Derek grimaced as he swiped across the page on his smart phone, flipping through the various internet pages on this supposed cemetery out in the middle of nowhere.
“For being as haunted as Stephanie says, this place doesn’t really rate an internet score…” He mumbled as he continued down the root strewn path, stepping over the invasive black and brown roots upturning cobblestones whole, twisting and writhing like still-life serpents. He’d already tripped twice, and caught his trench coat once on an outstretched tree limb; so far the only thing he found about this graveyard was how annoying it was.
But according to Stephanie one of the angel statues was down this path, so on he trudged. The wind whipped around him, forcing him to bundle deeper into his coat and pull his hat against his head as a wave of orange and yellow leaves rushed past him on a wild flurry. Peeking between the numerous trees leading along this path were cracked tombstones, some toppled over due to the overgrowth of the forest, with others slowly being grown over.
Still no sign of ghosts however.
And Derek was prepared for it as well, the video camera function of his camera turned on, allowing it to see what he saw through the beam of his heavy flashlight. As far as he could tell, unless he wanted to venture off the stone pathway, he had a ways to go, the entire trip over this root covered terrain.
Stopping to pull his inhaler from his pocket, taking a long puff from it and holding it in even as his lungs burned and ached, Derek looked around at the various trees in their semi-leafless states. All of them bore numerous low branches dangling overhead, sharp twigs resembling the fingers of hundreds of splayed hands, all fighting to block the small amount of moonlight from filtering down onto the path.
Holding his camera up to gaze at the moon in the distance, he zoomed in enough to peer through the branches and brambles and get a good shot. “Not a bad night we’re having… just wish it was a little warmer.”
Jerking as something small and black darted across the path, Derek clutched his chest as he glared at a black cat with a jingling bell on its pink collar. Thankfully he’d just used his inhaler; otherwise he might have just started to have an asthma attack!
“Stupid cat,” Derek growled, bowing low to scoop up a few rocks, chucking on in the cat’s general direction, “get out of here! Scat cat!”
The animal crouched low behind an upturned root, the rock bouncing past it ineffectively, before turning its golden eyes on Derek and letting out a low hiss. “Stupid cat... damn furry pests.”
A scream echoed in the darkness, coming from further in the distance, past the copse of trees and closer towards the middle of the graveyard. It sounded more like a pained cry than a scream of terror… turning quickly, Derek began slowly making his way back down the path to see what that scream was all about.
Only as he moved, he found it harder to navigate over the twisting branches. Pulling his left foot free of two branches ensnaring his foot, losing his shoe in the process, Derek tripped and fell onto his back, twisting his other ankle in the process. Letting out a sharp yelp, he quickly sat up, hands going to the already swelling part of his leg, rubbing it gingerly. Reaching into the roots, he pulled out his shiny black dress shoe, sliding it back onto his other foot.
Grabbing his flashlight and phone once more, the beam of hallowed light passing over the hissing cat, Derek slowly got to his feet, putting as little pressure as he could on his injured leg, balancing on one foot while leaning on trees as he began to limp back towards the entrance of the graveyard.
“Derek… help!” Sandra’s voice called from deeper down the pathway, her voice watery and distant. “Help please!”
Ignoring the pain in his foot, he turned once more and began jogging down the road, wincing with every step. He idly noted as he ran that the cat was moving along with him, keeping pace along the roots of the various trees. The root systems eventually died down, the road becoming more and more intact as he made his way down the beaten path, which opened to a circular setting of cobblestones with a tall statue dominating the center.
Looking around, he could see circles of tombstones radiating out from the circle of stone, small hills and peaks dotting the horizon. Twisting around to focus the light on the statue of the angel, Derek looked on in horror.
The twisted form of Sandra, tall and carved from stone, stood before him, a hand clutching her neck as embossed blood seeped from a grievous wound. Thorny vines wrapped around her legs and up her body, looping over her shoulder and across her throat. Her eyes seemed so lifelike, so real, that Derek would swear that it was actually her behind those carved gray orbs if he didn’t know any better.
“Sandra!” He called out, looking around. The cat jingled as it ran up, jumping onto the base of the statue to begin cleaning itself. “Sandra, where are you?”
