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Cemetery Club

Guest Chris Sirn

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Guest Chris Sirn

There’s a graveyard behind a haunted house that supposedly no one has stepped foot inside in thirty years. My name is Mercury Grinner, and that night was… Halloween. Every year we stayed the night in the abandoned house, and nothing ever happened. That year we decided to try the cemetery, with one change… that night I would be staying there alone.

The sun set at 6:38 on Halloween. When I said “we,” I am referring to myself and some high school classmates of mine. Members of the Drama Club. Joey, Rusty, Samantha, and my girlfriend, Chelly. This last one was who would be dropping me off at Fallen Plantation at six-fifteen and would be picking me up at seven. I was in the bathroom of my parents’ house, getting ready. I was dressed in a black shirt and camouflaged pants. Black boots. A jack knife in my back pocket for no good reason. And my face was painted. Black and green should do wonders for hiding my appearance in case the cops showed up.

I didn’t know someone had already called the police and gave them a head’s up.

I put my hat on and descended the staircase to the living room, where my parents sat watching a ball game. “I’m going out,” I said. “Okay,” and “Have fun,” was their response. Neither of them bothered to look up.

Chelly was in the driveway, five minutes early. She drove a red pickup truck. I ran to the truck and got in. She was smiling. I guess it’s easy to smile when you weren’t the one who was going to sit on a bench where the ghost of an old lady appeared at sundown.

“You sure you want to do this?” she asked. “Did you hear what happened to Dustin Rucker—”

“I know the story,” I said as we took off. The Fallen Plantation was about thirty minutes away, buried in the Louisiana hills out in the countryside north of Bellway. We had time to spare. “Tell me again what happened,” I said.

“Well, Dustin Rucker was a senior that went to our school. Captain of the Drama Club. He decided to sit in the graveyard one night—not Halloween, some other night, for the dare of it. This was thirty years ago. They dropped him off and he got lost in the woods. He thought the police were after him. He never made it to the cemetery.”

“Well, what did happen?”

“Like I said, he got lost in the woods surrounding the plantation. The friends who dropped him off said there were no cops on the road that night. Around nine o’clock he came shambling out of the woods, in a state of panic. His eyes were wide so you could see the white surrounding the whole iris. Veins stood out on his neck. He said there was someone in the woods. He said it was a cult, or something. After that, he refused to talk about Fallen Plantation or his night in woods.”

“That must have been quite a story, to have survived thirty years.”

“He died a year later.”

“What did he die of?”


Awkward silence filled the car. I thought this closed the discussion, but I was wrong.

“Later, his whole family became reclusive,” Chelly went on. “Became quite pale. Didn’t talk to anyone at the grocery store, which they visited once a month. Bought groceries in bulk. Four shopping carts full, like they couldn’t stand to be in public. They dropped like flies. One. After. Another.”

Chelly’s truck hit something. The truck jumped, and I thought I was going to be sick. I again thought this closed the discussion, and again I was wrong.

“Charlie—the father—was murdered in his sleep. The youngest of the four siblings hung himself. The second died in a drunk driving crash. The third drowned at the beach. The mother is the only one still alive. She moved to Florida.”

The windows of the truck were down. The sun neared the horizon. Terror crept up my spine. I found I was looking forward to this.

The next twenty-five minutes passed by without incident.

We arrived at Fallen Plantation at about six-fifteen. The house was three stories high. Black windows. Cemetery hidden from view. I looked at the crooked gate, which had been forced open who knew how many years ago. It looked like it had been bent open by King Kong.

“Watch out for the cult,” said Chelly with mock-warning. “It’s Halloween night.”

“That was thirty years ago,” I said impatiently. “I’m sure they’ve all grown up and moved on to their respective careers.”

“Do you have your phone?”

“Both my phone and my walkie.”

“What’s my code name?”

“Mama Bear. Do you remember mine?”


“Very good. Wish me luck.” Except I didn’t believe I needed luck. Remember, I was eighteen.

I slid out of the truck and shut the door, walking towards the mangled gate. I looked over my shoulder and gave Chelly a wave—so far, so good. No ghosts or spooks or sasquatches had gotten me yet. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid, but being afraid was the peach and raspberry in my refresher. I heard a bullfrog in the woods.

How could the police see you from the street? The cemetery was hidden from view. Maybe this Dustin Rucker person was crazy. Maybe the cult drove him crazy somehow. But what did I know about mental illness? I had failed that entire class in Jordan High School. My heart began to pound.

Rambo! I thought furiously. The gate hadn’t been bent the last Halloween. I slipped through like a snake. The grass was tall, taller than I was, by far. I hoped it wasn’t sharp, that I wouldn’t get my face cut up like Agent Scully in that X-Files movie, then I told myself not to be stupid. The moon was full and high in the sky, uncharacteristically orange. I remember my mother telling me I always bit off more than I could chew.

Look at the little baby, he’s a-scared! said a voice inside my head. Why don’t you just head back home with your tail between your legs, or better yet, why don’t you have Chelly stay in the graveyard while you drive the truck in circles?

