Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Haunted Cemetery

Drew always wondered what it would feel like to run for his life. What if he got a cramp? Would he be fast enough? How far would he go? All of these questions were being answered tonight, but he wasn't listening now. The only thing that mattered was survival. There weren't any questions at this point, only reactions. There was no time to think, only act.

But what was he doing here in below freezing temperatures, running frantically through rural Illinois? Why was he running? What brought him to his point of desperation? Why was this happening?

He remembered just a few hours earlier:

"I went to that cemetery last night," Mark, his best friend quietly told him as they drove away from the video store. "Oh yeah? How was it? Did you see anything?"

Mark was driving now, but he had been quiet all night until this remark. After a pause, Drew spoke up again, "Well, did anything happen?"

Mark was still quiet. It seemed as if he couldn't really find words to explain what he wanted to say. He looked straight ahead as he drove, remembering the night he walked along the train tracks.

Mark had been told by another friend who went before him that this small, secluded cemetery was haunted. Mark didn't believe in ghosts, but Adam told him that he saw something weird when he went there last year. Adam even said after that night, he never wanted to go back. He told Mark that he saw a black figure moving in and out from behind the trees and gravestones. It was the shape of a person, but never really looked complete. And before Adam left the cemetery, he saw a candle flame flicker in the distance.

When Adam told Mark about this experience, Mark just had to see it for himself. He couldn't believe anything without seeing it with his own eyes. So he asked Adam to take him.

"Adam didn't want to at first, but he eventually gave in." As Mark started to tell the story to Drew, snow started to fall.

"We had to park by these train tracks. I don't know, I guess there's no way to get to this cemetery by car anymore. It's that old. But it's about a half hour walk down these tracks, and then another fifteen minutes down this little old trail through the woods. We went when it was late, and even the walk was scary. But once we got to the cemetery we saw a huge, rusty gate. There's wasn't any sort of lock on it or anything, so we were able to walk right in. Adam had the flashlight, and was showing me how old the gravestones were. They were barely legible, but we could tell that a few of them were from the 1800s. It was actually a really cool cemetery, really old and tons of huge, straggly trees."

Drew wasn't sure where this story would go, but he could tell that Mark was serious. His tone was deadpan.

"I... I can't believe it still... but dude... I saw something."

"What do you mean?" Drew responded quickly.

After a sigh, Mark went on, "I saw... a figure."

"...Like...  a person?"

"I don't know!" Mark yelled. "I've been thinking about it all day and I don't know what to do about it!"

Drew could tell that his friend was distressed, "Well... did Adam see it too?"

It looked like Mark was trying his best to make sense of things in his head, "Yeah. He did."

"Well, then... you guys saw something. ...What was it? The black figure thing?"

"No. The opposite. It was white."

Drew pulled his head back, faking confusion. "White? What, like a bed sheet?"

"I don't know man. It was kinda blurry. but yeah, it seemed like a person. I don't know what to do about it. As soon as we saw it, we both ran. We ran back to the train tracks and then all the way back to the car. Then we drove to Adam's house and caught our breath. I couldn't sleep all night. I even stayed at his place."

Drew was suddenly intrigued. "Wait a minute. If you guys both saw something, then you really saw something. It's not like one of you imagined a ghost, you actually saw something that was actually there."

Mark subtly shook his head, "Man, I don't know what we saw."

Drew couldn't let it end like this. "Mark. Show me. Take me there."

Mark looked over at Drew for the first time. "Dude. I don't know if I want to do that."

"Come on, it's either a person pulling a prank or some weirdo. I don't know, but it's not a ghost. Maybe we can go mess with this person."

Drew was full of rational confidence, he still didn't believe in ghosts.

"Come on Mark, you've got a flashlight, right? How far is it from here?"

"Man, it was crazy. I don't think you want to experience it. Adam has sworn to never go there again."

"Come on, just show me. We can watch the movie tomorrow. Don't worry, we're two big guys, if anything happens we'll fight it out!"

Drew was half-joking, but Mark still seemed nervous. "Alright Drew. We'll go. But I'm telling you right now, I don't feel very good about it. It didn't... it just didn't feel right, being there."

Drew half-shrugged and smirked, "I just have to see this stuff for myself man. I need to understand this."

After a quiet drive into the country, they arrived at the tracks. They parked, and stepped out in the the starless winter night. It was already past midnight. "It is unbelievably cold. Mark, we are not doing any running tonight. I'm not in the mood for hypothermia."

Mark turned on the flashlight and looked over at him, "Okay." They made sure that their doors were locked, and slammed them shut.

They started on the tracks. It was dark, but it looked like these rails hadn't been used in decades. They were rusty and crooked. To the sides of the tracks, vast openness. It could have been fields of soybeans, or just prairie grass, but it was so cold and dark that it didn't matter. They were moving forward, bundled up in scarves and hoods, set on their final destination.

