What questions does Chapter 1 leave you with?
Ever since the child had learned to walk he had been his mother’s and father’s despair and delight, for there never was such a boy for wandering, for climbing up things, for getting into and out of things. That night, he had been woken by the sound of something on the floor beneath him falling with a crash. Awake, he soon became bored, and had begun looking for a way out of his crib. It had high sides, like the walls of his playpen downstairs, but he was convinced that he could scale it. All he needed was a step…
He pulled his large, golden teddy bear into the corner of the crib, then, holding the railing in his tiny hands, he put his foot onto the bear’s lap, the other foot up on the bear’s head, and he pulled himself up into a standing position, and then he half-climbed, half-toppled over the railing and out of the crib. He landed with a muffled thump on a small mound of furry, fuzzy toys, some of them presents from relations from his first birthday, not six months gone, some of them inherited from his older sister. He was surprised when he hit the floor, but he did not cry out: if you cried they came and put you back in your crib. He crawled out of the room. Stairs that went up were tricky things, and he had not yet entirely mastered them. Stairs that went down however, he had discovered, were fairly simple. He did them sitting down, bumping from step to step on his well-padded bottom.
When he reached the last step, and the little hall, he stood up. The stairs that led back up to his room and his family were steep, but the door to the street was open and inviting…. The child stepped out of the house a little hesitantly. The fog wreathed around him like a long-lost friend. And then, uncertainly at first, then with increasing speed and confidence, the boy tottered up the hill. The fog was thinner as you approached the top of the hill. The half-moon shone, not as bright as day, not by any means, but enough to see the graveyard, enough for that. Look. You could see the abandoned funeral chapel, iron doors padlocked, ivy on the sides of the spire, a small tree growing out of the guttering at roof level. You could see stones and tombs and vaults and memorial plaques. You could see the occasional dash or scuttle of a rabbit or a vole or a weasel as it slipped out of the undergrowth and across the path. You would have seen these things, in the moonlight, if you had been there that night. You might not have seen a pale, plump woman, who walked the path near the front gates, and if you had seen her, with a second, more careful glance you would have realised that she was only moonlight, mist, and shadow. The plump, pale woman was there, though. She walked the path that led through a clutch of half-fallen tombstones towards the front gates. The gates were locked. They were always locked at four in the afternoon in winter, at eight at night in summer. Spike-topped iron railings ran around part of the cemetery, a high brick wall around the rest of it. The bars of the gates were closely spaced: they would have stopped a grown man from getting through, even stopped a ten-year-old child… “Owens!” called the pale woman, in a voice that might have been the rustle of the wind through the long grass. “Owens! Come and look at this!” She crouched down and peered at something on the ground, as a patch of shadow moved into the moonlight, revealing itself to be a grizzled man in his mid-forties. He looked down at his wife, and then looked at what she was looking at, and he scratched his head. “Mistress Owens?” he said, for he came from a more formal age than our own. “Is that what I think it is?” And at that moment the thing he was inspecting seemed to catch sight of Mrs. Owens, for it opened its mouth, and it reached out a small, chubby fist, as if it were trying for all the world to hold on to Mrs Owens’ pale finger. “Strike me silly,” said Mr. Owens, “if that isn’t a baby.” “Of course it’s a baby,” said his wife. “And the question is, what is to be done with it?”
Click through the links below to hear author Neil Gaiman read the whole story.
Chapter 7, Part 1
Chapter 7, Part 2
Story Chair Special
Follow the link below for Mr Kurji-Smith's 'Graveyard Book' Story Chair Special!