Paranormal Short Story
“Do you really jog by that cemetery at night?” Alison’s big brown
eyes looked skeptically at me as I huddled over my coffee cup. “Does it not
bother you to live so close to one?”
“I’ve been living here for a few years, Al.” I sighed, tucking a lock of my thick brown hair behind my ear, swirling the last sip at the bottom of my cup. “It’s not like I have to worry about them throwing wild parties, ha!”
Giggling, we finished our cups of coffee, relieved our shift was ending. We were the evening skeleton crew for the office, so if documents needed to be typed or prepped for tomorrow, it was stacked on us to have it ready. Down to the last thirty minutes, we would occasionally run out of mind numbing paperwork to perform and get a moment to catch up. At the end of the day, we packed our things, closed the office and off we went. Alison would drive the long way around to drop me off at night because the old cemetery creeped her out. It took up a large amount of space in the center of the neighborhood. I admit, it was rather weird to have one so huge amidst a suburban landscape.
“I just find it hard to believe when you leave here, you go home and jog around that thing at almost midnight.” She took my cup and started washing it along with her own. “You ever see anything weird?”
I opened my mouth to say no, but then I remembered one thing I noticed every night since I started jogging. “Actually there’s this man.”
“Oh? A man?” She was turning the sink off as she peered over her shoulder at me. “Does he jog too?”
“No.” I furrowed my brow, remembering the man bending over a grave. “He jumps the fence and leaves flowers on the same grave every night.”
“What?” They were shutting down the office and flipping off the lights as they neared the exit. “Every night, after the cemetery closes?”
“Y-yes.” I had jogged by him numerous times. “Sometimes he’s just getting over the fence into the cemetery, but most nights he’s at the grave with the flowers by the time I jog by. I wonder whose grave it is…”
“Yikes.” Alison punched the code in to set the alarm and we both rushed out of the locking office doors. “That’s rather morbid.”
“I don’t know.” Pulling my hair back, I put it into a ponytail as we walked to Alison’s car. “Oddly, I find it rather romantic.”
“Pffft, romantic?” We slid into the car as she mused over the idea. “Why is he doing it in the cover of night then? Something’s wrong with that.”
“Maybe, I don’t know…” I fiddled with my thumbs for the remainder of the car ride, unsure of my initial observations.
Alison pulled up to my house and I got out of car as we waved goodbye. She pulled away before anything else could be said; it was nearing midnight. Once more, I found myself alone. A lonely sigh slipped from between my lips as I unlocked my door. It was rather cool tonight, so I chose to wear white hoodie over my black tank top and blue sports bra. I tightened the laces on my blue jogging shoes, eager to jog off my stressful day. Standing I straightened my black spandex capris and stretched for a moment. Stepping out onto the porch, I shivered as I locked the door and started my route. It never took me very long to go from feeling chilly to sweating on a night like this.
By the time I took the familiar turn at the far corner of the cemetery, I was overheating and panting. Reaching into my hoodie’s pocket, I paused in my jogging. Not only did I forget my water bottle, but the house keys were also missing. Huffing, my breath steamed into the air under the yellow streetlight as I attempted to catch my breath in my frustration. Furrowing my brow, I looked back to where I had jogged against the cemetery fence. Walking back slowly, I peered into the deep shadows of the concrete and spurts of grass, praying I would see any sign of the pink piggy keychain and my house keys with him.
A glint under one of the lights halfway down the fence line caught my attention; I had just walked past it. Turning around I leaned down, pulling them out of the grass that was poking through the crack of the sidewalk.
Crash-smash! Clink-Clak! Clak! Clak!
“Eeeeek!” I squealed as I fell back on my bottom, covering my head.
The chain-link fence rattled for a few seconds before silence settled in once more. I waited, not sure what had darted out in front of me and slammed into the fence from the dark houses across the street. Lowering my arms, I peered toward where the racket had exploded. There hanging off the fence was the man.
He peered down at me with gunmetal blue eyes as steam rolled from his nostrils. His arm muscles flexed as they held his weight at the top of the fence as his large muscular bulk hung unmoving. He opened his mouth, but abruptly closed it as if to avoid saying anything. Black hair bobbed in front of his eyes as he pulled himself up to the top of the fence. Pausing, still staring at me with those amazing eyes, a sensation of fear fluttered through me. In his left hand, he had a bouquet of white lisianthus; he had been later than normal. The clothes he was wearing were rather casual; dark baggy jeans and a black turtleneck shirt with the long sleeves pushed to his elbows. Breaking his glare, he huffed over the fence, landing on the other side without a sound.
Stunned, I sat there and watched him walk tenderly between the graves, and like so many nights before, he crouched before the same grave as always. Shaking my head, I stumbled to my feet. Irritated that no apology had been offered, I brushed the grass from the back of my pants. Straightening my hoodie, I realize I had dropped my keys again. Rubbing my forehead, I looked all about my feet, turning in circles. At this rate, if I found them, I would just head home and not finish my jog at all. I squatted low to the grassy area where I’d fallen over and dug through the grass, huffing as each pass revealed nothing. The fence in front of me shook, startled I flinched. Looking up my hazel eyes were ensnared by the gunmetal blue. He dangled my keys in his fingers from within the cemetery, my heart racing to see Mr. Piggie swinging from his fingertips.
