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“Let’s Go to the Cemetery”

A Halloween Story- Fallen Cherub

This year Halloween is on a Friday and Justin is 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 haven’t a clue what they’re doing, but enjoy going home with a bag full of candy.  Long past the age of Trick or Treat, he’s more interested in the darker side of the holiday. But first, he has to round up some of his friends. Between classes he gives the message to Nathan, Chris, and Tony to meet him in the parking lot after school.

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It’s three o’clock and Justin is waiting by his car. Across the school yard he sees his three friends exiting the front doors of the school. He waves them over. Once they’re all gathered around his car, they light up, and the discussion on what they’re going to do this Halloween night begins.

Justin says, “Let’s do something we haven’t done before. Something bizarre.”

Chris agrees. “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 continues, “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 joins the conversation. “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 give Nathan a look that shuts him up, if only for a moment.

Tony has an idea. “Why don’t we drive out to the cemetery and see what we can get into out there?”

Everyone likes the idea and they agree to meet at ten o’clock. Unfortunately, Justin still has to hand out candy, but at least he has something on the agenda for later tonight.

By the time the four boys show up at the Quik Trip, it’s closer to eleven than ten. They buy some snacks and energy drinks and then pile into Justin’s car. On the way out to the cemetery, they throw around some ideas. Knocking over headstones comes up as an option, but is quickly ruled out. “You guys know the penalty for grave tampering? It’s a felony.”  A few more ideas are being bantered about, when they arrive at their destination.

Justin turns off the car’s headlights and pulls into the cemetery. The moon is bright enough that he can see the grass-covered lane that leads around and through the graveyard. He stops at a spot near the center, turns off the car, and all is silent. The temperature outside is cooler than normal, but not quite cold enough for a frost. However, within minutes the windows in the car are fogged over. The wind picks up and where there was a clear, star filled sky earlier, the clouds have begun to roll in and the moon’s bright light has now disappeared. Justin breaks the silence.

“You guys ever wonder what goes on in a graveyard at night, when there aren’t any humans around?  Say around 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 to get too close to the cemetery, and then they take over the poor sucker’s body.” The other three boys glance out their windows, but with the glass covered in fog, they can’t see anything. The wind is blowing with enough force that the car tilts back and forth, resulting in each of the boys swallowing a lump in his throat.

Justin continues, “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 stops talking and peers out the window over Nathan’s shoulder. His eyes widen and he says, “There’s something out there. I see something out that window.” He points over Nathan’s shoulder. Nathan slides to the center console, and stares at the window, as do the others. At just the right moment, with the others mesmerized by what may be just outside the car window, Justin yells at the top of his lungs, “Gotcha!” The other three boy’s jump, startled by the sudden break in the silence, and Justin can hardly contain himself; laughing until he cries. “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 has made fun of them for a while, they all finally relax and join in the laughter, pointing fingers and accusing each other of being chickens. “You should have seen yourself… Ha!”

After another period of silence, Justin comes up with 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 laughs at the challenge. “So we roll down our windows. What’s the big deal?”

Chris sees an opening and jumps all over Nathan. “So do it then, smart ass.” The others turn and watch to see how Nathan responds. Put on the spot, Nathan is defiant. “Okay, I will.”

Nathan slowly rolls down his window, but keeps his eyes on his friends; not once glancing to the right or left; preferring not to look out into the dark night. With the window down, he glares at the others and says, “C’mon assholes. Let’s see you do it.” The other three begin rolling down their windows, but before they get halfway, a loud, screeching sound breaks the silence. “What the hell was that?” All four of them quickly roll up their windows and each one locks his door. “Shit. What was that?” The hideous noise is repeated, and even the sealed up windows can’t keep it out.

Tony ventures a guess as to the source of the noise. “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 were camping out 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, with eyes wide open, says, “Whatever it was, it scared the crap out of me.” The others nod their heads in agreement.

After a few minutes of silence, the boys have calmed down enough to move on to the next dare. This time Chris has an idea. “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.”

