Lilies on her grave

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Chapter 6

Dead and buried

Lilly Barnes sat on a metal bus stop bench. The clouds above her continued to move unnaturally fast across the dark sky, as the still present solar eclipse shadow seemed to cast itself across the entire world. She closed her eyes, and found her thoughts drifting to that thing in the basement of the police department. Had that been another ghost? She recalled the look in its eyes. There was nothing there that resembled life anymore, only insanity. Her mind flashed to that of the mark across the ghost’s neck. Was that a bruise? Had the man hung himself when he was last alive? Was being trapped in that cell his penance?

She remembered what Fred had told her about staying in Purgatory for too long. Would she end up that way, she wondered. The Reaper had also told her that the only way for her to pass on, was to complete her unfinished business, but how was she supposed to do that as a ghost. Follow the golden light, she reminded herself.

Lilly’s train of thought suddenly shifted to that of her parents. She couldn’t even imagine what they must be going through. Having no answers for the past six months, as to what had happened to their little girl was beyond her comprehension, and here she was in bum fuck Ohio, with no way of reaching out to them, or even telling Detective Brandt who she was, or how to contact her parents. The sound of voices pulled her mind back to reality, and she found that the bench was now occupied by three other people.

Within a few minutes a bus pulled up, and the people on the bench stood up. Lilly dragged herself to her feet and followed the living on to the bus, which to her relief, was only about half full. She found an empty seat in the back, and sat down next to the window. The bus pulled away from the curb, and the young girl’s eyes scanned the sky, as the bus drove off toward its next stop. She hoped that the bus would be going in the general direction of her unfinished business.

People got on the bus, and people got off the bus. Lilly had to change seats several times, in order to avoid being sat on. She did her best to stay next to an open window, so that she could look to the sky, but being in the city made it hard for her to see the horizon. She could barely make out the golden glow in the sky, but it seemed that the bus was slowly heading in the right direction, that was until it left its last stop, where it turned around and began to head back toward the center of town.

“No, no, no,” Lilly mumbled to herself, as the glow in the sky seemed to get further and further away. Lilly reached up and tried to grab the cord hanging from the ceiling, so that the driver would stop the bus, and cursed out loud when her hand passed right through it. “Think, think,” she said to herself, as she desperately searched for another exit. Then she remembered what she was. Taking a deep breath, and holding it tight, she ran toward the inner wall of the bus, and didn’t stop until she had passed right through it. As soon as she cleared the bus’s wall, she fell to the ground, rolling several times, before coming to a stop on the side of the street. She picked herself up and barely had enough time to jump out of the way of a fast moving car. She made her way to the sidewalk and looked to the sky to get her bearings, before putting one foot in front of the other.

Lilly had no idea how long she had been walking, and was sure that she was going around in circles. Trying to get out of the city was proving to be a harder task than she had thought it would be. The golden glow in the sky would be there for one minute, and then would disappear behind a house, or a tall building, and the next time Lilly would see it, it wouldn’t be where she thought it should have been. She stopped at a four-way intersection and gazed upon a large cemetery across the street. It sat behind a small stone block wall, which was topped with a black wrought iron fence, and ran down the two streets across from her. She had already passed this cemetery once before, and now knew that her suspicions were correct. She was walking in circles.

She made her way across the street and leaned against the stone wall of cemetery. “I’ll stop here for a few minutes,” she told herself. “Just until I can get my bearings straight,” she added, leaning back against the black wrought iron fence. She felt a burning pain shoot across her back. Screaming out in agony, Lilly jumped away from the wall, as she tried to see if her back was on fire, because it sure felt like it.

“Why did you touch the iron fence?”

Lilly forgot all about the pain, upon hearing the voice, which seemed like the voice of a young boy, but when she peered past the fence, she could only see tombstones. “Who’s there?” she asked, taking a few steps forward, but making sure that she stayed far enough away from the fence.

A small boy, maybe around ten years old, and dressed in a black suit and tie, shyly peeked out from behind a tombstone, not too far from the fence line. His skin was a light gray color, and his hair was raven black.

“You can see me?” Lilly asked, before noticing the color of the young boy’s skin, and figuring out that he was just like her.

The young boy nodded his head.

“Do you know why the fence hurt me?”

