The woman’s heels clicked against the concrete as she gestured towards the girl beside her.
“It’s not the best pizza restaurant in town,” Beth said. “But right next to it is the best bar.”
“Good, I’ve been actually meaning to check out a good place to hang out,” Crystal said. “I’ve never been here before and I don’t want the only place I have to go to be my school’s dorm.”
“Yeah,” Beth replied. “I actually had a similar problem when I arrived here for college. The familiarity will grow on you though.”
“I think it already has,” Crystal replied. “Don’t you think we should be headed back to our dorms? The sun is setting and I don’t like staying out at night if I don’t have to.”
“Sounds about right,” Beth said. “Let’s go.”
They stopped at an intersection where the sign above them changed from Don’t Walk to Walk. The two of them crossed to the other side of the street after checking both ways. They took a right down Honor Street where branches from tall trees loomed over them from behind the fence. As the two girls passed the opened gate in the fence, a shadow passed in front of them. However, it almost didn’t look like a shadow, it looked like a person for a moment with light skin that somehow still blended into the shadows of the trees. The dark silhouette had moved down the concrete path through the place and disappeared into behind a bend. Crystal stopped and looked down the street in front of her.
“What?” Beth asked as she stopped beside her.
“Nothing,” Crystal asked. “I…just thought I saw someone going down there. Hey Beth, wouldn’t it be much faster to make our way back to the college if we go through here? I think the road down here leads almost directly to our dorm.”
Beth turned and looked to her as if she’d been talking in another language.
“That’s right,” Beth replied. “You haven’t been here that long.”
“What?” Crystal asked. “It’s just that I thought…if other people were using that path to get home, why couldn’t we.”
Beth hung her head for a second before shaking it.
“What you saw probably wasn’t a person,” Beth said. “At least, not someone who had been alive.”
“Come again?” the blonde asked.
“See,” Beth said. “That was a graveyard and park in there. It’s not used by normal people during the night. Even in the day time people will think they saw something out of the corner of their eyes, like a shadow had walked passed them. That’s actually why they tried building the park, to make the graveyard seem nicer despite those stories.”
“That happens to everyone,” Crystal said.
“Yeah, well does the shadow usually keep walking in broad daylight before turning to give a human smile before vanishing?” Beth asked.
Crystal recoiled back in reply.
“It happened a day ago when I was attending a funeral a week ago,” she said. “In daylight other strange things still go on, usually strange noises that seem to come from nowhere. Sometimes graves will ever have weird writing on them that wasn’t there a second ago. People don’t usually go to the park that often as a result.”
“Is that so?” Crystal asked.
“It’s almost never used by people at night,” Beth said. “That’s when the really strange things go on. Encounters that people couldn’t explain otherwise.”
“Like what?” her friend asked.
“Like people that look like they’re in the flesh and blood,” Beth replied. “Only…the look to come from their own gravestones. The dead are said to be much more human like…and much more powerful at night. Stories vary wildly for the few who actually go there, with some people just seeing sad looking spirits wondering the park, other times the things have chased people. At night, they’re said to linger in the darkness, almost waiting for the chance to drag people with them to their grave. Some people who are thought to have gone to the park at night disappear and most believe the ghosts entombed them.”
Crystal seemed paralyzed at what her friend had just said, peering into the darkness of the park in curiosity.
“It’s a good thing that the spirits are never known to come out of the graveyard,” Beth said. “It’s almost like that fence is a barrier between us and them.”
“I’m…I’m sure glad of that,” Crystal said as they both peered into the late afternoon shade, the orange tint of the sunlight blending with the heavy shadows of the trees. Beneath an oak’s branches, however, a hand appeared around its trunk as two bright eyes stared back at the girls. It glared at them with envy.
The boy walked down the street, grumbling angrily at himself. The grip around Alan’s backpack strap was as tight as he could get, his glancing around, daring to let anyone try to jump him. Not that he would be jumped, he just wanted someone to take his frustration out on.
Dammit. He thought. I don’t know how, but today couldn’t have been any worse if I had tried! Didn’t mean to start a fight, but that guy was acting so rude, telling me where I could and couldn’t sit all because he and his friends always sat there at the lunch table. Beginning to remind me of my old school. The few hours of detention was boring as all hell. I know my parents will be mad at me.