Nathan reaches in his pocket and says, “I’ve got some wooden matches. Let’s break them up and draw straws.” Once the straws are ready, each boy takes his turn. After they compare straws, it is clear that the short one falls to Chris. “C’mon Chris, get out there. Don’t be a chicken.” Chris looks at his friends for a moment, and not wanting to be labeled a chicken, he gives in. “Alright. I’ll stand outside. Who’s timing me?”

Justin looks at his watch. “Okay, it’s quarter to twelve. At midnight I’ll flash the car lights and you can come back in.” Chris exits the car and walks to the back. Leaning on the back bumper, he lights a cigarette, folds his arms against the chill, and stares straight ahead. The sky is now filled with dark clouds and it begins to drizzle. He can hear noises off in the woods, but refuses to look in the direction they come from. Instead he stares down at the ground and does battle with the thoughts that are trying to take residence in his mind.

In the rearview mirror, Justin can see Chris. His back is to the car and he remains motionless, other than the intermittent arm movement that indicates a puff on his cigarette. As the drizzle continues, the back window becomes covered in a thin film of water, but Justin can still make out Chris’s outline. The other boys are having a good time at Chris’s expense.

“When his fifteen minutes are up, let’s not let him back in. We’ll make loud, screeching noises outside the windows.” Nathan laughs at the thought.

Tony says, “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 glances once more in the mirror. Chris hasn’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.”

There’s a slight bump at the rear of the car, but with the wind blowing like it is, no one notices. Justin looks at his watch. It’s five to midnight. He glances in the rearview mirror, but this time he doesn’t see anyone at the back of the car. He blinks his eyes and looks again. He can see the water droplets running down the window, but Chris is gone. He feels his chest tighten in fear, but then he thinks, That asshole. He’s messing with me. The other two are unaware of what’s happening. Justin rolls his window down and yells out, “C’mon Chris. Quit jacking around. Your times up. You can come back now.” Not a sound. Justin looks in the mirror, doesn’t see anything, and then turns around to get a better look. Still no Chris. By this time, the other two are getting nervous.

“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 begin wiping the fog off the car windows and peer out into the darkness. “Where’d he go Justin? What do we do now?”

“C’mon guys. Let’s not panic. We’ll wait a few minutes and then go look for him. He’s probably just screwing with us.” Justin opens the glove box and pulls out a flashlight. He clicks it on to make sure it’s working. The batteries are low and the light is dim, but it’s all they have.

Tony says, “I need to bum a cigarette.” Nathan hands him one and offers him a light. Despite shaking hands, the cigarette is finally lit. The only sound in the car is the sound of cigarette smoke being inhaled and exhaled. Justin repeatedly looks in the mirror, hoping that Chris will reappear, but he sees nothing. At ten minutes after twelve, Justin makes a decision. “C’mon boys, we need to find Chris.”

The three boys exit the vehicle and meet at the rear of the car. Justin shines the flashlight on the ground where Chris had been standing no more than twenty minutes earlier. The ground is muddy, but the rain has stopped. The wind has picked up and the limbs on the trees appear to be reaching for the nearest victim to grab. Every sound coming from the dark woods at the edge of the cemetery, which earlier in the night had sped up their heartbeats, now causes them to catch their breaths.

As they gather around and shine the flashlight at the ground behind the car, they can see what appear to be two drag marks leading away. Justin focuses the light on the marks and follows them down the road. After thirty yards, the marks veer off the road, but are clearly evident in the rain covered grass. Tony stops in his tracks. “What was that? Over there?” Justin and Nathan both ask, “Where?” at the same time. “What did you see?” Tony describes a dark figure moving quickly across the field, off to the right of where they are walking. Justin shines the flashlight in that direction, but they see nothing. “Was it a man? A woman?” Tony stares straight ahead and mutters, “Neither.”

Nathan and Tony stay huddled as close as they can to Justin as they continue to follow the drag marks across the wet grass. They eventually come to a gravesite, where the marks seem to end. Justin walks completely around the headstone, but the marks do not reappear. “They stop here.” Inspecting the site, at the spot where the grave would be, they can see that the earth has recently been disturbed. Shining the light in all directions, Justin looks for digging tools, but there aren’t any. “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 walks away, the other two continue to examine the dirt around the grave, but the flashlight is growing dim. Nathan asks, “What’ll we do when the flashlight goes out?”

