A teenager is trapped in a cursed cemetery at night.
|Occurrence at Read Hill|
By Jason Clayton
This story is based on the many legends abounding the Vampire Cemetery, a place that houses the corpses of alleged vampires. I’ve been looking for a while and found it recently. The cemetery in this story is an actual cemetery outside New Boston, Texas (some sources will say Simms but you can get to it from there so I see where they would be confused). In any case, I recommend checking it out.
But for God’s sake, not at night. Please, never be anywhere near the place after dark.
IT WAS, in the safety of daylight, a tranquil place. The road wound gently through the woods, seemingly long forgotten, rising and falling softly while the embankment on the right side grew steeper and steeper. Then, on the left side, rose the Hill.
A chainlink fence blocked out the woods and most of the road. There were two gates, both with arches over them. The driveway started with one gate, curved back, and ended at the other. A mausoleum and a quaint gazebo rose from the grassy ground at the curve of the small road.
The bodies of the nearby town’s rich were interred here, and therefore the monuments were large and expensive. Older graves were contained in the back, especially in the back left corner. Forestry surrounded the cemetery on all sides but the road, making the whole scene rather blocked in, especially at the graves that lined the fence, which were covered with bold branches that breached the manmade barrier. The trees rose magnificently above the rows of granite stones and concrete walkways that permeated the Hill.
Yet over the whole grounds, there was not a single flower, no mementos left by the deceaseds’ families, no flags on the graves of veterans. The grass wasn’t high, but it didn’t have the look of grass that is cut on a regular basis. It was as if the grass had stopped growing altogether, and if not for the lustrous verdant color, appeared long dead like the people it covered. Here and there were pockets of long-decaying leaves strewn about as if blown unchecked by wind. Over the Hill lay an aura of desolateness, destitution, and despair.
For no one had been to Read Hill for several years.
The blue Volkswagen van rolled down the road rather precariously, barely making the haphazard turns of the winding asphalt. Loud rap music blared through the open windows into the quiet countryside.
The occupants were, of course, teenagers. The skillful driver was a boy by the name of Jeff Glasgow, a goofy rich kid from nearby New Boston. He and his friends often flew down the county’s back roads at such deadly speeds, especially since the community pool in town closed for the fall.
Jeff’s twin sister Kate was one of the kids who often went with him on these excursions. She was the only girl in the family, cousins included, and was a beauty of exceptional caliber. Many a breathless adolescent had followed close behind her, beckoning to her every wish in a frantic attempt to make her his.
So far, the only one that had succeeded was Brady Vaughn, a vicious hulk full of brute strength and little else. He guarded Kate with a ferocious jealousy that frightened away even the most ignorant of potential rivals.
Jonathan Irving didn’t exactly radiate intelligence, but he was rather smart. The boy was a strange sight to behold--long appendages, narrow shoulders, massive feet. Yet somehow there was a charm about him, some debonair attribute, that made most girls melt right into his elongated arms.
Brady hated Johnny with a flaming passion for that very reason. His faith in Kate was almost nonexistent, and even a stony moron such as himself could tell that all of Johnny’s charms were turned up to full power and focused right at her.
Johnny wasn’t a bad person, and didn’t usually go after girls that were already taken by another guy. But he never quite thought of Brady as another human being. To him, Brady was more akin to a glorified ape. Johnny was sensible enough, however, to know that he could never compete with him in any physical contest, much less an actual brawl, but that didn’t stop him from competing with him for the affections of pretty little Kate.
The only reason Brady tolerated Johnny’s presence that day was at Jeff’s and Kate’s insistence. So as the van sped down the old road, Johnny sat next to Kate, amusing her with jokes and conversation, whilst Brady kept guard over his prized treasure less than a foot away.
Then, like the shrill cries of a whippoorwill in the dead of night, the Hill rose beside them. Jeff was struck by its sudden appearance and the strange déjà vu that accompanied it.
Something in his heart quietly told him to turn left, to the driveway. So without telling his companions, like he normally did when he turned to go somewhere else, he pulled the van into the driveway.