Alan hadn’t had such a bad day in a long time. The grumbling he was experiencing was less of one of real anger and more of frustration with failures. In a way, this was worse than pure anger. With fury, action could be taken to enact change with one’s circumstances, if they felt passionate enough about it. With inner frustration that nothing ever changed or things changed too much was like looking at the sky and saying it was too blue. Action couldn’t be taken to change that. And, in and of itself, it wasn’t really all that bad near as much as it was just nature.That, Alan supposed, was the real burden he was carrying. That life couldn’t be controlled by him alone.
Enough with the pretention. Alan thought. I may as well tell the reader what really happened. The sooner I get this short-story over with, the less I have to think in more bad prose like I just did. He could make horrid stuff happen to me out of the blue just so the reader will feel sowwy for me. Never know what the writer’s gonna do. The writer has chosen to intrude upon my life for some reason, and I don’t know what he’s capable of. But yeah, you can’t change the world. No matter how much you want to and that especially means the way people are. I’ve learned the hard way that humans, not matter the situation or circumstance, are stubbornly selfish and adamantly cruel. And it comes as natural for them as the sky being blue.
Alan had just moved here from the next town over with his parents. This was partially due to the fact he’d been having trouble making friends at school, and his parents were optimistic that he’d have a better opportunity at another town. He had been quite the loner at their apartment and when his dad got a new job to which they could afford a house with the saw this as a way for him to have a clean slate. However, what they didn’t know was that Alan had trouble socializing because of his…well, unconventional conundrums.
Coward. Alan accused. You say it like I contracted at a case Dark and Troubled Past. I just got a bad attitude because I didn’t like being around anyone. Well, actually, nobody liked being around me. I don’t really have much in the way of social skills and…I guess people avoided me for that reason. I tried to be nice but they acted as though I were doing the opposite. Every year people would look me in the face and tell me they never wanted to see me again. And then it grew worse.
After a few years of social groups rejecting me I got sick. Alan recounted, his mind recoiling at remembering the feeling. I mean literally sick to the point I wanted to throw up. I could barely make it through a school day, forcing me to fake sick more times than I could count. It just kind of hit me one day while I was lying in bed, in some bout of depression where I was experiencing stomach pains that I just broke down, lying in my own tears.
The next day I went back to school with nothing but a very passive hatred. Alan remembered darkly. I just kind of stopped caring after that and rejected people before they could reject me. I quit so much as talking to my peers because of their bratty turn. Anything set me off and if anyone so much as ignored me I’d curse at them so hard they’d have to physically walk away just to stop hearing me. I’d go sit right at the lunch table where only certain groups sat and planted my ass right where their leaders would be. Holy hell, did they get pissed quickly. That’s how I’d usually get into fights too. I fought a lot, I learned quickly how to. I’d never bother with the detention they’d give me either. My folks got pretty worried about me, so they sent me to this school in hopes it’d work out better. Let them think that So long as my folks don’t know about my pains, I don’t have to know that much either.
Alan absent-mindedly kicked a piece of gravel out of the way, hitting a pole on the fence in its momentum.
Hope you got a kick out o’ that bit of personal gushing from me. Alan thought. I know I certainly enjoyed venting a little.
Alan kicked some more gravel, trying to get them airborne.
One day, I hope on getting out these small towns, head to a real college. He explained. After I have my own place, I won’t have to deal with anyone else anymore and can make my own way in life. I hate people. Though, it is nice of the reader to join me. As much as I hate the cliques and wayward kids I go to school with, it is nice to know I have some company. Even if it does feel like I’m living in a fishbowl.
Alan stopped though as he reached the opening in the fence beside him. Beside him was an opened gate in the fence, with a concrete path leading down to what Alan could make out to be a park.
You know, that way looks like it could lead to my neighborhood a lot quicker. He thought. If I cut through this place I could dodge all the businesses along this street and make it back home quicker…But why would I want to go home so early? All my parents will do is raid my backpack for homework to do. It would be nice to be alone for an hour or two-
Alan turned to the source of the shout to see a red-headed girl with a blonde beside her walk up to him.
Who are these two? Alan groaned inwardly.
“You shouldn’t go through that gate!” the red-head girl said. “It’ll be dangerous as it’s almost night!”
Alan replied with an expression of dull annoyance. He could easily picture this girl as one of the many snooty brats he met that’d treat him like garbage given the chance. He almost scowled at her in reaction to the thought.
“Come again?” he asked.
“During the night ghosts are said to appear in that graveyard,” she remarked. “As if they had arisen from their tombs just that night…and yet they’re still spirit. They’re known to do things to humans that are unpleasant.”
