Jess went home late, it was already beginning to darken outside. The mist was gathering between the houses, on the fields, and between the graves. She entered the yard of her home. Spark greeted her with a wagging tail. Jess gave the dog the usual petting she always gave when she came home.
When she got close to the porch, she heard arguing from the kitchen. At first, it was hard to understand but a few steps later, she realized that Jack and Angela were arguing about her and her nightly trips. Jess stopped on the porch and listened with heart beating wild.
'Why are you lettin' her go out that late?' asked Jack in a raised tone.
'She goes anyway,' responded Angela, 'weren't we all doing stupid things when we were young. Didn't you?'
'Yeah, I did but it was different for me!'
'Different? How is that?'
'I could take care of myself!'
'What do you mean? That she can't? She's a strong girl, you don't know her.'
'Doesn't matter if she's strong or not, she's a girl!'
'Oh, so that's your problem. Such macho bullshit. Spare me, please!'
'No, I won't! And as soon as she's back I'm gonna tell her...'
'Tell me what!?' asked Jess as she stepped into the kitchen.
Jack's jaw dropped, for a few seconds he didn't know what to say. Jess's pulse was fast but she felt more comfortable with her mother at her side. Before Jack could answer, Spark began to bark. It seemed angry and agitated so Angela went out the door to see what's wrong.
'Jack, do you know these guys?' she asked when she saw two men at the front gate.
Jack went out on the porch and saw the two guys who were searching for him at Dale's. His face turned pale and the girls noticed.
'I'll be right back,' he said and started towards the gate.
He ordered Spark away from the gate. The dog obeyed but the girls could see that it doesn't like the two visitors. Spark, as most of the dogs, could sense if somebody is not ok.
'Jacky-boy,' said the older one, 'long time, no see.'
'Yeah, what's your business here?' asked Jack trying to sound tough.
'Our business,' asked now the younger one and looked towards the girls who were standing on the porch, 'as I see, you have some nice business goin' on right here.'
'You know why we're here. You had the arrogance to steal money from the boss,' said the older one and lit a cigarette.
'I didn't steal nothin'. It was somebody else.'
'Who?' asked the old guy.
'How should I know?'
'Then tell me somethin' Jacky-boy, why did you leave us, huh?'
'I-I didn't want to do it no more.'
'Oh, so you want to tell us that all the money we've made and all the free pussy you've got was not good enough?' asked the younger man and noticed that Jack's frustration and nervousness are increasing.
'You really think we're that stupid...?' began the young man.
'No, I don't...' Jack tried to interrupt.
'Yes, you do,' the man continued in a much angrier voice, 'we and the girls don't work for you to steal our money! You will bring our money back plus fifty percent interest and your dick might remain where it is right now.'
'All right, I will...'
'Of course, you will,' interrupted the older man, 'you know what the boss does to useless scum like you. We'll be back soon, pretty-boy and if you don't have the money we'll cut off your fingers and stick them up your ass!'
He threw his cigarette into Jack's face then both of them turned and left. Jack was left standing there with no clue what to do. He had to collect quite a sum of money in a short time. When he had stolen the money, he didn't even think it will be noticed. This amount of money is nothing for well-established pimp after all. It wasn't about the money, but about the reputation. If Jack goes on bragging about stealing money from his boss than everybody else will try to steal from him.
Jack knew that these guys mean business and he has to do something fast because they didn't even tell him when they will return. This kind of uncertainty was a well-used by these people because it put a high amount of psychological terror on their targets. Jack felt this terror, his mind was already racing. He tried to play the fool and it didn't work. Now he had to find a solution if he wanted to stay alive.
'Who were these people?' asked Angela when he returned.
'Some old friends,' Jack responded but she could see that he was agitated.
'They didn't look friendly to me,' Angela continued and watched as Jack was putting on his jacket.
'Don't worry,' Jack said and stepped out onto the porch, 'it's not your business anyway.'
'Where are you going?'
This being said, Jack hurried away. He left the girls standing in the doorway with dumbfounded looks on their faces.
'What's wrong with him?' asked Jess and looked at her mother.
'I don't know sweetie,' her mother responded and put a hand around Jess's shoulder, 'men are strange. One minute they love you, the next they want to kill you...'
'I really hope that not all of them are the same.'
'No, there are also good-hearted men but they are few. Good-hearted men are usually losers and not that interesting. Strong men are most of the time volatile and mean but that's what makes them unpredictable and interesting. I guess that women are no better. Ask any man and he will tell you.'
'Well...I have one in mind,' said Jess and blushed.
'Oh, and who might that be?' asked Angela and forgot all about Jack.
