Deborah loves all books, her favorites being mystery and romance. She writes fiction on her spare time.
I eyed my own reflection as I stared back at myself from the mirror. I looked pale enough for today. Why do anything? It was impossible for us today! Minus well stay home and watch movies. Were there any good Halloween movies that didn’t emmesh blood and gore?
My cell buzzed that familiar beat.
“Faye we are celebrating Halloween!” Adriana informed me as a hello.
“We can’t go out trick or treating,” I said for the hundredth time today. “22 and 19 is too old to go out trick or treating.”
“This is the first year I won’t be and I don’t want age to stop me.”
“We can’t! Because there is still covid and social distancing.”
“It’s Halloween! Everyone is wearing a mask.”
“No there not! Everywhere is closed anyways.”
“I haven’t given up.”
“I’m staying home,” I huffed out.
I sat down going through my DVDs. I dusted off my red mask. I didn’t think anyone would be trick or treating, but just in case. I would like to have gone out this year. To a movie, or even a coffee shop wearing a costume.
I sighed. I wasn’t in the mood for a zombie movie!
My phone rang again.
“I got it all figured out.” The enthusiasm laced her voice.
“There’s only five of us.”
“We’ll go somewhere. That means more people!”
“No! Where we’re going there won’t be anyone else?”
“What do you mean?”
“I want to do something this Halloween. So, do all of us!”
True! I wanted to, but I wasn’t going to end up in the hospital just because I wanted candy this year. I sighed.
“How are you feeling? If one of us is sick?” I asked letting the question hang.
“We will all wear a mask just in case and not take them off.”
“Aren’t we a little old to be trick or treating?”
My phone went dead.
I fixed my hair in the mirror. I added some dark shadow on my eyes, and made sure my mask was straight. I preferred my N-95 with my costume than a creepy face. I fastened my cape not to fall off.
I went outside when I saw the lights. Benjamin grinned at me.
“So, you want to explore?”
I winced at him. We all kind of laughed and teased. They secured their masks once inside. Benjamin, Adriana and Ruby packed into the back seat. Milo road shotgun. I took the wheel.
I set the GPS.
“What’s the address?’’
Adrianna typed it in for me.
“So where are we going?” I finally asked.
“We are going to a haunted house.”
I gaped at her. “What?”
“It’s an abandoned old mansion, and everyone around there thinks it’s haunted.”
“I thought we were going into the city.”
“Social distancing! This is perfect.”
“Well I don’t know? If it’s abandoned, will we be able to go near it?”
“Yes, we can go all around and even go inside. Most people stay away from it.”
I rolled my eyes.
I wasn’t even going to ask her how she knew about all this.
“I don’t know? It sounds like a strange journey.”
“Common…” They chorused from the back.
I was outvoted.
“Okay, but I don’t believe in ghost.” I informed them.
The car spun through the dark roads that wound far away from my house or anything familiar. It was becoming quieter and quieter, darker and darker. We drove farther out towards empty fields where there existed less and less houses.
“Are we almost there?” I asked.
I checked my GPS!
“I don’t have any cell connection,” Milo said.
I don’t know why I had let her talk me into this? We were driving farther and farther away from anything we knew.
“We’re almost there,” Adriana said excitedly.
Your destination is on the right.
I slowed. I pulled over off the road.
“I don’t see anything.”
I tried to search the blackness of the dark for something I could see.
“We’ll need our lights...’’ They said in unison.
Maybe this had been a bad idea?
“What are we going to do once we are inside?” I asked.
I was genuinely curious to know what people did inside allegedly haunted houses. After five minutes of talking and incoherent phrases I gathered that the plan was to hide candy and other objects inside and that we would set out to find them. Adriana would hide everything of course!
“Hiding things, that’s so childish.”
We sat in the car for a moment. I was truly looking forward to finding candy in a creepy house. I got out of our car. They followed. They were excited to find hidden things and we wanted to get a closer look at what we would explore.
There were no streetlights and the moon was slight. It felt like we walked into an abyss of darkness. Benjamin had a flashlight. Milo used his phone. I still could not see anything. We walked a distance. There was something in front of me that looked like wood. Whatever it was? It would be close enough to touch soon.
I could finally see that it was a large wooden fence. I came closer to it. The thick wooden beam came up to my waist. One thick beam was half broken. I leaned my arms over it. They came up to it as well.
“Do you see anything?” Adriana asked me.
“Where’s the house?” I blinked.