“I’m not afraid.” I said it like an incantation. I said it not without amusement. After all, this wasn’t my first dare. I had hung on to the top of Rusty’s car while he drove sixty miles per hour, hands clenched with all my strength, my body trailing like I was Superman. I lifted weights alone. I drove myself to get my own driver’s license. I would be darned if I let a little ghost story scare me away.

It’s more than a little ghost story, said the voice. Someone died. Several people. What do you have to say about that?

I pushed the traitorous voice away as I plunged through the grass. Occasionally I would pass a pricker bush, so I had to be careful there. The bullfrog was louder and joined by other bullfrogs. I wondered if I had bit off more than I could chew.

Better hurry! You’re late for your date!

That voice! Was it the ghost speaking to me? I laughed—literally laughed out loud, like crazy people do.

I could see the side of the mansion. A broken window stared invitingly. That was where we entered the house last year: Myself, Chelly, Rusty, Joey, and Samantha. My watch said I had time to spare. I grinned and laughed again.

One minute later, I crawled through the broken window, just killing time. I was horrified and delighted to see rodents crawling across the floor. A portrait hung on the wall. It had slashes across it, like the prince’s painting from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The walls were dark with graffiti. I wondered if some of it belonged to the cult all those years ago.

Remember the Blair Witch Project? said the traitorous voice. A few kids went into this house in the woods, and… uh, never mind.

“Hello?” I said loudly. Chelly suddenly spoke from my pocket.

“Code red.”

Code red meant a cop car was nearby. I ducked down. The second window in this room looked out on the driveway. The better to see you with, my dear. I ducked down, laid down on the floor with its mice and spiderwebs and God knew what else, and listened. I thought Chelly knew better than to speak before the current threat had passed, but she surprised me by taking a risk:

“Code blue.”

What the hell did code blue mean? I’d forgotten. I remained still. I didn’t dare raise my head to see who was coming. Suddenly this whole thing seemed like a bad idea. Why would anyone want to do this on a dare, considering the history of the cemetery? And on Halloween? Was I insane?

“Code pink.”

Code pink was an easy one to remember. It meant the cop was leaving. That was good. I briefly wondered where Chelly was hiding, where she’d hidden the truck. I didn’t know it was Rusty who had called the cops, in the hopes of making the adventure more exciting. That guy was kind of a jerk. Nothing I couldn’t handle, though. I stood up, dusted myself off, and ventured back out the window I had entered through.

The sky had grown darker. I looked at my watch. I was late. And I felt like I was in the middle of a jungle. I made like Rambo and brought my jack knife out, slashing a path to the graveyard.

You’ll never take me alive, copper, I thought as I left more evidence of my presence behind. I found a curiosity swirling inside me: What would the cemetery look like? I had never seen it before. Strangely, there were no windows on the side of the house viewing the back of the property. Was it all ordinary tombstones? Or were there statues? And which one belonged to the old lady? It occurred to me that the ghost had not only killed Dustin Rucker, but also his loved ones. If it were to kill me next and target my loved ones, it wouldn’t go after my estranged parents. It would target the only family I had:  Rusty and Joey and Samantha and—


“Stay away from them,” I said to the grass as I slashed my way through it. I swung my knife harder. And then, all at once, I was at the cemetery. The first thing I noticed was there was no tall grass

(they’re all in it together, they all called the cops on you)

in the cemetery and the graves were neatly manicured, as if someone had taken a weed eater to them. Not a single fallen autumn leaf was in that cemetery. The bench sat neatly at the back of the boneyard. I had the impression it had been waiting for me; either that, or the old lady herself had been waiting.

Someone cut the grass for Halloween.

For you.

Everyone has a stake in this story.

“Not true, not true!” I almost shouted. I suddenly wished the police would arrest me. Before I did something stupid like sit on that bench. It was the ugliest graveyard I had ever seen. Its beauty was a false face.

Well? What are you waiting for? Go on.

“The gate’s locked,” I said without much hope. Surprise, it was unlocked. The lock and chain hung from the iron-wrought door. As if somebody lay waiting for me.

It’s Rusty, I thought. Rusty and all them. They came back here and unlocked the gate. They’re trying to scare me!

How did they get the key?

He picked the lock. Or Joey did. They found a way to see in the dark.

I was moaning and whimpering now. There was a path in the cut grass. It led from the gate to the bench. What kind of a sick joke was this? I was just about to enter the cemetery when a hand fell on my shoulder and a voice said: “Stop right there.”

I almost screamed. I shoved a fist in my mouth to stifle the scream. I turned around. It was a cop. The officer wore sunglasses and for moment I thought he was blind, then it occurred to me he probably was blind, but that was just more crazy talk. How did he find a way to see in the dark?

“I caught you,” said the cop. In the gathering gloom I could just see a smile on his face. Barely. The opportunity to sit on the bench with the ghost was passing with the dying sun, and I have never felt more grateful to see such a thing in my life. I told myself I would never tell this story to anyone for as long as I lived, yet here I am, telling it to you. The cop held a key in his right index finger, pointing up as if gesturing to God, the key swinging in a circle.

“You see, I’m not a cop,” said the man as he took his sunglasses off. His facial expression was as empty as a hangman’s noose where a murderer once hung. “I’m a member of the Cemetery Club, just like you. I’m a ghost. My name is Dustin Rucker.”

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