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The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman



The knife, held by the man Jack, was wet and he was nearly finished with the job he came to do. He left the woman in the bed, the man on the bedroom floor and the older child in her bedroom. There was just the toddler left. The man Jack made his way to the boy's room but as he raised his knife he noticed the child was not there. Smelling the room, the man Jack knew the child was there. He searched the house but did not find him. The front door was open and he looked out. Shops down the street, houses up to the graveyard. Following his nose, he went up.


The boy loved to walk and was forever escaping his crib and he’d also mastered stairs, well going down them, scooting on his bum. This was exactly what he did the night he heard strange thumps. When he reached the bottom step, he noticed the front door was open, invitingly so, and stepped out into the foggy night and went up the hill to the graveyard.


Mistress Owens spots the boy and calls over Mister Owens. Mistress Owens is won over by the boy's chubby smile but Mister Owens is distracted by someone rattling the graveyard gates and assumes it’s the boy’s family. Suddenly a ghost appears to Mistress Owens and begs her to look after her son. The graveyard ghosts can tell she’s freshly dead and isn’t buried in their graveyard. Mistress Owens agrees before the boy's mother flickers away. As she takes the boy into her arms, all the man Jack can see is the baby disappearing into the mist and fog. A tall, imposing man appears next to the man Jack and escorts him out of the graveyard, leaving him with an impression of a kindly groundskeeper helping him and the thought that there was no baby there at all.


Josiah Worthington, one of the graveyard’s residents, protests the creature in Mistress Owens’ arms. Caius Pompeius and Mother Slaughter question how Mistress Owens will look after a living child, but agree with Mistress Owens that giving the boy the freedom of the graveyard would be a good idea. The stranger, Silas, comes over and offers to help Mistress and Master Owens. If they will be the boy's parents, he will be his guardian. As they look at the boy, wondering his name, they decide he looks like nobody but himself, and that’s what they will call him: Nobody Owens.


The graveyard chapel, though closed and abandoned, was built sturdily and will make a suitable home for the boy. Silas brings a banana for the boy which Mistress Owens finds very strange indeed, but the boy seems to enjoy it. Outside, the three-hundred graveyard residents who don’t sleep too deeply to bother with the world congregate to decide on whether or not the boy should stay. The arrival of a great white horse and its rider, the lady in gray, stymies the debate. The only thing the lady says to them is that the dead should have charity before cantering away. Nobody Owens is granted the freedom of the graveyard.


As it dawns, the man Jack berates himself, he should have gone down the hill, not up and now the boy is lost. Months of planning down the drain! As sirens are heard in the background, the man Jack decides he’ll have to make suitable enquiries around town to discerning individuals.


As Bod grows, he pesters the ghosts with questions, the biggest one being why he can’t leave the graveyard. Silas tells him he is safe in the graveyard and needs to master his skills such as fading, sliding and dreamwalking. The graveyard will take care of him. Silas arranges for Bod to learn his letters, setting him challenges using the gravestones. One day, while Bod was looking at his ABCs, a girl spots Bod and pulls faces at him. She asks him his name and how old he is, she says she is Scarlett Amber Perkins and she is five-years old. She declares that they are friends and helps Bod with his homework until her mother calls for her. Scarlett tells her parents about her new friend who lives in the graveyard and they condescendingly say that’s nice and dismiss Bod as an imaginary friend. To be fair, Scarlett does the same to Bod, believing the ghosts are his imaginary friends.


Bod and Scarlett play every afternoon. Scarlett asks who the oldest person in the graveyard is, probably Caius Pompeius. That night both children ask their grownups who the oldest is, and both told about the Celts before the Romans. Caius Pompeius himself confirms he is the oldest in the graveyard but there is someone else buried first, pointing up the hill. Caius Pompeius tells Bod that people who go in the hill either come out with white hair or do not come out at all. It's a strange place. The next day, Scarlett brings a book to the graveyard and proudly declares she found stuff out, but so has Bod! Together they head up the hill, Bod bringing a special key that opens all the doors.


