Sunday, 31 October 2010
By Blaqk Audio
Every year, on Halloween, Hazel visited the Town Square Cemetery. She always thought the town’s centerpiece was the oddest place for a cemetery. Nothing more inviting than headstones in the middle of the square. Yet the ironic part was that every year, on Halloween night, the shops shut down and the people who lived upstairs locked their windows and doors as if they were afraid of possible trespassers. Children didn’t trick-or-treat up and down the streets; they stayed out in the suburbs. That was because there was a legend that the Town Square Cemetery was haunted. The ghosts of the dead would rise in revolt and wander the square, angry about the availability of their final resting place.
Hazel was the only one who knew this legend wasn’t true. She’d been visiting the cemetery every year since she’d moved in and heard about it. There were never any ghosts and yet every year the square died in response to the legend. This year was no exception to the rule. Hazel parked along the street by the front gate and got out wearing a light jacket zipped halfway to her chin. She wore chucks on her feet, a pair of ripped jeans, and a simple t-shirt beneath the jacket. The air was crisp and cold; her breath fanned out before her like smoke, evaporating inside the atmosphere, spiraling to nowhere. She jammed her fists into the pockets of her jacket and strolled through the open gate.
She wandered up the path a way before turning right and maneuvering through the familiar graves. Every Halloween the cemetery felt different to her than it did any other night of the year. Every other night of the year the cemetery was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the town’s inhabitants performing various activities: shopping, eating, drinking, or just chatting with friends outside on the street. Most night the bar was filled with people and there was usually a crowd of half-drunk people standing outside on the sidewalk or staggering through the street singing bits and pieces of disjointed songs. The bar shut down on Halloween every year just like all the other shops. It was the only time every year where people did their drinking at home. Hazel marveled at the fact that it was the only night every year where no one would be killed in an alcohol related auto wreck. Who said the dead couldn’t still be useful?
Yet on Halloween nights the cemetery felt removed from the town somehow, as if it wasn’t the center of attention but located out on some back country road where no one would hear you scream as you were stabbed to death. Hazel had spent the last three years trying to understand this change in feeling but so far she’d come up empty-handed. The only thing she could attribute to the cemetery’s change in feeling was the lack of people on the square. They usually ignored the cemetery’s existence the rest of the year, but on Halloween its presence became ominous.
Hazel walked around an old tree whose leaves were blood-red in the daylight and stopped suddenly. Leaning with his back against one of the weathered graves sat a man dressed all in black. His pale complexion was outlined by dark, wavy locks of hair framing his face. He smiled when she appeared around the tree. His teeth were perfect. A dentist’s wet dream.
Hazel stood with one hand touching the tree trunk and stared at the man and blinked, as if she were waiting for him to vanish in a puff of smoke.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect anyone to be here,” she said finally, her hand dropping to her side. He chuckled in response and climbed to his feet with amazing speed and grace. She almost didn’t catch him move. One second he’s sitting comfortably upon the grass and the next he’s standing six feet tall where he was previously sitting.
"I have a knack for just popping up. I’m Lance,” he says extending a hand. Hazel steps forward and shakes his hand mechanically. His grip is firm, a perfect businessman’s handshake, two pumps and done. Her arm drops back to her side as if the muscles inside have ceased working. She stares at his face, concentrating on his eyes, the feeling of his cool skin imprinted upon the lines of her palm.
“Are you new in town?” Hazel asks as she tries to wrap her mind around his eyes which she thinks are black but she can’t tell. They seem to be changing before her very eyes but her mind doesn’t quite grasp the concept because it simply can’t be. People’s eyes don’t change. Not unless they’re supernatural.
“No, I’ve lived here for many years.” Lance replies nostalgically, considering her with an animal’s intensity. “See something you like?” He asks, flashing a wicked grin that barely parts his lips. A chill shivers down her spine and she shakes her head as if clearing it from a deep thought.
“I’m sorry, I must seem so rude to you. I’m just trying to figure out where I’ve seen you before.”
Lance chuckles again. “I have that kind of face. I can assure you you’ve never seen me around before.”
“But you said you’ve lived here for years?”
The moon glints from Lance’s eyes as he steps forward, closing the distance between them. It has to be the moon. People’s eyes don’t glint on their own. Not unless-
“I live a very…secluded life.”
Hazel takes a step back, her head craning back on her neck to look up into his mesmerizing face. He looms above her, a whole head taller than she is. The ominous feeling that usually pervades the cemetery on Halloween night is suddenly suffocating. She can feel it wrapping around her windpipe like a scarf, only this scarf has been tied much too tight, tied by a sociopath with the intent to choke. All Hazel’s disbelief over the years seems senseless now, stupid even. The rest of the town understood very clearly that something was surely different in the cemetery on Halloween; she should have believed them.
“I have to be going-” Hazel starts to say as she takes another step backward but Lance catches her by the arm, his fingers wrapping expertly around her jacket.
“Don’t be in such a hurry. You only just got here and this is your seasonal ritual, is it not?”
“How-how do you know that?”
Lance smiles and his eyes widen like pools begging Hazel to jump in and drown. “I know everything.”
She tries to pull away but the attempt is in vein. Lance grabs her other arm and pulls her closer. Their faces are inches apart and the air that seemed cool when she’d walked through the gate now feels like a block of ice around her.
“Let me go,” Hazel replies breathlessly, barely struggling to get free. There’s a sense of freedom in being trapped, a sense that anything that happens now isn’t her fault so why fight the inevitable?
“But then I’d have to chase you and I don’t like the chase,” replies Lance leaning in closer. For a wild moment she thinks he’s going to kiss her, a total stranger, but he doesn’t. His nose moves to the base of her neck and he sniffs her skin, at least that’s what she thinks he’s doing. No matter what it’s the oddest thing that’s ever happened to her. He frees one of her arms to brush her hair behind her ear and instead of breaking free she moves closer to him, a response she couldn’t have explained in a million years, only that there’s an allure to him even through the fear trickling down her spine. She places her hand upon his chest and closes her eyes, feeling for his heartbeat, only there isn’t one.
Where his heart should be there is only an empty void; a hollow longing for substance; a grave needing to be filled. Her eyes fly open as his teeth pierce the flesh of her exposed neck and warmth spreads down her collar bone. Her jaw drops in an attempt to scream but nothing comes out except vapors. He drinks to fill the void. Inside her chest her heart pounds a rapid, rampant beat; it’s running away like the dish ran away with the spoon, only this time her heartbeat is running away with her life.
Hazel’s jacket is saturated with blood by the time Lance finishes drinking. He pulls back, holding a corpse in his arms, and licks the blood from his lips. He carries her over to an open hole and tosses her unceremoniously inside the six-foot deep hole. Lance pulls a shovel from a pile of earth at the foot of the grave and begins the project of burying Hazel’s corpse. When he’s finished he sticks the shovel, spade first, into the dirt beside the headstone. He considers his work for a moment, smiling to himself, and bends down in front of the headstone. He scratches upon its surface with his finger nail for a moment. When he’s done he admires the craftsmanship; very insane-asylum-ish. He gets to his feet and walks away. Carved into the stone are four words:
The chase ends here.
Lance walks out of the cemetery and down the street, disappearing around the corner of the bar; the void in his chest is no more; the hollow sloshes with blood; the grave has been filled.