After about fifteen minutes, they saw a bridge. Not a bridge that they were supposed to cross, but a bridge that went above them, perpendicular to the train tracks. It was a road. They even saw a car drive over it. What a car was doing out after midnight on a night like this was unfathomable, but then again, so was walking down abandoned train tracks towards a haunted cemetery in zero degree weather.

Mark wasn't talking much, but Drew was excited. He kept throwing out ideas as to what the explanations for Mark and Adam's experiences could be. Mark never really responded, his scarf covering everything but his eyes, which were locked as far ahead as the flashlight allowed his vision.

"Wait! This is it!" Mark halted.

They had almost missed the trail, but there it was to their left. It was small, but gravelly and wide enough for a car (Though it really didn't look like a car had been on this path in years). It was lightly travelled, and probably for good reason. The air seemed to get tighter and colder the further they walked. Both of them were now completely covered by their scarves, their heavy breath visibly steaming through.

Drew tried to keep talking. It was a way to keep himself from becoming scared. Breaking the silence kept a human gloss over the dire walk. But Mark wasn't saying much. He knew it was close.

Drew eventually noticed a glimmer in the distance. It had to be about ten feet high. "Whoa. Is that it?"

Mark shined the light a bit higher, and they saw the gate entrance. It was foreboding. A passageway not meant to be entered, but only to be viewed symbolically as a metaphor for the door we pass through upon death. But Drew was thinking like a rationalist. He saw that the gate was made of metal, rusty and brittle. He walked right in, trying his best to keep any fear at bay.

"Wow. This is a really cool cemetery Mark." Drew couldn't believe how old the gravestones looked. Not one of them could be read clearly due to decades of open exposure to the elements. Dead leaves were crunching underneath the snow. Drew wondered why they weren't soggy.

"Man. Even if we don't see anything weird, this place is worth the trip. I think it's the creepiest place I've ever seen." It was creepy. There were trees all around them, but in the distance they could just make out a pond, and if they turned around it was nothing but cornfields.

"What's that!"

A sudden rustle of leaves in one of the far corners. Mark's flashlight sporadic. Drew saw that Mark was scared, so he tried to make sense of the sound, "It's probably an animal. A deer or something. Should we look closer?"

Mark didn't want to move. "No man, no. We should leave. We should go back. Let's get out of here."

Drew moved closer to his friend, "Hey man, it's alright. We're here together. If anything happens anyway, we can help each other."

Mark's eyes turned towards Drew's. Silence overcame them. But this time, Drew didn't break it. Mark whispered, "do you have your cell phone?"

Drew's head jolted back softly. He hadn't even thought about it. "Well, no, I guess I left it in the car. Don't you have yours?"

Mark shook his head, "No."

Another rustle.

Mark and Drew looked back, startled. Mark was searching with the flashlight. Briefly, a glimmer. Drew grabbed Mark's wrist and whispered, "wait... what was that..."

The rustling started to build. They slowly looked for the source with the flashlight, and about 20 feet in front of them from behind a gravestone came a figure. It was white, walking, moving towards them slowly.

Drew's face became distorted at the ghastly sight, and he quickly backed up two steps. Whatever Mark saw last night, Drew was now seeing for himself. After staring for what seemed like half a minute, Drew realized that it actually was a bed sheet. It was a person, wearing a bed sheet in the middle of a cemetery in zero degree weather. Drew barely uttered out some words, "What do you want. What are you doing here." Half of his voice had been taken away, he was scared.

Mark and Drew were not moving, they were frozen where they stood. Too stunned to run, caught between confused fear and logical reality, they stared at the person.

From the other side, another rustle of leaves. The flashlight swung, and caught a figure in black, walking towards them. They remembered Adam's story, of the black figure. They were seeing it for themselves now. This, too, a person.

"Who are you." Drew said.

But this figure in black moved more aggressively. It was suddenly too clear that if Drew and Mark didn't turn around and run, that these cloaks would be upon them.

Almost simultaneously, they turned around and ran out of the cemetery. Mark yelling, "Come on!" as Drew ran backwards, eyes fixed on the mysterious figures. "Come on Drew! Hurry up!" They weren't being chased, but they couldn't help but run. 

They ran to the tracks. Once there, they slowed down to catch their breath, but didn't stop moving.

"Those, (pant, pant) were people!" Drew said.

Mark wasn't talking, but Drew went on, "Those were weirdos! (pant, pant) What were they doing there! (pant) We have to come back with more people and unmask them! (pant) Why are they out here?" Drew started to feel exhilarated.

"Mark, those are some jerk kids or something. They must have seen our flashlight coming from a distance, and then waited there for us to scare us. They're sickos! They just like to mess with people!"