I couldn’t tell if it was something white in front of us? Benjamin shined his flashlight into the field. My eyes adjusted. There were objects in the field. There was no house, no building, nothing we had been expecting. They were stones. From what I had been able to see in the dark. Large stones, with rounded edges, one smaller than the other, one in the shape of a cross.
It was a cemetery.
“I thought you said there was a haunted house,” Ruby said.
“Where’s the house?” Benjamin asked.
“It’s a graveyard,” I said. “We must have taken a wrong turn.”
“This is the wrong spot.” Adriana complained.
“We can go back and find it.” I offered.
“Wait a minute,” Benjamin said. “Why not? A cemetery is just as spooky as a haunted house.”
“We could do it here.” Adriana exclaimed.
“But there’s graves?”
I wasn’t sure it was a place to explore.
“We’ll just explore a little then go back,” Milo suggested. “It’s Halloween.”
Benjamin shined his flashlight.
“Halloween is about the dead right,” he said.
“That’s Día de los Muertos.” I corrected him.
I treaded into the field. The ground was covered with leaves, some piles so thick my feet sunk into the brittle surface. When I came closer to the pillars that made up the cemetery, I roamed the graveyard. Someone had once told me that old cemeteries had been abandoned, no longer mourned or visited because years had passed on all who knew the dead.
One gravestone was tall, pointing up shaping into a diamond. One gravestone had a painted picture, I couldn’t see what it was. The stone was so thick. Some headstones were flat. My foot touched one, that made me careful where I stepped. I was surprised that there were flowers on one. I wanted to reach out and touch them, but decided not to. A headstone read 1875-1914 Asher Stevens. His was really old. Where were we? I rubbed my arms. I could feel a cold chill.
I walked towards one. There was laughing in the distance. I shined my phone light on it.
Margarette Linette 1883-1905
I gazed at the grave. It read, died of infirmity. There were footsteps next to me.
“I can’t help it! I’m intrigued by what the graves say.”
“It’s an old cemetery.” A deep voice answered.
I looked to my side, to see who was next to me. I trembled. I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be here. It was a man, not one of us. I looked around me. They were all nearby, Milo and Ruby were two graves over, talking and laughing about something on the headstone. I hesitated then quietly stared at the headstone. I peeked over at him as he also watched the grave. He was dressed in a white shirt. His pants were black. They looked like vintage dress clothes. Was that a waistcoat? There was a gold chain hanging from the pocket on the front.
He turned to look at me. His face was pale and his eyes were as dark as his hair. It made me feel cold. He half smiled.
“She didn’t mean to die you know.”
His gaze wandered back to the headstone.
“I’m sure she did not,” I said staring at the script on the stone again.
“The graves hardly tell the true story of their deaths.”
I asked wondering how he knew? He stood a moment longer, then stepped away disappearing from my view. Among the headstones.
How they came to die?
It wasn’t a cheery thought. I looked around once more for anyone else before coming closer to the familiar voices of my friends.
“There’s other people coming to the graveyard tonight.” Adriana told us.
“It’s not surprising,” I said with my eyes browsing the headstones. Trying to see if I could see the man again.
“Ruby saw a woman,” Milo snickered.
“Yeah she was walking around.”
“Did you see the man?”
They shook their heads.
“What was she doing?” I asked.
“She had flowers in her arms, she gave me the creeps.”
It seemed out of place for visitors to be leaving flowers for the graves on Halloween. We could see lights coming in the distance.
“We better go,” Adriana said anxiously.
“I thought you said it was open to the public.”
“Yeah well, they sent out an alert! They come out here randomly because a lot of people come here every year on Halloween.”
“You could have told us that before!”
Benjamin and Ruby turned and trotted away through the leaves. All of them quickly started going back, out of my sight. The car lights came closer.
I ran and stumbled! I didn’t want the police asking me what I was doing here, especially if my answer was hiding candy and tricks on tombstones.
I noticed someone standing by a fallen tree. I tried to make out who it was in the dark. A small girl, not a child but thin. She made no motion, just stood there. I had the impression her attention was focused on me, even if I couldn’t see it in the dark. Something else about her was odd. Her dress looked torn, and for a moment I thought I could see through her.
I heard Milo shout in the dark with a whispering tone. I hurried to the road. The tip of my foot hit something. I froze and looked down! It had been something that clinked yet small enough for me to kick. I knelt down. I reached out feeling the ground in curiosity. My hands felt something cold metal. I held it up. Not keys, jewelry! Funny jewelry. The gold twinkled in the dim light. I was sure it was not real gold. It looked like an oval locket. I heard voices in the distance.