The young boy stepped out from behind the stone marker, and pushed his hands deep into his pants pockets. “Because you’re a ghost, like me.”

That really doesn’t explain anything, she thought to herself, remembering the incident in the basement of the police station. Those bars must have been iron too. Was that why the ghost of the prisoner was still there? Was he trapped? “Ok, mental note. Don’t touch any iron. You won’t happen to know the way out of the city, would you?”

The young boy shook his head no, but then his eyes widen. “Lady Annabelle might. She knows a lot of things.”

“Can you take me to her?”

The young ghost nodded his head vigorously. “There’s an opening in the gate down that way,” he said, pointing. “Follow me.” The young boy took off like a shot, weaving in and out of the tombstones. Lilly did her best to follow the boy, and keep him in sight, which was a chore in itself. The wall of the cemetery extended on for several city blocks, but Lilly came upon an opening in the gate about half a block from where she had first seen the boy, and found him sitting on a tombstone, waiting for her.

“My name’s Sebastian,” he said, rushing up to greet her. He took a hold of Lilly hand and shook it hard, which caught her by surprise.

“I’m Lilly,” she responded. “We can touch one another?”

“We’re the same.”

“I’ve got a lot to learn.”

“Lady Annabelle can teach you. She taught me when I first arrived,” said Sebastian, pulling Lilly by her hand, and leading her into the cemetery.

Lilly didn’t like the idea of not following her unfinished business, but she was lost, and was in desperate need of help, and it sounded like this Lady Annabelle could help her in more ways than one. “We have to hurry ok,” Lilly informed the young ghost.

Deeper and deeper they ventured into the cemetery. Lilly hadn’t noticed it before, but the air felt heavier to her. It was something she couldn’t explain, but her mind soon forgot about it, when she began to see other ghosts wandering amongst the grave stones. There were spirits from all eras of time. Men and woman, dressed in expensive looking clothes seemed to line the outer ring of the cemetery. A few rows in and the fashions seemed to change to jeans and tie dyed shirts. A few more rows in and the fashion changed back to suits and dresses, but this time they had a more elegant look to them. Lilly got the distinct impression that the further they went, the older the spirts were.

Most of them ignored her. A few looked her way. One or two actually nodded, or waved to her, but the majority of them acted like she didn’t belong. Lilly also noticed the appearance of the ghosts were not all the same either. Some of them had limbs missing, others had bruising around the necks, like the ghost in the cell. More than a few had the backs of their heads missing. Lilly was glad that most of them didn’t look at her, because she couldn’t help but stare. Sebastian kept pulling her deeper and deeper through the gravestones, until they came to a large stone mausoleum. It had a green tarnished bronze door, surrounded by marble, which held a small lead glass window, and the name Wilburn was etched in the stone above the door. “This is Lady Annabelle’s mausoleum.”The young ghost reached out and knocked hard against the metal door, which was something else Lilly found surprising, given her recent encounters with doors.

The spirit of a beautiful woman glided effortless through the solid metal door. She was a few inches taller than Lilly, and appeared to be about a decade older. Her skin was a dark gray, and she had long brown hair, which was adorned with lush, thick curls, and she wore a blue dress, made of lace and silk. It flowed outward, and stopped about an inch from the ground. Her hands were covered with a pair of white gloves, which held a large folded up fan, and a piece of blue lace was wrapped around her neck, trying its best to cover up the long black bruise that ran across her throat.

“And who is this pretty young lass, Sebastian?” she inquired. With a quick flick of the wrist, she unfolded the fan, and began to move it back and forth.

“My name is Lilly, and you must be Lady Annabelle?”

“That I am,” the woman answered. “You are a young soul, now aren’t you?” she said, almost sniffing at the air. “Recently departed I mean.”

“Yes, ma’am. How can you tell?”

“Oh, and she has manners to boot,” she said with a large smile. “Don’t get many of your kind in here.”

“My kind?”

“Spirits that aren’t buried here dear. And to answer your question, the longer we stay in this world, the grayer we become.”

“Lady Annabelle, Lilly’s lost,” Sebastian blurted out.

“Is she now?”

“Yes ma’am,” Lilly answered. “I need to get out of the city. I need to go…” Lilly looked to the sky, but found that her view was blocked by large oak trees.

