Thursday, May 25, 2006

Alone In The Grove - Part 3

When we last left our heroine:

Quite suddenly the sobbing stopped and the woman’s head slowly lifted, staring off into the darkness for a long moment before slowly and deliberately turning to look at Chris, catching the woman’s eyes with her own colorless, milky white orbs. “Chrisssss…”

“Oh I so did not hear that.” Chris said and shook her head. “Nope…” She shut her eyes tightly and let one hand slide into her bag, searching for her cell phone. It was just a figment of her imagination, it couldn’t hurt her, couldn’t even really see her. Just her overtired mind, reacting to the fact that she was sitting inside a cemetery. That was all, simple explanation really.


Her eyes snapped open and she let out a shrill scream. The woman’s face was hovering just inches in front of her own, looking at her, seeing inside of her and gazing through her all at the same time. Chris screamed again as the woman’s hand lifted towards her.

Abandoning her search for her phone and forgetting completely about the injured ankle, she scrambled to her feet and ran. Something in her ankle popped and the pain abruptly vanished. Just dislocated, just popped out of place. She could have fixed it herself, could have been out of there long before dark.

Away from her little fire it was black as pitch. Sprinting through the trees, she collided with them, feeling the bark tear at her skin. She didn’t dare turn and look behind her to see if the thing was following her.

The wind was knocked out of her when she ran, full speed, into a chain link fence. She grabbed it and shook it hard, as if it would fall down at her touch. “No! Let me out of here!” She squinted into the darkness along the fence off to her right, but she didn’t see an exit. Turning to her left, another scream tore itself free from her throat when she came face to face with the woman again. Her legs worked without her conscious command, carrying her away from the ghost as fast as possible, one hand running along the fence to guide the way.

The fence ended suddenly and she sprinted through the gap, letting out another scream. No ghost or apparition caused it this time, the ground sloped dramatically and she fell, tumbling head over heels, over and over until she slid to a stop at the base of the hill. Panting hard and aching all over, Chris shut her eyes and blissfully slipped into unconsciousness.

“Miss? Miss are you all right?”

Chris opened her eyes and shifted slightly. Bright sunlight was streaming through the trees and distantly she could hear the hum of traffic. A man was standing over her, a park ranger from the looks of his uniform.

She pushed herself up onto her elbows and looked around. Her clothes were shredded where the trees had torn through, but her arms had no bruises from the collisions in the darkness, no scrapes from the bark. Even her ankle seemed entirely healed. She rose to her feet and stared at the man for a moment. “How long was I asleep?” She asked after a moment.

He frowned slightly. “Well, it’s Friday.”

“One night…” She murmured, looking down at the torn fabric and the smooth skin peeking out. “My bike, my bag… it’s in the cemetery. I crashed and…”

“Wait, you were in the cemetery last night?” He asked in an alarmed voice. “Were you hurt, were you attacked?”

Chris looked at the man with a deep frown. “What do you mean?”

He sighed heavily. “Two nights ago the body of a young woman was found in the cemetery. She’d been abducted from her house and murdered. Last night police, answering a 911 call for help, found the killer there. Apparently he’d been hiding out in a dug out grave.”

“That was my call…” She whispered softly, covering her mouth. “I crashed my bike and called for help, but they said it would be hours until someone could come. If…” She shook her head hard, trying to rid herself of the ‘what-ifs’ that were buzzing around her head. “My bike and my stuff are still in there, can I go get them?”

He nodded. “Sure, the police are done with the investigation. Are you sure you’re ok? Do you need an ambulance?”

After assuring him that she was fine, they hiked back up the hill and into the cemetery. Police had roped off sections with yellow warning tape, to keep out the curious.

Chris walked over to where her bike was sitting and her stomach did several back flips. Where she’d been sitting was roped off. The ground in front of the headstone where she’d spent hours knitting and waiting was opened up like a door, a dark pit underneath. She’d been sitting over the killer without realizing it. If she hadn’t gotten scared, hadn’t run away…

“I’ll push your bike if you grab your bag.” The man said, making her jump slightly.

She nodded and gathered up her things, frowning as she picked up her knitting needles. She’d finished the socks the night before, but they were no where to be seen. Shoving everything back into the bag, she nodded to the man and followed him out.

At the gate she paused and turned to look back into the cemetery. It looked so pretty in the bright, dappled sunlight. As she watched a woman walked out from behind a tree, the same woman that had so terrified her. But it wasn’t the white, ghostly figure from the night before; instead she was a solid, flesh and blood person. No longer searching for the hiding place of her killer, she strolled between the headstones, smiling each time the sun hit her face.

Chris watched her for a long while, smiling softly. Their eyes met only briefly and she was certain she heard a soft “Thank you,” carried over on the wind.

