“If you don’t do it, I’m telling everyone at school you’re a chicken!”
There was no backing out. If Eddie didn’t follow through with his dare, then he wouldn’t hear the end of it from his classmates when he returned to school from Fall Break. That was the curse of living in a small town. Everybody knows your business, and once you’ve been ridiculed by one person then everybody else chimes in so they don’t get singled out too.
It never failed. Every year a single high school freshman was chosen to be “initiated” by a group of upper classmen. It just so happened that this was Eddie’s not-so-lucky year.Into the Graveyard
The group of boys stood at the edge of a small plot of land that had long ago been abandoned. On the left side of the land arose the shell of a large, two-story farm-house. The house had been condemned decades before the boys had ever laid eyes on it, but it still stood in disrepair due to the fact that the small township it resided in couldn’t afford the cost of demolition. The right side of the land displayed a very small graveyard that housed the last inhabitants of the farm-house. “Miller Cemetery,” as it had affectionately become known around town, was unanimously deemed the spookiest place in the area, with several ghost stories stemming from the events that led to the family’s demise.
These stories were passed down through the generations, with nobody ever taking the time to confirm the details of what actually occurred, so naturally the tales grew longer and more gruesome with each telling.
“Alright, I’m going!” Eddie said. He did his best to mask the quiver in his voice. He really wanted to seem confident and strong to impress his older schoolmates.
“Don’t forget; shine your flashlight from the second story window to prove you’re in there.”
“Yeah, I got it.” Eddie slowly walked along the cracked concrete walkway that split the plot between the residential half and the cemetery half. He peered at the gravestones on his way past, noticing a sunken area in front of one of the tombstones. The fact that this area was buried in a wooded hillside, only increased the eeriness. Because the trees were so thick, the area was always darker and noticeably cooler than the rest of the town. Eddie just tried to focus on hiding his anxiety.
As he carefully strolled along the edge of the graveyard, the stories he’d heard his whole childhood started playing over and over in his mind. How the deceased that were buried on this land had been the inhabitants of the now dilapidated house. How the home had been handed down through generations of the Miller family. How one night in October a long time ago, with the moon shining brightly as it was tonight, the grown uncle that stayed with the family of his sister woke up with a deranged thought in his head. How he strolled upstairs from his basement bedroom with a hunting knife, and how he proceeded to go from room to room, silently and swiftly slicing the carotid artery along each of his family member’s throats. Since that night, the house has remained empty. The family was buried on the land because no arrangements had been made in the wake of their passing, and because the town couldn’t afford to provide free burial plots in the local cemetery.
He felt the coolness in the air and it traveled down his spine. The lore stated that the temperature drop surrounding the property was due to the presence of spirits. Eddie was smart enough to know the scientific explanation for the lower temps, but that did nothing to calm his nerves on this night.
Finally, he reached the steps that led up the front of the porch. The second step had caved in years ago from the rotten wood and kids just like him being challenged to take a tour of the house. He carefully maneuvered the weathered wood and made his way to the front door. Just as he reached for the door to push it open, a stiff breeze cut past him, swinging the creaky door open before he could lay a finger on it. He clinched his eyes for a brief moment and willed himself to proceed. “Just get in and get out,” he thought to himself.
He glanced back over his shoulder to see what the group of upperclassmen were up to. As he had been making painstaking progress toward getting into the structure, he found that the other boys had decided to have a mud ball fight with clumps of dirt that they were pulling up from the grave sites.
Eddie stepped through the portal, disappearing from sight as he was swallowed by the darkness beyond the doorway. As quickly as possible, but still being very careful, he tip-toed forward, toward the staircase in the hallway that separated what had been the dining room from the living room. Dry-rotted furniture was still scattered throughout the domicile, indicating the purpose of each room that Eddie peered into.
Stepping to the outer edge of each step where they would be most supported, Eddie delicately advanced up the staircase. With each step, he could hear the patter of raindrops on the roof get louder and more frequent as the skies decided to open up and pour down. By the time he reached the second floor, he found himself in a hallway that mirrored the first floor, but now he was toward the back of the house instead of the front. He carefully turned around the stairwell post, and advanced toward a window at the other end of the hallway that faced the front of the property, where Eddie’s group of “friends” would be waiting.
He carefully plodded along the rotten floorboards, creaking under the stress of each step. He couldn’t resist glancing into each room on his way by. The doors were all flung open, undoubtedly left that way by curious teens over the countless years of trespassing. Eddie noticed dark brown splatters in each bedroom as he slowly walked by and peered in; no doubt remnants of arterial spray from the Miller family’s fateful night.
Upon reaching the window, Eddie looked outside; first in the direction of the road where he expected the boys to be waiting for his signal, then toward Miller Cemetery when he discovered they weren’t waiting as patiently as he expected. He saw their silhouettes running between the gravestones, presumably still in their mud war. A thin layer of fog had begun to settle onto the ground. “And I’m the young one?” Eddie sarcastically wondered aloud, disgusted by the boys’ lack of respect for the deceased. At that point, Eddie realized there were more shadows roaming around the grounds than there should have been.
“HELP!” he heard one of his schoolmates yell into the night. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the night beyond the pane of glass, he started making out more details. And then he noticed the sunken ground, and massive holes directly in front of all of the tombstones but one. When he approached the house mere minutes earlier, there was only one gravesite that looked that way, now nearly all of them did. He witnessed the silhouettes of his friends disappear one by one as they tripped, fell to the ground, and were attacked by the other shadows. Blood curdling screams shattered the night air. Eddie stood frozen in fear, unsure of how to process what he was watching.
He held up his flashlight to the window and spotlighted one of the dark figures, only Eddie didn’t recognize who he was looking at. It appeared to be a young girl, her dress outdated by about 80 years, and matted to her frame by dirt and mud. Eddie’s beacon of light caught her attention, and she turned her head to look directly in his direction. Eddie’s fear turned into shock as he realized he was in a stare down with a corpse that had risen from Miller Cemetery.
In his periphery, he saw movement from the last undisturbed grave. The earth rose and fell as two hands scratched at the surface, digging their way out from beneath. Eddie redirected the beam of his flashlight to get a better look, just as a gaping mouth broke the surface of the grave. Eddie was snapped out of his daze by the sound of creaking wood, stressing under the weight of footsteps. He panned his flashlight back to where he first witnessed the Miller girl, only to find she was nowhere to be found. All that remained was the gutted shell of one of his classmates. Organs were strewn about the body and surrounding ground, blood pooling in every nearby cavity like mud puddles from the rain. Then he caught the unmistakable sound of somebody climbing a staircase.
Eddie briskly walked back to the stairs and looked over the railing to find what he could only describe as a zombie shambling up the stairs. Then he noticed a second body step into the door frame from the porch; the girl’s teenaged brother. At this distance, he could start to make out distinct details. They each had gouged out scars along the width of their necks. The skin was so dehydrated that it strained across the skeletal frames like an overstretched canvas. “Shit!” Eddie blurted out, knowing he had no way out. He had always heard the tales, but never imagined they were anything more than ghost stories. Unfortunately, now he knew better.