Late at night in a graveyard
On Halloween night when lightning pressed its face against the dark horizon and thunder pounded at heaven's door, One-Eyed Billy snuck into the graveyard at 1300 Azule Street. He carried a large plastic bag, a shovel, and a small lantern that cast a buttery light upon the rows of white tombstones sticking out like teeth and bones from the carcass of the earth. He was here to bury his money, the ill-gotten gain he had stolen from the Somerville Bank. Somewhere in this dead field of decay and worm food, he was going to stash a small fortune.
After searching through the tombstones, he came upon a recently dug grave. His thought was that it would be easier to dig up an existing plot rather than to excavate a new one, and that's where all the trouble started. In order to remember where the money was, he read the gravestone:
Here Lies Snokum Joe
Murderer & Spawn of the Devil
May God Have Mercy On His Soul
He set the lantern down and started to dig. After awhile a trickle of cold sweat broke from his hairline and slipped down his forehead into the corner of one eye. He blinked away the salty fluid and kept digging. His mouth was dry and sour and he tried to work up some saliva, but there was none. When the shovel hit something hard, he stopped.
A mallet of wind struck him in the face like a foretelling of some unforeseen event. The loose pile of earth lifted with the breeze making it scurry across the belly of the mound like a group of small beetles.
When he pulled the coffin out of the hole, he scraped away the loose dirt with his hands and cleared the top of the pine box. Then using the shovel, he pried the lid loose and pushed it aside. Inside he found the fresh body of a deformed man looking up at nothing with dead, milk-stone eyes.
Billy thought that was pretty creepy, but it was the hands.
The creature didn't have hands, really. They were more like claws, and they were huge, out of proportion to the rest of the body which was thin, and talcum-white, with streaming hair the color and texture of spider webs. The stench was unbearable too, and there was a viscous, foul-smelling glob of yellowish spittle oozing at the corners of its mouth.
"So you're Snokum Joe, huh?" Billy asked as he pushed his bag of money into the coffin. "Would you mind keeping an eye on this for me?"
It was then that Joe's nostrils flared and quivered back and forth like those of a wolf or dog. It growled at him.
One-Eyed Billy's heart jackhammered.
The thing screeched, its twisted mouth opening wide. A snaky, leathery tongue curled and uncurled obscenely.
It grabbed Billy with its clawed hand and drew him relentlessly down toward the coffin, and at the same time, it pulled itself up.
Billy's face was only inches from the creature's repugnant smell. Even as its rank breath washed over him, it spat a yellowish glob of goo into his opened mouth.
Billy gasped and jerked.
He wanted to vomit, but then something brushed his belly.
He heard fabric rip as his jacket was shredded.
The thing was using its other clawed hand. It was trying to rip his stomach open. Billy could feel it digging its way toward his flesh. He felt dizzy, his vision blurred, and his ears were filled with the roaring suction of his own breath.
The thing grinned as if it sensed triumph.
I'm losing herre, Billy thought desperately. My God, it's going to kill me.
Thunder pounded the sky, and lightning burst from the broken night. The creature was momentarily startled by the flash.
One-Eyed Billy used that moment to put one knee on the creature's chest, pinning it. He bore down on it with all his weight; its ribs and breastbone gave way beneath him. He heard something crack inside the thing. It wailed like a banshee. Billy knew, at last, that he had a chance to survive. There was a sickening crunch, a wet sound, horrible mashing, squashing, and then all the fight went out of Snokum Joe. The creature dropped its arms and abruptly fell silent, limp.
Billy was afraid to take his knee off its chest. He was certain that it was faking death. If he shifted his weight, if he gave it the slightest opening, the thing would move as fast as a snake, strike at his belly, and then disembowel him with its spikey claws.
Under him, yellowish goo still running from its nostrils and mouth, the thing stared up at him with glistening, bulging, moonstone eyes. But it couldn't see him. It was looking into another world, into Hell, to which he had dispatched its soul -- if it had a soul.
He released the thing.
It didn't return magically to life, as he had half expected it would. It didn't attack.
It looked like a huge, squashed bug.
He crawled away from the corpse, keeping one eye on it as he went, not entirely convinced that it was dead. He crept to the nearest tombstone and sat with his back against it, breathing heavily.
As his fear dwindled along with his slowing heartbeat, he became increasingly aware of his physical pain. He ached from every joint and muscle. His left thumb was bleeding where the nail had been ripped off; the exposed flesh stung as if it were being eaten away by acid. His scratched, scraped fingers burned, and the gouged palm of his right hand throbbed. Both of his forearms had been scored repeatedly by the thing's sharp claws. Each upper arm was marked by ugly, oozing punctures. Slowly he stood, aching.
Gathering his strength, he pushed the coffin back into the hole, not even bothering to put the lid back on. As if he were burying a nightmare, he threw the earth onto Joe's face and body until the hole was once again filled.
"Well, I'm obviously not leaving my money with you," he said to Joe's gravesite.
Then again picking up his bag, shovel, and lantern, he moved on to the next grave. This one read:
Butcher and Devil Worshipper
May God Have Mercy On His Soul
"This looks like as good a place as any," he said hopefully.
One-Eyed Billy set the lantern down and started to dig.