Halloween fell on a Wednesday that year and Justin was hell-bent on doing something exciting. Anything would be better than staying home with his parents and handing out candy to the little kids; who were clueless what they were doing but enjoyed going home with a bag full of candy. Long past the age of Trick or Treat, he was more interested in the darker side of the holiday. But first, he had to round-up some of his friends. Between classes he gave the message to Nathan, Chris, and Tony to meet him in the parking lot after school.
At three o’clock, Justin waited by his car. Across the school yard he noticed his three friends exiting the front doors of the school. He waved them over. Gathered around his car, they lit up their smokes and discussed their plans for Halloween night.
Justin said, “Let’s do something we haven’t done before. Something bizarre.”
Chris said, “Yeah, let’s do something risky. Why don’t we dress up like vandals and vandalize something?”
“Brilliant idea Chris. Dress up like vandals. You’re a putz.” Justin blew a frustrated stream of smoke into the air. “I’m tired of the same old stuff; soaping windows and toilet papering girl’s houses. We need to take this to the next level. Let’s do something that will scare the hell out of somebody.”
Nathan said, “Hey, why don’t you guys come over to my house later? We can go to the basement and watch scary movies. I’ve got a ton of movies that will give you the creeps.”
The other boys shot Nathan a look that clamped his mouth shut.
Tony said, “Why don’t we drive out to the cemetery and see what we can conjure up out there?”
Everyone liked the cemetery idea and they agreed to meet at ten o’clock. Unfortunately, Justin still had to hand out candy for the little kids, but at least he had something to look forward to later in the night.
By the time the four boys showed up at the local Quik Trip, it was closer to eleven than ten. After purchasing snacks and energy drinks, they piled into Justin’s automobile and drove away. On the way out to the cemetery, they threw around some ideas. Knocking over headstones came up as one option, but was quickly ruled out. Nathan said, “You guys know the penalty for grave tampering? It’s a felony.” A few more ideas were bantered about, but they came to no conclusions by the time they arrived at their destination.
Justin shut off the car’s headlights and pulled into the cemetery lot. A bright moon lit up the grass-covered lane that led around and through the graveyard. Slowly pulling forward, he stopped at a spot near the center, turned off the car, and the four of them sat in silence. The temperature outside was cooler than normal, but not quite cold enough for a frost. However, within minutes the windows in the car fogged over, leaving the boys in a metal cocoon with zero visibility. The wind picked up and the earlier star filled sky clouded over, causing the moon’s bright light to disappear and darkness to reign.
In the midst of the silence, Justin cleared his throat. “You guys ever wonder what goes on in a graveyard at night, when there aren’t any humans around? At like three in the morning? I wonder if the spirits come out of their holes in the ground and wander around. Maybe it’s only the evil spirits, the ones that didn’t make it out of here. They’re stuck in limbo. Maybe in order to move on, they have to inhabit another human’s body. So they wander around at night, waiting for some fool, like an old wino or something, to wander into the cemetery, and then they take over the poor sucker’s body.”
The other three boys nervously glanced out their windows, but with the glass covered in fog, they couldn’t see a thing. The wind picked up and blew with enough force to rock the car back and forth, causing a lump to form in each boy’s throat.
Justin, sensing he had them all spooked said, “Think about it. Here we are, just like sitting ducks. The only thing between us and them is a locked door and a layer of glass.” Justin paused to peer out the window over Nathan’s shoulder. His eyes widened and with fear in his voice he said, “There’s something out there. I see something out that window.” He pointed over Nathan’s shoulder.
Nathan slid to the center console, and stared at the window, as did the others. At just the right moment, with all three mesmerized by what might be lurking just outside the car, Justin yelled, “Gotcha!” His three friends jumped out of their seats, startled by the sudden break in the silence, and Justin could hardly contain himself; laughing until he cried. “You guys should have seen your faces. You were white as ghosts. And your asses were six inches off your seat. Ha, ha, ha.” After Justin further teased them, they finally relaxed and joined in the laughter, pointing their fingers and accusing each other of being chickens. “You should have seen yourself… Ha!”
After another period of silence, Justin threw out a challenge. “Okay, I dare you guys to roll down your windows, all the way. Let’s see who can leave them down the longest.”
Nathan scoffed, “So we roll down our windows. What’s the big deal?”
Chris saw an opening and jumped all over Nathan. “So do it then, smart ass.”
The others waited to see how Nathan would respond. Backed into a corner, he said, “Okay jerks, I will.” Slowly rolling down his window, Nathan kept an eye on his friends, not once glancing to the right or left or out into the dark night. With the window down, he glared at the others and said, “Alright pussies. Let’s see you do it.” The other three rolled down their windows, but before they got halfway, a loud, screeching sound, like a terrorized woman, broke the silence.
“What the hell was that?” Tony said.
They all quickly rolled up their windows and locked their doors. Chris said, his face white as a sheet, “Shit. What was that?” The hideous noise repeated, the sound so loud it penetrated through the windows.