Inside it’s very dark, well not for Bod who can see in the dark, but the darkness scares Scarlett a little. If Bod holds her hand though, she’ll be okay. When they reach the bottom, a strange noise fills the tomb and there is a light at the back which even Scarlett can see. The light turns into a well-preserved man with indigo designs and patterns tattooed on his skin. The man tells them to leave, he guards this place and the treasures inside. While Scarlett is scared, Bod isn’t, and he thinks the man is imaginary because Scarlett can also see him. Suddenly Scarlett is no longer scared as they decide the indigo man is like a scarecrow and not real. The indigo man disappears and the tomb goes dark again. The voice declares he is the slayer and is charged with looking after the treasure until his master returns. Looking around, Bod spots a broach, a goblet and a knife which must be the treasure. Deciding there is nothing there for them, Bod and Scarlett leave. Outside Scarlett’s parents have called the police thinking the worst has happened. No one spots Bod watching them fuss over Scarlett and her parents arguing with the police. Bod doesn’t see Scarlett for three weeks, but then she comes to say goodbye, she and her family are moving to Scotland.


One grave in every graveyard belongs to the ghouls. It’s marked, old, and the inscription is worn away. It emanates a feeling of abandonment. This is the ghoul gate. Silas tells Bod he needs to leave for a short time and Bod isn’t happy, but Silas has arranged for someone to look after him. Miss Lupescu is waiting for Bod in the little chapel and she is unimpressed with what she sees. Miss Lupescu brings Bod food, which he hates. and declares she will continue his education, which he protests. Miss Lupescu isn’t going to teach Bod writing and words like Letitia Burrows or Complete Educational System for Younger Gentlemen with Additional Material for Those Post Mortem as Mr. Pennyworth does. Instead, she asks what Bod knows about ghouls. Bod only knows to keep away from them, but that is not good enough for Miss Lupescu. Bod endures his lessons and escapes them as soon as he can, seeing a big gray dog prowling the graveyard that arrived the same time as Miss Lupescu, but she denies it is hers. Miss Lupescu teaches Bod how to cry for help in different languages, including French and Night-Gaunt. Miss Lupescu gives Bod a list to memorize which he hides under a rock and petulantly stomps through the graveyard eventually stopping at a grave that looks the way he feels. Bod curls up on the grass and falls asleep.


Coming up the hill, the shrunken in-human forms of the Duke of Westminster, the Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells skulk through the shadows looking for the ghoul gate. They come to a stop outside the ghoul gate, Bod’s sleeping form giving them pause, but then Bod wakes up. They introduce themselves before Bod gives them his story, blaming Miss Lupescu for bad food and feeling abandoned. They tell them he should go to the city where he will be appreciated. The city is filled with play fellows and the best food in the world. Bod asks to go with them. Together they go into the ghoul gate.


After the initial darkness inside the grave, the light is red, the sky filled with headstones. Other ghouls crawl outside the headstones along the walls and Bod is introduced to the 33rd President of the United States and the Emperor of China. It’s then Bod realizes the ghouls intend to turn him into a ghoul. Eventually they spot on the horizon Ghûlhiem, the ghoul city they took over like the carrion eaters they are. One ghoul mentions there are Night-Gaunts in the Ghûlhiem skies, and remembering his lessons, Bod calls out “help” but is quietened by Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh and the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The famous writer Victor Hugo brings out coffin wood and Bod spends the evening listening to the ghouls exalt the virtues of being ghouls and sing ghoul songs over the fire.


Surprisingly, Bod is able to sleep. The next morning a couple from the ghoul party disappeared, and the rest pack up quickly, dump Bod into a sack and head to Ghûlhiem with haste and less exuberance. Though the ghouls blame the Night-Gaunts, Bod can hear howls in the distance. Inside the sack, Bod finds some old coffin wood and screws and uses one of these to make a hole in the sack. Before Bod can escape, he’s pulled out by a huge dog. The ghouls see the hell-hound with Bod, make rude gestures toward them and run for it to Ghûlhiem. Bod pushes past the dog and falls down the stairs, but behind him he hears Miss Lupescu. Bod falls again. When he finally stops, a Night-Gaunt lands next to him and dog-Miss Lupescu bounds over. Miss Lupescu tells Bod she is a hound of god and then Bod climbs on to her back and they bound away from Ghûlhiem. Bod has a newfound respect for Miss Lupescu and a new appreciation for her lessons.