“Let me guess. Toward your golden ray of light? Toward your unfinished business?”

“Yes. How do you…?”

“Know about the golden ray of light?” Lady Annabelle asked, still fanning her face.

Lilly nodded her head.

“Mine was that way, but it faded a long time ago.” Lady Annabelle pointed off to her right, without taking her eyes off of Lilly. “Show her where yours was Sebastian.” The young ghost whirled around and pointed up toward the sky.

Lilly’s gaze followed Sebastian’s finger up to the sky, briefly, before returning to the smiling face of Lady Annabelle. “Everyone here had unfinished business my dear. We are all Purgs, like yourself.”

“Then why are you here, and…what do you mean by had?”

“Why am I not out there trying to undo the chains that keep me bound to this earth? We have all tried, and have all failed miserably. And then you find out that your unfinished business has an expiration date. That being the life span of whoever it is you need to converse with, or have to interact with. After they die, you are truly trapped here. Where else do we have to go, but to where we are laid to rest. Speaking of which, where is yours?”

“The city morgue,” Lilly answered.

“I see,” Lady Annabelle replied. “You poor dear,” she added, reaching up and running her fingers through Lilly’s hair, right in the spot where the dent in her skull had been, which was something Lilly thought was odd. It was like she had known what had caused her death. “Oh my, where are my manners. Won’t you come in.” Lady Annabelle whirled about and walked back through the door of her mausoleum.

“Come on,” Sebastian said, running through the doors and disappearing from sight.

Lilly looked back up toward the sky. She really didn’t have time to sit around and chat, but she couldn’t afford to be impolite either. She really did need help, and right now Lady Annabelle seemed like her best option. She would only stay for a few minutes, she told herself, before walking into the crypt.

The inside of the mausoleum wasn’t as cold as Lilly had imagined it was going to be. The wall to her left was covered with white marble, and copper plagues, which held the names of the person entombed behind them. On the opposite wall, was a large stain glass window, with the image of a glowing white angel, and several red roses. In the center of the room was a round glass table, with a handful of old wooden chairs gathered around it. On the table was an old silver hand mirror, and an even older hair brush.

“Take a seat and tell me what brings you here, my dear,” Lady Annabelle offered, who was already sitting in one chair, with the young boy seated next to her. She motioned toward one of the chairs with her fan, her gray lips forming a bright smile.

Lilly took a seat, and wondered where to begin. “I need to find my way out of the city,” she began. “Sebastian said that you might be able to help me.”

“That I might,” Lady Annabelle stated. “I have been here for some time, and lived here when I was alive…but the city has changed so much over the years. I suppose I could try to draw you a map or something.”

“Can’t you just take me to the edge of the city? Or somewhere close. If I can get a clear view of the light, I’m sure that I can find my way from there.”

“I’m afraid that no one is allowed to leave the cemetery, without the permission of the council,” Lady Annabelle answered, fanning her face.

“The council?”

“Three of the oldest spirits buried here. They made the rules, so that the rest of us could live out our so called after lives in relative peace, instead of wandering around out there in the world all alone. I could summon them for an emergency council meeting, and ask them if they would allow me to help you.”

“Could you?” Lilly asked. “I would really appreciate that.”

“Sebastian, do be a dear and tell the elders that I wish to speak with them.”

The young ghost leapt from the chair and raced from the mausoleum. “What kind of unfinished business does a young boy like that have?” Lilly asked, watching the boy disappear through the door.

“Sebastian came to us in nineteen seventy. For the most part he’s quite shy, and keeps to himself. I don’t believe that he’s ever told me what keeps his spirit earth bound. What about you, my dear? What unfinished business do you have?” Lady Annabelle asked, picking up the hand mirror and gazing upon her reflection.

“I…I was murdered by a man that I didn’t know and buried in a forest not far from here,” Lilly began. “I guess I have to find a way to bring him to justice. Make him pay for what he did to me. I don’t know…maybe it was my fault or something…maybe I could have done something, or said something differently…”

“Don’t you dare blame yourself for what that man did to you!” Lady Annabelle exclaimed, slamming her fist onto the table. “Look at yourself,” she said, turning the mirror around so that Lilly could see her own reflection. “You are a beautiful young woman, who strikes me as being fierce and strong.”