“Thank you.” She whispered in return, watching as she turned and walked away, fading away into the bright sunlight. The last thing that faded from view was the woman’s legs, a pair of handknit socks sticking out above her shoes.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Alone In The Grove - Part 2

The cemetery was large and decrepit, only two of the headstones were still standing and several of the graves showed signs of being dug up. Beer bottles and cans littered the edges of the grove, rusted and ancient signs of parties long past. A condom had been pushed over a long, thin branch, a victory flag of a successful conquest. The elements had shrunken it until it fit over the branch like brittle, aged skin. Each time the wind blew it seemed to beckon to the viewer, inviting them further into the cemetery.

Chris stared at the mock-finger for a long moment before turning away, looking instead down at her swollen ankle. “Oh this is just… fan-fucking-tastic.” She said, unlacing her shoe and slowly easing her food out. “Ow, ow damn it.” She bit down hard on her lip before grabbing for her bag.

“911, what is your emergency?”

Letting out a sigh of relief, Chris thanked the cell phone gods for giving her service out there. “Hello, yes. My name is Chris, I was in an accident and I need… I don’t know, I guess I need someone to come get me.”

“Are you badly injured?”

She shook her head. “No, I was riding my bike and I think I broke my ankle.”

“Did you lose consciousness?”

“No, no I just fell off my bike.”

There was the sound of typing as the operator filled in the form. “Where are you located?”

Chris glanced around, taking in the crumbling headstones surrounding her. “I’m… I’m in a cemetery. I think that it’s called Bachelor’s Grove, at least that’s what my map-“

“Miss, Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery is off limits to visitors.” The woman’s voice had lost the trained calm and sounded angry.

“I didn’t know that. I’m not from around here and I was just biking through. I didn’t mean to end up here. I had no idea that it was off limits. It was an accident.”

“Ah yes, you accidentally broke through the fence and accidentally ended up in an off limits cemetery and accidentally-“

“Look! The fence was open, I didn’t know it was off limits and I don’t really think that it’s the important thing right now. I’m hurt and I need some help. OK?”

There was a long, icy silence before the woman spoke again. “Unfortunately all of our paramedics and fire squads are in a neighboring township dealing with a very serious fire. The majority of our police are there as well. As you are not seriously injured and didn’t lose consciousness, I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait until an ambulance returns.” She sounded rather pleased as she said this and Chris could almost imagine the smug little smile she had to be wearing. “It shouldn’t take longer than a few hours.”

“What? Are you serious? You expect me to sit in a cemetery, by myself, until five or six o’clock?”

She gave a little laugh. “Of course not.”

Chris let out a sigh. “Good, good.”

“I expect you to sit in a cemetery, by yourself, until nine or ten o’clock.”


“Thank you for calling 911. An officer will be with you at the earliest possible time.”

With a very solid click the operator hung up on her, leaving her sitting, dumbfounded, holding her silent cell phone to her ear. After a moment she laughed and dropped it back into her bag. “This is… this is just fabulous.” She said loudly. “Lets start filming the horror movie now, already got the injured blond alone in the spooky cemetery. Come on Freddie Kruger. Come on Jason, time for the slashing.”

An hour later she was leaning back against the headstone that she’d crashed into, a small fire burning off to her left. The sun was starting to set and there was no way she was going to sit in a dark cemetery alone. The dying light was already starting to cast strange shadows between the trees and stones. She pulled out her knitting and tried to ignore the throb in her ankle, working until the shadows were too thick, until the darkness was pushing in on her small fire, trying to extinguish it.

“Oh yeah… this is just… so much fun.” She said out loud, peering around herself in the darkness. Glancing down at her watch, she scowled. It was getting close to ten o’clock, she’d nearly finished all of her water and she was completely positive that if she ate one more energy bar she’d get sick from the taste.

Her eyes had just started to droop when a bright light danced across her lids. She opened her eyes and looked around, spotting the bobbing flashlight beam. “I’m over here!” She called, lifting a hand and staring to wave. Her hand froze, then seemed to wilt in the air as she watched the light dance around the cemetery. It wasn’t a flashlight beam, it was more like a floating orb of blue light. As she watched it seemed to spread and expand into the ghostly shape of a woman. “Oh my god…” She whispered softly.

The figure glided through the stones, not disturbing the high weeds as she passed through them. Dressed in a long, white gown with shoulder length hair, she moved from stone to stone, seeming to search for something.

Chris pressed a hand hard over her mouth to keep herself silent, staring at the woman. It wasn’t happening, not really. She wasn’t seeing what she was seeing, she was just dreaming is all. A mixture of pain from the broken ankle and exhaustion from how far she’d traveled. That was all, that was all.

The ghostly woman sat down on one of the stones and hung her head as if defeated. A few moments later she began to sob, the sound echoing in the silence, sending chills up Chris’ spine. “My baby… they’ve taken him… my poor lost dear…” She continued to sob, her arms curling up to cradle a child that wasn’t there for a few moments before dropping to rest on her legs.

