Here is Ember Chapter 1:
Once a blooming red rose, full of streaming life in its veins
Now a wilting black petal rupturing with death and pain
I love the cemetery. It’s quiet and peaceful—it’s the only place I get a break from death. I loathe crowded places, crammed with voices and life. It hurts to be around life. People don’t understand how close death is, right over their shoulders, around the block, at the end of a street. It’s everywhere. And I’m the only one who knows where it’s hiding. I see death every day. But a cemetery is already dead.
The moon beams vibrantly tonight; it’s only a sliver away from being full. Dry leaves fall from the oak tree and the air smells crisp with autumn. Headstones entomb the ground and a light mist dews the grass. I lean against a tree trunk with my notebook propped open on my knee, and a pen in my hand. I scribble words that are important to me.
The cemetery is my sense of comfort, my sanctuary in a world of darkness, the one piece of light I have in my life.
I remove the tip of the pen from the page and read over my words. I sound obsessed with death, like Edgar Allan Poe or Emily Dickinson. But death is a huge part of who I am. With a simple touch I know when someone will die. Whether they’ll go painfully. If their life will be stolen.
I set the notebook on the grass and tuck the pen inside the spine. I pull my hood over my head, cross my arms, and stare out at the desolate street. One of the streetlights flickers and a dog barks from behind the front gate of a redbrick home. It’s late. I glance at my watch. Really late. I grab my notebook and start across the cemetery. The ground is damp and my clunky, black boots sink in the dirt. I eye the headstones; big, small, intricate, plain. I wonder if the details of a headstone define the life of the person resting beneath it. If it’s big and fancy, does it mean they were loved by many? Or were they lonely, but had money? Do small and plain ones declare that they lived a lonely life? Or were they just unmaterialistic?
I’m probably the only one crazy enough to be walking around thinking these thoughts.
The wind howls like a dust storm. Leaves whirlwind around my head. I tuck my chin down, fighting through the dust toward the front gate. I can barely see. My boot catches on the corner of a grave and I face plant onto the grass. My notebook flies from my hand and my head smacks the corner of a headstone.
"Owe," I mumble, clutching my head. I smear dirt from my cheek. My gaze travels upward to a statuesque sculpture of a hooded figure. Its head is tucked down and in its hand is a scythe.
"The Grim Reaper, huh?" I rise to my feet and tilt my head up. "I bet you know what it’s like, don’t you? To be surrounded by death all the time? I bet you understand me."
The wind violently picks up and carries my notebook away. Shielding my eyes from the dust, I chase after it. It dances through the leaves and glides across the grass, finally resting against a soaring angelic statue in the crook of the cemetery. I hurry after it.
"Damn it, I am so sick and tired of doing all your dirty work. It’s such crap."
I quickly duck behind the massive angel. No one hangs out in cemeteries late at night, except for weirdoes and people like me. (And as far as I know, I’m the only girl of my kind.).
A shovel cuts into the dirt. "I’m always the one who’s gotta dig these things up."
I peek through the cracks between the angel’s wings. A thin guy, with frail arms and a pointy nose, stands in a hole, shoveling dirt. My notebook is inches from the discarded dirt pile. One more scoop and my life thoughts will be buried.
"If I were you, Gregory, I’d watch my tone." A tall figure hops from the roof of small mausoleum. His hair is as pale as the moon and his eyes are like ash. His long legs stretch as he saunters toward the hole. "You may be Dante’s little pet, but you’re still not one of us, so Dante’s protection doesn’t apply."
Gregory mutters under his breath and scoops up a shovel full of dirt.
The taller one cups his ear. "What’s that? Speak up, I can’t hear you."
"Nothing," Gregory mumbles and continues digging.
The other guys’ smile catches in the moonlight. His face is beautiful, but burden with sadness, as if he carries the world’s sorrows on his shoulders. I want to reach out and brush my fingers along his lips, his jawline—I want to erase his pain.
The pages of my notebook flutter in the breeze and he picks it up. I cringe with embarrassment, then realize that he’s a guy who hangs out in a cemetery, digging up graves, so my penned words of death shouldn’t faze him. He flips through the pages and pauses on one particular page. He studies it and then glances around. I crouch down and hold my breath. Silence capes the night, except for the shovel scratching the dirt.
"Where’d this come from?" he asks Gregory.
I peek through the feet of the angel statue.
Gregory takes the notebook and turns it over. "I’m not sure…" He hands it back. "It says Ember on the back."
The tall figure runs his long fingers along my name. "Ember…" His haunting voice envelops me and a breeze beckons me to step out from behind the statue. I start to step out.
"Hold it right there." A light shines over my shoulders.
I tense. The shovel stops cutting into the dirt. The night grows quiet.
"Now slowly turn around," a deep voice instructs. Static cuts through a stereo. "I’m with the suspect now."
Damn it. They’re going to think I was digging up the grave. And this is not my first time getting into trouble. They won’t go easy on me.
"I said slowly turn around and keep your hands where I can see them," the cop commands.
I shut my eyes and slowly elevate my hands to my side.
"Good, now turn around," he says.
I sprint off across the graveyard.
"She’s on the move," he yells and the speaker statics.
I sprint like a mad woman, my legs flying as I hop and maneuver around the gravestones. The cop pursues me, his footsteps loud against the dirt. I speed up as I reach the brick fence. Springing onto my toes, I leap for the top. My stomach slams against the edge and I quickly pull my legs up. The cop grabs my boot and yanks on my leg.
"Don’t even think about you little punk." He starts to drag me back to the ground.
I try to wiggle my foot out of my boot. His hand grips higher on my leg, just below my knee. My fingertips scrape the brick as I struggle to hold on.
The cop’s free hand wraps around my other legs. "Just let—"
Suddenly, the cop releases my legs. My knee crashes into the fence and my jeans tear. I scramble to the top and glance behind me. The cop lies unconscious on the grass. The tall, dark stranger stands over him, but his eyes are locked on me. The shadows of the trees dance across his face and wild excitement lights up his eyes like cinders.
"Ember." His ghostly voice flows around me like smoke.
inch toward him until the tips of my boots line with the ledge of the fence and my hand powerlessly reaches for him. I can’t fight the urge to be near him, like I’m hypnotized.
"Come here," he purrs softly, reaching for me.
My other hand rises to my side and I start to jump of the ledge, desperate to be near him.
"Don’t move." Sirens screech and red and blue lights flash across the dark cemetery. I flinch and squat down. A cop car is parked on the other side of the cemetery. Two cops barrel out of the cab and hurry for the gate, hollering over their radios. I glance down. The tall stranger is gone. My gaze sweeps the cemetery haunted with strange shadows. The cop starts to stir. I spin around, jump down onto the sidewalk, run down the street toward my home, never looking back.