Lilly looked at herself in the mirror, and realized that this was the first time she had actually seen herself, since her death. Gazing at her own body on the morgue table was surreal, but that hadn’t actually been her, she told herself.

Looking upon her reflection, Lilly was relieved to see that her color hadn’t changed yet, and that was when some red in her hair caught her eye. It was in the very spot where Lady Annabelle had touched her hair earlier. She turned her head to the side, and that was when the grim realization of her death hit her. That was the very spot where he had hit her.

“We all carry the scars of our death with us, my dear, for the whole undead world to see,” Lady Annabelle stated, lowering the piece of blue lace tied around her neck, showing Lilly the long black bruise across her throat.

“How can you pick up that mirror?”

“You have much to learn young one. Like for starters, iron will not pass through our bodies, and as you have experienced firsthand, will actually cause us pain.”

Lilly rubbed her shoulder, as she thought about the burning pain she had felt, when she had leaned against the wrought iron fence of the cemetery wall. “Why is that?”

“The true answer to that question has been lost to the passing of time, but from what I’ve been told, there are certain minerals in the earth, that react with our supernatural form. I believe that being laid to rest in the earth has something to do with it. Salt is another one of those minerals. Pour a line of salt on the floor and we simply can’t walk over it.”

“How long have you been here?”

Lady Annabelle set the mirror down and began to fan her face again. “I met my demise in the year Eighteen Sixty-Four. Three years earlier, I was in love and had been engaged to be married. His name was Samuel Horn, and his parents were rather wealthy. Oil I think. One day Samuel decided that he need to join the war effort and pledge his allegiance to the North. A few months later he was off to fight the South. A few weeks after he had left I found out that I had become pregnant with his child.

“At first, I got letters from him on a regular basis. He would tell me how much he missed me, and that he couldn’t wait to return and take me as his bride. I wrote him back and told him that he was going to be a father. He had only been gone a few months, but to me it had felt like an eternity. Then the months became a year, and our son was born. I named him Jonathan, after Samuel’s father. Then a year became two. His letters began to grow further and further apart. Then one day he wrote to me to tell me that he had fallen in love with another woman, and that they were to be married,” said Lady Annabelle, the features of her face twisting with disgust.

“I went to his parents, who suddenly didn’t want anything to do with me or, their grandson. How could he do that to me? To his child? I began to hate Samuel with every fiber of my being. Not only did he leave me, but he left me undesirable as well. Back then, no man wanted a woman who had given birth out of wed lock. I could see Samuel’s face in Jonathon’s, which made me begin to hate my baby more and more with each passing day.

“I found out where the letters had been mailed from, and left my son with my parents, so that I could go down south and confront that bastard once and for all. I made it as far as Mississippi. One night the stage coach I was in came upon a group of runaway slaves, who had mistaken me for their owner’s wife. After killing the driver, they took turns raping me all night, before hanging me from a nearby tree, like their owner had done to many of their friends.”

Lilly wasn’t sure how to respond to something like that, so she was more than a little relieved when Lady Annabelle continued on.

“My body hung from that tree for nearly two weeks before somebody found me and cut me down. They discovered who I was through some of my belongings and made sure that my body was returned to my parents, but my spirit pressed on, and my golden ray of light led me to Samuel in Georgia. He had deserted the army and was living on a cotton plantation with his new wife and new daughter. I tried so many times to speak with him. To ask him why, but he never heard my dead words. I stayed there for several years trying everything I could think of, but it was no use. I ultimately returned home, and this is where I’ve been ever since. If you ever have a chance to complete your unfinished business, take it,” she told Lilly, her face becoming as hard as stone. “Don’t end up like me. I’d do anything to be free from this hell.”

Lilly was relieved again, when Sebastian came rushing back through the door. “The council said that they would hear your request.”

“Great!” Lilly exclaimed. “Let’s go!”

“The council will only speak with me, my dear. They do not like outsiders,” Lady Annabelle stated, getting up from the table and smoothing out her dress. “I will go and plead your case to them. Sebastian, why don’t you give our guest a tour of the grounds? I shouldn’t be long.”