"I don't know man," Mark replied, "I don't know. That was messed up. I'm scared dude. I didn't like that."

"Yeah, but," Drew kept trying to ease Mark's fears, "it's not ghosts. It's stupid kids or something."

Drew started laughing. "Oh my goodness... that was crazy! I can't wait to tell Adam about this, we have to bring him back! We could bring weapons next time to make sure they don't do anything, and we'll find out who they are."

They were coming up to the bridge ahead, still at a quick pace. Mark looked over at Drew, "Dude, we don't know who they are. They could be in some weird cult or something. Maybe they even have knives. Maybe they sacrifice living things in that cemetery. Who knows!"

Drew was still smiling. He shook his head, without a fear in mind. There was no such thing as ghosts, and there was nothing to be afraid of. He looked up ahead as a car drove over them again. He was thinking about who he would tell first, when a flame emerged from behind the bridge.

Drew stopped walking. Frozen again, he saw another hooded figure. The flame was a torch, lighting up the hood of the horrible figure in front of them. It was moving towards them. Mark was frozen too, and didn't have any idea what to do. Turn back? Back towards the cemetery? Off to the side? Into the field without direction?

Drew turned around and looked back, another flame there. Drew's face contorted and he almost puked. They were being surrounded on the train tracks by hooded figures with torches, both about 20 feet away. "Leave us alone!" Drew shouted. They were still immobile as the flames grew nearer. The hooded figures said nothing, but walked steadily closer, now 15 feet away. All of a sudden, Drew feared for his life. He didn't know what these people were capable of. So he started to run. "Come on Mark!"

Off to the side they dashed. Mark yelling to Drew in front of him, "Where are you going?! What do we do?!"

Drew was heading towards the top of the bridge. He had seen a car before, and hoped to God that they might see one more. "Help! We need help!" Drew shouted as they scraped onto the road of the bridge. They saw headlights coming, and Drew stood directly in front of them with his arms waving. What a relief, someone was stopping to help. But they only slowed down, they didn't roll down their window, and they didn't listen to Drew's ravings. They were scared of him. They thought Drew was crazy, maybe even dangerous. What was this guy doing on a highway in the middle of the night? Drew screamed and swore at them as they drove away.

Drew looked over the bridge and saw the torches climbing up the hill towards them. "God!" Drew yelled, "What is this!"

Drew punched the air and started running. "Drew!" Mark chased after him, "Where are we going!" Drew didn't know, "Just run man! We gotta just run! Come on!"

Drew ran. He didn't know how fast he was going, but he had more than enough adrenaline to keep going for the rest of the night. Mark was always a few paces behind him. After a while, they didn't see the torches. Maybe they had outrun their pursuers. They decided to run back towards the train tracks. They left the road, and tried to find their way, all the while still running.

In the distance, Drew saw the profiles of houses. "We have to knock on one of those doors! They can call the police!" They started running towards the neighborhood, through a thin forest of trees, when a torch once again emerged from the side. It was chasing them away from the houses. Drew yelled and swore again, "Come on Mark!"

They had to run away from the houses now, but they wouldn't stop running. If they had cramps, they didn't know it. They pushed themselves, not knowing exactly when and if they would run back into the train tracks. They looked back and the torches were gone, but the hooded figures remained. The creeps were now running at full speed, and they didn't look tired either. Somehow, it was more terrifying than ever.

Now Drew was determined to just get back to the car. Mark, still paces behind, was slowing. "Here Drew!" he was fumbling around in his coat pockets as they ran through the trees, "I'm gonna throw the keys to you! You run ahead of me and get the car!"

"No!" Drew started to slow his run, "We have to stay together! You have to keep running! We cannot split up! Come on man! We can make it!"

Drew looked back and saw their chaser. Drew wanted to kill him now. This weirdo was terrifying them, and for no good reason. There was no reason for this. 

Suddenly they were out of the forest and running on a paved street. They didn't know what they had run through, but they knew that they were now on the street where they originally parked their car. They were almost there.

With Mark by his side Drew looked back, and couldn't see anything. They were barely jogging now, unsure of how long they were running. It was just as cold as ever, but they were a mess of sweat.

The flashlight still on, Mark pointed ahead and yelled, "the car!" Now was the final push, and Drew ran as hard as he could to make sure to just get into that car. They slammed their bodies into it, and Mark started fumbling around in his pockets. Just then, Drew saw the figure in white again. He leapt from behind a bush and was running towards Mark. "Come on!!!" Drew yelled, hands banging against the roof of the car. "Open the door!!! Mark!!!!"

Mark kept fumbling for his keys, and the figure charged closer. In this last visual memory, Drew started to wonder. What was he doing here in below freezing temperatures, running frantically through rural Illinois? Why was he running? What brought him to his point of desperation? 

And, why was this happening?

What was the reason?

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