“I don’t know. Our eyes should adjust.”

Within minutes, they’re startled by the sound of someone yelling, as a figure comes running out of the darkness in their direction. “It’s gone! It’s not there. The car’s gone.”

Tony is clearly shaken and Justin grabs him around both shoulders, “Slow down Tony. What do you mean the car’s gone? It couldn’t be. I’ve got the key.”

Tony tries to catch his breath. “I went back to where we left the car and it’s not there.”

“Are you sure you went back to the same spot?”

Tony nods, “Yeah. I made sure. I followed the drag marks back to where the car was.”

“It has to be there.” Justin shines what’s left of the light and follows the marks back to where they began. “This is where we left the car.” As he turns to speak with the other two, he realizes they’re no longer with him. “Nathan? Tony? C’mon guys. Quit screwing around.” No answer. The flashlight battery finally dies and the light fades to dark. Justin is left standing in the middle of the cemetery. He’s alone. The drizzle starts up again. The loud wailing from earlier in the night comes from somewhere in the darkness. Justin is unable to move.

Behind a large oak tree at the edge of the cemetery, not more than a hundred feet from where Justin stands, is 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 is Chris. Man, was this good. I can’t believe it was this easy. I scared them all shitless. As Chris relishes the thought of Justin’s face when he tells him how he did it, a large, dark figure appears behind him. The smile on Chris’s face turns to a look of terror as two large hands wrap around his throat and lift him off the ground. His eyes bulge out of their sockets, at first due to abject fear, but eventually as a result of the pressure caused by a restricted blood flow. His esophagus is crushed and the oxygen no longer feeds his brain. Chris doesn’t hear the sound of his neck breaking or feel himself fall to the ground.

The dark figure moves to the car, and Justin doesn’t hear the screams as Nathan and Tony desperately try to stop the unknown being from entering the car. Tony is nearest the window when the glass shatters. The creature reaches in and drags him outside the car. Tony tries to scream, but his air is cut off, and eventually his feet stop kicking and his mind goes dark. While Tony’s life is being extinguished, Nathan exits the car and begins to run, but it’s too dark to see, and after running into tree limbs and through thick underbrush, he ends up back at the car. He doesn’t see the figure come up behind him, and it isn’t long before he meets the same fate as his two friends.

Justin remains standing in the middle of the cemetery; too afraid to move. And then the rain stops and the clouds dissipate; revealing a bright moon that allows him to see all that had previously been hidden. He now realizes there are headstones all around him; and he can even make out the names and dates written on some of the newer ones. The presence of the bright moonlight renews Justin’s spirit, and he is no longer frozen in fear. The flashlight isn’t needed any more, and he decides to go back to the gravesite where the drag marks ended. Maybe I can find out what happened to Chris. Approaching the headstone, he no longer sees a mound of disturbed earth, but a large hole in the ground. Only it isn’t a hole. It looks more like a broad passageway. He can see stairs leading down into a dark corridor. As he stands, staring into the pitch black abyss in front of him, he senses more than hears something behind him. There is a smell of Sulphur and he feels a hot breath on his back and neck. Afraid to turn around, he knows that he must.

Justin turns to look, and what he sees takes his breath away. The dark, foreboding figure is at least nine feet tall and its broad mass blocks the light of the moon. At first Justin thinks the creature is wearing a dark cloak, but as it turns, he can clearly see huge wings that reach to the ground. Underneath the wings, protruding from the body, are multiple hands. Again the creature moves slightly and in the moonlight Justin sees not one, but four faces. One face resembles 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, are full of eyes all around. The creature doesn’t speak, but the sound it makes reminds him of a dog growling at a perceived danger. Justin knows he has to run, but there is only one direction he can go. He turns around and begins running into the darkness, down the flight of stairs. The creature follows close behind. As Justin runs down the stairs, the Sulphur smell intensifies and the heat grows unbearable. But he can’t stop running. He can feel the hot breath again, only this time it’s close. The last thing Justin hears, before his life is squeezed out of him, is the sound of screaming, as if from a tormented soul. I believe those screams are coming from me.

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