door cut Ulie in two as it flew across the cemetery and crashed into the Wall. The heavy slates of the roof flew into the air and then rained down and shattered across the open graves and plot markers. The walls blew out with such force that hunks of granite shattered surrounding gravestones while others smashed into the Wall on all three sides.
A cloud of stone dust swirled around what was left of the mausoleum, rose in the air, and settled on the ground of the cemetery a ground that was now churning with subterranean movement.
Seaguard First Class Alain Kendrik was digging through the rubble of a seafront warehouse destroyed by the kraken. He had been at the job for hours and had yet to uncover a living person. But he and his fellow guard kept digging, assisted by all the able-bodied men that could make their way to the harbor. Hundreds of people had been trapped in the buildings when the monster had attacked. Some of them must be alive.
Secretly Kendrik was beginning to give up hope. Maybe it was his hangover, maybe it was the exhaustion of the day, but he did not expect to find anything but more bodies beneath the rubble. But still he dug and pulled at the wreckage.
Then he heard something. A sound of someone banging under the shattered roof that Kendrik was digging through.
“Someone’s alive!” he shouted to the other rescue workers.
He pushed the broken roof tiles out of the way and uncovered a piece of the roof support. While the other rescuers ran to help him, he put his shoulder to the beam and heaved it out of the way. He could see a hand sticking out of the rubble. It was pale, ghostly pale, but it grabbed feebly at the air.
“I’ve found him!” he shouted.
He bent down and began to push away the rubble. He uncovered the back of the person’s head. It was man, terribly bloodied, lying face down. Kendrik got the majority of rubble off the man’s back just as the first of the other rescuers scrabbled to his position.
“Turn him over,” someone shouted.
“His legs are still covered!” Kendrik shouted back in frustration.
But the man in the rubble must have heard the other rescuer, for now he was trying to turn himself over. In fact he was turning himself over. But that was impossible. His lower body was pinned beneath heavy timbers.
Then Kendrik realized with a start that the man did not have a lower body. It had been severed in the collapse of the building. But that didn’t make sense. How could the man still be alive?
Kendrik looked at the face of the man who had just rolled over onto his back. Part of his forehead was missing. What was left of his face was completely drained of blood. His eyes were turned back in his head. He wasn’t breathing.
He was dead.
But he was moving.
Before Kendrik could understand what was happening the corpse clawed out his throat.