The Secret Dead (London Bones Book 1)

The Secret Dead (London Bones Book 1) by SW Fairbrother Read Free Book Online

Book: The Secret Dead (London Bones Book 1) by SW Fairbrother Read Free Book Online
Authors: SW Fairbrother
up in a cold sweat sometimes over the close call.
    I lifted my fingers to my neck and felt the reassuring twist of chain and the key against my skin. It’s said you can’t take it with you when you die. That’s not true. You can take the stuff that’s important. Grave goods have been part of the human funeral experience for millennia, and for good reason. It’s the instinct that makes you put your Nan’s engagement ring in with her, along with her favourite photo of your Granddad. Your head tells you it’s ridiculous, that they’re only going to rot or burn. Your heart knows better. The things that are truly important go along. The only exception is clothing. Most of the dead turn up clothed, even if they had no feelings about that particular shirt or pair of jeans. I don’t know why. My guess? The basic human urge to cover up.
    I opened the front door and peered out. The row of terraces flickered, interspersed with forest. When the road was there, it was paved with coffins. The dead blinked in and out as they went about their business. A car drove past, shifting from blue to silver, from Mercedes to Toyota.
    Water lapped at the end of the road where the police cordon had been. Beyond, into the horizon, there was nothing but sea. On schedule, a boat the size of the QE2 slid into sight. My vision wobbled as the underworld adjusted space to make the enormous ship fit on the suburban street. The recently dead crowded the railings, pointing and taking photos. The boatman stood at the front, a giant wheel beneath his slim fingers. I waved, and he tipped his hat.
    In many ways, the underworld fit traditional expectations. As I said to Little, there was still Hades, the three-headed dog, and the boatman who’d row you across the Styx for a penny.
    Except sometimes the Styx was the Thames, or the Mississippi or the Amazon, and the boatman accepted payment in sunflower seeds or cat hair or a favourite memory or whatever the soul happened to think was really important at the time. The boatman’s name was Charon, and he was the only thing that didn’t change. Everything else and everyone else changed, shaped by the changing thoughts of the dead, most of whom didn’t even know they were dead. They kept going as if life had never stopped, populating their little worlds with not-real versions of their family and friends, even going to work day after day, working out their unresolved issues through a death dream until they were ready for whatever came next.
    I looked up and saw a few flying figures. All were human. People don’t stop dreaming about flying just because they’re dead. In the distance, I made out the solid form of a minotaur.
    Someone tapped me on the shoulder, and I jumped. I turned to see my sister grinning at me. She was completely naked, her skin pale and freckled, her blonde hair plastered to her scalp. Water trickled down her body and pooled at her feet. At least she was human-shaped for once. My sister was one of the few exceptions. She knew she was dead.
    ‘You came to visit,’ Sigrid said.
    ‘Actually, I’m working.’
    Her face fell. ‘You’re always working. You never come just to visit me.’
    ‘I know. I’m sorry. I will. I promise.’
    ‘You always say that.’ Sigrid flickered and disappeared. A short sharp pain dug into my chest. I reached an arm out, but she was gone.
    ‘It hurts to see you, Siggie,’ I said to the empty space where she’d been. I swallowed and considered going after her, but once again, she would have to wait.
    I turned back into the flickering house and took a deep breath, then crossed the room and went through the door at the far end, bypassing the stairs. I found myself in a large kitchen with a sky-lighted extension. At the end of the extension, seated at a farmhouse-style table, was the most obese woman I had ever seen. Ratty hair draped her shoulders and disappeared into folds of flesh. The flickering slowed then stopped, anchored by the woman’s

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