Karen Stevens was fast asleep in her bed with her long hair covering her face. She was alone, her boyfriend had to go out of town for a few days to help out his father and her parents where visiting a relative. The night was fairly calm but cold and the wind was picking up speed through the houses of the small Minnesota town. It was way past midnight and the sleepy town and it’s residents were dreaming in piece. Only the dead could not dream and the wind carried something that could only be called wicked.
She jerked awake shaken by a bad dream but she could not remember what it was about. Her slim body was soaked in sweat, her brown eyes still blurry from the uneasy sleep. Karen usually slept on the left side of the bed and now she felt with her right hand the other side. It was a reflex-like movement she did to search for Tyler but then her hand touched the cold bed sheets.She remembered now that Tyler was dead. He was her boyfriend for almost a year but he died a little over four months ago. His motorcycle got hit by a stolen truck while he rode to work, the head injury he suffered killed him on the spot. They were close and they loved each other but despite this, Karen decided to move on. When she met Kyle it wasn’t long until they got together. She felt somewhat guilty from the beginning of their relationship which was almost two weeks old. Now, wide awake and sweaty, she thought about Tyler again. The guilt returned with greater force than before.
As she lay there with her grief, clutching her blanket she noticed that the wind grew in intensity. It whistled wildly between the trees of the neighborhood. It made strange sounds in the attic, shifting through the cracks and spaces of the wooden roof. When she was a kid she always hated storms. When she heard the ominous sounds of the wind, rain and thunder she hid beneath her blanket. Shaking and afraid that if she looked, she would see something terrible in the room, the closet or maybe the window, staring at her. Hollow eyes full of malice, ready to act out whatever evil lurked behind them. But she had never seen such things.
Now all grown up, she wasn’t so much afraid as in her childhood. But now the bad weather combined with the bad dream, brought a strange uneasiness on her. Just when she wanted to lay down again and try to sleep the wind made a loud hooting sound. Almost at the same time something made a screeching noise, like the creaking of door hinges. Long and thin, it felt like the sound will never stop, her skin crawled like a hundred little spiders. Jumping at the sound with goosebumps all over her, she stood in her bed afraid to move even a finger. Uneasiness turned into fright as she listened carefully, afraid even to blink or breathe. She knew the sound well, it was made by the door connecting the kitchen with the back yard. She stared at the window with eyes wide open. A strange shadow danced on the wall near the door but she didn’t notice it. All kinds of thoughts raced through her head. She imagined monsters and robbers alike, careful footsteps on the wooden floor, the wood creaking as it yielded under an unknown assailant’s weight. She imagined knife wielding serial killers, prowling under the cover of darkness, unable to contain their urges. Monsters with teeth and claws which appear out of the shadows, grinning happily at their next meal. Darkness is full of monsters, especially the darkness created by fear.
Karen calmed down a little because she could hear no other suspicious sounds. Her heart was still beating fast. She decided to check out what happened. She gathered herself trying to think rationally, not letting fear mess her up. Karen looked at the digital clock that was usually on the nightstand but it wasn’t working. "Oh, great!" she thought, the power is out. Now she understood why as a lightning bolt struck somewhere nearby. Rain started pouring mercilessly. It was hammering on the roof and windowpanes like a thousand dwarves with hammers.
After gathering all her courage the girl got out of bed. She kept telling herself that it is all in her mind and the wind opened the door because it wasn’t properly closed. She went slowly to the door but when her hand grasped the doorknob the TV suddenly switched on. Her hands jumped with lightning speed to her chest and she let out a gasping moan of fright. Turning to the TV revealed that it was only static on it. With trembling hands she reached for the remote and hit the off button and the television shut down. Trying to switch it on again was futile, looking at the clock she saw that the power was still out. So how did the TV switch on?
Karen waited for a while, she let her heart and breathing calm down a little. She kept telling herself that it had to have some normal explanation. A weather like this can wreak havoc through the power lines. Her dad would surely know what happened. He would laugh at her frightening encounter with the television.
After a few minutes of calming down and listening she opened the door and started walking down the stairs that lead into the hall. When she was about halfway down,lighting stroke somewhere outside illuminating the house, startling her. Her grasp on the balustrade got tighter, she stopped for a moment. Rain was batting against the windows and on the street, branches were swaying in every direction. The streetlights were out too so the whole town was plunged into an unforgiving darkness. She slowly continued on looking around in the process, she looked back up the stairs hoping that nothing was behind her. When she got to the base of the stairs she hit the light switch. She knew it won’t work but tried anyway and wondered for a moment how many people did the same thing in situations like this.