'Andy...Andy Perkins,' Jess replied and cast her eyes down as if in shame.
'Andy? He's a really nice boy,' said Angela and smiled.
'Yes, he is but he's not at all boring. Maybe a little,' said Jess and they both laughed, 'and shy, very shy. But I see how he's looking at me. He's a little fat but...'
'Don't worry! That will go away in a few years, you'll see. He will grow and become a man.'
'I guess he will...'
'Until then, help him a little. Help him overcome his shyness.'
'All right, I will.'
'That is, if you are really interested in him, of course.'
'Yes, I am, mom! I like him very much.'
'Yeah, uhm...like,' said Jess and looked into Angela's eyes, 'all right, maybe there's more.'
'That's what I've thought. Don't be afraid to admit if you love somebody.'
'All right. I will try my best.'
Jack came home late again. The girls were asleep when he arrived. His mind was troubled and he couldn't fall asleep. A friend helped him with some money but it wasn't much. He was thinking about getting some from Dale but he also knew that Dale was stingy.
Kerrigan had dinner with his wife and children, after that they went to bed. His mind was still troubled by the unsolved disappearances but he wasn't thinking much about the demon and the dead. The fog was everywhere again but now he could sleep at least.
He was woken up by a strange sound. It was coming from the outside. Keith stood up and listened carefully to be able to discern it. It was hard for him to identify the sound so he went to the window which was looking out onto Main Street. There was no way to see anything due to the mist but from near the window, he was somewhat able to identify the noise.
It was sobbing, he realized, a woman sobbing out in the street. He had to do something, he was the sheriff after all. She might be hurt or lost in this thick fog. Keith put on his pants and jacket then went out of the room with careful steps.
He walked onto the street and shuddered. The frigidness of the mist carried a feeling of impending doom. Without explanation, he began feeling uneasy. The mist might have brought back terrible memories. Or maybe it wasn't the mist at all, perhaps it was the shadow of a doubt which was worming in the back of his mind.
The mist was so thick, he couldn't see more than a few feet in front of him. He started walking towards the source of the sound which seemed to be coming from a bench in front of his house. There were many benches on Main Street but by all reason, they should be empty at this hour and in this weather.
As he was approaching the bench, the contour of a woman began to show through the whirling mist. But before he could get close enough, the woman stood up and began walking.
'M'am,' he said, 'are you all right?'
No answer came from the woman. He was trying to follow her but it wasn't easy because it was hard for him to see her. Sometimes, her shape appeared in front of him, sometimes it disappeared. It seemed to him that she only appeared when he was thinking that he lost her or when she reached an intersection and changed direction.
'Help me, please!' came the pleading whisper-like voice.
'M'am, I would like to help but you have to stop first. Please, could you stop for a second?'
Nothing changed, she kept moving through the mist. Keith quickened his pace but it was in vain. It seemed that the distance between them didn't change. Seeing that hurrying doesn't work, he began to run. Still, he couldn't get any closer.
When the woman turned onto Coldhill Street, Keith halted for a few seconds. Strange course, he thought, why would she lead me here? Is somebody in danger at the edge of town? Then it dawned upon him. The cemetery, he murmured under his mustache, she's leading me...No! Shut up, Keith, you fool. Stop this bullshit!
He pressed on but when he saw the woman's shape turn and enter the cemetery's gate, his heart began to race. No, he thought, this can't be. Why the hell is she leading me into the cemetery? I hope it's just a damn nightmare again and I will wake up. Keith didn't wake up because he wasn't asleep. Everything that was happening to him was real.
'Why are you leading me here?' he shouted and his voice faded quickly without any echo.
'Heeelp! Please help! I'm afraaaid!' the woman called from the mist.
'Where are you? I can't find you!'
'I'm here! Come and save me! Please!'
Keith hurried towards the sound but it was hard to navigate between the graves. His forehead was all sweaty and his shirt was also drenched in sweat. He wanted to take off his jacket but there was nowhere he could leave it.
A few minutes have passed then he reached a familiar place. He had come here many times with a heavy heart and a grief-filled soul. This was the place where Clarice had been buried. He couldn't see her gravestone yet but it was there somewhere.
Fear was filling his heart, now there was no question in his mind whatsoever about what is happening. Now he hated himself for not wanting to accept the truth. He didn't have the guts to face reality however unreal it seemed to be. He made a few more steps and almost fell in a hole. It wasn't a hole, but an open grave. He regained his balance then looked at the gravestone. Clarice Baker was carved into it just like the memory of her death was carved into Keith's mind.
'Thank you for visiting my grave...sheriff,' came a ghastly voice from deep inside the mist.
