We surveyed what seemed like millions of headstones, scattered across the worryingly uneven ground.
“Where do we start?” I asked, scuffing my trainer into the dirty loam.
Sky led us forward.
“My grandad’s grave is around here. Shall we search there first?”
The sun split through the trees, casting hollow shadows across the undergrowth. I flinched at every little thing. Finally, Sky came to a halt beside a small grave, looking solemnly at the words carved into the white stone.
I glanced at Esmie. Awkward.
The silence continued for another minute, and I fiddled with a piece of string in my pocket whilst staring at a tree behind us. The grave of Sky’s grandfather was one of the last; not much more cemetery lay behind, and I looked hopefully towards a small, metal gate that acted as the back-exit to the place. Suddenly, Esmie’s voice gave the silence relief.
“Oh my gosh!”
I raced over to her, knelt beside a grave not far from Sky, but half-concealed behind a leafy Juniper bush.
“What is it?”
“I was just…um…giving Sky some space, when my eyes were drawn to this grave. Doesn’t it look so new compared to those around us?”
Wanting to agree, I opened my mouth, but felt Sky arrive beside us, and, being busy scanning the inscription carved into the marble, she took the words from me.
“I knew it!” she punched the air as she spoke, all trace of respect for the dead gone.
The riddle was there. Written straight into the stone, with no blemishes of time and no signs that anyone had claimed the message as their own. A sudden thought hit me there: what if we weren’t the ones who were chasing the riddle? Someone could just as easily have read the message in the bottle and then replaced it for another group (ie. us) to find.
“You found this upon graveyard rock,
Words hidden above the dead,
Soon you’ll be treading all the blocks
And perhaps catch a glimpse of bread.”
When she finished, Sky bit her lip. We all had no idea what any of it meant again. Esmie was avoiding my glance, and Sky stared directly at the inscription, expressionless. I hated the feel of the silence that slowly grew again, and I hated the fact that it meant that I could hear tiny rustling from the undergrowth.
“Look, once again letters here have been written in a different script…” I pointed out.
“How odd. It’s ‘u’s this time. There’s no pattern except the fact that we’ve had all the vowels.”
“Do you think someone placed it here especially for it?” whispered Esmie hesitantly.
“Surely not?” replied Sky, “That seems a tad too unlikely… It was probably already here…or something.”
Jumpiness slipped into my heart again.
“Okay, now where does that leave us?”
We were, after all, in the middle of a graveyard.