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When we first found the body there was no question that it was stone cold dead.
“Poor thing must’ve bin struck by lightnin’,” Hallie commented once we had dragged him into the house.
“We’ll fetch Father Thomas in the morning,” my grandmother instructed. “Let the poor child rest in peace, and let us have some sleep.” She crossed herself, then headed up the stairs. When she reached the top, she turned back to face us. Hallie and I were still staring awe-struck at the corpse laid out on the parlour floor.
“Well off you go… It’s too late to do anything now. We’ll deal with everything in the morning,” she paused and then added, “I don’t think he’ll be going anywhere.”
Granny went back to bed and Hallie wandered back to her room. She offered me some advice on departure.
“Try not t’tell Miss Gloria ‘bout this odd event, if yer would Miss Cilla. She’d be all real distressed, knowing Miss Gloria an’ all.”
I nodded at the servant girl’s words, but hardly considered them. Not tell Gloria! A story like this! It would be unfair. Oh, you would think she was nothing more than a child from the way they speak of her.
Fifteen minutes later, after rousing my cousin Gloria, I stealthily made a return to the parlour. Gloria followed closely behind.
“How did you find it?” she whispered.
“We were woken by the thunder. Granny thought the cat might still be outside, so Hallie and I went out to check. We found him on the road just outside the driveway.”
“And I was asleep the whole time?” Gloria seemed amused, “I am always sleeping when anything exciting happens… oh Cilla! Cilla, he’s beautiful!”
Gloria had seen the corpse. Her reaction was hardly what you would expect from a girl who had just seen a dead body in her very own house. She knelt beside the cadaver and examined the face. I too had a closer look. It was a queer face – the skin pale and the lips and hair dark. I suppose death is not particularly flattering to one’s features. Gloria seemed to think the opposite. She was tracing the profile with her fingers, murmuring to herself in wonder.
“Oh Cilla, gosh he’s cold… and young, he was young.”
It was true; he seemed no older than Gloria or myself.
Suddenly Gloria’s curiosity and awe vanished, and she began to cry.
“Poor boy… his poor mother,” she sobbed.
“Hush dear. Let us say a prayer and go back upstairs.”
We both took a moment of silence to pray for the dead boy’s soul. Gloria opened one eye to look at me.
“God always takes the good ones,” she said with a sniff. She leant over to kiss his forehead before following me back up the stairs.
The following morning, at an early hour I was frantically shaken awake by Gloria, her eyes brimming with tears of hysteria.
“Cilla! I went downstairs this morning… it was horrific, oh…”
“What was it?” I snapped.
“It was him, it was him!” Gloria began to cry again.
“Shh, it will be alright. Granny’s sending over the priest and the doctor to sort him out…”
“No, no, no… that’s not it!” she cried.
“Calm down! Tell me what happened!”
Gloria sniffed. “The dead boy… Cilla, he woke up!”