“Are these yours?” His voice was breathtakingly smooth toned. “I suppose when I spooked you, they got tossed through the fence here.”
“I-I did.” My words were jumbled in my mind and falling out of my lips without filter. “I mean, you did scare me. Thank you for finding them…”
“Sorry.” Before I could take my keys from him, he started climbing back over the fence, landing on the sidewalk before me. “I see you jogging here every night. Do you always watch me leave the flowers?”
“W-well…” The heat in my cheeks made me drop my eyes to the bugs hopping about in the amber streetlights as my pulse thumped in my ears. “I j-jog…”
“I noticed.” He leaned over, blocking my view of the bugs. “Do I make you nervous?”
“M-my keys…” I pleaded.
“Oh…” He looked down at the Pig rolling in his palm. “Here you go.”
“T-thanks.” Dropping my keys into my open palms, his stern face continued to glare down at me. “Who are the f-flowers f-for?”
“Does it matter?” I caught my breath as his stare broke away to look towards the grave. “If I don’t leave flowers on the grave, who will?”
“Oh…” My brow knotted as I looked to the grave with him. “Was it a friend?”
“You can say that.” Taking in a deep breath, he turned his attention back to me with a sad expression. “Draven Hennigan.”
“Huh? Dra-draven?” I squeezed Mr. Piggie for comfort. “Is that your friend’s name?”
“No, it’s my name.” He raised an eyebrow at me, seeing how tense I was to be talking with him. “Do I scare you?”
“W-well, you crashed into a fence without warning and then held m-my keys hostage…” Again, the warming of my cheeks sent my eyes to my fiddling thumbs and keychain. “Thank you for finding my keys, I should be heading home. I-it’s late.”
“Wait…” He gripped my shoulder, his touch icy even through the hoodie. “What’s your name?”
“K-karen.” I swallowed, my body shivering from the chill that came from his touch. “G-good night, Draven.”
The moment his fingertips left my shoulder I jogged home, too frightened to even peer over my shoulder. I reached my front door, panting as I leaned against it. Looking down at my hands, Mr. Piggie gave me an empty lifeless stare and I swallowed down my anxiety. Before daring to unlock my door, I braved looking behind me and scanned the neighborhood. There were no signs of Draven or anyone else at this late hour. Sighing in relief, I unlocked my door, ready to shower and end the night.
The next several weeks I changed my routine, not wanting to see Draven. It was embarrassing and frightening to know all those times he had noticed me as well. Then again, I was the girl jogging around a cemetery at midnight. Who was I to judge? Shaking my head, I was staring out Alison’s car window. We were having a slow start getting to work.
“Shoot.” The car came to a stop as Alison protested, “Looks like we have to go by the cemetery today…”
“It’s faster that way, anyhow.” The ‘road closed’ sign seemed oddly placed with no indications of workers or construction. “I guess they plan on tearing it up sometime today?”
“Who knows…” She sighed, as the car turned around and headed along the route of her old jogging path. “So, which one is it?”
“Huh?” I broke from my vacant glare to nowhere as I looked over to Alison. “Which one of what?”
“The grave…” She prodded as she slowed the car down. “I’m curious now!”
“W-well,” Knotting my brow, I looked back to the cemetery where my eyes fell to the gravesite almost immediately. “That one, over there…”
The car came to a stop as she leaned over to get a better look. Chills danced across my skin as I realized no flowers had been left on the grave. Alison shuddered, starting the car but I smacked her shoulder as a sign to stop. Rolling down my window, I swallowed back my nerves.
“E-excuse me.” I took a deep breath in, trying my best to be loud as I called the cemetery landscaper’s attention. “Excuse me!”
“Hi there, ma’am.” He stood up from where he was changing out seasonal flowers in the fence line flowerbeds. “Can I help you?”
“Y-yes, w-well, that grave there?” She pointed and took a moment to count. “Like the eighth one down. When did someone last leave flowers on the grave?”
“Oh, now that you mention it…” He looked over his shoulder as he wiped sweat off his brow. “It’s been a few weeks since a white bouquet has been left. For years, without fail someone has always been there daily. You know ‘em?”
“N-no, well, Yes, I-I…” Panicking I rolled my window up and looked to Alison with red cheeks. “Just go!”
After we left the neighborhood, we suddenly burst into laughing. “What was that?”
Looking to Alison, “I don’t know. When I looked there weren’t flowers and I had to know.”
“What do you think happened to make it stop?” Their laughter came to an abrupt stop as Alison asked what had started her moment of bravery. “Does this mean mystery man Draven stopped leaving flowers after you caught him?”