The door to the back yard was wide open, the wind blew the rain inside soaking the floor. The chimes hanging in the terrace flailed wildly and made chaotic sounds that sent shivers down Karen’s spine. She closed the door, which again made the familiar yet creepy creaking noise, and locked it. I’ve got to tell dad to put some oil on the hinges, she thought. She saw that the door indeed wasn’t locked. With the door closed the air in the house became still. As she started back towards the stairs she felt a faint smell of wet earth and roadkill. Karen wandered where did the smell come from but it wasn’t strong so she shrugged it off as something caused by the rain. Going back towards the hall, another lightning stroke the ground somewhere nearby and what she saw froze her blood.
Footprints leading from the back door to the living room, faint but distinct. Whoever made them came in before the raining started. So the opening of the door wasn’t accidental after all. She stood there nailed to the floorboards not knowing what to do. Call 911, her mind told her, but her mobile phone was on the nightstand beside her bed. "Stupid cow," she muttered to herself with only her lips moving but without any sound. Using the phone from the hall was out of question, even if she managed to dial without a sound. The voice of the operator would have surely alerted whoever was in the house. It is strange, Karen thought, because she made some noise by shutting and locking the door but the intruder didn’t notice. Why didn’t the intruder come out of hiding to kill her? Looking around in despair she saw the knives on the kitchen table at about an arm’s length. She reached for the biggest one and slowly drew it out of it’s holder.
The front door was close to the living room where the footsteps lead and it was locked. She was sure she locked it because she came through the front door yesterday evening. This was when she forgot to check the back door. It is funny how a small thing, like forgetting to turn a key, might get you robbed or dead, she thought. She didn’t want to risk opening the back door again because it might have made a lot of noise. The back yard was completely encircled by a tall wooden fence and hedges without a gate to the outside. Running out through that door was futile. Now the question struck her, how did the intruder get inside the back yard?
So her only option was trying to open the front door. Once open she could run like hell for the nearest neighbor and call for help. But where are the keys? After almost panicking she remembered that she left the keys in the door. This is her chance to save her own life, she thought.
She gripped the knife hard not really knowing what to do with it or if she had the courage to plunge it in somebody. Still it gave her a little sense of security. Step by step she was out in the hall. The foul smell was stronger here but not overwhelming, it must have come the wind, she thought. To her right were the stairs and a hallway to another room but that one didn’t have a door to the outside. In front of her was the living room where the footsteps lead and to the left was the front door leading to freedom. She stopped and listened again, there were no sounds except those made by the cruel weather.
Karen stood in the little hall gathering her courage and wits to get out as quick as possible. No screwing around with the keys or the door. Only precise and definite movements…but she was shaking badly. She was trying to concentrate on her next, decisive move when CLICK!, a sound coming from the living room, after a few seconds again, CLICK! It was the sound the cap of a lighter makes when you open or close it. Her left hand jumped to her mouth to muffle a scream, her right hand clutched the knife in front of her, blade pointing to the floor. The second time she heard the clicking sound it was as if time had slowed down. The click seemed elongated and echoing through the house and her mind: CLIIIIICKKKK!
Her ex-boyfriend, Tyler, was a smoker and she gave him a lighter as a present. He loved that lighter, played with it all the time. As a final respect, they put a lighter beside him in his coffin. They imagined he might start playing with it if he got bored down there, even light a cigarette a pack of which had also been put in with his body. The thought that she might have heard Tyler’s lighter scared her. She knew it was impossible and it had to be something else but her mind was a jumble of chaotic thoughts.
After three deep breaths she moved to quickly open the door and get the hell out. As she touched the keys a loud thunder shook the neighborhood and the lightning filled the house with light for a time as long as a heartbeat . Her heart almost jumped out from her chest but the voice coming from the living room was what made her bladder let go.
“Going somewhere…Karen?” the voice familiar yet strange, not heard for almost four months. Her world stood still, the voice was sad, suspicious and guttural. It resembled Tyler’s voice, the accent was definitely his, but this was deeper, more malignant. Karen dared not to move. Her hands were on the keys but the same fear that made her piss herself was keeping her from moving. Coldness creeping up and down her back, her stomach a little knot.
“You haven’t forgotten me, have you Karen?” the voice calm but suspicious…hellish.
“Who’s…who’s there?,” she asked in a trembling voice, her mind desperately wrestling with the idea that it heard Tyler’s voice. It can’t be, she said to herself, Tyler is dead, am I going insane?
“You know damn well who I am,” the voice growled.
“You can’t be Tyler, he’s dead,” she said almost crying.