“Come on,” the young boy said, enthusiastically grabbing Lilly’s hand and pulling her through crypt door. The young girl quickly lost track of time, as Sebastian introduced her what seemed like the cemetery’s entire populace. They eventually made their way down to the iron fence, where Lilly had first laid eyes upon the young ghost.

“This is one of my favorite spots in the whole cemetery,” the young boy said, taking a seat on top of an old marble headstone.

“Why’s that?”

“You’ll see,” Sebastian answered with a devious smile.

Lilly looked out toward the empty street and sidewalk. “Is it always like this?”

“No, it’s night time right now,” the young boy answered.

“How can you tell?” Lilly asked. “It always looks the same.”

“Because people sleep at night, and walk and drive during the day silly.”

“Oh,” Lilly answered. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but before she knew it, people started to appear on the sidewalks, and cars started to drive by the cemetery on the street.

“You’ve been here a long time, haven’t you?” Lilly asked, the thought of such a young boy having some kind of unfinished business kept nagging her.

Sebastian’s cherub like face, became solemn, as the young boy stared at the ground.

“Why are you here?” Lilly asked.

“I had a little brother,” Sebastian said, his eyes still staring intensely at the ground. “He died. He was sick…” Lilly placed a hand on the young boy’s shoulder, sensing that he was about to lift a heavy burden from his frail chest. “Here he comes!” the young boy blurted out, jumping off of the head stone and rushing toward the fence.

Lilly wasn’t sure what the young boy was talking about, and she watched in disbelief, as the young ghost picked an acorn up off of the ground, and held it firmly in his hand. “How did you do that?”

Sebastian didn’t answer, but instead threw the acorn at a young man walking down the sidewalk in front of the cemetery. Lilly could tell by looking at the man that he appeared to be slightly mentally challenged. He was somewhere in his early twenties, and obviously overweight. The acorn hit the man right in the forehead, causing him to cry out in alarm. Sebastian laughed out loud, and picked up another acorn and winged it at the man, hitting him the back of the head this time. The man cried out again, and waddled off hastily. “Did you see that? I nailed that fat fucker right in the head?” he laughed even harder. “Twice! Every day he walks past here, and hasn’t learned to walk on the other side of the street. What a dumb ass!”

Lilly was taken aback by what she had just witnessed. She knew that little boys could be mischievous, but it looked like Sebastian took pleasure out of hurting that poor man, and then there was the way he talked about him, it was just nasty. Sure, she swore from time to time, especially of late when she found herself talking about her killer, but to hear it from the mouth of a ten-year-old, just seemed off. “Why’d you do that?” Lilly asked, appalled by the young boy’s actions.

“Because I’ve got nothing better to do,” the young boy answered.

Lilly decided to turn her attention toward something else. Something that might even help her in the long run. “How did you even pick up that acorn.”

“Oh, that. That’s easy,” Sebastian said, picking up another one and throwing at Lilly. He laughed out loud again, when the nut passed right through her. “Lady Annabelle taught me.”

“Can you show me how?”
“I guess,” Sebastian said, sounding unsure of himself. He picked up another acorn and placed it on the head stone, where he had been sitting. “You have to concentrate really hard. Think of your finger as being solid, like it was when you were alive.”

Lilly stared at the acorn, and wondered how she was supposed to make her finger solid. Her finger still felt the same, as it had, she thought, as she tried to touch the nut and sighed loudly, when her finger passed through it.

“You’re not trying hard enough,” Sebastian told her.

Lilly stared at the acorn and imagined her finger being as solid as it was when she was alive. She imagined her fingertip pressing up against the nut and moving, when she pushed it, but again her finger remained ethereal, and passed through the acorn. Sebastian laughed at her, which made her anger. She didn’t like being laughed at. “This is stupid.”

“Put your finger really close to it, but don’t try to touch it yet.” When Lilly’s finger was just a few hair widths away, Sebastian told her to concentrate on the acorn. “Don’t see anything else,” he said. “Nothing in the back ground, don’t look at the tombstone, don’t look at me. Just the acorn. Now think of something that makes you really mad.”

“What?”

“Don’t lose your consternation,” Sebastian scolded. “You have to think of something that make you mad. It’s the negative energy that allows to reconnect with the mortal world. Think of whoever it was that did what they did to you. That thing that brought you to this place. Think of their face, and what you’d like to do to it.”