Alan stared at her dully for a moment before pondering this.Who’d build a cemetery where there was already a park? Alan thought.
“So…” he said. “What you’re saying is that there are ghosts there? Ghosts that possibly want to kill me?”
“Yes,” the red-head said. “If all the stories I’ve heard were true.”
Alan slanted his eyes to the right.You still reading? Alan thought.
“Thanks,” Alan said as he side-stepped the girl. “I think I’ll be taking that trip down the park now.”“What?!” she shouted. “But, in spite of what I said?!”
Alan shrugged and gave a smirk.
She glared at him, the blonde beside her pulling at her arm.“Beth, we really should be-” the blonde was saying.
“No!” she scolded. “Why?! There really are ghosts there! There are stories of people being chased and dragged into the shadows at midnight! It’s why nobody will walk down there at night! Why?”
“Eh,” Alan said. “Seems fun. I’m not afraid of ghosts. I wouldn’t want to back down from cowardice in something like a bedsheet boogey-bad from folklore. That’d be disregarding a personal lack of courage.”
“But that’s stubborn!” Beth said as the blonde pulled at her arm. “And extremely rash in the face of what this town has faced with these spirits!”
“All the more reason to do it,” Alan replied. He pointed in front of him as his smirk widened. “Besides, I wouldn’t want to disappoint the reader. Gotta keep the audience entertained. After all, maybe the author peaked into my life at a rare moment in my life where I can actually show up the odds and do something a little noteworthy.”She glared at him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Beth said. “But it seems foolish.”
"Thanks,” he said as he stepped onto the park’s path, gripping his backpack a little tighter.
Maybe this’ll be my chance to finally show up someone. Alan thought. To prove someone actually wrong. Only one way to find out.
Alan observed the trees to his side, taking into account the further darkening shadows they cast becoming one black mass. It was getting dark rather quickly, with the sun off in the horizon nearly invisible. It appeared as though the graveyard and the park were very well mixed into the same area of space. Wide sections of graves spanned across wide sections of grass. The headstones were also casting large shadows before becoming one dark mass that was night, just as the trees were. Alan walked down the winding street of the park at a decent speed, in no real hurry as he was more curious about what that girl was talking about.
Local superstition, perhaps? Alan thought. That girl didn’t seem to be the type to be superstitious. She seemed pretty concerned.
Another thing he noticed was that it was very quiet, spare for the occasional bird or cricket that chirped in the distance, along with wind rustling the leaves of the trees beside him.
It’s peaceful. Alan thought. It’d be hard to mistake this place is dangerous if it weren’t for that girl’s story.
He saw nothing out of the ordinary as he continued down the curved street, glancing around to the side every so often.
Heh. Alan thought. I guess the author chose a boring period of my life to glimpse at. Nothing here I wouldn’t see on a normal day.
However, within minutes that Alan had started down the path through the park it had turned to night. The darkness that surrounded him made Alan feel more cautious, glancing beside him and over his shoulder more often. What made him feel real anxious was he still couldn’t see where the path ended. For now it was fairly straight, but for now he could see nothing beside him except for headstones to his left and right.
Ghost or no ghost. Alan thought as he shifted his backpack onto his shoulder. I can’t see the end of this path. And it doesn’t look like it’ll end anytime soon. This seems to be a pretty big graveyard. Hmm…that’s probably not a good thing.
A wind began to blow throughout the open graveyard. Alan expected a soothing breeze from the soft rush of air but instead it chilled his skin. He shivered slightly before shaking at the feeling.
Damn. Don’t have a jacket. At the very least the author could have had the courtesy of providing me one if he was going to write in wind.
As he shook off the shiver of the wind, Alan began to notice something more unnerving than the cold. When the wind blew against the trees they didn’t emit the calming rustling he had been used to. The sound the wind made, no matter if it was moving against leaves, the headstones, or against himself, was much more ominous in tune, making a noise akin to hushed whispers bouncing off every solid object they could. He thought (or at least thought he caught) stray words and phrases.
The word car Alan caught as well as where to go and beautiful…night…If he paid closer attention he would get the chance to listen to here is where I can’t go on…believe so, yes…good choices pay…under the…mine…rose soil…key…tepid…emergency breaks…content with my…she was…
The air seems to be carrying…voices of some kind. Alan pondered curiously. Dozens of voices, indiscernible from one another and carried with the wind. Is it my imagination?