“Not happening. Not happening.” Chris whispered softly to herself, pressing her back against the headstone as if she could pass through it and hide in safety on the other side.

Quite suddenly the sobbing stopped and the woman’s head slowly lifted, staring off into the darkness for a long moment before slowly and deliberately turning to look at Chris, catching the woman’s eyes with her own colorless, milky white orbs. “Chrisssss…”

Friday, May 19, 2006

Alone In The Grove - Part 1

It was turning out to be the perfect day. Chris stood still for a few moments, drinking in the lush, green landscape of the forest surrounding her. Her bike was straddled between her legs, legs that were tingling from the length she’d ridden already that day.

It had been a fleeting idea that had turned into something grand.

“Why not take a vacation and bike to Illinois for Stitches Midwest?” The comment had been left on her blog, mostly as a joke she was sure, but the idea had true merit. Chaos hadn’t agreed, but after receiving promises of copious amounts of tuna, kisses and SRMs upon her return, he had given her his permission to leave.

And so she had, three days prior. Everything had fallen into a wonderful rhythm; bike from first light until just before dusk, while away the nights knitting and enjoying the deep sleep that only comes from being thoroughly exhausted, wake the next morning to do it all over again. The weather had been perfect all the way, warm sun, mild temperatures, no rain and a cool breeze to refresh her whenever it tickled across her face.

She pulled out her map and considered it for a long moment, tracing the back road that she was on, the one that had led her deep into the picturesque wood. If she continued on it, it would lead her straight into Midlothian, where she could stop for the night. The ride would take her the remainder of the day, the road seemed to snake through the woods, as if it was a sightseeing trail more than a thoroughfare.

Once the map was tucked safely away she continued on, iPod playing in her ears, the dulcet tones of Hanson urging her on. “Mmmbop bawah do wop…” How she loved that song.*

A few miles down the road she slowed to a stop, pulling out her map once more. The road in front of her rather abruptly forked to the right and left. She wondered, for a moment, why she hadn’t seen the divide before, but the road to the right was there, large as day. Where the main road winded through the woods, the street to the right went straight through, passing through a place called Bachelor’s Grove before rejoining the main road and heading straight into Midlothian. She could cut hours off of her trip and actually have an afternoon to relax, let her legs rest up, before she reached Stitches.

Grinning, she took the right road and continued on her way, eager to get into town. There were a pair of socks she could finish knitting with the extra time and she was impatient to get started.

The road was obviously less traveled, with potholes and broken pavement, but she couldn’t imagine why. It seemed silly to take such a long road when a perfectly good shorter one was there.

But a mile or so down she realized why it was the road less traveled. A huge fence had been built, with gates blocking the road. Only the gates had been forced open, creating a space large enough for a grown person to walk through. She walked her bike up and hesitated for a long moment, looking from the gates to the road that had brought her there. She could go back, take the longer road and just hope that she reached her final destination in time to get a little rest. But she allure of being able to relax that night was impossible to ignore and, against her better judgment, she pushed her bike through the gate before continuing on. The gates were probably only there to keep hunters out.

She told herself that the forest only seemed darker because she technically wasn’t supposed to be there, that the feeling of eyes watching her was just paranoia, and perhaps a few curious possums or deer hidden out of her sight. Tugging her earbuds out, she frowned at the stillness, the silence that seemed so heavy around her. The road was overgrown at parts and the ride became rough, as if the road itself was trying to discourage her from continuing on.

Just as she’d made her choice to turn around, take the safe and smoother path, the road flattened, her bike tires humming audibly in the silence. Weeds grew so high on either side of the path that they were bowed over, hiding the ground from sight. She started to slow, but the ground sloped downward suddenly and her bike sped up. “Hey!” She yelled and clenched both of the brakes, but the bike still gained speed.

She saw it all in a strange, clichéd sort of slow motion. The weeds blocking her path parted around a large object speeding towards her. The front wheel hit it with such force that the bike flipped into the air, throwing her off. She didn’t even yell, the whole thing seemed far too unreal. That is, until the ground came rushing up so eagerly to meet her. She thought for a moment that she was going to land on her feet, and in a way she did. Her right foot hit the ground at an awkward angle and her ankle crumpled with a sudden flash of pain that radiated along her body as the rest of her landed, the force pushing all the air out of her chest.

For a few moments she laid there, struggling for breath, her mind reeling from shock and pain. Finally she pushed herself up with shaking hands, checking herself over for damage. Both hands were scuffed up, her cheek felt swollen, her knees were bloody and she was positive her ankle was sprained, if not broken completely. “Shit… shit!” She yelled angrily and turned to glare at the object that had caused the collision.

It was a tombstone. She was sitting in the middle of a cemetery.