Death Becomes Her
a Gothic tale of love and...body-snatching
Melly lives in darkness, stealing bodies by moonlight to support her sisters and herself. Coming face-to-face with a new doctor, one who doesn't view the resurrectionists with quite the same acceptance as his predecessor, she must decide what is best for her family—a family who desires to choose for themselves.
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The compiled edition of Death Becomes Her includes an exclusive short story,
The Devil She Knows.
The second serial romance for InD'tale Magazine features a body-snatcher and the doctor she sells the bodies to. It's a match made in... certainly not heaven.
“This short story is packed to the brim with wonderful characters, an interesting and enlightening look at the “seamier” side of 1800s London and a fledgling romance trying to take flight."
~ Carol from I'm A Voracious Reader
Part One: Sisters in Death
Darkness clung to her like a lover. Melly took no notice of the lack of visibility. She lived in darkness, slumbering most of the afternoon until night's cloak fell over London. Then she would venture out with her little pony and cart, her sisters packed in the wagon with her, off to earn the money that kept them alive and off the streets.
A shovelful of dirt slid to the ground beside the hole forming before her. Her actions were swift as she removed scoop after scoop of freshly turned earth. Nothing stirred in the night, nothing disturbing the rhythmic slide of metal against dirt.
The smell of moist, warm soil wound itself around Melly's body, nearly masking the less than appealing smell that clung to her hair and skin. Refuse, decay, and rancid odors from the the River Thames assaulted her senses. Death was in the air.
Melly paused, dragging a dirt-smudged palm over her sweaty brow. Her shovel nudged something pliant, a soft object that gave a little but didn't allow the metal to slide through as the dirt did. She'd found them, finally, the latest poor souls to find their way into hell.
Doubling her efforts she uncovered the grave, signaling to her younger sisters to help her.
“Melly, I don't like it out here,” fourteen-year-old Olivia whined, dutifully hunching down to get her hands under the top body, blond braid swinging as she moved.
“Patience, dear,” Melly soothed, understanding her sister's reticence. Several months had passed since the last time they'd stolen bodies and Olivia had gotten used to the safety of staying out of the graveyards. “Doctor Billings pays good coin for these specimens, more if we can get them to him as soon as possible. This grave is but a few hours old so we shall receive more coin than usual.”
“Do be quiet, Livy,” seventeen-year-old Ashlin scolded, shoving her dark hair behind her ears as she stooped to help. “Were it not for Melly and Doctor Billings we'd all be earning our coin flat on our backs. I far prefer dead men to live ones.”
The first body pulled from the mass grave thumped to the ground beside their feet. One of the older girls bent to the task of removing the clothing, tossing each piece back into the grave. They couldn't risk being transported as thieves for stealing the clothes from the bodies. Besides, the doctor didn't need clothed specimens.
Melly grimaced at her sister's summation of their situation, stooping down to lift the next body from the grave. It was true there were very few options for a poor woman, even fewer when those poor women spoke like their betters and tried to behave as them, making it plain they wanted to be like their betters. A few discarded primers and a determination to better herself made Melly an apt pupil who used what she'd learned to teach her younger sisters. They would not take men to their beds just to survive. They didn't have to.
Their father taught the older girls the trade, though it was unusual for women. Stealing the bodies of the forgotten, the unimportant and unloved vagrants who'd had the misfortune to die in the vast city, meant food and lodging and a little more to put by for their futures. When the schools weren't in session, they took in sewing, more to keep them in food and busy than any other reason. But sewing barely kept them fed and there was nothing left over for the future.
And Melly was determined there would be a bright future for each of them, complete with husbands and families. They'd have to change their names and move away to some small country village, find decent men who had no idea they used to earn their living as body-snatchers.
Read the rest of Part One: Sisters in Death
in the June 2013* issue of InD'tale Magazine!
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