It was common knowledge that there was a witch buried at the edge of the graveyard, but Bod was told to keep away from that part. He didn’t venture past the fence, but would go and look. Silas explains to Bod about unconsecrated ground and who gets buried in the Potter's Field. After, Bod heads to Mister Pennyworth's lesson on Elements and Humors and Fading. Bod is not good at fading and Mister Pennyworth is deeply unimpressed. If anything, Bod seems to be getting more visible. Next, Bod has lessons with Miss Burrows who refuses to answer Bod’s questions about the witch and the Potter's Field. After, Bod climbs the apple tree next to the Potter's Field to grab the last ripe red apple from its branches. As he is about to grasp it, the branch gives way and Bod lands on the compost heap in the Potter's Field.


When Bod comes to, a friendly ghost who doesn’t look that old is standing next to him. Bod asks if she is a criminal or a suicide which the girl takes offence at, but then Bod realizes this is the witch. The girl confirms she was drowned, burned and buried without a stone to mark her spot. She then tells Bod about the night she was dragged from her bed and tested as a witch, which mostly killed her, but then she came back and spat a curse on all who were there with her last breath. Not one of them is buried in the graveyard because the plague took them and they were thrown in a plague pit. Bod finally asks her name and she tells him Liza Hempstock, then points to a cluster of nettles where her bones are. Bod decides he will get Liza a headstone.


Bod is distracted by his quest the next few days. He only has £2.53 saved which he suspects will not be enough, so he hatches a plan to go to the indigo man’s tomb. The slayer tries to drive Bod away, warning that nothing ever leaves, but Bod isn’t scared. Bod takes the broach with the slayer saying ‘it will come back’ as he leaves. Before leaving the graveyard, Bod visits Liza and asks what she would like on her headstone. She simply wants her name with a big E and big H. Finally, it's time for clothes. Bod heads to the gardener's hut which has been locked since before Bod was born. Taking some overly large clothes, Bod dresses before walking out the main gates.


Abanazer Bolger is a swindler and a cheat with an eclectic shop which Bod walks into. Abanazer Bolger is not usually willing to buy from children, more trouble than they are worth, but when he sees the broach in Bod’s hands, he invites him in for tea and biscuits in the back of the shop. Abanazer Bolger offers a pittance of the priceless worth of the broach but must know where Bod got it from. Reluctantly Bod tells him he got it from a grave. Excellent. Abanazer Bolger locks Bod in the back room just before he calls his cohort Tom to come over. The shop door opens and the tiny bell jingles but no one is there.


In the back room, Bod knows he should have trusted his first instincts and left. Examining his prison, he finds there seems to be no escape except through the shop front and there is nothing to use as a tool. Liza appears and asks him what he is doing and tells him that he should go home, but Bod explains he can’t fade since he isn't in the graveyard. Liza doesn’t trust Abanazer Bolger and goes out front to watch him as he and his associate Tom discuss the broach and the possibility of more treasure. Abanazer Bolger tells Tom there may be more treasure, the boy, and holds up the business card the man Jack gave him years ago.


Liza goes back to Bod who is trying to fade, though he looks more likely to pop. Bod, frustrated, picks up a large paperweight and thinks he could bash Abanazer Bolger on the head and make a run for it, but Liza doesn’t think that’s a good idea and tells him what she overheard about the buried treasure, but not the business card. Bod finally admits he was trying to get money to buy Liza a headstone and the witch is genuinely touched by Bod’s kindness. Liza helps Bod to fade, and just in time, too, as Abanazer Bolger and Tom check the back room for Bod.


Not seeing Bod, Abanazer Bolger locks the door again and Bod and Liza overhear Abanazer Bolger and Tom turn on each other, both possessive over the broach and neither wanting to admit to the man Jack they lost the boy. When Bod and Liza escape the stockroom, they find the unmoving figures of Abanazer Bolger and Tom, and the broach glinting between them. Bod puts the broach in his jacket pocket with the paperweight, a pot of paint and a paintbrush. Liza tells him to also take the business card because it’s very bad and can’t be left with them. Reluctantly Bod puts it in his pocket too. Two-hundred miles away the man Jack wakes up and sniffs the air. Something smells tasty. Back at the graveyard, Silas is waiting. Once they are home, Bod hands over the business card before taking the broach back to the slayer's tomb. Later, Bod heads to the Potter's Field and paints on the large paperweight, ‘E. H. we don’t forget’ and places it on Liza’s spot.