The image of her killer’s face appeared in her mind. His brown hair. His thick framed glasses. His mustache. The smell of old spice. She could feel her face getting hotter, as a bitter hatred for the man began to manifest in the pit of her stomach. The features on her face contorted slightly. “That’s it,” Sebastian said softly not wanting to break Lilly’s concentration. “Now push all that anger into the acorn.”

Lilly pushed her finger forward, and for a fraction of a second, the acorn was solid against the tip of her ethereal flesh, which caused the small nut to move ever so slightly, but enough that both Lilly and Sebastian registered the movement.

“You did it!” Sebastian cheered. “Man, it took me forever to do that.”

“I did!” Lilly squealed with excitement. “I’m not sure how though?”

“You used your anger,” Lady Annabelle told her, appearing out of nowhere. “Anger is a very powerful force to the dead. It allows us to regain some of our humanity, by allowing us to connect with the physical world, even if it is only ever slow slightly. The Council has agreed to meet with you, and to hear your plea.”

Lilly followed Lady Annabelle, as she glided through the cemetery. The young girl didn’t recognize this area of the graveyard, as it appeared to have been all but forgotten by the grounds keepers. Where the rest of the grounds had plush green grass, this area was dry and brown. The tombstones seemed faded, the trees were bare of leaves, and the air smelled stale. They continued on for several more minutes, until Lady Annabelle came to a stop in front of a hillside mausoleum. A cement block entry way, which was cracked and crumbling apart, stuck out of the brown grass hillside. A large set of wooden doors, which served as the entrance to the burial vault was layered with moss and dead climbing vines, and secured with a large rusty chain and padlock. The name, carved into stone header above the door, had been assaulted by time and the elements, was so faded that it could not be read.

“The council’s in there?” Lilly asked, a cold shiver running down her spine.

“Yes dear,” Lady Annabelle answered. “Now, follow me if you want their help,” she added, walking through door and disappearing from the young girl’s sight.

Lilly listened to her surroundings, and heard only silence. She couldn’t even feel a breeze upon her face. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Sebastian ducking behind a large tree. A slight smile curved itself into her lips, at the thought of the young boy checking up on her.

As soon as Lilly materialized on the other side of the crypt doors, she found her path blocked by two ghosts, dressed in blue civil war uniforms. Long beards hung from their faces, with the one on her right having half of his face missing, from an apparent cannon ball. Both held old looking rifles, with bayonets.

Lilly got the feeling that something wasn’t quite right, and tried to back out of the crypt, but found two more union soldiers appearing next to her and grabbing her by each of her arms, and forcibly dragging her to the center of the small crypt.

This mausoleum was nothing like Lady Annabelle’s. It was cold, and dark, and it smelled like mold and rot. The walls, and floors, had large cracks, that resembled rivers running through a landscape of old concrete. In the center sat a stone sarcophagus, which was cracked in several places, and Lilly could see strange runes carved into its stone skin. She didn’t understand any of them, except for the large pentagram in the middle.

“What’s going on?” Lilly cried out, trying desperately to break free from the grip of the union ghosts. “Where’s the council?”

“You poor thing,” Lady Annabelle answered, grabbing a hold of one of the bayonets, and lifting it from the rifle barrel. “There is no council. I’m am the only one in charge here.”

“Then why are you doing this?”

Lady Annabelle glided over to the stone tomb and began to scratch some more strange runes into the stone, using the tip of the bayonet. “I have been in this hell for over a hundred and fifty years, with no end in sight! Cursed forever to walk the earth in limbo…in Purgatory. I can’t take it anymore. I yearn for this punishment to be over, and am willing accept whatever waits for me on the other side.”

“Even if it means going to hell?” Lilly asked. “Because I’m sure that whatever it is that your planning on doing to me, might be frowned upon in heaven.”

“Oh, I know there’s no way in hell, pardon the pun, that I’m getting a halo, and a fluffy pair of wings. A few decades ago I struck a deal with a Demon. You see, the former Lady in charge, was an old Gypsy woman, named Marisela Shofranka. Now there was a truly evil bitch. Schooled in the ways of dark magic, she was able to leave this god forsaken place, but not before showing me how to escape too.” She scratched a few more runes into the stone coffin, before coming to stand before the young the girl.