I pocketed the treasure. I wondered which one of us had dropped it?
I started the car quickly and was out of there before the lights could disturb us. The car had been distracted by other people who apparently were in the graveyard as well. We stopped at an AMPM for some chocolate and random sweets. We had our candy after all. After that we didn’t feel up to exploring any more. We told each other creepy stories on the way home.
I tossed my mask to the floor, the cape too. My parents had been gone for a week. They had made me promise that I wouldn’t attend Halloween parties or be around anything that remotely resembled a crowd. I had not broken my promise, but I had a feeling they wouldn’t be happy with what I had done. I took what I found out of my pocket.
It was an old locket. I had forgotten to ask them about it. The color seemed faded. I rubbed my fingers over it there was something on the side. It opened! The light was dim but I could tell there was two pictures on the inside of the locket. On one side there was a photo of a woman on the other a photo of a man. I couldn’t tell who they were? I hoped it wasn’t Adriana’s, it may belong to Ruby. I carefully placed it in my bureau drawer.
I turned my night light on. I looked in my mirror at my reflection to dust off my hair. I could see my chalky face. From behind me I saw her reflection there too, looking back at me.
It was the small girl from the cemetery!
I jumped and spun around.
I couldn’t see her now. I looked back in the mirror, and behind me. Nothing! I turned the bright light on and looked all around. I opened my door and looked outside. I blinked. My imagination? I put my hand to my chest.
I peeked at the mirror one more time before flipping the lights and closing my bathroom door, I didn’t want to look at it anymore. I climbed into bed. Turned the TV on loud and pushed the volume. I squeezed my blanket over me. I just wanted to go to sleep. I hated Halloween!
The days passed as everything became eerie shadows of confusion. Not because of the change in weather or my limited visits to the outside world, because I kept seeing that thin girl. Same torn dress. The same pale complexion. That expression of emptiness and want. Her brown hair up in a bun. Not all the time or everyday but randomly here or there. She would be outside my house or by my car, sometimes when the sun set or right before I went to sleep.
I came home edgy, more than usual. I carried my bag over my arm. She was standing there so close to my front door, too close. She didn’t say a word or blink. She stared at me, as if she were waiting for something. I almost thought of asking what she was doing, or who she was?
I stopped waiting for her to say something. I ran in the house instead. I backed away from the front door after banging it closed and took a deep breath. After a few moments I moved the curtain aside with my fingers and peeked outside. She was gone!
I could not be sure what was making these strange things happen. The lights would flicker or blink off. I didn’t want to look in the mirror anymore, not that I had seen her reflection since that night. I still was afraid to look in the mirror. Sometimes I could hear someone calling someone else’s name. Then there were those moments that I thought I saw her again. The same way, as if she were waiting for something. It was as if my visit from the cemetery had left something behind. A trail that mapped where I lived or what I did.
Could it all have been just strange mistakes? I didn’t like it when I thought I saw her in the house. Then, I was never sure I had seen anyone at all. I dread feeling nervous all the time.
I looked out the curtain again. There was someone coming, walking closer to the front door. She was a heavy-set woman with black hair. She tapped on my door. I opened it feeling defeated.
“Hello, is it alright if speak with you for a moment?” She asked in a friendly voice.
“My name is Mary.”
She had a slight accent! As if she only spoke Spanish years before.
“I’m sorry to bother you, I only want to ask you something about Halloween and the place you were at?”
I thought it weird someone had come here specifically asking me about it.
“Were we not supposed to be there? I thought it was open to the public.” I asked guiltily.
“It is, if the graves are not disturbed.”
“What do you want to ask me?” I probed curiously. At least I hadn’t done something illegal.
“Things were taken from the graves.”
“I didn’t take anything.”
“I am only asking to find a clue.”
Mary told me that she didn’t want to cause anyone any trouble, that she only left no stone unturned in the dim hope that perhaps what was missing would be found. It seemed so unlucky, that I felt concerned she wouldn’t find what she was looking for. I invited her in and offered her some tea. It was important to locate certain things she said.
“What is missing from there?”
“Small things that loved ones left on the graves, and for those who lived long ago.”
“Why would those things disappear?”
“A lot of people were out there on Halloween. I am only asking anyone who may know.”
“I was there, but I didn’t notice anything on the stones it was too dark.”
“We take care of the graves. I have relatives there.”