“Yes, he’s buried in Spring’s Grove Cemetery.” She took her hand from the keys and clutched the knife in both shaking hands. Her thoughts were too chaotic and she was still paralyzed by fear. The thought of unlocking the front door and running away still lingered somewhere in her brain but she feared that whoever was in the other room might catch her before she stepped out on the porch.
“And the promise you once made to him is buried as well?” the voice asked and her blood seemed to have turned into water. Only the two of them knew about the promise she made him on a romantic, starry night. It was a hasty promise, easily forgotten. They were on the shore of the lake near the town and after having some intimate time together, Tyler asked her if she will ever leave him. I’ll never leave you, she replied, I promise I will never leave you. The only thing that remembered the promise was the darkness around them.
She heard the creaking of an armchair as the intruder stood up. "Oh my God, Tyler’s chair," she thought because she recognized the noise of the chair. Tyler usually sat in that old chair while they spent afternoons together with her parents. She could see him with her minds eyes sitting there with a burning cigarette between his fingers while he was explaining something.
Footsteps…she braced herself for the inevitable, unimaginable…improbable; but what she saw was much worse…wicked. Shuffling, slow and steady, a shadowy figure emerged from the darkness, its features yet unseen. Karen stood there shaking violently. Both of her hands were at her chest holding the knife, they were shaking too, the knife almost cutting her.
When the next lightning stroke, she saw who the intruder was as the light blitzed through the house. To her horror, it was Tyler, only a few months dead. She could see the wall between his ribs as the light zipped through. His burial clothes were just torn and hanging pieces of rags covered with mold. He had no eyes, only black, empty sockets. The left part of his head was open, blackish-brown liquid was flowing on the spot where the ear had been once. His mouth was a lipless permanent grin, his lower jaw tilted to one side. The smell coming from the thing was rank, nauseating.
“It…it can’t be. You’re dead.”
“Yes, yet here I am. You can bury a man but you can never bury a promise.”
“But you died!” she cried hopelessly.
“You promised me that you will never leave me,” the walking corpse said, it’s voice loosing the evil edge, it was only sad now, Karen just stood there frozen, her bladder threatening to let go again, her sanity too, “It’s cold down there…and dark. I miss you.”
The corpse started towards the girl but she reached for the keys in the door, unlocked it and darted towards the porch. She barely put a feet out as cold hands grabbed her. She couldn’t scream as one hand was around her mouth, she dropped the knife on the porch as the dead man pulled her back in the house. The lighter fell onto the porch too. He jerked her feet up, she fell hitting her head hard against the floor flying into semi-consciousness. He started dragging her by the feet, out the back door into the yard. Through an opening in the fence he dragged her towards the cemetery.
The house was at the edge of town and the cemetery wasn’t far away, one could reach it by taking a back road behind the houses. In her semi-conscious state Karen saw the hole in the fence. The planks had been ripped from the poles. They lay scattered nearby with nails still jutting out of some of them. Tyler dragged her onto the dirt road, she felt every rock and every pothole covering her body with bruises and scratches. She got muddy and wet, the rain kept falling and she started to come out from her dizzy state. She started to moan at first but as fear gave her strength she started to scream as loud as she could but the dragging continued. Hearing her cries was almost impossible for the town’s residents as they were sleeping.
It wasn’t long until they reached Spring’s Grove Cemetery with it’s iron gate wide open. It looked like it was waiting for them to arrive. She was dragged between the gravestones, some old, some new. The darkness was oppressive, her situation hopeless. There was no way she could escape from the hand grasping her ankle, it was cold and strong, it did not waver a second.
The dead man stopped beside his grave, staring motionlessly at something. Karen looked and saw a dark figure, black as night, his eyes fiery yellow. His breath like white fog drifting from it’s lipless mouth. It wore a dark robe all over his body including it’s head. It held a spade in front of it, just like an undertaker. The handle of the spade was covered with runes the color of fire that glowed in the dark undisturbed by the rain. The yellow-eyed figure nodded and the dead man started dragging Karen towards the open grave.
It was a dark hole, almost perfectly rectangular, it’s depth obscured by darkness. It looked bottomless, the sort of hole that appears in the worst nightmares. You start falling into it and you know the fall will never end but then your brain snaps you awake. Had you fallen into one for real your heart would stop in an instant.
“Oh, my God!” she pleaded. “Don’t do this, please!” She looked at the dark figure but it just stood there. She tried desperately to grab onto something but without success. “Now you will keep your promise,” said Tyler’s corpse in a coarse voice and dragged her in his coffin which now was full of mud. Held her in a death embrace as the lid closed and darkness enveloped them.When the shoveling started and earth began hitting the lid Karen woke up in her bed. She was sweaty shaking from a nightmare. Just when she started to calm down thinking that it was only a dream she heard the sound of the back door opening.