Jeff instinctively turned down the radio. Brady complained loudly Yet soon even he fell quiet. Johnny and Kate pressed their faces against the window, side by side, like small children. A strange hush, not present even without their music, had befallen the countryside. Even the birds and crickets were silent. Normally such a quiet would be a Godsend on such a beautiful autumn day, but in this place it was ghastly, deathly, almost profane.
And yet the cemetery, in a manner very much like Jonathan, possessed some strange allure that filled the kids with a outlandish longing to get out of the van, and this terrible silence only fed that desire.
Jeff parked the van beside the gazebo, and then gave into temptation. The three in the back soon followed suit.
As soon as he set foot on the ground, Johnny felt the need to roam. Kate was apprehensive, but with a few sweet words she walked away with him. Brady leaned sulkingly against the van with his arms crossed over his chest, glaring at Johnny, never letting his eyes stray from his back. Jeff, in the meanwhile, examined the graves nearest the van.
Several minutes passed, and nothing happened. Johnny, her hand in his, turned to visit the graves in the back left corner.
Kate’s throat tightened. Her heart thudded wildly. Something inside her screamed !!!not right go back leave GET OUT!!!
Johnny looked back, confused.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“We shouldn’t go there.”
Johnny raised his eyebrow. “Why not?”
“I just…I…I don’t know! We just shouldn’t!”
“But, Kate, you’re being ridiculous! Why shouldn’t we go back there?”
“It just doesn’t feel right, Johnny!”
The ensuing argument ended with Kate going back to the van and
Johnny venturing into that corner. The graves here were old, older than some of the oldest he’d ever seen. There was something disturbing, however, that he had failed to register before.
Some of the graves in this corner had stakes driven in the ground, right
where the heart of the corpse would be located.
One in particular that caught his attention was an Joseph Von Frank, who, according to the worn stone, was born in 1839 and died in 1854. The stake here was a large cross carved from a cedar branch. Right beside Joseph’s grave was the resting place of one Drusilla Martin, who died the same year and was about the same age. Her grave also was defiled by a stake.
Several rotting plant bulbs littered the ground here, filling the air with a stench of decay and garlic.
He reached down. His mind screamed its resistance, but to no avail. He felt as if he was meant to do this. He knew it was wrong, yet somehow it seemed so perfectly right and, above all, rational.
He took out the cedar stake and tossed it into the trees.
Something in the bushes right beside him rustled. Johnny jumped up, swearing loudly, before he realized it was only a squirrel.
Brady chuckled warmly to himself. It pleased him to see the scarecrow frightened.
Blushing furiously at his blunder, Johnny stuffed his hands in his jean pockets and stomped away.
Jeff noticed the gazebo. The sun, for some strange reason, began to burn his neck. The shade under the wooden structure seemed too enticing, too
beautifully wonderful to turn down.
He stepped onto the first step.
Johnny stopped. The voice again called, as if carried by the wind.
He looked around. Kate was at a grave down the Hill. Brady was with her. Jeff was stepping into the gazebo. No one was looking at him, or talking really for that matter. Brady was saying something, but it wasn’t a male’s voice Johnny heard.
It was a woman’s.
Jeff looked around the gazebo, wiping his brow in relief. The benches and floors were in pristine condition, bizarre since even he could tell the graveyard was abandoned. He walked across the wooden planks to the back left corner.
Johnny turned. The mausoleum rose behind him. All other sounds seemed to fade away from his ears. All he heard was that pleading, almost lustful voice calling his name in a faint, alluring whisper.
He realized, with a mixture of horror and perverse delight, from where the voice originated. Yet he did not hear, at that exact same moment, Jeff’s terrified screams, nor did he see the slash marks that appeared on his face instantaneously. As Johnny stared deviantly into the pores of the bricks, some unseen force clawed through Jeff’s shirt. Bright red blood gushed out of his chest and onto the wooden floorboards under his feet.
Kate screamed. An expression of complete horror contorted Brady’s face into a sick grimace.