One winter Mistress Owens urges Bod out and goes on a cleaning spree singing “Rich man, poor man, come away / Come to dance the Macabray.” The whole of the graveyard seems busy cleaning and preparing, including young Fortinbras Bartleby who is excited for tomorrow night but doesn’t explain why. Silas arrives with clothes for Bod and teaches him to tie his shoes. Asking Silas about the Macabray, he tells Bod it is a dance for the living and for the dead, and that he is neither and therefore has not danced the Macabray.


The next day, three men and a woman, the Lady Mayoress, come to the graveyard to cut the white winter blossoms growing there to distribute to everyone in the old town. The Lady Mayoress believes this is all stuff and nonsense. That night, Bod wanders the graveyard not finding anyone until he approaches the gates and can hear music. Leaving the graveyard and following the sound, he sees the Lady Mayoress distributing the flowers. Bod approaches one of the men he saw earlier and asks for a flower which is pinned to his jumper. Bod wanders around watching all the alive people swaying to the music. At midnight, walking down the hill, the ghosts come. Josiah Worthington steps up to the Lady Mayoress and invites her to dance the Macabray. Silently the living and the dead join and dance, swaying and swapping partners. Eventually the woman in gray on her horse comes to the dance, everyone waves or bows to her before continuing to dance until someone shouts it is the last dance. Bod dances the last with the lady in gray. At midnight, the dead disappear and the living make their way home. The only signs of revelry are the white flowers scattered about.


The next morning Bod is still exuberant about the dance, though his mother and Josiah Worthington seem to act like nothing happened. Josiah says the dead would not talk to the living if they had done the dance macabre together. Bod heads to Silas who he saw watching the dance. Silas tells Bod there are mysteries and things people do not talk about and ends the conversation. It starts to snow then which distracts Bod.


In a conference room, a man in a black suit stands before others dressed similarly and announces all the good deeds their group has done. The man Jack sits in the front row and is reminded by the white haired man about his failure and that he needs to finish the business he started.


Thackeray Porringer (1720-1734) is marching around the graveyard trying to find Bod. Bod has taken his book, Robinson Crusoe, which his mother insisted he be buried with. Eventually Thackeray finds Bod and with a thump to his ear takes his book back. Wandering around, Tom Sands tells Bod Silas is looking for him so Bod hurries to the chapel. Silas wants to talk about where Bod came from and explains the night of the murders and his murdered family, Silas believes the person who killed them has unfinished business. Bod says then he must go to school because, while he has learnt a lot in the graveyard, he needs to know more. Silas relents and finds Bod a school.


Teachers and fellow students alike barely notice or remember Bod when he is out of sight because when he’s out of sight he is out of mind. Nick Farthing and Maureen Mo Quilling are a pair of bullies, Nick is the brawn and Mo is the puppet master. One day Bod tries to stop another student, Paul, from paying his blackmail which starts an avalanche of others refusing to pay. Mo says they need to stop Bob Owens who is stirring things up. Nick and Mo follow Bod to a little church graveyard where Bod tells them to stop bullying people, but Mo orders Nick to hit him and Bod fades causing Nick’s fist to land on a gravestone. Then Bod makes the fear rise in Nick and Mo until they run off for home. Amabella Persson watched Bod and congratulates him, then suggests he try dreamwalking.


The next day at school Nick stabs Bod’s hand with a pencil and Mo tries to ridicule him. Silas is unsympathetic when Bod goes to him because he told Bod to keep to the shadows and tells him he won’t return to school, but Bod refuses. Later, Bod walks into Nick’s dream and twists it, urging Nick to change his ways. When he refuses, Bod points out that the terrors in the basement will get him because they’re hungry for Nick. He should change his ways or fill the monsters' bellies. Nick wakes screaming and Bod can hear it from the street outside his house and is happy with a job well done. Bod plans to run away now however Liza stops him and urges Bod to come home. With a sigh, Bod walks toward the graveyard.


