I live in a darling little town situated in the darling little countryside. And this darling little community has a darling little cemetery, just on the west edge of town.
Do I spend a lot of time in the cemetery? I can’t say I do, but I don’t avoid them like some people. Some people are overcome by the scent of death, but if you live in a small town you grow used to it. In a place where everyone knows everyone else, you end up attending a lot of funerals and visiting a lot of graves. And it’s really not so bad.
The other day I was doing my civic duty by remembering the dead. I was wandering through the crumbling rows of the older headstones, looking for my great-grandmother’s final resting place, when my foot was ensnared by the rotting hand of the undead and I went sprawling on my face, my head just inches from connecting with a little angel girl.
I scrambled to my feet in a panic, only to discover that I was not being pursued by zombies, but had tripped in a small round hole. The angel girl I had almost head-butted was a statue adorning a small headstone – probably a child’s. My heartbeat slowed to a more normal rate as I crept forward to investigate the mischievous hole.
It was almost a perfect circle and bigger than I’d first thought — just a bit bigger than a softball. It tunneled down at an angle and I couldn’t see its end, giving me the strangely suicidal urge to stick my hand in the hole and see where it led. I shook off that insane thought and stepped away for good measure. The hole was smack dab in the middle of Mr. George Harrison’s grave.
I put it out of my mind as I continued on my journey to the older section of the cemetery. But it managed to pop right back in as I halted in front of another grave just a few stones down. That same hole had appeared here as well. Strange…maybe the cemetery had some rodent infestation? I made a mental list of animals that like to burrow.
Suddenly, I became very aware of all the sounds of the cemetery. The rustling of the trees as the wind caressed the leaves, the swishing of the grass being dragged along in the breeze…and for the first time in a long time, I began to feel really, really creeped out.
I resolved to come back and find the grave later. I turned pale and walked just a little too brusquely back to my car. As I slammed my door shut behind me, my imagination took hold of me and I almost thought the rustling had gotten a little louder.
I was sitting at home later that day when my best friend walked through the front door. She has this habit of showing up whenever she pleases, but it’s never bothered me or my family. She’s practically my sister at this point.
She settled herself down and we started planning what we would do for the night – it was already five o’clock in the afternoon and it wouldn’t be long before the daylight started bleeding out of the sky.
We hadn’t come to any definite conclusions when the holes came back to mind. As soon as the first few words flew out of my mouth, my best friend (Liz is her name) had latched on to the idea like a leech.
“Violet, you do realize that’s what we’re doing tonight, right?”
Of course, it was only natural that we’d investigate. The creepy feeling that had pursued me in the cemetery had long since worn off. Besides, I’m not the superstitious type. We both love urban legends and horror, but are more practical than most other teenage girls. How could we resist this horror fodder? Groundhog or not, we were donning our detective personas.
Ten minutes later, we were heading out to the cemetery, armed with a pair of flashlights, our phones, and a bat, just for good measure.
I fully expected it to take us a while to find the holes (after all, my initial investigation had uncovered just two). However, we were about eight rows in when we found the first one.
We continued to walk around the cemetery, noting just how many there were. It seemed like a hole appeared every 10 graves or so. We took as many pictures as we could with the fading light. Our laughter was bouncing off the stones with abandon.
Our next step was to investigate the holes themselves. Liz wanted to go first, and I’m not dumb enough to stick my face in an animal’s nest, so I let her take the lead and peer inside. As she shined her light into the tiny abyss, I heard a low growl rumbling behind us.
We both froze. My mind went immediately to all the predators that prowl around southwestern Minnesota. Liz’s eyes went round and, if they could have spoken for themselves, would undoubtedly have some colorful expletives to spew. Suddenly, this whole venture seemed like a terrible mistake.
Liz straightened up slowly and then we both turned and looked behind us, hoping against hope that it was nothing more than an ankle-biter dog that had gotten out of its house.
It was crouched next to a tall, gray stone, with a sloping back and knobby legs. Its skin was leathery and grey, hanging off its bones like rags. It had a long snout, bared to show several rows of jagged teeth bursting through black gums. It had cat eyes, little more than yellow slits peering down its snout. It was no bigger than a small dog or a large cat, but it had long claws that tapered off into sharp little daggers.
Unfortunately for us, the growling was purring low in its throat.
“Oh, FUCK!” Liz broke the silence and we both stumbled to a run, desperate to get back to the car. Liz had apparently forgotten all about the bat in her hand as we swerved to avoid the mess of headstones in our path. We had gone no further than two rows before we saw more yellow eyes peering out at us through the darkness. The growling intensified. They shuffled out of the shadows.
They were closing in on us.
“Liz! The bat!”
One of the creatures lunged at Liz and she swung hard. Liz was an absolutely excellent softball player and the creature flew into a tombstone, splattering its dark-blue blood all over the gray stone. Liz kept swinging, warding off as many of the creatures as she could. I stuck close by her, cautious of the creature eyeing me to my left.
For just a moment, I thought we would get away…until one of the creatures got its jaws around the bat. It snapped it in half as though it were a toothpick, those sharp teeth gleaming like tiny saws in the darkness.
There was nowhere to run. We were surrounded by those deadly teeth and claws. I was beginning to hyperventilate as Liz continued to swear.
We watched as the creature in front of us exploded in the devil’s imitation of a firework. The other creatures all whipped around. The cemetery caretaker, George Fick, looked out at us over the top of his old rifle. The creatures began to hiss and stalk towards George, albeit a little more cautiously than before. Another creature burst into blood and the rest of them scattered. Liz and I watched as they crawled back down those holes, burrowing themselves into the graves.
We both just stood there, saying absolutely nothing. George was silent for a moment before telling us:
“You best be getting out of here. And remember: You didn’t see anything.”
That night, Liz and I sat in my room, the door locked and barricaded with my old dresser. As we shivered in the harsh lamplight, trying to keep our minds off of that night’s events, my mind drifted away from me. I couldn’t forget those teeth, that hissing, those eyes….
And I wished for about the 50th time that I had never seen anything.