“Now the Demon you’re about to meet, tasked me with presenting him one hundred fresh souls, and in return he would end my suffering, and allow me to descend into the fiery depths of hell, where I shall be treated like a queen, and you my dear are number one hundred. Take her.”

The two ghosts that had Lilly by the arms, dragged her over to the stone sarcophagus and lifted her into the air, while the other two ghosts grabbed Lilly by her ankles and spread her out, on her back, over the stone alter.

Lady Annabelle leapt into the air and landed on top of Lilly, straddling her at the waist. The beautiful features that made up the woman’s face, contorted, revealing a hideous looking hag of a woman. Her skin turned an even darker shade of gray, with pieces missing around her mouth and nose. Her eyes became as black as the night, and her flowing blonde hair, turned white. “Great and malevolent Merihem!” she roared, raising the bayonet high above her head. “Hear my voice! I summon you to the material plane, so that you may feast upon this young soul. So that you may feed upon its power, and add it to your ever growing army. Take this soul and deliver me from this hell.”

A loud growl resounded throughout the stone chamber, one that seemed to frighten the soldiers of the dead more than death itself, as they became uneasy, and began to look about the crypt. The growl continued, its low, monotone vibration, began to slightly shake the entire tomb. A cockroach crawled out of the one of the large cracks in the wall. It sat there motionless for a few seconds, before another one crawled out from the same space, and then another one, and another one. Within seconds, an entire army of cockroaches, worms, centipedes, and spiders, began to pour from ever crack and crevice in the old crypt.

They swirled together, and began to take the form of a human figure. Red eyes, filled with fire and brimstone, came to life and stared intently at the young ghost laid upon the stone sarcophagus. Lilly thought back to the ghost trapped in the cell of the police department and knew that there would be nothing to stop this creature from reaching her. The young girl screamed at the top of her lungs, and began to thrash about with all her might. The union soldiers tightened their grips, as Lilly saw her fate emerging from the darkness.

The Demon cautiously approached the stone alter, his insect form, continuing to writhe and crawl about, eying his prize with a lustful grin. “Oh, Lady Annabelle, you’ve out done yourself this time I do believe,” Merihem hissed, running a finger against Lilly’s cheek. A large cockroach crawled into her mouth, causing her to gag. He lowered his head, bringing his insect fused face dangerous close to the young girl’s quivering lips. “I can smell the fear coming off of her,” he said, sniffing at the air. “Her scent is so intoxicating. I can’t wait to have a taste,” he added, a tongue full of worms and spiders, licking his lips, causing globs of creepy crawly thing to drop on to the young girl’s face. The Demon grabbed ahold of Lilly’s throat, and began to squeeze. The young girl fought to breath. Fought to break the grasp of the dead union soldiers, but it was not use. Suddenly, Lilly was somewhere else. She was in a bright room. There was a dark figure on top of her, it’s features blocked out buy something. Its’ face just as close to hers as the Demon’s. She could feel something tightening around her throat. She tried to fight, but found that she couldn’t move. The scent of Old Spice filled her nostrils.

“Deliver her to me,” the Demon ordered, releasing his grasp from the young girls’ throat, as she took a deep breath of ironic life.

“This is number one hundred, Lord Merihem, you do remember our bargain?”

“Have you given me that many already,” the Demon mused, acting as if he had lost count over the years.

“You know I have,” Lady Annabelle hissed. “Promise me you’ll keep your end of our agreement, or you’ll get no more from me.”

“But how will I ever replace someone so talented?” Merihem asked.

“I’m sure you’ll manage just fine.”

The Demon stared hard into Lady Annabelle’s black eyes for a several, long awkward seconds. “As we agreed.”

A crooked smile crossed Lady Annabelle’s twisted face, as she started to bring the bayonet down, aiming it for the center of Lilly’s chest. The young girl closed her eyes, and waited for her death to come, which was starting to seem redundant, seeing how she was already dead, but she didn’t think that was going to make a difference to Merihem.

The sound of Lady Annabelle screaming, and the weight of her body being yanked off of her, made Lilly’s eyes snap open, and what she found she couldn’t believe. Fred was standing next to the stone tomb. Lady Annabelle was on her knees next to him, and he had a fist full of her white hair in his hand. “Drop it!” he shouted, yanking hard on the ghost’s hair.