'Who are you?' he asked but knew in his heart who it was.
'Why did you let me die?' the female voice asked and it still sounded sad and mournful.
'I'm sorry,' Keith responded but his voice was stammering, 'I couldn't...'
'You let me die,' she said again but her voice began to distort, 'you let me die just as you let many others die!'
Kerrigan was turning this way and that in order to see where she is but couldn't see her. Her voice seemed to come from different directions every time she spoke. It even changed course mid-sentence.
'What do you want?' Keith asked and listened.
'I want you to join us.' the voice was now guttural and evil.
'Who? Who are you talking about?'
'All the people who have died because of you. Your friends, Buddy and Jimmy...'
'Jimmy? Where is Jimmy?'
'In the pit! His body is rotting in the depths and his soul is dismembered again and again in hell! And don't forget Kevin who is in the depths also and Karen who is in the grave now. The horny priest burned and his death deceived you.'
'Oh, my God!'
'No, you fool! God is not here! But he is, he who walks among the graves. King of the Valley of Shadow, the one damned to hell but back once more to raise the dead from their eternal sorrow and cast terror upon the living.'
'I threw the book into the lake,' Keith began again, 'how could he be back again?'
'You damned fool,' she said and laughed, 'the slaves of darkness are many and their hands reach far. While you are sleeping in your beds dreaming your rainbow dreams, the dead are watching. They roam your lands in search of things forgotten and buried. They search to bring darkness.
Keith was looking frantically around but he saw only mist. It was whirling between the graves and trees and Keith knew that it was hiding great malice. He looked into the open grave but couldn't see its bottom, it was concealed in greyness. When he turned away, he came face to face with her. She was just like in the nightmare, rotten and evil.
Keith drew back but his foot didn't find ground. Instead, it found the hole and the sheriff plunged into it. At the bottom, there was earth and the fragments of a coffin. The earth had long caved it in due to its own weight.
Adrenaline filled him and his survival instincts kicked in. In a moments notice, he was on his feet again. The concept of being buried alive wasn't too appealing to him. Clarice's animated corpse stood by the graveside ready to crawl in and finish whatever evil plan it had in mind.
Kerrigan was quicker and grabbed her by the feet and pulled with all his force. He looked old but his strength didn't yet leave him. The undead corpse fell to the ground with a thud and a growl of surprise. Keith crawled out of the hole and wanted to run but she grabbed him by the pants. She was still on the ground, didn't have time to get up. He kicked her in the head out of desperation. The touch of the rotten, slimy hand disgusted him.
The dead hand let go of his leg but the other already tried to grab him. Keith looked around in a desperate manner because he realized that if he doesn't do anything now, the undead will not leave him alone. A marble vase caught his attention. It was lying beside a gravestone with long dead and dried flowers in it. He lifted it up and for a second he thought that he is desecrating the memory of somebody.
It didn't matter now. Desecration or not, the vase looked like a good weapon. He hit the corpse in the head. The head recoiled but came up again with a growl of hatred. Her hands were trying to grasp him again. They succeeded, Clarice's corpse grabbed him by the belt and hissed like a serpent from the abyss. Her feet were still sprawled on the ground and it looked like she wanted to climb up on him and rip his throat out with her teeth.
Keith didn't hesitate, he plunged the vase down again and smashed the hideous face. The corpse hit the ground with its face into the dirt. The sheriff knelt down with a quick move and continued bashing the head. He was screaming and pounding then screaming some more. His shirt and pants got splashed by bits of dead flesh, at least what remained of it after a long time underground. He felt the rotten smell in his nostrils and couldn't resist. He threw up right there beside the now stiff corpse.
Seeing that it didn't move, he leaned with his back onto the gravestone to which the vase had belonged. He wanted to catch his breath and calm down a little. Then he got up and kicked the corpse a few times to see if it's indeed dead. The head was completely smashed in. If he remembered well, this was enough to put the undead back to rest. Keith pushed the corpse back into the hole with his feet, he didn't want to touch it.
When he turned to go away, he halted. A black shape was in front of him. Dark as night, black as the deepest pits of hell and it was wielding a spade with strange runes carved into it. The sheriff almost looked into its eyes but he remembered that it is a death sentence. He kept his gaze low but knew that the thing cannot hurt him. It was not allowed to.
'Clean up your mess, devil,' he said in a taunting manner then turned his back and went away.
It felt unbelievable, taunting that which has the power to raise the dead. He felt that he had to do it. It just came naturally, without thinking. The shock of finding out what is really plaguing Linden brought back his old mindset. The mindset which helped him defeat it together with his friends. Fear was the first thing he felt tonight but then the sense of duty overpowered it. He knew what he had to do and he had to do it fast.