Before Bod can get too far he hears Liza ’s disembodied voice urge him to fade but it’s too late and a police call pulls over. Inside the back seat is Mo who accuses Bod of sneaking in her back garden and breaking things. The police harass Bod and put him in the back of the police car. On route to the station, the police drop Mo home and she thanks one who happens to be her uncle. Driving off, the two police officers start playing good cop, bad cop as a huge shadow flies over them. Suddenly a man is in front of the car and the police hit him. Bod recognizes the man and says it’s his dad, but it’s Silas. Bod then accuses them of intentionally running over his dad after agreeing to frighten the kid Mo has been fighting with at school, which means that’s their careers over. As the policemen fight between themselves, Silas and Bod fade before Silas flies them home. Bod agrees not to go back to that school, Silas admits they need to do better at satisfying Bod’s curiosity about the world.


It is officially the worst week of Mo’s life. Nick isn’t talking to her, her parents are disappointed with her, her uncle is mad at her and now she’s doing the job she hates, tidying the science lab. Alone in the lab, it feels like all the eyes in the specimen jars are looking at her. Despite the heating being on, Mo is cold. The fear trickles up then, the dead things start moving in the jars and she spots Bob Owens in the shadows. Bod asks Mo if she’s ever been haunted. A crash in the corner distracts her and when she turns back, Bod is gone.


Silas was preoccupied and was leaving the graveyard more and more, thankfully Miss Lupescu was there for a short time to help until she had to go back to ‘the old country.’ Bod is preoccupied by the man who killed his family and questions his mother but she doesn’t have many details and is reluctant to say, but does eventually tell him the man was called Jack.


Scarlett has returned to town after years and years and is now a frustrated and annoyed teenager who is frustrated and annoyed with her mother's decision to move back to a place she doesn’t know after her parents' divorce. She’s particularly frustrated and annoyed with the bus service. Getting the wrong bus home from her annoying and frustrating school, Scarlett ends up at a familiar graveyard where she meets a man making wax rubbings of the gravestones. He’s nice enough and obviously a huge local history nerd. Worried about being late home, the man gives Scarlett a lift and introduces himself to Mrs. Perkins as Mr. Frost, call me Jay. Mr. Frost endears himself to Mrs. Perkins and she invites him to dinner. That night Scarlett dreams about the graveyard and meets Bod wandering the headstones. It’s a happy reunion and Bod reminds her about their adventures.


Bod has the urge to talk to Nehemiah Trot, poet, about the girl he used to know. In the dramatic fashion of poets, Trot tells Bod he must go forth! He also advises, when Bod asks, that revenge is a dish best served cold. Wandering through the twilit graveyard, Bod sees Scarlett reading a magazine so he cautiously approaches. Scarlett is delighted that Bod is real and not imaginary, but then she has to leave which makes Bod yearn for the world beyond the graveyard.


Saturday morning, Scarlett returns to the graveyard and Bod tells her about his family being murdered at No. 33 but won’t talk about Silas. Abruptly Scarlett leaves to help Mr. Frost with his rubbings. Over a fish and chip lunch, Scarlett asks Mr. Frost about a local murder. He doesn’t know anything but suggests she check the library and takes her there when they are finished. In the newspaper microfiche, Scarlett finds an article about the murders which took place in Mr. Frost's home. Scarlett calls him to tell him and Mr. Frost says he will look into it.


Bod heads into the Slayer’s tomb for the first time in six years. He wants advice from the Slayer about leaving the graveyard but the slayer only confirms what he thought, he needs to do this alone. As Bod leaves, the Slayer almost begs for Bod to be its Master saying it will hold him in its coils forever and keep him safe until the end of time, but Bod declines. Outside, Scarlett is waiting for him and together they head to Mr. Frost’s house at No. 33.


