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Title: The Urn of the Undead
Creator: El Staplador
Universe: The Well of Loneliness (Radclyffe Hall)
Type of work: Fic
Contains: Zombies, obviously.
Summary: There are very few things that Stephen Gordon can't handle. In fact, the only one she can't handle is probably Stephen Gordon.
Notes: Unfinished. I will spare you my epic (and ongoing) battle with my wireless card and USB ports. Suffice it to say that there is more to come, but I hope that what I offer here is at least a moment's amusement.

There is nothing as unsettling as seeing a reanimated corpse haul itself from the waters of the Seine and collapse at one's feet. None the less, when confronted with this ghastly sight, Stephen Gordon simply shook her head and kicked it neatly back into the river. She had seen too many corpses in the war to lose her composure.

It slithered into the water and disappeared with a squelch.

On the opposite bank, the flying buttresses of Notre Dame leapt gracefully skyward in the glow of the dying sunset. Less graceful were the shambling figures that swarmed over the bridge. Stephen considered whether she ought not to attempt to send them after their grisly colleague, but a brief assessment of the swarm persuaded her that discretion was, in this case, the better part of valour, and she quickened her stride back towards the Rue Jacob.

Pierre, stoically terrified, brought her a jug of coffee, and she sat up late into the evening applying her mind to the question of what should be done. Now she thought about it, she recalled murmurings – rumours – whispers. Destroyed by Mary's departure and her own decision to release her, she had been in no mood to pay attention to current affairs, reported second- or third-hand. Incontrovertible visual evidence was another matter.

Stephen laid a map of Paris out on her desk, looked at it for a little while, then thoughtfully drew two circles in red ink. Next, she summoned Pierre and Pauline and questioned them thoroughly: what did they know? What had they heard? More to the point, what had they seen? Pauline was expansive, Pierre less so, but both knew better than to waste Stephen's time with anything less than fact, and at the end of an hour Stephen had added fourteen further red circles to her chart, and had much to think about when at last she dismissed them.


Next morning Pauline brought news: news of seven more circles to be added to the map. There was, Stephen thought, a distinct pattern emerging. It was time to make an inspection on the ground.

There was, of course, little danger in the daylight, but the streets and alleys bore the marks of a night of violence. A smashed window here, a bloodstain there; scarce enough in Saint-Germain, but as she crossed the Seine and neared the 20ème Arondissement the scene grew more and more desolate. The red circles on her map had told this same story. Despite herself, she found herself hesitating to enter the cemetery; but it was the same peaceful mausoleum as ever. Here slept the great and the good, the famous and the infamous of France. Stephen could never enter it without an indrawn breath – of respect, and, today, a little fear.

But there was nothing to be seen. The candle-blossoms on the chestnut trees shone serenely; a couple of tourists, carrying Baedeker guide and camera, wandered among the tombstones, here and there stopping to point out a name they knew. The graves themselves seemed undisturbed. Where did those monsters go, Stephen wondered; could they return, vampire-like, to their own beds of rest? Or had they found some infernal cave to hide in?

The latter seemed likely: for, while the streets around it wore the grisly evidence of disturbance, Pére Lachaise itself seemed a foretaste of blissful eternal rest, where dead nor living could come to trouble the quiet departed.

In any case, there was only one way to find out, and Stephen had nothing better to do.


Next morning, weary, stiff and chilled, she extinguished the hurricane lantern. The night's showing had been mainly negative; while she had heard worrying shrieks and groans from the streets around her, the cemetery itself had been quiet – quiet as the grave – and all that had arisen to disquiet Stephen had come from her own mind. Try as she might, she could not forget her last sight of Jamie, with that little red hole in her forehead, and her terror was that she might now see her, shambling around the streets of the city that she had thought a sanctuary but that had proved but a snare. Or Barbara, scarcely paler and thinner in living death than she had been in her dying life. It was a thought too horrible to dwell upon; yet Stephen could not tear it from her brain.

Now, in the thin light of day, she shuddered, and turned towards home. She would gather any further data from her household, sleep, and tonight, she would set out again to watch. For she had a good idea where the monsters would gather, if it were not Pére Lachaise.

After all, Paris is a city built on the dead.
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January 2016

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