Third Place Winner for the Halloween Tales Contest October 03
Eerie noises filled the night as Celeste made her way cautiously through the grave yard. With heart thumping heavily within her breast, she slipped from tomb stone to tomb stone studying the writing on each gray slab. The short candle that wavered in her hand was nearly drowned out by the black of the night; the luxury of a full moon was hidden deep behind the gathering storm clouds.
"I have to find you, tonight," she muttered to herself. "It's my only chance."
She stared at the words on the next headstone. "Michael Thurston the Third", she mumbled the name. "There you are. I've found you at last."
The howl of a starving wolf shattered the stillness into a thousand shards and Celeste huddled up close to the icy stone in futile hopes of absorbing some comforting warmth and protection. Her heart raced, echoing it's beating in her ears while goose bumps ran up and down her arms.
She had to work quickly now, before the clouds parted to let the harvest moon shine through. Brushing away the cover of rotting autumn leaves, she found the candle holder that was formed in the cement of the tomb cover. Her great aunt, Beverly, had told her it would be there and had instructed her on what to do next.
In her peripheral vision, Celeste could barely see the shadowy forms moving toward her off to the side. 'Might only be the trees,' she thought hopefully. 'No time to stop to look.' Beverly had warned her of the consequences. Chances were they could be ghosts or goblins.
Deftly digging in the loose dirt beside the cement cover with her fingers, she quickly dug a concave depression. Then reaching within her tunic she grasped a shallow pewter bowl, pulled it out and set it in the hollow so that it was even with the dirt surface. Next, she unstoppered a flask and poured the contents into the bowl. The potion steamed and sputtered as she muttered the chants she had practiced hours earlier.
Still, she could see the shadows creeping closer to her. A noise to the left startled her and she nearly jumped up to run off. But it was only a black cat prowling in the Halloween night. Steeling herself in desperate self-discipline she held her ground, shuddered however, and looked around her half expecting to see a witch in a tall pointed hat or a vampire lurking in the shadows.
It was getting late and soon the orange moon, like a grinning jack-o-latern, would begin to peek through a rift in the clouds above and her chilling work would be for naught.
All was silent for a brief few minutes. Then suddenly the gravestone began to shake and the very ground before her opened up to reveal the ancient coffin. Although it had lain there for hundreds of years, there was no sign of age and the black surface of the casket shimmered diabolically.
Celeste had fallen backward and was now laying on the ground staring at the sky. Was she too late? She shivered at the thought as she picked herself carefully up off the ground and reached a slender bony finger toward the coffin.
She traced her finger along the lid of the casket feeling for the words that were said to be imprinted there. A lonely owl hooted in the distance and Celeste stared at the sky. There was a weakening in the cloud cover and Celeste returned to searching frantically.
There they were! She held the candle closer so she could read them. 'Inveritus cum lucoticus de noir. Riso me troth cum se.'
With quavering voice, she read the words aloud. Once, twice, again and again, each time with more confidence and with fervor until she began to shriek the words.
"Inveritus cum lucoticus de noir. Riso me troth cum se."
In the dark tresses of the heavily shrouded sky, the flutter of bats wings beat against the oppressive clouds.
Then suddenly, with the wail of something undead, an ominous figure opened the lid of the casket and sat upright. Awakened too early, the vampire was still weak but, even so, the aura around him was that of evil and dread.
"Sister, where are you," his voice rasped out in the hollow of the night.
Celeste pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders and shivered. Now was no time to be fainthearted. This was the bewitching hour. In a few more minutes the moon would light the sky and the vampire would regain his full strength. The time had come. It was her night of nights and her turn of duty had come to it's fruition.
"I am here, my beloved brother," she whispered. "Take my hand for it is time."
His cold, clammy and bony fingers wrapped themselves around hers and she shivered.
"You are shivering, sister," he said. "Are you afraid of me, your brother? Do you hate me, then?" Anger of a thousand years began to flicker in his countenance.
"Oh no," she cried. "I am just overcome with joy to see you. It has been so long." It would be a disaster to anger him, and hundreds of years of careful ritual would be undone.
"I am glad, sister." He was consoled for the moment but she knew he would be wise to any tricks. She had to move quickly now and steadily while he was still vulnerable.
He struggled to stand up but his legs gave way under him. "I fear you have awakened me too soon while I am yet weak."
"This may be true, dear brother but the haunted house awaits you." Her face was one of caring that would mask the fear she felt inside. Would he see past her pretense? "I have planned a party and many treats. Will you come and feast, brother of my heart and blood?"
"First, I desire the taste of blood to make me stronger so I can walk to the house. Will you bend closer to me so I can drink?"
Celeste's knees began to shake. Was she ready? Weeks of preparation was about to culminate and she felt a twinge of unsteadiness. Slowly she leaned toward him in deliberate submission. His foul mouth opened to reveal the deadly teeth.
But before his ice cold lips reached her throat she quickly pulled a second flask out from beneath her cloak and held it to his lips. Would he drink? The blood she had drawn out of her own body a few hours ago was old by now. Would he smell the difference?
He hesitated for a few seconds and then sighed as he drank the entire contents of the flask.
Celeste pulled back a bit and let the flask drop to the ground. She waited for what seemed like eternity.
Looking wildly at her, the vampire suddenly realized he had been tricked. With what little strength he had, he tried to reach for her but too late! He sank back into his coffin and closed his eyes. The sleeping potion she had added to the flask had done it's job!
Celeste settled the lid back down on the coffin and stepped back. At that moment a chilly draft caught the flame of the candle and snuffed it out leaving the world in total darkness as it seemed to writhe in convulsion. The orange moon burst through the clouds and Celeste saw the coffin had vanished back into the ground. The shadowy creatures that were stalking her earlier had fled in fright.
She gathered the flask and candle and, wrapping the cloak around her, she quickly left the graveyard.
"Safe for another hundred years," she muttered. "By then it will be another 'sister's' duty to send him back to sleep."
WORD COUNT = 1303