West Norwood Cemetery.
Sounds kind of majestic to me.
If you’d ever seen the place, you’d know what I was talking about. Some forty acres or so of graves, stretching as far as the eye can see.
West Norwood is an area of South West London; not a million miles away from Streatham. Years back, I used to work in West Norwood behind the cemetery in a business park. In order for me to get to work, I had to get the overground (train) to West Norwood station, walk past the cemetery’s main entrance and then walk the length of the cemetery. And then walk behind. That took a while. Somewhere down the line, curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to go and have a look around.
Cemeteries weren’t anything new to me at that point. Bus rides to and from my aunt’s place when she used to have a flat in Earlsfield meant travelling past another cemetery (don’t ask me the name; right now, I have no idea). What struck me about West Norwood Cemetery, apart from the size, is just how much there is to it. Tombstones in varying shades of grey or green, slanting this way and that. Kerb sets and such. Statues and cherubs. Mausoleums. Catacombs. Higher ground in some places, lower in others. All across a vast expanse of grass, paths and trails. No wonder that a number of my stories feature the cemetery as a character, or at least make a reference to it. Friends Of West Norwood Cemetery (FOWNC) run a free guided tour every month, to boost knowledge and appreciation for this area of history. Given that the cemetery is nearly two hundred years old, their efforts also include raising funds for conservation work. For all my work that references the cemetery so far, I’ve only taken the tour in the last few months. Well worth it. Still, just those occasional visits way back when had given more than enough inspiration to craft a tale or two.
And the tales crafted? There’s a number of them, but the first tale was Sunset Is Just The Beginning, a short story that spawned the sequel novella But Worse Will Come. ‘Sunset…’ was set in 1982 and is currently a free read on my site. The novella, published by KGHH Publishing, is set some thirty years later in the present. The story arc shows karma in effect when a school bully gets his comeuppance, and the two titles actually summarise the arc. ‘Sunset is just the beginning, but worse will come.’ There’s also a prequel to ‘Sunset…’ that looks at the early days of the cemetery: Sanity Slips Through Your Fingers. Unlike the other two tales, it’s less ‘creature-feature’ and more grisly. More of a gothic feel, this is currently available in the DeadSteam anthology from Grimmer & Grimmer Books.
Anyhow. Here’s an excerpt from the novella But Worse Will Come:
“Night had again fallen over the city, bringing a wealth of wondrous change with it: the hush of traffic from evening to night, the scents of human food, even the humans themselves as they prepared for revelry, drunken or otherwise. Subtler scents lay below: those of lower animals that humans kept as pets, soon to be cosied and kennelled away, allowing mice, rats and foxes to scavenge from scraps. Millions of scents, as unique as human fingerprints, drifted through the night air. Across cemeteries, where the dead lay rotting peacefully in their graves. Along streets and under bridges. Across the city’s valleys of glass and steel towers, and terraced houses; chimneyed houses of weathered brick, worn paint and old windows. One window, formerly glass, was now inlaid with a broad slab of wood.
Nostril slits hovered near that wood, flaring as they sifted through the scents on the other side. The scent of prey was there first and foremost, the stink of human sweat coating the wood. This scent certainly made a welcome change from the smell of rotting corpses. But now there was something else. Someone else. The pale face angled this way and that, capturing as much of the new scent as possible before leaning back into the night air. Much ground remained to be covered before daylight; too much work for one night. Perhaps the familiar would prove useful again.”
London native C. C. Adams is the horror/dark fiction author behind urban horror novella But Worse Will Come. His short fiction appears in publications such as Turn To Ash, Weirdbook Magazine and The Black Room Manuscripts.
A member of the Horror Writers Association, he still lives in the capital. This is where he lifts weights, cooks – and looks for the perfect quote to set off the next dark delicacy.
Website – www.ccadams.com
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Twitter – https://twitter.com/MrAdamsWrites