And there were many different voices as there were masculine, feminine, childish, and high-pitched alike. However, Alan could only catch bits of them and they would only serve to overwhelm him. The muddled sounds reminded him of the nature of the shadows before pitch black night, how they seemed to be individual at first until they were consumed by the many other shades. And that was what the sound was, a mass of unnerving whispers covering the entire graveyard.
Alan noticed his curiosity of the sounds had made him walk slower, he changed immediately by picking up the pace. Still, he crouched head down slightly, peering left and right for signs of…
Good question. He interrupted. What am I looking for?
Alan grunted at the thought in response, snickering at it as if it were a childish question.
Foolish question. He told himself. I’m not looking for anything. Based on the girl’s story, it’ll probably find me.
As he peered to the right, Alan jerked his head toward in the direction.
He froze as he turned in the nick of time to see what a thought to be the silhouette of a person—a woman, he thought—appear in front of one of the headstones. The weird thing was that Alan couldn’t tell if they were solid or not, as they appeared to have some kind of dimension. The more he looked at the figure the more he was convinced they hadn’t walked into the graveyard at all and simply appeared. In a moment, after he could have sworn he saw the figure take a step to the right, it vanished into the black of the night.
Alan continued to remain frozen, staring wide-eyed at the place where the female shadow had stood. It amazed him how he could make out so much from what he thought he saw in the split second he gazed at her.
Was…was that real? He thought. Could it be?
Alan decided to keep walking down the straight path of through the graveyard, but more carefully and slowly than before, his eyes now more sensitive to movement after what he thought he saw. Now, in the wide shadow the night cast on the graveyard, he began to notice the faint silhouettes of…others, walking slowly and blended perfectly with the night as though they were more background than living beings. Alan tried to look closer at them but he could never see any of them by looking straight at them. Only when he wasn’t looking directly at them, when he was observing them from the corner of his eyes would he notice the dozens of them. He thought it very odd how the figures moved against the black night, shambling aimlessly.
Alan bent his head down to stare at the concrete of the path, trying to observe the spirits as much as he could from aside glances. Observing them was like watching dark tapestry move on its own, clashing in several directions with one another. Just parts of the background on top of one another.
Is this real? Alan thought. Is it real? It can’t be…there’s no place on earth like this. None. This…can’t exist.
Alan didn’t know whether to speed up his pace or go slower. The curiosity he had of the walking shadows was driving him to want to observe them closer but at the same time the fear of what they would do if they started to notice him lingered. He was indecisive about what to do until, out of the corner of his left eye was an appearance of a small light.
Alan turned to see a silhouette standing atop a headstone, its eyes glowing a piercing whitish yellow in the distance, looking in his general direction. He also saw the shade accompanied by a strange sound that reminded him of air being pressed through a tin vent, like something had taken a gigantic breath. That’s when Alan decided to bolt. He sprinted forward, picking up the pace down the street, panting slightly in fear.
That…what was that noise? Alan thought. That rush of air? Did it come from the shade looking at me? Or somewhere else?
Alan’s heart began racing, the shadows traversing the graveyard seeming more like potential threats to him.
What do they want? Alan thought. If they exist as wondering souls than what is their purpose? Would their needs ever involve needing to make me one of them? That girl…didn’t she say something about ghosts attacking humans who wondered here? Is this where it ends for me? No chance to make something out of my life, even after I once promised I would show up those jerks who ostracized me? I have to do that!
He tried to snap himself out of it.
Don’t worry. He told himself. If anything bad were to happen to me the author would save me at the last second. So I ain’t got nothing to worry about! It’s nice having a safe fishbowl life, ain’t it audience?!
Alan raised his head up slightly after that, looking forward down the concrete road. He couldn’t see the ending yet, but he could at least find the wide graveyard may be ending with sparser headstones. Alan smiled to himself, practically beaming with relief.
It’ll be fine. He thought, trying to calm himself. Tomorrow I can tell everyone at school how I managed to go through this entire place without the spirits here ever daring to challenge me. They’ll be so envious a complete stranger to their town did and, the best part is, I’ll act like I never got scared once! The kids there will never dare mock me. They might not still like me due to my complete social ineptitude but I can’t work miracles.
Alan froze as he heard the familiar sound—like a huge gulp of breath through tin that carried a familiar phrase.
