This is an entry to the sony young movellist of the year competition.
The FAO, the largest funeral organisation of its kind, holds a sinister secret. But after the death of Flynn’s grandmother and the mysterious disappearance of his friend, he witnesses more than he would’ve wished and is now on the verge of unearthing their furtive ways and Liz is coming with him… The dead are waiting.


1. Prologue


He ambled on blindly in the darkness, his head continuously jerking around, as his strained ears magnified every other sound apart from his own ragged breath and his heart rapidly pounding in his chest. He continued in the same general direction he’d been drifting for the previous half hour, his perspiration covered palms feeling for the cool touch of the smooth walls. He took another uncertain step. Two. Three. And just as he had anticipated the tip of his trainers felt the raise of the cool hard flooring. A stairwell. But as he tentatively advanced upwards, his heavy trainers creaked unexpectedly at such a volume that for a terrible moment he didn’t dare to even breathe just stood there motionless. But nothing stirred. So, shaking his head in relief, he cautiously resumed his pace. Reaching the peak of the stair case, he paused with uneasiness, his azure eyes squinting against the shadowed corridor but even with his keen gaze he failed to penetrate anything in the gloom. But once again he sensed something, someone. He felt the presence of another invisibly shadowing his own. He’d immediately been aware of it the moment he’d plucked up the courage and crept out from the cellar beneath but had instantly dismissed his instincts as the product of his sleep-deprived imagination. But now he was certain that wasn’t the case. He spared his surroundings a hurried glance, his eyes searching for the briefest of movements in the dark. Nothing. But just when he was on the verge of disregarding his troubling thought once more, he felt the softness of a stranger’s breath against his cheek. And for a brief unnerving moment his world broke into complete panic, reeling away from his attacker, his head narrowly of course of the sidewall as he pushed himself a side. But just when he was on the threshold of crying out in complete surprise, a tender hand tightened against his lips, muffling his voice to an inaudible rate. And as the slender figure pressed against his chest, leaning incredibly close, he picked up on a familiar sweet scent which due to his present situation one that he didn’t immediately place. But only when the teenage girl removed her palm from his mouth, closing her soft lips around his own, did he realize who it was. And at the recognition which surfaced in his eyes, she hastily pulled away, bending over to enable herself to whisper in his ear, “If you scream you’re gonna bring the whole place down on us like a pack of cards.” And with the wave of relief spreading through him he almost smiled at the murmur of her recognizable voice. But then, as the reality of the situation bit back at him, he shot back his reply, hissing furiously, “What are you doing here?”

For a fleeting moment she stalled uncertainly as though mustering up an appropriate response, “Look, your risking your life, Flynn, to find out what’s going on here. I’m not letting you do it alone.”

He shook his head incredulously as if she just wasn’t getting it, “Liz you’ve got to get back… Stay with me you’ll get killed!”

“We all have to die sometime, right?” She straightened in her position, securely grasping his hand, she spared him a look of defiance, “I’m not leaving you.” Whether he had picked up on that tone apparent in her voice (one that clearly stated she wasn’t going to be moved) or realizing this wasn’t a place to argue, whatever the reason with a final shake of his head he reluctantly allowed her to lead the way through the murky expanse, Flynn trailing behind her.

“Besides,” She muttered, continuing in her low volume voice, so low in fact that he had to strain his ears to make out every word, “I brought along this.” She edged her palm into the pocket of her jeans extracting an object which sent an immediate smile across his face. A torch. Where she’d picked it up was far beyond his knowledge but once they were out of the muggy heat of the building and back onto the street in the refreshing night air he would be sure to question her on it. They sauntered on, hand in hand, Liz’s lean fingers tightening their grip with every unwilling step as she cast the dim glow of the torch about their surroundings. The corridors were far wider than what Flynn had initially thought and in the steady light he caught her glancing around with growing unease, the palm of her trembling hand shaking rather uncontrollably.

“This place gives me the creeps,” She deliberately shuddered to emphasize her point, her eyes darting around with suspicion, “You know, I-” She halted abruptly in mid-sentence but what caused her to do so was Flynn, who suddenly lurched towards her, prising the torch from Liz’s grasp and etching the room into complete darkness once more as he pulled her around to the left fork in the corridor. “What is it?” Liz demanded, shaking her head to ease the sudden dizziness that had come across her as she slammed her head against the thin wall, “Flynn…”  She called his name with increasing uncertainty as her response was greeted with an awkward silence. She frantically looked around but the obscurity of the darkness shadowed her vision. But before any thoughts of dread surfaced in her mind, a single finger pressed against her lips to signal her to remain silent, and at that she breathed in relief. Wiping the trailing sweat from her damp forehead, she felt Flynn tug at the sleeve of her top to indicate that they should keep moving. But only when they had picked up the pace and had made notable progress in the dark, did she begin to repeat her question, “What was it?” He shrugged wordlessly in response, then upon realizing the fact that she was still staring at him with expectancy, “I don’t know. I just thought I’d saw something.”

“Or someone,” She added quietly, meeting his gaze as he flicked the torch’s switch. And as she uttered these words a look of fear surfaced in his blue irises and at that point it became clear to her he was more afraid than she had initially made out. Releasing a deep reassuring breath, his eyes flickered around, ever alert, and he noticed a sign displayed on a striking crimson coloured door which immediately caught his interest. “Keep out,” he read aloud, slowly leading her over.

“And we’re gonna go along with the rules right?” She said wryly, eyeing him as he pulled out an ID card and swiped it across the entrance of the door. It slid open with an electronic hum. He looked round at her, “Right.” But, coincidentally, the moment he ushered her over to the open entrance, the torch in his sweating palm began to continuously flicker from its once steady shine, and spontaneously, as Liz exchanged a worrying glance with her companion, darkness shed around them once more. “That’s great,” she muttered sarcastically, rolling her eyes at him. But of course he couldn’t see her doing so.  “Let’s just take this slowly,” he wrapped his hand in hers as if he’d lose awareness of her position or would be unable to locate her position otherwise. Together they edged forward. Flynn mentally keeping a score of their footsteps grazing against the concrete flooring as they advanced. On the count of fifteen he abruptly halted in his tracks, his grip on her hand suddenly loosened as he made an attempt to shade his eyes as the numerous bright LED lights in the room around him were flicked on full.  For a moment he didn’t dare open his eyelids, clenching them shut as though sure he’d been blinded, but when he eventually edged them open, his eyes adjusting, he gawped around in horror at what came into his view. And beside him, Liz screamed unexpectedly as she caught onto the scene playing before her, a scream which echoed continuously across the room. And Flynn’s world felt as though it had been torn to pieces. They’d discovered what they’d been searching for. Now he wished he hadn’t.


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