“Over here! Hurry!” Her voice echoed from the distance, causing him to run from the central statue and into the graveyard proper. Looking around with his flashlight, Derek would swear he could see figures walking on the horizon, shambling ever closer, but he didn’t have time to worry about that right now.
He had to find Sandra!
Shrieking as he nearly fell into an open grave, Derek spun his arms to regain his balance as he teetered on the edge of the soft earth, one hand coming to rest on the tombstone at the head of the plot. Looking down into the hole, all he saw was a viscous mud, worms wriggling freely in the moist soil. Turning to look for Sandra, Derek nearly jumped once more when he heard her, ever closer
“Down here! Derek I’m down here! Quickly, I can’t breathe!” She pleaded, a bubble rising from the mud and popping slowly.
Dropping his flashlight to the side, Derek slid down into the open grave without a moment’s hesitation, still holding his phone for light. Sinking quickly into the soupy earth, Derek stood waist deep in the frothing mixture, splashing about in hopes of grabbing onto Sandra.
“Sandra, where are you? Reach up towards me!” He yelled, ignoring the foul feeling of the chilling mud seeping into every crevice and niche of his lower body and clothes.
Finally grabbing onto a hand, however limp and cold, Derek pulled up with all of his might, lifting Sandra from the muddy pit, her entire body caked in a colorful mixture of greens and browns, her arms moving slowly at her sides to try and clear the goo from her front.
“Sandra, how did you get down here?” Derek demanded, wiping away a lump of red tinged mud from her face, revealing a pair of listless eyes, staring ahead, cold and dead. “Sandra? Sandra!”
Derek moved his hand to Sandra’s throat, searching for a pulse. Not finding one, He pressed her body up against the wall of the pit, thinking as quickly as he could of a way that both of them could emerge from the grave, even on his injured leg. A howl of wind above, followed by a series of shuffling leaves, told Derek that someone was close by. And from the sound of it, coming from all directions, there were several people!
Guess those forms in the dark were actually people after all!
“Don’t worry Sandra, we’ll get you to a hospital,” Derek sobbed, clutching the girl close to his chest… before noticing a lack of something.
Make that two something’s…
Facing his phone towards Sandra, he focused the camera and flicked on the night vision module, looking her up and down. While Sandra wasn’t the most curvaceous girl he knew, she was shapely to say the least. But this person here was flat as a board… and naked.
And a boy.
The boy’s arms, stiff and caked in mud, moved up to try and grasp at Derek, to pull him closer. Derek pushed him away, slamming him into the moist earthen wall of the grave as he sloshed across the pit, creating rippling waves of muddy water.
“Help!” Derek called out, grasping at the edges of the grave desperately, yanking down clods of dirt and mud.
His only response was the sloshing noise of the boy standing back up, a low gurgle escaping his lips as, much to Derek’s horror, a stew of blackened bile and maggots slithered forth from his mouth in a near endless stream, dribbling down his pale, mud-encrusted chest. A large wood roach, copper and brown, climbed out from the boy’s mouth and crawled up his face, pushing aside the boys eyeball as it forced its way back into his head.
He screamed even louder as dirt began to fall in a heavy shower over him, pelting him with dry sod and rocks, which mixed into the foul stew quickly. Looking up, Derek could make out six figures, dark and eclipsed by the moon, with shovels, quickly filling in the grave.
Sputtering as dirt began to pile up around him, Derek pushed through the ever thickening sludge, the ghoulish boy lunging forward and latching onto him, encircling his frigid arms around Derek’s neck. The pale, lifeless eyes stared at Derek with no emotion, though the fervent manner in which the boy held onto Derek made him shiver.
“Get off me, you freak!” He shoved the boy in the face, breaking the boys hold on him and sending him back beneath the mud. In his struggle, his light flashed up onto the front of the tombstone, past the shovels showering him with dirt.
Flashing it back, Derek looked on in horror as he read his own name on the worn stone, the words faded and cracked from years of neglect. Hearing a jingling above, he saw the twin golden eyes of the cat staring down at him as he was pelted with mud from above, the last thing he saw before the dead boy grabbed onto his face with a claw-like hand to pull him deeper into the grave.