James Heneghan The Grave

ISBN 13: 9780440229483

The Grave

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9780440229483: The Grave
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Thirteen-year-old Tom, an unhappy foster child in Liverpool, falls into a massive open grave and is transported to Ireland in 1847 in the middle of the deadly potato famine.

Thirteen-year-old Tom Mullen has always been alone, moving about from one disastrous foster home situation to another. He has never known the true meaning of family love. When he hears that a mass grave has been unearthed on his school grounds, he feels drawn to the grave, pulled toward it, but can’t explain why.

I sucked in a deep breath to try and calm my bursting chest. The smell from the open grave wasn’t bad the way you’d expect from so many dead people. . . . But it wasn’t the smell that got to me, it was the feeling that something in the black pit was calling and reaching out to me, pulling me, that same urge again, the one I’d been getting for the past couple of days, but stronger now and more powerful. It terrified me, if you really want to know the truth.

The truth is Tom’s life is about to change forever.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

James Heneghan has also written Wish Me Luck, available from Dell Laurel-Leaf.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

. . . caught like an animal in a leg-hold trap

Basically, I'm a loner.

My name is Tom and I'm small for my age, which is thirteen and three-quarters. My mother left me crawling in Toys on the fifth floor of Lewis's department store when I was a baby and never came back for me. It was downtown Liverpool, Christmas, 1961. She probably kissed me on the cheek and told me, "Be a good boy," before she took off, but that's guesswork because how would I know that? Maybe she wished me a Merry Christmas. Anyway I never saw her again. They found a note pinned to me that said "Tommy." That was it, just "Tommy," no birth date, no second name, nothing. I don't even know whether she was sad or glad to be rid of me, but whenever I think of her I always imagine her saying, "Be a good boy, Tommy," and then taking the elevator down to the main floor and pushing her way through the revolving doors and running down Renshaw Street with her coat flapping.

I've been a loner ever since.

I still live in Liverpool, a few miles from Lewis's downtown, in a suburb called Old Swan, and I've got a story to tell. I'll be surprised if anyone believes it because sometimes I don't even believe it myself. But I've got to tell it.

It all started when I fell into the black hole.

Or was dragged, more like.

It wasn't one of those black holes way out in space, the kind that's supposed to suck up asteroids and space debris like a vacuum cleaner--no; this black hole was just a deep pit on a construction site, hidden behind a corrugated steel fence in the school yard. Men and machines had been working behind the high fence for a whole year, building the new school, though the actual building hadn't started yet because they were still working on the excavation. Why a whole year just to dig a hole? Nobody knew the answer. Rumors of all kinds were flying around: the delay was caused by the important discovery of ancient Roman ruins and the government had sent experts to check it out; or the workmen had uncovered the grisly remains of a singer, famous for her blond boldness and unconventional music, who disappeared a year ago and was now found murdered, chopped into pieces with a butcher knife; or the construction crew had discovered a hoard of buried treasure dating back to the Spanish Armada; or they had found a secret tunnel to Australia. Everyone laughed at the rumors but soon stopped when they saw fresh rolls of razor wire and a uniformed guard put on to patrol the fence perimeter twenty-four hours a day.

For several days I'd felt a powerful impulse to explore behind the fence, like there was something, or somebody, commanding me; like my very life depended on it. It was nothing but my overactive imagination, I told myself, the exciting idea of exploring Roman ruins more than a thousand years old, or of seeing Spanish gold, or of being the first through the tunnel to Australia.

I thought about it so hard I couldn't sleep.

When I slipped out of bed Brian heard me getting up and thought I was running out on him, so I ended up having to take him with me.

We crept out under the cover of moony darkness. Don't think I wasn't scared, because I was. I was scared out of my mind if you really want to know the truth. But I just had to see what was behind the fence, no matter what.

The moon was almost full, but dodgy with thin cloud. The urge was stronger the closer I got, like there was a magnet dragging me. We got to Snozzy's school yard--Snozzy's is what all the kids call St. Oswald's--and hid in the bushes near the church.

