Fred turned the wheel of his Volkswagen around slowly; making a small circular run around the entrance to the Chinese Graveyard, a small plot of land that the locals had claimed to be a source of hauntings for more than sixty years. Liz smiled from the passenger seat, loading a blank disc into the digital camcorder and holding it up to take in the scenery.
Rough Texas shrubbery and curved, gnarled Willow trees overlooked the entrance to the cemetery, an entrance that was largely a formality due to the dilapidated state of the iron gate surrounding the few acres the cemetery covered. Killing the engine, Fred opened his door and got out, stretching the kinks in his back as he moved. The tall Latino was skeptical of anything paranormal, from ghosts to gods and everything in between; but he wasn’t here for himself.
No, he was here for science!
Two other small cars sat parked beneath a particularly large Willow tree, one of them belonging to Fred’s good friend and fellow Atheist, Andrew Jackson. Looking around, Fred couldn’t see any signs of his friends anywhere in the shadowy precipice of the graveyard, though he did catch sight of the gates hanging partially open, a loose set of chains obviously having been cut to allow admittance. Fred sighed, knowing Andrew was probably the culprit behind this activity.
“Liz, be sure to grab a backup battery for your camcorder,” Fred reminded the brunette, earning a wide smile of thanks. He moved to the back of his bug, popping open the trunk to allow Liz access to her bags while he pulled a backpack of snacks and drinks.
“Is that all you brought?” Liz asked, worried. Fred laughed before moving one of her bags aside to reveal the ice chest, which he casually popped open to reveal a variety of green and brown bottles of beer.
Liz sighed in relief, patting Fred on the shoulder. “Oh, thank you! I don’t know if I could spend the whole night in the graveyard sober. It’s just too creepy!”
“Nothing in there but a bunch of dead guys Liz, and not one of them has the urge to bite you. All they do is serving as fertilizer.” Fred grunted as he took hold of both sides of the ice chest, backpack slung over his shoulder. “Do me a favor and close the trunk, would you?”
“Oh, sure,” Liz said pulling down the hatchback and pushing it closed until it clicked. Fred smiled and jerked his head to the side.
“Come on, let’s find the others!” Fred grunted, hefting up the ice chest with one knee. “Damn this thing is heavy!”
Walking through the tall grass to the gate, Liz pushed on the verdigris-covered entrance, wincing at the loud grinding noise it made as it creaked open wide enough to allow them through. Fred laughed, causing Liz to flinch and look back at him. Following his gaze, she blanched at the sight of a large wooden sign nailed to one of the trees overlooking the graveyard.
“No Witchcraft! Keep out!” It read in great, red bold letters. The wood was old and worn thou the message seemed to have lived on proud and strong despite the ravages of the humid weather.
“They must have had a problem,” Fred said offhandedly, staring at the sign.
“A problem with what?” Liz asked, transfixed by the strange marker.
Fred looked over at her with a slight smile on his face, obviously amused. “With people doing exactly what we’re doing; breaking in and trying to provoke spirits.”
“Are you sure this is a wise idea, Fred?” Liz asked, now worried from the sign.
“Of course, I am they probably just put that up to keep tourists from coming in and messing up the place, y’know?” Fred replied, pushing her idly with the ice chest. “No move girl, it’s hot out and this thing is heavy.”
Passing through the gate, the graveyard wasn’t as impressive as Liz originally thought it would be. No great monoliths of angelic statues, or above ground tombs. A simple scattering of worn headstones framed a walkway leading deeper into the cemetery, which seemed to have become partially overrun by Mother Nature. Bushes and small Willows grew haphazardly around the graveyard, small trinkets hanging from the low branches of the Willows, strands of beads or colorful paper with Asian markings on them.
“Wonder what all of those are for?” Liz said, pulling out her camcorder to begin recording the various sights around her.
“They’re for the recently departed,” A young voice replied, causing Liz to jump in terror. Spinning to her left, she caught sight of a young Asian boy, no older than eight, standing amidst the bushes. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“Neither should you kid,” Fred replied, setting the ice chest down and rubbing his back. Pulling out his wallet, Fred flashed a little cash towards the child. “How much to have you buzz off?”
The boy looked pensive. “Mama said never to take anything from strangers.” The boy said, turning to run back into the underbrush without another word.
“Weird…” Fred said, tucking his wallet back into his jeans. “Hope he doesn’t rat us out to anyone.”
“Who’d believe a kid?” Liz smiled her smile not really reaching the rest of her face. Something had seemed off about the boy. Flipping open the side view of her camcorder, she played back the recording of the boy only to gasp when she saw the twisted visage staring back from the screen.
Still a short figure, though instead of the demure Asian features the boy had possessed, the film had distorted his face, forcing his jaw down to his mid-chest, his slanted eyes as black as coal.
“Freaky… probably just something wrong with the camcorder,” Fred said, hoisting the cooler back up. “You need to realize there’s nothing out here Liz, and the sooner you do that the better.”