Tony said, “I’ve never heard one before, but my dad told me about a hunting trip he and some of his buddies went on one time. They camped in an open field and were surrounded by woods on all sides. At some point in the middle of the night a loud screeching sound echoed across the valley. Scared all the guys so bad, they left their tent, jumped in the car, and locked all the doors. They slept in the car the rest of the trip. Dad said it was a screech-owl.”
Nathan, eyes wide, said, “Whatever it was, it scared the crap out of me.” The others nodded their heads in agreement.
After a few minutes of silence, the boys calmed down. Chris said, “Let’s take this to the next level. We’ll draw straws and whoever gets the short one has to stand outside the back of the car for fifteen minutes. Alone.”
More silence. Finally, Nathan reached into his pocket. “Hey, I’ve got some wooden matches. Let’s break them up and draw straws.”
Once the straws were arranged, each boy took his turn. After they compared straws, the short one fell to Chris. Tony taunted Chris. “Come on, Chris, get out there. Don’t be a chicken.” Chris glanced at his friends for a brief moment and not wanting to be labeled a chicken, he said, “Alright, assholes. I’ll stand outside. Who’s timing me?”
Justin checked his watch. “Okay, it’s quarter to twelve. At midnight I’ll flash the car lights and you can come back in.”
Chris exited the car and disappeared behind. Leaning on the back bumper, he fired up a cigarette, folded his arms against the chill, and stared defiantly into the darkness. Dark clouds filled the sky and it began to drizzle. Odd noises in the surrounding woods drew his attention, but he refused to look in their direction. Instead he stared at his shoes and battled the thoughts taking residence in his mind.
In the rear view mirror, Justin recognized Chris’s outline. With his back to the car, Chris remained motionless, except for the intermittent arm movement that indicated a puff on his cigarette. As the drizzle increased, the back window became covered in a thin-film of water, but Chris’s shape remained visible.
The other boys had a good time at Chris’s expense. Nathan said, “When his fifteen minutes are up, let’s not let him back in. We’ll make loud, screeching noises outside the windows.” Nervous laughter followed.
Tony said, “I’ve got a better idea, let’s unlock his door, but right when he gets ready to open it, we’ll start the car and leave. We’ll keep driving and he’ll be standing there, all by himself. He’d shit his pants.”
Justin glanced once more in the mirror and Chris hadn’t moved. “You guys are real brave sitting in here. How about one of you dick heads goes out there and takes Chris’s place?” Nathan and Tony shut up. “I thought so.”
A slight bump jarred the rear of the car, but with the wind blowing like it was, no one noticed. Justin glanced at his watch. Five minutes to midnight. Again, he glanced in the rear view mirror, but this time he didn’t see Chris. Blinking and rubbing late night eyes, he looked again. Water droplets ran streams of water down the window, but Chris was gone. He felt his chest tighten in fear and thought, That asshole. He’s messing with me. The other two remained unaware of Justin’s discovery. He rolled his window down and yelled out, “Come on Chris. Quit dicking around. Your times up. You can come back now.” Only the sound of gently falling rain answered. Justin again glanced in the mirror but still didn’t see anything, and so he leaned over the seat to get a better look. Still no Chris.
By this time, the other two knew something wasn’t right and they too became nervous. Tony said, “What’s going on? What’s the matter?”
“I don’t know. I can’t see Chris. He’s not standing where he was… He’s disappeared.”
Tony and Nathan wiped the fog off their windows and peered into the darkness. “Where’d he go, Justin? What do we do now?”
Justin said, “We can’t panic. Let’s just wait a few minutes and then go look for him. He’s probably just screwing with us.” Justin opened the glove box and removed a flashlight. He clicked the switch to make sure it worked. With low batteries, the light was dim, but it would have to do.
With his hands and voice shaking, Tony said, “I need to bum a cigarette.” Nathan handed him one and offered him a light. Despite his own shaking hands, the cigarette was finally lit. The only sound in the car was the sound of cigarette smoke being inhaled and exhaled.
Justin repeatedly looked in the mirror, hoping that Chris would reappear, but he saw nothing. At ten minutes after twelve, Justin said, “Boys, we need to find Chris.”
The three boys exited the vehicle and met at the rear of the car. Justin shined the flashlight on the ground where Chris had been standing, no more than twenty minutes earlier. The ground was muddy, but the rain had stopped. The wind had picked up and the limbs on the trees appeared to be reaching for their nearest victim. Every sound coming from the surrounding dark woods, which earlier in the night had sped up their heartbeats, now caused them to catch their breaths.
As they gathered around the rear of the car, they noticed what appeared to be drag marks leading away from the car and into the darkness. Justin focused the light on the marks and followed them down the road. After thirty yards, the marks veered off the road but remained clearly evident in the rain covered grass.
Tony stopped in his tracks. “What was that? Over there?” Justin and Nathan both said, “Where?” at the same time. “What did you see?” Tony described a dark figure moving quickly across the field, off to the right of where they stood. Justin shined the flashlight in that direction, but they saw nothing. “Was it a man? A woman?” Justin asked.
Tony stared straight ahead and muttered, “Neither.”
