fiction from fiction

A short story of mine was accepted for publication in Descant magazine! It won't be published until Spring 2011, but it's my first publication and only my third submission, so I'm very pleased.

It's a ghost story, and it's based on a small cemetery near where I lived when I was in high school. I only ever had the guts to go in it once or twice — even in broad daylight, even though it has good sightlines and is on a major intersection, the place is creepy. The earth directly over each grave has sunk an inch or two lower than the rest of the ground, and is always of a squishy texture if the weather is above freezing, while the ground between the graves is always firm. It's a very disconcerting place to walk.

There was one headstone I vividly remembered from my high school years. It was white limestone, cut with block lettering, and dedicated to a woman who had died 1919-1920. She was the mother of several children who were all also listed on the tombstone. They had all died within months of each other.

At the time I thought it was odd that this had happened, since 1919 is relatively modern times. Then I learned about the Spanish flu pandemic and thought, "Aha! That's what happened!".

So yeah, my ghost story has to do with a farmer's graveyard and the Spanish flu pandemic.

Recently I made the drive back to Brampton to get some photos of the graveyard. Since I lived there, they've put up strip plazas both behind the graveyard and across 15 Sideroad  from it. The one behind the graveyard has a much lower elevation than the cemetery itself — there's a retaining wall about five feet high at the northern edge of the parking lot. Which means, yes, the most southerly graves are right beside a parking lot retaining wall (and some do go right to the southern edge of the cemetery)... and the tops of the coffins are slightly higher than the top of the parking lot pavement, assuming those sunken areas I mentioned earlier indicate the total amount of settling.

I lucked out with the light for the photos I took — it was about an hour before sunset. The sky was clear, so everything was washed in a warm gold colour. Take a look at the slide show below if you're interested.

The big surprise was.... my Spanish flu tombstone didn't exist. In its place (or at least, where I remember it being placed) was the red granite Campbell stone. It records a woman and two men, but as you can see from the ages, they weren't mother and children. Apparently my brain invented those. It was a good lesson about getting inspiration from real life sources — since the trip out there, I'm a lot less worried about "copying" things than I used to be.

Do you have any super-vivid memories of things that never existed (or existed, but not at all the way you remember them)?