“That’s terrible. I thought the graves were old?”
“Oh yes! Most of them are very old. The cemetery is protected, we didn’t want the tombs to be disturbed.”
“I didn’t know it was a cemetery, we were expecting something else.”
“It was once a private cemetery that adjoined the luxurious home. All of you were most likely expecting a mansion.”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what we thought, that there was a house there.”
“There was, last year it was burned down by visitors orchestrating a Halloween experiment.”
I gaped at her. “We weren’t doing anything like that.”
“Of course! It was and still is a historical sight. We will restore the old home that was unfortunately destroyed.”
I didn’t know why she kept saying we? Maybe she was referring to the community.
“I leave candles, and flowers are regularly placed on the graves. Tokens to mourn those who lived and have been placed to rest in the cemetery.”
“I didn’t take anything I swear. We just walked around. I read the headstones, but I didn’t touch the graves.”
“I believe you.” She smiled politely. “I must find them that is all.”
“How did you know I was at the cemetery?” I asked suddenly puzzled.
She smiled. It was not an unkind smile, but a sort of knowing grin.
“It is important to keep a close eye on this particular cemetery.”
“I hope everything is found back in place.”
“What is missing is nothing of value. What has been taken just means something to those who care.”
It didn’t seem right that things with sentimental value had disappeared. Whatever it was had been stolen.
She turned to leave.
“Sorry,” I said to her.
She had left with a kind thanks and goodbye. She hadn’t seemed suspicious. What item would a person leave on a grave? Who would take things from a grave? I pictured the graves in my mind’s eye. What was missing from the cemetery? I wanted to know.
Thinking of the cemetery made me feel cold. I don’t believe I could find the same spot or graves if I went back.
What was very strange about the things that had frightened me since Halloween night was that they were frightening everyone else that had been there as well. Adriana finally called me and said she couldn’t sleep anymore because of what troubled her.
“What do you mean you can’t sleep?”
“I feel a cold grip grab my hand ever since I left the cemetery.”
“Are you okay?”
I didn’t tell her she imagined it, because I was reminded of what disturbed me since I had left those graves.
“Every time I forget about it, I feel it again. I don’t want to go crazy.” She admitted anxiously.
“We’ve seen to many horror movies Adriana! We should have never gone to that cemetery.”
“But that’s its Faye! I thought it was my imagination too, since I was at an old cemetery. Then I talked to Benjamin.”
“Yeah Milo and Ruby! It’s happening to all of them except in a different way.”
I tensed at her confession. I didn’t want to share or admit out loud I was seeing someone that could have come from a boneyard.
“Faye, I feel it when it touches my hand. Icy cold fingers, as if another hand were grabbing mine…Always before I sleep, now sometimes when I forget about it, I feel it again. I can’t see anything! This icy grasp grabs my hand like it wants something.”
“How can that be? I’m sorry you can’t sleep.”
There was an uneasy shiver in the pit of my stomach.
“That’s why I called you? When Benjamin told me those things…I wondered?”
“Yeah Adriana… something strange is happening to me too.”
I gently tried to comfort Adriana. She looked pale white, it frightened me to see. We all huddled together and decided to talk in my car. It felt more private that way.
“I don’t get it,” Benjamin said.
“Were being haunted,” Adriana whispered.
“This man he keeps…” Ruby hesitated.
“What?” I asked in shock.
“He keeps saying things to me.”
“I don’t understand it. Sometimes he whispers.”
“I’ve heard her whisper too.” I admitted.
They were quiet at what I said.
“Every single one of us was followed and haunted after the cemetery.” Benjamin decided.
“My door opened and closed. Scared the crap out of me… well not really.” Milo amended.
“I feel like something is watching me as I sleep,” Adriana said.
“I can’t sleep either,” Benjamin agreed. “Things keep happening to wake me up.”
“He was wearing black slacks, and old- fashioned cloths like Halloween never ended.” Ruby described him.
It reminded me of the man I had spoken to at the cemetery. I had a feeling it was the same person.
“I don’t understand why? Maybe that mansion really was haunted before it burned down.” I told them.
I believed now that the whole cemetery must truly be haunted. They didn’t say anything to my suggestion, we were all lost in our murky thoughts.
“Why would we be haunted after we were there? followed or…” I shook my head. “Does that happen to everyone who goes there?”
They all looked at me then looked away, then at each other. I stared at them wondering what they were thinking. “What’s wrong?” I asked them.
“We took things,” Benjamin said.
“I took things,” Adriana admitted.