Nathan and Tony remain huddled as close as they could to Justin and the light, as they continued to follow the drag marks across the wet grass. Eventually they arrived at a grave site, where the marks seemed to come to an end. Justin inspected the area around the headstone, but the marks had disappeared. “They stop here.”
Inspecting the site, at the spot where the grave would be, they found that the earth had recently been disturbed. Shining the light in all directions, Justin searched for digging tools, but there weren’t any lying around. “It doesn’t look like normal digging. I mean it looks like the dirt has been pushed up from underneath the surface. You guys see what I mean? It’s like something was buried and dug its way out. Odd.”
“I’m going back to the car. This shit’s creepy.”
“Go ahead, but I’ve got the flashlight, and I’m not leaving until we find Chris.”
As Tony walked away, the other two continued to examine the dirt around the grave, but the flashlight grew dim, limiting visibility. Nathan said, “What’ll we do when the flashlight goes out?”
“I don’t know. Our eyes should adjust.”
Within minutes, the sound of someone yelling startled them, and a lone figure came tearing out of the darkness in their direction. “It’s gone! It’s not there. The car’s gone.”
Justin grabbed a clearly frightened Tony around both shoulders. “Slow down, Tony. What do you mean the car’s gone? It couldn’t be. I’ve got the key.”
Tony tried to slow his breathing. “I went back–to where we left the car–but it’s not there.”
“Are you sure you went back to the same spot?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah. I made sure. I followed the drag marks back to where the car was.”
“It has to be there.” Justin shined what was left of the light and followed the marks back to where they began. “This is where we left the car,” he said. As he turned to speak with the other two, he realized they were no longer with him. “Nathan? Tony? Come on guys. Quit screwing around.” No answer. The flashlight battery finally died and the light faded to dark. Justin was left standing in the middle of the cemetery. Alone. The drizzle started up again. The loud wailing from earlier in the night came from somewhere in the darkness. Justin couldn’t move.
Behind a large oak tree at the edge of the cemetery, not more than a hundred feet from where Justin stood, was the car, with Nathan and Tony inside, warm and comfortable. Peering around the tree, watching Justin with much satisfaction and an evil grin on his face, was Chris. Man, was this good. I can’t believe it was this easy. I scared them all shitless.
As Chris relished the thought of Justin’s face after telling him how he did it, a large, dark figure appeared behind him. The smile on Chris’s face turned to a look of terror as two large hands wrapped around his throat and lifted him off the ground. His eyes bulged out of their sockets, at first from abject fear, but soon, as a result of the pressure caused by restricted blood flow. With a crushed esophagus, oxygen no longer fed his brain. Chris didn’t hear the sound of his neck breaking or feel himself fall to the ground.
The dark figure next moved to the car, and Justin didn’t hear the screams as Nathan and Tony desperately tried to stop the unknown being from entering the car. Tony sat nearest the window when the glass shattered. The monstrous creature reached in and dragged him, thrashing and struggling, outside of the car. Tony tried to scream, but his windpipe was crushed, and eventually his feet stopped kicking and his mind went dark. While Tony’s life was being extinguished, Nathan exited the car and fled, but it was too dark to see, and after running into tree limbs and through thick underbrush, he ended up back at the car. He didn’t notice as the figure came up behind him, and it wasn’t long before he met the same fate as his two friends.
Justin stood in the middle of the cemetery, still too afraid to move. And then the rain stopped and the clouds dissipated, revealing a bright moon that allowed him to see all that had previously been hidden. He now realized he stood in the midst of several headstones. In the light, he made out many of the names and dates written on some of the newer ones. The presence of the bright moonlight renewed Justin’s spirit, and he no longer remained frozen with fear. Not needing the flashlight, he decided to return to the grave site where the drag marks ended. Maybe I can find out what happened to Chris.
Approaching the headstone, he noticed that the large mound of dirt had been replaced by a large hole in the ground. Only it wasn’t an ordinary hole. It appeared to be a broad passageway. He saw stairs leading down into a dark corridor. As he stood, staring into the pitch black abyss in front of him, he sensed more than heard something behind him. The odor of Sulfur singed his nostrils and he felt hot breath on the back of his neck. Afraid to turn around, he knew he must.
Turning to look, what he saw choked off his breathing. A dark, foreboding figure, standing at least nine feet tall, blocked the light of the moon. At first Justin thought the creature wore a dark cloak, but as it turned, he recognized huge wings that reached to the ground. Underneath the wings, protruding from the body, were multiple hands. The creature moved slightly and in the moonlight Justin saw not one, but four faces. One face resembled that of a lion, one face an eagle, one face a cherub, and the fourth the face of a man. The outside of the wings, the body, the hands, were full of eyes all around. The creature didn’t speak, but the sound it made reminded him of an angry dog growling.
Justin knew he must run, but there was only one direction he could go. He turned and bolted into the darkness, down the flight of stairs. The creature followed close behind. As Justin ran farther and farther down the stairs, the Sulfur smell intensified and the heat grew unbearable. But he couldn’t stop running. He felt the hot breath again, closer than before. The last thing Justin heard, before his life was squeezed out of him, was the sound of screaming, as if from a tormented soul. I believe those screams are coming from me.