Welcome to the very first early look on Innocently Macabre!
I’ve got a tasty little unfinished piece for you today, careering across the bounds of horror and surrealism alike. And when I say “unfinished”, I really do mean that - I haven’t even got a name for the orphanage in the story yet, but I suppose that’s what an early look is all about.
I’ve also got multiple titles bouncing around my head, and would love your opinion, so vote in the comments or suggest your own! My choices are My First, My First Body, or The Store.
Still, whatever the title, let’s not dawdle any longer. On to the story!
The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things that seldom even see the dark of night because words seem to diminish them – words shrink them, and what was once boundless comes out simply life-sized. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things are markers. Headstones for graves. Pyres for endless cremations. The most important things are landmarks to your secrets, withering truths long forgotten, begging to be dug up and paraded around once more. Sometimes you’ll take them out of their box. You’ll take the most important things and give them a voice, only to be met with uncomprehending faces, confusion reflecting back on your sincerity, wondering why you silently cried as you spoke. That’s the worst, I think. The worst thing that could happen to your most important things, and for fear of its realisation, we leave the graves untouched, the maps unmarked, and the pyres forever burning. We leave our secrets locked deep within us.
I saw my first dead human being when I was thirteen years old. I won’t bother giving you the date because it doesn’t matter. Everything is still exactly the same as it was all those years ago. It’s as if life simply moved around our town, deciding it was better that it remained untouched; not necessarily undisturbed, but preserved in its fragmentary.
‘The Store is where the bodies are buried,’ our father used to say. Mr Wensleydale was father to fifty-odd children at ORPHANAGE NAME, where I mostly got along with two: Clara Tyler and William Harkness. The rest weren’t so bad, but as far as I was concerned, two people was more than enough. I’d never heard any one of us asking why, if he really was our father, we called him Mr Wensleydale and not “dad” or something, because no one ever thought to. Not one of us, the Big Kids, or even the Really Big Kids, thought it odd or too formal because that simply wasn’t the type of man Mr Wensleydale was. He was bright and sunny and made everyone happy, and, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m glad I didn’t get foster parents because I didn’t want to lose Mr Wensleydale. He remembered every single one of our birthdays and got us the most fantastic presents for Christmas. When we were sad or hurt, he’d take care of us, pressing a warm cup of hot chocolate into our hands, and smiling for us to speak.
Most of us left town when we hit college and aged out of the system, spreading out across the country and the world at large, and a few hung back. No matter where we were, we all came back every year for Mr Wensleydale’s birthday; at first it was so we could celebrate with him, and after so we could celebrate in memory of him. We never let it become a sombre affair though, he would have hated that. They’re always cheerful reunions, just as warm and sunny as he was in life.