Mr. Frost is excited to meet Bod. Over tea and biscuits, he explains what he has found out: that this house is indeed the house where the murders took place and there was a boy who went missing and no one knows why the murders happened because everything seems to have been hushed up. Mr. Frost goes on to say he has found a letter, and because Bod’s interest is personal he will show him. Together they head to the very top of the house to the room which was once the baby’s room. As Mr. Frost reaches under the floorboards, Bod confirms he is the missing boy and that all he knows of his family’s killer is a name: Jack. As Mr. Frost stands up straight he confirms he is the man Jack and in his hand is not the letter, but a large sharp knife. It’s time to finish this.


From below Scarlett shouts up that there is someone at the door which thankfully distracts the man Jack long enough for Bod to fade and run to Scarlett. He shouts that Mr. Frost is the man Jack. As Scarlett leaves through the front door she encounters a white haired man with three thug henchmen enquiring after Mr. Frost. She gives some lame excuse about him popping out before pushing past and walking to the graveyard, a faded Bod encouraging her to walk quickly and not look back. Bod tells her they didn’t feel like people. On the doorstep of No. 33, the white haired man debates about the girl and decides they need to get her.


The man Jack follows his nose and leaves No. 33 after the white haired man points out his failure. Again. The man Jack heads to the graveyard where Bod and Scarlett have just reached. The gates are padlocked but thankfully Bod has the freedom of the graveyard and helps Scarlett through as if they were smoke. Just in time, too, as two of the henchmen arrive. Scarlett is sure they want to kill her so Bod takes her to the slayer’s tomb to hide. The residents of the graveyard help keep track of the men as more scurry into the graveyard and Bod uses the ghosts to his advantage. He tricks one henchman into Mr. Carstair’s open grave and with Liza's help, Bod sits down clearly visible on an old and abandoned grave as bait. The white haired man and his minion come across Bod, and in no hurry, they explain they are members of the fraternal organization of Jack of All Trades and they take magic from death and kill for protection. There was a prophecy that a boy would be born that would bring down their organization and it seems the man Jack has failed to kill him.


When the villain monologue is finished, Bod digs his fingers into the grave grass and says three words that open the ghoul gate. Two of the henchmen lunge and are sucked down into the ghoul gate. The white haired man pulls a gun on Bod, but Bod explains the white haired man’s fate in the ghoul desert then fades. The ground groans and shudders and the white haired man falls into the ghoul gate which Bod closes behind him. Meanwhile, the man Jack has followed his nose to Scarlett and finds her in the slayer's tomb.


Bod rushes to the slayer’s tomb and finds the man Jack holding a knife to Scarlett’s throat. Bod tries to talk to the man Jack but the man Jack wants to finish his work. The man Jack feels a presence and accuses Bod, but it’s not Bod, it’s the Slayer. The man Jack realizes that the stone the broach, the knife and goblet stand on is an altar stone and he orders Bod to kneel on it. As he does, Bod tells the Slayer that the man Jack is the Master he has been looking for. The Slayer manifests and seems to want to caress the man Jack. The man Jack does not fully understand but takes delight in the power at his fingertips and agrees he is the Slayer's Master. Bod tells the Slayer to protect his Master. The man Jack is grabbed by the Slayer and seems to be pulled into the tomb walls.


After they leave the tomb, Scarlett calls Bod a monster because she doesn’t understand what happened and what Bod had to do. As Scarlett is about to run off, Silas takes her shoulder and tells her it would be best for her to forget. Silas takes Scarlett home where she and her mother agree it would be a good idea to return to Glasgow. Silas takes Bod for pizza since no one is trying to kill him right now.


Some time passes and now Bod can’t see the dead, the animals of the graveyard are wary of him, and the ivy seems to bar his passage. Sometimes Bod can’t fade. When Bod does see the dead, he has very strange conversations like they are saying goodbye. Liza asks if Bod will miss her because she will miss him. In the chapel, Bod isn’t able to see through the dark anymore so Silas lights a candle illuminating a large steamer trunk. Silas tells Bod he is able to guard himself now and he must move on. Silas gives Bod a suitcase packed with his belongings, a wallet filled with money, and a passport in the name of Nobody Owens. Bod shakes Silas's hand, picks up the suitcase and walks through the graveyard gates. Mistress Owens is waiting at the gate to wave her son off and tells him to leave no path untaken.


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