Lady Annabelle let the bayonet fall from her grasp, causing it to clang hard against the stone floor. “Merihem, what brings you to the mortal plane this time of year?” the Reaper asked, still holding tight to Lady Annabelle’s hair, and keeping her on her knees.

The Demon’s eyes shifted to Lilly, for only a split second, before returning to their gaze to Reaper in front of him.

“Now Merihem, you know, as well as I do, that a soul with unfinished business is to stay in Purgatory, until that said unfinished business is finished, now don’t you?” Fred asked. “You wouldn’t be thinking of breaking the rules, now would you? Maybe I should have a word with your upper management.”

An animalistic growl rumbled forth from the back of Merihem’s throat.

“If that’s your idea of intimidation you’re barking up the wrong tree pal,” Fred scolded.

“Lady Annabelle!” shouted a high pitched voice.

Everyone turned to the source of the voice, and found Sebastian standing in the doorway of the crypt. The young boy ran to Lady Annabelle’s side. “What’s going on here?”

“Sebastian!” Lilly called out, as she struggled against the grip of the soldiers, who still had not relinquished their grasp. “Get out of here! It’s not safe!”

“You should do what she says,” Fred told the young boy. “This is grown up business.”

Sebastian looked down and spotted the bayonet on the ground. He reached down and picked it up, and before anyone could say anything, he stabbed Fred right in the stomach. “You said you were taking me with you!” he screamed at Lady Annabelle.

“Oh, you little shit,” Fred cried out, slapping the ghost of boy away from him, and pulling the bayonet out of his stomach. “What the hell!”

“I was promised a soul!” Merihem screamed, spittle frothing from his lips. “And I shall have one!”

“Not this one,” Fred said, motioning toward Lilly. “But I’ll let you have your pick between this retched witch, or the little brat.”

“What about what you just said?” Lady Annabelle asked, the tone of fear raising her voice a few octaves. “I thought all souls were to remain in purgatory until they completed their unfinished business!”

“As I recall, your unfinished business expired about a hundred years ago,” Fred answered.

Lady Annabelle swallowed hard, as her face returned to the beauty it once was. The look of horror began to takes its toll upon her flawless skin.

“The choice is yours,” Fred told the Demon, letting go of Lady Annabelle’s hair, and allowing her to stand up. “But that’s the only choice you get.”

A wicked expression etched itself upon the Demon’s face. “Fine, I’ll take her,” he said, blowing out an exhaustive breath.

Sebastian saw his chance, and ran from the mausoleum, disappearing through the front door, followed by the ghosts of the union soldiers. Lady Annabelle thought about trying to convince Merihem to change his mind and take the putrid little boy instead, but decided to make a run for it, and followed Sebastian out through the front door.

“Why do they always fight the inevitable?” the Demon asked, storming toward the crypt’s door. By the time the Demon reached the crypt’s entrance, he was in a full charge, as the heavy wooden doors did little to slow him, his momentum causing them to exploded from their old fragile hinges. The Demon exited the mausoleum, his form becoming a massive swarm of flies.

Lady Annabelle dared a glance over her shoulder, as the sound of shattering wood echoed across the area. She screamed in terror at the sight she saw emerging from the old crypt. She tried to run faster, but tripped over her long flowing dress, and fell hard upon the ground. Before she could even stand, Merihem was upon her. Her form engulfed within the swarm of black flies. She swatted at the air franticly, and began to scream. The swarm saw their opening and began to pour into Lady Annabelle’s open mouth.

The spirit of the woman started to convulse, and gag, while she tried to scream with all of her might, but found her voice muted. The last of the swarm disappeared down her throat. She tore away the lace scarf covering the bruise around her neck. She tried to dig at her writhing skin with her fingernails, but found that she couldn’t pierce her own flesh.

Her body was lifted into the air and exploded, as the black swarm burst forth. The flies buzzed around for several seconds before dissolving from reality, leaving not a trace of either being.

Lilly and Fred stood in the now door less entry of the mausoleum, watching, as Lady Annabelle got her just desserts. “So, you ready to get out of here?” Fred asked.

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