To Johnny, the whole world was silent and invisible, save for that voice and the crypt. Softly his hand caressed the side of the small brick edifice. As if to tempt fate, he knocked three times on the wall.
The rampant attack of the phantasmal assailant had stopped. Jeff’s open eyes gazed blankly out at the far corner where Johnny had studied the graves. Brady and Kate, who was sobbing vehemently, carried him carefully to the van.
Kate knelt down in the back beside her brother, trying to stop the bleeding with Brady’s shirt. Brady, meanwhile, closed the back door and climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Where’s Johnny?” Kate asked breathlessly in between cries.
Brady glanced into the rear-view mirror. Upon seeing him oblivious to what was happening, Brady stumbled into a terrific moment of malicious jocularity, one of those sudden instances of intelligent reasoning that the Good Lord gives on occasion to hunks of mindless muscles like Brady.
“He’s up here with me.” he replied, and with that he turned the key in the ignition and drove away.
It was several minutes before Johnny came out of his trance, and he realized just how terribly alone he was. The silence was back again, only this time he noticed its horrible totality.
“They’ll be back.” he said to no one in particular. “Once they realize I’m not with them, they’ll be back to get me.”
Johnny smiled, but his eyes didn’t match that same cheerfulness. Deep inside he felt cold fear beating against him, trying to break him. The air seemed to grow colder by at least ten degrees. Clouds settled over the sun, shrouding the Hill in a faint shadow that was chilling nonetheless.
Johnny began to whistle as he wandered the graves, examining names and dates while he waited for his friends to realize their blunder. Here and there he found a name he recognized. As he moved slowly down the hill, the sun began to sink into the western horizon, stealthily covering the graveyard with the long shadows of trees and gravestones.
Dusk came and still the van hadn’t come back. Johnny’s apprehension had grown to subtle panic. He’d started to sweat despite the chill.
“Where are they?” he asked desperately. He paced around the gazebo at a rather brisk pace.
Then, just as the sun sank down beneath the rim of the sky, Johnny heard three soft knocks.
He looked up, face flushed sheet-white with absolute and total terror. His hair stood up as if trying to escape him. He barely noticed the far-off clanking of metal.
The knocking resounded from inside the mausoleum.
Johnny lit off down the drive like a gazelle. The shadows of the darkened cemetery seemed to encircle him viciously, like a pack of lions going for the kill. The wind kicked up. The black trees swayed as if in threatening laughter.
Johnny stopped. The gates were locked.
His breath came in short gasps that didn’t allow a scream. His knees buckled. The force from the fall released enough air to allow him a low moan, almost like a sigh of satisfaction from the sound of it.
“This isn’t real, this isn’t real…” he repeated over and over in short bursts of air.
Yet the pain in his back told him otherwise. Fog drifted in from the darkest corners of the cemetery, wrapping around him as he lay trying to catch his breath. The air turned frigid under the icy fingers of the mist, and as they caressed his skin, he beheld footfalls coming down the driveway.
He mustered the resolve to turn his face up the Hill. A young man, roughly his age, strolled leisurely down to where he was. Despite his hysterical state, he was struck by the boy’s appearance, especially his dark eyes. He wore an old white shirt dilapidated to the point it was tattered rags, a similarly-aged black dress coat, holey black pants and ancient leather shoes. His skin was rather pale in the pallid light of the moon. His lips, however, were a deep red. Despite the bizarre countenance of this lad, even Johnny had to admit that youthful sensuality surrounded him like an aura; had Kate seen him, she would have rejected both Johnny AND Brady in favor of this new appearance, never thinking twice.
The boy smiled. “Hey. You okay?”
Johnny scrambled to his feet. “Who are you?”
The boy laughed merrily. Johnny couldn’t help but stare into his eyes.
“Well, aren’t you a strange one. You come here, to our place, demanding answers.”
“‘Our’? Who else is here?”
The boy chuckled again. “There’s a whole gaggle of us here.”
Johnny shook his head. People who hang out in cemeteries? he thought. I’m dreaming. I really am. I mean, I must be.
“How long have you been here?”
“We’ve always been here, you crazy nut.”