“I g-guess so…” Sighing, tugging at the hem of my shirt, I was felt guilty. “I’d hate to know that was the reason…”
For the rest of the day, I found my thoughts wondering back to that stern sad face with the gunmetal blue eyes. Several times Alison had found herself needing to shake my shoulder to call me back to the work I should have been doing. Did Draven feel guilty for scaring me and so stopped going? Or was it the fact I had confessed to watching him for over a year, leaving flowers on the grave?
“Alison…” We were on our way back to my place when I finally broke from the storm of questions weighing on my mind. “Tomorrow, can you come early so we can get some flowers?”
“What?” She came to a stop in front of my house. “You can’t be serious?”
“I feel bad!” I exclaimed, “He stopped leaving flowers on his friend’s grave because of me!”
With a sigh, she gave me a sincere smile, “Fine, we’ll go get some flowers.”
“T-thanks.” Blushing, I rushed out of the car.
Feeling horrible, I went straight to bed. The thought I was the reason to stop someone from doing something they were so passionate about stung. Tears were trying to fall from my eyes as I shoved my face deeper into my pillow. At some point, I had fallen asleep and woke to a knock at my door. Groggy, and still in last night’s office clothes, I stumbled to the door and answered it.
“Wow, you are really upset about it, huh?” It was Alison, and in her hands was a bouquet of white lisianthus. “The florist near here said these were the best white flowers for a grave, figured it would be appropriate.”
“N-no, those are perfect.” Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I let her in. “Give me a moment, I need to shower and we’ll head out.”
“No problem.” She smiled as she sat on my couch.
Strangely, I found myself excited to be doing this task. I didn’t know his friend’s name, but without a doubt, I knew which tombstone the flowers belonged to. My heart raced as I finished my make-up, tucking in my button up shirt in my black pencil skirt. What were the chances Alison would bring the exact same flowers I remembered seeing in his hands as he stared at me on the fence? Shivers trickled across my entire body, making me shudder; another flash of his gunmetal blue eyes under those black bangs crossed my mind.
“I’ll stay in the car, if that’s ok with you, Karen?” Alison handed me the flowers and walked around the car to unlock it. “Figured my buying the flowers was a fair enough trade to not have to go in.”
“T-that’s fine.” I stared down at the pure white flowers with their elegant goldenrod centers, feeling my guilt easing. “At least I hope this makes up for discouraging him.”
“You think he’ll see them?” Allison pulled up into an empty parking space at the cemetery’s entrance. “I mean, the guys yesterday said it’s been weeks.”
“I think so.” I opened my door, “I shouldn’t be long.”
Shutting the car door, I took a deep steady breath in. It was a nice day out, bright with no clouds and a gentle breeze that tugged playfully on my loose hair. Each step was adding to the tightening of my nerves as I became more and more anxious. Looking down at the bouquet, I laughed; I felt like a bride with the way I was stepping, pacing myself down the cemetery pathway. Huffing, I took another deep inhale to steady my nerves and paused, looking for my intended target location. Seeing it, I tightened my grip on the flowers slowly exhaling. Feeling brave, I stood tall and firm as I made my way down the aisle that led to the grave. I had seen him lay the flowers on the grave every night for over a year until we met. Hopefully my gesture would rectify breaking such a caring gesture.
Breathing through my nose, my muscles tensed as I closed in on the gravestone. Soon I would know the name of his friend that drove him to visit in the middle of night. Four spots… three, and now two. I stumbled to a stop. The next one was it; I verified from the fence and counted from the other direction I was more familiar with. This was it. Closing my eyes, one last breath of air to help me complete the task I set myself out to do. I finished the approach, turned in a militaristic manner, and faced the tombstone.
Draven Michael Hennigan
1977 – 2003
My eyes grew wide as the bouquet smashed to pieces at my feet. I read the name over and over and over again. My mind replayed his voice as he introduced himself with that cold stare. My heart raced as I trembled where I stood, frantic as to what I should do? Or think? Fear erupted across me, making me shudder as I recalled the eerie icy sensation of his grip on my shoulder that night. My legs failed to run, my chest ached as my heart pounded against it, screaming to be set lose. I took a step back, again reading the name, the date, and realizing he had been dead for nearly twelve years.
Another shaken step back and my back slapped into something warm. Arms wrapped around me, my hands gripping on the strong forearms of the mysterious male who held me so tight. Wriggling, I could not break myself free as a warm breath tickled across my ear, neck and shoulder like footsteps.
“Thank you, Karen…” His voice was gentle, happy even as his lips softly prickled my ear. “Thank you for the flowers on my grave.”
I twisted in the arms, my heart fluttering as I did so. My emotions tangled in terror and excitement; his warm embrace had let go. My eyes chased the wide cemetery and even the gunmetal blue sky but found no signs of Draven. I stood there panting, shaking as a cold sweat washed over me. All this time I was watching a lonely soul put flowers on his grave. Searching my thoughts, I made a frightening resolve. From now on, I would bring the flowers to his grave so he may finally rest in peace…