Brian was scared, too. "I don't like this place, Tom," he whined. "Could we go back now?"

"You can go back, but I've got to see what's behind the fence."

Brian said, "Wha?"

I should mention that Brian's bread isn't baked all the way through.

"Or you can stay here and wait for me," I told him.

"I'm scared, Tom. Don't leave me here by myself!"

"Then shut up."

The uniformed guard stood with his back to the fence smoking a ciggy. He finally ground the butt end under his boot and started patrolling slowly along the fence. When he disappeared round the bend I said, "Let's go!"

We moved sharpish, me pushing Brian along to keep him moving. The gap under the corrugated fence was wide enough to drive a double-decker bus through. We dived under and crouched on the inside, listening.

Not a sound. The moon edged out from behind thin cloud. I looked around quickly but there wasn't much to see, only an ordinary construction site: soil piled in high pyramids; a crane with a long jib; a forklift gleaming yellow in the moonlight; picks and shovels leaning against the church wall; a stack of timber; black shadows everywhere.

I could almost hear my heart hammering.

And again the pulling, like that black hole in space I already mentioned, trying to suck me into its dark belly.

We stood and edged forward.

Brian tripped. "Look out!" I grabbed his arm to stop him falling.

I stared down at the object Brian had tripped over. It was like, what, a thighbone? And then I saw boxes, several of them scattered about on the ground, plain wooden boxes, but coffin-shaped and horrible.

I kicked at the side of a box. The rotted wood collapsed easily. I kicked again, harder this time, and part of the top came away. I crouched and leaned forward, staring into the box. Rags and . . . bones. It was a coffin, sure enough. Terrified, I backed off, my chest pounding, and bumped into Brian. That scared me even more.

"I wanna go home," Brian moaned.

"Shurrup!" I said fiercely. "You wanted to come, didn't you?"

I moved on and Brian followed, moaning, clutching my jacket.

The rumors were wrong. All that secret digging behind the fence; it was really just an old graveyard. Nothing to be scared of in a graveyard, I told myself; dead people couldn't harm me.

The moon rode clear and I froze. One more step and we would have fallen into a black pit the size of a swimming pool. I grabbed Brian's arm so he wouldn't topple in and stood peering down into the black hole, Brian clutched to me and whimpering like a beaten dog.

In the silvery light I could see coffins, hundreds of them, in a pit more than twenty feet deep. This was way scarier than I'd expected. This was too much. I was finding it difficult to breathe. I wanted to run away but I was caught like an animal in a leg-hold trap.

Brian was pulling at me and crying at the same time. "Tom! Tom!"

I sucked in a deep breath to try and calm my bursting chest and found the smell from the open grave wasn't bad the way you'd expect from so many dead people, but was sweet and musty instead, like mushrooms, or like those tiny samples of extra-old cheese they give away in Sainsbury's on Saturday mornings. But it wasn't the smell that got to me, it was the feeling that something in the black pit was reaching out to me, pulling me, that same urge again, the one I'd been getting for the past couple of days, but stronger now and more powerful. It terrified me if you really want to know the truth.

"Do you feel anything?" I asked Brian, trying to keep my voice from shaking.

He pulled at me, crying and moaning. "I wanna go home, Tom!"

So did I. I tore myself away from the pit and its stacks of boxed skeletons and started back toward the fence, Brian still clutching my jacket, but something was dragging me back and it wasn't Brian. I struggled, but it was like trying to run in deep water.

"Hold it right there!" Bright beam of light in my face. The guard! I swore aloud, unable to see anything in the blinding light.

"Run for it, Brian!"

"Tom! Tom!" Brian screamed.

I moved. The next thing I knew I was falling into the black pit, and I didn't know if it was because Brian, moaning and terrified, had stumbled against me, or if it was something in the grave reaching out and grasping me and dragging me down, down, into its terrible darkness.

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