Book By Avery Carter
There was never a good night to rob a grave, but the night of a full moon was certainly the worst. It made the tree branches reach out like fingers, ready to pluck away whatever unsuspecting fool that walked underneath them. Will-o-the-wisps floated between their branches, pulling the more gullible into the deepness of the dark. Sera ignored the shadows and wisps as she passed, shovel on her shoulder. Her clothing was dark; blues, greens, and thick black boots to keep the grave dirt off of her socks, and heavy gloves to protect against blisters. A less experienced night creeper might wear black, but not her. She knew that a night like this deserved colors that would complement the shadows, not deepen them.
It was a peculiar job that she was given, but Sera had long since learned not to question the jobs she got. They came from various places- medical students needing a fresh cadaver, art students wanting a heart for anatomical studies, or sometimes even a gentleman asking for a lady’s bones. She never questioned the requests, so long as they paid. If they didn’t pay, well. That’s when things got sticky. Going to the police wasn’t usually an option, but breaking into their house and stealing anything of value was payment enough for her.
This particular request had asked for the skull and locket of a girl that had died 200 years ago. Nothing else of the body- just those two things. The person making the request had even put a note saying that anything else on the body was free game. Sera liked requests like that. It meant she could usually turn a little extra profit by selling other valuables from the body.
She made it to the grave before the moon was too high in the sky, and set her shovel down. The gravestone was heavily overgrown, the letters muddled by dirt and time. These sorts of graves were always the hardest to dig into. They were too old. Too many roots around them. Sera stretched, reaching her hands up to the stars. It would be an aching night. She could already tell.
She picked up the shovel and got to work.
Not even a foot in, she hit her first root system. It worked up to the ivy over the grave. She chopped through the taproot with her shovel blade, peeling the smaller roots out of the way, and kept going. The stars turned overhead, the moon stretched out the shadows further, and she kept digging. More root systems tangled around her feet, pulling her deeper into the grave. She didn’t think ill of the roots, nor of the dirt they ran through. Sometimes, she even thought she might like to join them.
At last, smeared with grave dirt and sweat, her shovel hit something with a hollow thump. Her tired arms let it fall against the side of the hole, and she used her hands to brush the last of the dirt away from the coffin. It was an old, creepy coffin with a window built into it so the beloved of the deceased could look into it and see the body without danger of plague. Nothing was left of the skin, thankfully. A skull stared back at Sera, gaping dark holes reflecting the starlight above her. It was oddly beautiful in a way. The brain and face rotted away, and all that was left were the stars.
When Sera is hired to rob a 200 year old grave, the last thing she expects is the ghost of Lady Clementine de Quill rising up to scold her for it. Sera tries everything to get rid of her– selling the items she took from her grave, bathing in saltwater, even putting herself through a religious smoke cleansing from the Church of the Wheel. Nothing works, and Sera finally resigns herself to having a ghost follow her around for the rest of her life.
Despite their differences, a partnership begins to bloom between the streetwise gravedigger and the cultured noblewoman. Just as they realize that maybe they aren’t so different after all, Clem starts to fade, flickering in and out for longer and longer stretches of time. Sera begins to realize that with each time Clem vanishes, there’s a chance that she won’t come back. There’s only one problem: she can’t imagine life without her anymore.
Featuring an LGBTQ+ relationship and an autistic protagonist, THE GHOST AND THE REAL GIRL is a perfect match for the Halloween season. Fans of WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion and THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern will adore this haunting love story.
Avery Carter is an independent LGBTQIA+ science fiction and fantasy writer, and author of The Moon Trilogy. Their greatest accomplishment (aside from publishing a few good books) is winning a city-wide compliment duel, or teaching one of their dogs the command “Excuse Me”. They proudly proclaim that they are the coolest person you know before quickly disproving it by talking too much about Pokemon, or how amazing their wife is. They spend their days cosplaying as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and their nights writing about the weird and wonderful things that can be found in everyday life.
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