Andy was reluctant to fall asleep, he knew what was waiting for him. But after all, he said to himself, they are just dreams and even if they are horrible, they seem to unlock some secrets. He was thinking about the demon and the way to kill it. The ritual only sends it back into the pit at the cost of one's life. But is there any way to kill it permanently? Andy didn't know, he was only hoping that they are able to find something out.
After much thinking, his mind began to numb and he fell asleep. He woke up in the valley, not in front of the Hershey house anymore. The valley looked darker than before, it was hard for him to find his way through the graves. After some pacing and looking over his shoulder, the clouds became thinner and he could see farther away.
In the distance, at a spot where he had been before, he saw black figures. First, he hid behind a tree because he didn't want to be seen. Then, after looking more closely, he saw familiar shapes. He came out from behind the tree and went closer. The shapes didn't look at him, they were standing in a circle looking down on something.
He knew very well what that was, it was his gravestone. The people gathered there were mourning. Jess was there, she held a withered grey rose in her hands, Nate was beside her, crying. Danny's face was as usual, like a marble statue's face, expressionless and bony pale. Chris wasn't joking or misbehaving. His hands hung limply beside his body. Andy's parents were also there, his mother was crying in his father's arms. Andy Sr. was struggling not to weep. His once stern face showed the pain he was feeling.
Andy tried to ask them what is wrong but nobody answered. He told them several times that he is alive but they just kept weeping and staring. Then Jess raised her head and looked at Andy, her eyes were filled with tears.
'So nice of you...' she said.
'What do you mean?' he asked perplexed.
'You came to visit...' she said and pointed to the gravestone.
'But I'm alive, Jess!' he almost shouted.
'No, you're not,' she responded, 'you died...but you saved us.'
'Yes, you did. Thank you, Andy! I love you...just like you loved me.'
After these words, the black shapes started to disintegrate. Andy tried to grab Jess so she doesn't disappear. He desperately wanted to hug her and never let her go but the only thing which he could hold was the wind, cold and dry.
He woke up with tears in his eyes and couldn't sleep that night anymore. Merciless sadness overwhelmed him but until morning came, he gathered himself somehow. He didn't want the others to see him in this mood.
Nate was tired and he fell asleep soon after going to bed, despite his fears. He woke up in the middle of the night. The first thing his sleepy gaze fell upon was the lamp which was still burning. The boy sighed with relief then took the flashlight which lay beside him. It served as a backup light source in case something happens to the lamp again or maybe there's a power outage. An event like that could get him killed in no time and he knew it.
He had to go to the bathroom to relieve his bladder. To his luck, the bathroom was close, just past his sister's room. Nate gathered his courage and got out of bed. He didn't put his legs down near the bed, he leaped to a safe distance. He wasn't stupid. Who knew what could grab him from the darkness under it. Cold, dead hands on soft, living skin, a grip of darkness. He imagined it and the simple thought of such an event made his skin crawl.
Nate switched on the light in his room then went out onto the corridor and switched it on there as well. Brightness filled the corridor and it chased away the darkness and whatever lurked under its deadly cover. The boy entered the bathroom and relieved himself. He expected strange things to happen but there were none.
After going back to his room, Nate switched off the light and went to bed. Of course, the bedside lamp was lit and the flashlight was at his side. He was wondering what made the ghost stop. Last night it didn't bother him at all, however, he had felt watched. The things written in the black book disturbed him a great deal.
Sleep wasn't coming anymore this night. The thought that he will die unnerved him. He kept thinking back at the things Father Matt had told him. The priest had sounded confident and reassuring. Nate understood that he has to be brave and face his fears but what could he do in face of such reckless evil? The question was worming in his little mind. Out of desperation, he began a prayer but it was interrupted by a hideous laughter.
'Your prayer is in vain,' said the coarse whisper-like voice, it was coming from under the bed.
Nate gasped and opened his eyes wide. He began to shake and his breath stopped. There was no sound for a while, he relaxed a little and continued breathing. Maybe I just imagined it, he thought.
'God is dead,' the voice said and Nate found himself trembling again.
'God is dead,' repeated the voice, 'and you'll be dead soon as well. The priest is waiting for you in hell.'
The voice stopped and never spoke again that night. Nate couldn't fall asleep and he didn't have the courage to pray anymore. He lay in bed until sunrise because he didn't dare to get down before that. His pillow was soaked in tears and couldn't talk to his parents. They wouldn't believe him, they'll think he's crazy. Only his friends will listen.