“You took things from the graves?” I asked in disbelief.
“We wanted to bring something home with us from the cemetery...” Milo and Adriana said.
“What did you take?”
“Little things, like flowers… their dried up in my kitchen.”
“I took a candle.” Milo confessed.
“You mean it’s true! Things were taken…You took things off the graves?” I asked in absolute astonishment.
They didn’t say anything in response.
“Did you take anything Benjamin?”
He was morbid. He looked up at me.
“I lost it.”
“You also took a candle?”
“Not candles. A necklace, strange jewelry off a grave. A long chain with an oval, it looked like it belonged on a pirate movie. I dropped it on the way out when we ran back to the car.”
I pictured the locket at home in my drawer.
“I found it. I thought it belonged to one of you! I forgot about it.”
“You took something too.” Milo accused.
“It wasn’t on a grave,” I said realizing that these tangible objects were the reason all this started happening.
“Lucky she found it.” Adriana glared.
“Let’s just admit that with the exception of Faye, we all behaved like scum. I think that’s why we were followed out of the cemetery.” Benjamin announced.
“That’s what I meant.” Milo said apologetically. “That even though Faye didn’t take anything off a grave, she has something from there. That’s why all of us are being haunted, because of what we took.”
“let’s just put everything back.”
I suggested determined to amend what had unraveled so badly.
“We can’t put flowers back.” Ruby cried.
“Then we’ll buy some like them, and place them on the same grave they were taken from again.”
I took the locket out of my drawer and opened it. I looked at the two discolored photos. It was brighter now and I could see their faces in spite of the faded pictures. I looked at her and realized what I hadn’t noticed before, that it was the same girl who had been watching me, not pale but with an enthusiasm in her eyes I could no longer see. I noticed the picture of the man and wondered how they were connected and why their photos were together inside of this locket? He had black hair and dark eyes. I didn’t want to think about the familiar visage he gave me. I closed it together and put the locket back in my pocket.
I grabbed my bag and closed the door behind me. On the way out I turned my head to see her again. She stood very still as she watched me leave. I watched her as I ran quickly to the car. I wanted to hurry! I didn’t want to be there after dark again.
We left the flower shop.
Benjamin offered to return the locket since he had started the trouble for me by taking it. I told him it was alright, and that I wanted to return it anyways. I secretly wondered if the person returning things would extinguish their own ghost. Once we pulled up to the same road, we had that Halloween night, we didn’t move.
None of us wanted to get out of the car and walk into the cemetery again.
I reminded myself that we had walked around that night within that graveyard, and we hadn’t even been afraid. After a while they finally got out, I told them I wanted a few moments. They asked me if I would be alright without anyone else?
I told them I wanted to be alone when I returned it.
I sat for a moment observing the quiet road, then looked out the window at the cemetery. It was afternoon. They went to simply place what they had taken, or something like it back on the graves. I opened the dim gold colored locket. I Looked at their faces. I was still curious what their lives so long ago must have been like? I closed it gently.
I felt the breeze and looked back towards the cemetery.
She was standing there looking at me! So close to my car. The chill crept up my arms and around the back of my neck. She extended her palm waiting in expectation. Her eyes looking into mine. I carefully took the locket, reached out my window and dropped it into her palm.
She closed her hand, clasping the locket beneath her fingers. Then turned and walked away towards the cemetery. After a moment I couldn’t see her anymore.
More moments passed. I felt relief. They came back to the car. Once they were inside, I put the car in reverse, turned around and drove away from the cemetery. At last it disappeared from view!
“Did you put it back? Everything back.” I asked them.
“Yes! Right where it was, like we never took anything in the first place,” Adriana said satisfied.
“How about you?”
“Yes, I did while you were there in the cemetery.”
They looked at me and each other unsurely.
She looked at me expectantly, the relief evident on her face.
“Let’s stay home for Halloween next time.”
My parents were finally on their way back. I told them that everything was fine and gave them a happy welcome on the phone. I breathed out!
Everything was okay now. I hadn’t seen anyone since our last visit to the cemetery, and as far as I knew the rest of them hadn’t either. Everything was back to normal for Adriana and me.
I checked the mail box. I browsed the envelopes tossing them onto the table. One of them was plain white with no return or forwarding address. It wasn’t sealed. A paper was folded inside the envelope. I carefully pulled it out.
It was a small note.
Thank you for returning the locket. Everything is at peace with them once again.
The black scrawl read.
© 2020 Deborah Minter