The boy sighed cheerfully. He stared deep into Johnny’s eyes. In an instant most of Johnny’s apprehension vanished.
“What’s your name?”
Before he could stop himself, he replied, “Johnny Irving.”
The boy nodded. “Okay. Can you help me with something?”
They turned and ventured up the Hill. The boy made a bit of friendly conversation on the way, which further whittled away Johnny’s fear.
“You never told me your name.”
The boy frowned. “I didn’t?” He thought for a moment, then smiled again. “Sorry. Joey Von Frank.”
He offered his hand, which Johnny took gladly.
“Now, if we just…”
Joey’s words stopped as he gazed into the back left corner of the gazebo. The smile faded from his face. The wind speed increased steadily, causing a tempest of leaves to rain down upon the graveyard.
But then it abated. It didn’t just taper off, the wind stopped altogether. Joey smiled once more.
He led Johnny back to the far left corner.
“You see that stake there?”
Johnny nodded. Joey stood in front of him, staring him straight in the eyes again and adjusting his collar.
“Go take it out and throw it in the bushes. Please?”
Johnny shrugged. Somehow it seemed perfectly reasonable.
He stepped across the graves, but when his foot stepped onto the one beside Drusilla’s, he fell almost six feet straight down. His toes grazed the wooden top of a rotting, empty coffin.
Joey’s arm shot out and pulled him back to the surface.
“Careful!” Joey chuckled. “Don’t wanna break a leg!”
Johnny laughed drowsily, almost as if he was intoxicated. In some way, he probably was.
With no further ado, he reached and removed the stake. Joey’s smile seemed to stretch from one ear to the other.
Once Johnny tossed the stake into the brush, an odd chuckle escaped his throat.
“Thanks, Johnny. You’re a good man.”
Johnny stood up. A strange rustling sound, like shovelfuls of soil were being dumped on the ground.
A hand softly rubbed against his ankle. Johnny spun around frantically.
“Can you help me?” asked a female voice quietly. Johnny, his senses near gone as it was, reached down into the newly-excavated grave and pulled.
A girl emerged, his age like Joey. Her beauty overwhelmed him. She wore an old black dress, similar to the ones worn in the days when New Boston was a small trade store on the frontier. Her hair was likewise dark, flowing, shimmering in the moonlight. Her eyes were pale blue, an icy color that made Johnny shiver with wonderful expectation. Her skin was pale, but her lips likewise were full, luscious, red.
“Thank you so much.” she said gently. “What’s your name?”
“Johnny. Uh-I mean, Jonathan. Irving.”
The girl smiled. Her teeth gleamed like perfect pearls. “I’m Drew Martin.”
Johnny smiled this time. But it was short lived. Joey stepped between them, his eyes bright and dancing. Johnny’s heart burned with intense possessiveness. His smile faded away.
“Silla…” he sighed lovingly. “Good to see you again…”
“Not now.” Drew whispered. She glanced at Johnny. “Later.”
Joey nodded hungrily and turned back to face the unwilling spectator.
Something in Johnny’s head started telling him to leave.
Drew walked up to him.
“Don’t be afraid, Johnny.” she cooed softly. Her hands slid up his chest to his neck. Her fingers wrapped themselves around the back of his head. The two of them locked eyes. Johnny started to pant. Drew leaned forward. He felt her sweet breath on his neck.
Yet her breath was as cold as her eyes. Her fingers were like frozen meat from a freezer.
Johnny stepped back, almost tripping once again into the open grave. He glanced once more at the gravestone.
“No.” Joey demanded. His smile vanished, leaving a look of almost frightened sternness. “No! Johnny, don’t!”
Joseph Von Frank, the stone read. Died 1854. It all came back to him now.
“Get away from me!” Johnny screamed.
He turned and ran faster than he’d ever known he could run. A savage roar rose from Joey’s throat. His eyes flashed blood red. When he spoke again, the two canine teeth on the top row of his mouth were growing.
Drew took to the air, flying up and over the graves, gaining on Johnny with no problem.
Johnny tripped on the first step of the gazebo. Drew shrieked in frustration and landed nearby.