Out of the corner of his he could make out a silhouette standing far away behind him on the concrete path, its eyes glowing a bright white with a subdued yellow tint that stared straight at him.
Alan jerked his head forward.
Pretend you don’t see it. He demanded. Act like it’s not there. But…was that directed at me?
Alan continued walking down the path, his pace quickening. He turned his head slightly to see the shadow had begun walking down the path behind him.
Maybe he’s not following me. He rationalized. Could be he just want wonder down a different route the other spirits are going? Who knows, I could just be in his way, that’s all.
For some reason, this theory was quickly accepted by him, seeming very plausible. He was still safe. Alan quickened his pace even further, his heart beginning to beat faster. He would continue looking over his shoulder, catching quick glimpses of the silhouette moving down the path as well, getting closer to Alan. The way it walked was a bit odd. It didn’t even move like a predator on kill or an assaulting stalker chasing down a fresh victim. The shade looked as if they were drifting toward Alan in an almost aimless fashion, out of curiosity. However, those glowing eyes and its progressing advancement tore away the illusion of innocent inquisitiveness.
Okay. Alan thought. I should probably be getting out of his way anytime soon. And, even if he is after me, which he may or not be, I still got that author watching over me. He’s there, observing my every move, making sure I don’t kick the bucket.
Alan wasn’t even trying to look at the other shadows as they moved among the graves, he wasn’t even daring to look up from the ground. All he was concerned about now was what that shade behind him wanted, if it wanted him. He kept looking back over his shoulder, noticing the shade continuing to follow him.
Is it me, Alan thought. Or is that thing getting faster?
Yes. Yes it was. It was evident in how much Alan could see of it now. How, when he looked back at the shade he began to see dimensions to it like a living body would have, how it wasn’t just a flat shadow. Its eyes looked less like headlights and more like the shining eyes of a cougar.
Just keep walking like this. Alan panicked. Fast, very fast, as if you’re about to break out into a run at any moment. Just try not to draw any attention to yourself. Look, you’re almost passed the graveyard.
It was true. The headstones were getting sparser to his sides until they were being far outnumbered by trees. Definitely a sign he was getting closer to the end of the park. Alan looked to the side, noticing shadows still moving in the distance against the night’s darkness but they weren’t as common as the dozens of them at the graveyard. He gripped his backpack hard, grinding it almost in frustration as he turned to look back at the shadow.
Yep. A good fifteen feet away from me. Fucking dandy. If you’re reading this, I hope you know I’m glad someone was with me in my final moments. Just wish you could talk back to me, I really need someone to be comforting to me.
The spirit drew so close to Alan that, in the light of the moon, he began to make out features of it. The pale flesh of the shade became more apparent, its limbs appearing to be more defined and human-like with every step. Alan was beginning to make out the thing’s skin… He didn’t need to view it from the corner of his eye anymore.
The end of the path. Alan reported. I can see it. Its faint, but I can see the makings of the fence. Just a little more.
Alan heard that large whoosh of air from behind him, this time so loud he felt it reverberate against his very bones.
It’s too late…
He turned to see the shadow had, without him noticing, moved within three feet behind him, so close Alan could make out its sharp chin and how it was a foot taller than him. Its eyes were no longer the inhuman, predatory glare he saw formerly but, now looked as human as anyone else’s he’d seen. The spirit was no longer blended into the dark, but visible and almost organic, its arm outstretched, grasping at him.
Alan broke out into a run, racing down the concrete path as fast as his legs could carry him.
I’ve got to make it! Alan yelled at himself. I’ve got to show them I conquered something in my life! That I did something no one else would do! Just have to stay alive long enough to tell them!
Out of the corner of his eyes, Alan could see the spirit was racing after him as well, somehow appearing to drift instead of running. Alan would keep whirling his head back and forth, with the open gate of the fence closer than ever.
I’m so close! Alan thought. It’s not much farther away! I just have to-
He felt the spirit touch him, grasping at his right shoulder. It felt as though his skin had vibrated at the feeling. The gate, it was so close…
I’ll never make it! Alan screamed. It’s too fast! NO! I’ll live! It’s solid! It is!
Just as he felt another vibration at his back, Alan grabbed the strap of his backpack at the spirit, feeling it hit something solid. He saw the figure recoil back at it as he flung it at him. And with that, Alan practically flew toward the ajar gate, never stopping even after he made it past the concrete walkway as he raced down the street, I hit a ghost. Is that even possible? Fuck it, I don’t care at this point.