A horrid face, covered in bloody boils and horns, emerged from the darkness below the bench on the back left corner.
“Leaving so soon?” it asked in a clotted voice. Johnny screamed again, but then he realized what it was. This horrible thing was what placed the stakes. The two cursed children’s keeper, their caretaker, their prison warden.
“Come back, Johnny.” Joey called. He jogged to the mausoleum, where Drew met him. “Everything’s alright.”
“You’re lying!” Johnny squealed.
“You have to get out of here.” the demon face said.
“Stay out of this!” Drew snarled.
“Leave through the gate on the right side. If it doesn’t open, climb the trees beside the fence and jump. Once you cross the ditch and step onto the road, you’ll be safe.”
“You can’t protect him, Big Man!”
The demon face laughed. “And who said I was going to?”
Joey glared into the gazebo. “You wanna take me, Big Man? You think you can?”
The demon face rose. “I beat you once, you little brat, and I can do it again!”
“Last time, THIS wasn’t here!”
Joey punched the side of the mausoleum. Shadows poured out of the resulting cavity, some shooting into the sky, others fleeing into the countryside.
Johnny jumped up and ran for the gate. Glowing red eyes surrounded him, getting threateningly close. A giant snake rose from one of the graves in front
of him. As he tried to stop, he fell. Demonic dogs bounded across the graves to the spot where Johnny was desperately trying to get up.
A glowing figure on a horse galloped down the driveway. The snake let out a horrid shriek and slid back down into the ground as the horseman neared it.
The phantom horse neighed loudly and turned. The rider was a cowboy in his late teens. He glanced back at Johnny urgently.
“Run!” he called, and was gone. Johnny climbed to his feet and ran again.
Drew cackled wildly and rose into the air again. She stretched out her cold hands to grab him. Johnny pushed himself as hard as he possibly could, but it was futile. She was still drawing frightfully close.
Just as her fingers scuffed his neck, the glowing image of an Indian man descended from a tree and attacked her.
Johnny didn’t turn. He was almost to the gate now.
Just a little farther…I can make it…almost there…
Just as the gates were opening, a tall, dark figure with glowing red eyes appeared in the way. Those eyes, so full of insane rage and hatred, stopped Johnny cold.
So he turned in a feverish attempt to climb out on the trees. Big Man let out one despairing roar, and Joey was hurtling through the air, headed straight for the front left corner of the cemetery.
Johnny leapt from the branch just above the fence. That moment before his feet touched the ground seemed eternal. As his heart surged with terrific joy and relief, his shirt collar jerked back, and he started choking as the upward force of his shirt forced his throat closed.
The next morning, one of his shoes was found in the ditch beside the road on the side of Read Hill. On the top of the fence was a piece of decaying black cloth. Yet there was no sign of the missing boy. Nor was anything out of place, save for two stakes, in the cemetery. Though no one noticed the pile of gray stones beside the barbed wire fence in the back left corner.
Kate waited, hoping that he would return. Every day she blamed herself for Johnny’s absence. But when weeks turned into months, and her heart about to fall to pieces, she decided to go back to the last place she saw him, if not for anything but closure.
She went alone, of course. No one needed to know she was there. They’d tell her, naturally, not to go, to move on. Yet she couldn’t. Not until she found some shred of evidence to put her mind and heart at ease.
She searched for hours, and found nothing. Despair closed in around her. As the last bit of the day’s light died, she began to cry.
A hand caressed her face. Kate jolted to her feet.
Johnny smiled at her, his face pale, his lips deep red.
“Johnny…” Kate gasped. “You’re here…”
Johnny nodded. “Yep. Here and perfectly fine. Well…maybe not perfectly, but…”
“Where’ve you been?”
“Here, of course. We’ve always been here, goofball.”
“Who? Johnny, you’re not making sense! Come home, Johnny! We’re all so worried…”
Johnny waved her off. “Later. First…”
He glanced into the shadows of the back left corner of the cemetery, to the two faces watching him.
“…I’d like to introduce you to somebody.”