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The night we first met, you asked me why I became a hunter.
When I was a kid, I had a normal childhood. My parents had never been strict on going to church, but they taught us to pray before bed and at meal time. I knew sins would send you to hell. To get into heaven you had to eat your vegetables, listen to your parents and believe in Jesus. Like many nine year olds, I didn’t really think deeper into it.
One night, my world was turned around. To explain that, I need to tell you the story;
Sitting in a graveyard in the middle of the night was never my idea of fun. This was my brother, Max’s plan. Idiot. Why did I ever listen to him? Like the fact he is older than me makes him smarter in any capacity. Sure. So there we were, sitting on a crypt at 11:55 PM. At least it was a nice night. There was a light breeze shaking the trees gently but not really touching us.
“Scared?” He asked me.
“No.” I lied.
We had heard stories about this place. There was a rumor that at midnight a ghost would push you off this crypt. The last kid who came here at night was so scared his family moved away. There was even talk that he went to a nut house.
We sat waiting. The graveyard was an old one that had been left forgotten for a few decades. When it was discovered again it was quickly land marked as a piece of history. Some of the headstones were more than two hundred years old.
“You’re shaking,” Max teased.
“I am not.” I lied again and tried to still myself. I looked him in the eyes defiantly.
“Do you want to go home, Jim?”
“No.” I did want to, but I knew my brother. Now that we were here, if I didn’t stick it out he would never, and I mean never, let me hear the end of it. And he would tell the kids at school that I ran out on a dare. I was nine years old and chickening on a dare was even scarier than a graveyard in the middle of the night.
He smirked and turned to face forward. He knew me too. “Okay then. Don’t go crying to mom that I made you come.” Not that I would tell mom, we would both get in trouble for sneaking out.
I looked at my watch. The faint light from the glow in the dark hands had almost worn off. 11:56 …would this waiting ever end?
Something cold and wet hit my cheek. I looked up at the sky and saw some of the clouds had turned dark and thick. Great. Now it was going to rain.
Max looked quickly around. “Did you hear that?”
“No.” I looked around and saw nothing. He was expressionless, sitting to my left and I was unsure if he was just trying to scare me more.
“I think it was over that way,” He said, nodding straight ahead in the direction of the gates of the cemetery. Large trees and darkness made it impossible to see the gates from where we sat. This crypt was deep in the cemetery where the only light was the pale light of the full moon shining through the clouds.
“I don’t see anything.” I was terrified but my voice did not shake. I was getting better at hiding my fear.
There was silence for a long moment.
11:58 … well, that killed two minutes.
Max sounded startled, “What was that?”
This time I heard something… a sound like something dragging in leaves…
“It was over there…” I said pointing toward the right of us. He grabbed my leg and I jumped. “Jerk!” I tried to be forceful but quiet.
“Sorry.” He said, and seemed to mean it. “I thought I saw something over there.”
We sat in silence for a moment watching for anything. The rain joined the wind on the trees. For a second I thought I smelled rotten meat but then it was gone.
12:01 … It had passed and nothing hap-
Suddenly I felt large strong hands shove forcefully on my back. I screamed as I fell the four feet to the ground. I felt my feet hitting the unkempt grass and started to run as I stumbled to the ground. I had made it several steps and was turning to see if my brother was okay before I realized I heard laughing.
Max sat laughing emphatically next to our cousin Chuck.
“Chuck you son of a-”
“You should have seen your face!” My brother laughed.
“And that scream!” Chuck continued. “I’m glad I ‘borrowed’ Lucy’s tape recorder!”
Lucy is Chuck’s older sister. He often “borrows” stuff he never gives back to her.
He backed up the tape and played it, laughing.
I stared at them both, wishing I could hurt them. Tears welled up in my eyes. They were both older than I was by several years. It made it impossible to do anything against either of them, let alone both. I opened my mouth to yell at them and only managed a croak as a tear fell down my cheek. I turned to walk away as the rain picked up.
“Wait, Jim…” Chuck called out. “Come on. Don’t be mad.”
Ever notice it is the people who make you mad who tell you not to be mad?
I ignored him and kept walking. Then I heard a bone chilling scream behind me.
Confused and startled, I turned to see them both falling off the crypt screaming. Chuck hit the ground shoulder first and somehow rolled. Max landed on his feet and stumbled to his hands and knees. The other thing I saw took me a few seconds to make sense of, like looking at road kill for a moment before you realize it’s a dead animal. After a moment I could see it was mist in the shape of a man standing on the crypt. The faceless head seemed to be looking me in the eyes. It felt like death was staring me down and I screamed.
At some point I realized I was yelling to the older boys to get up and run. They were suddenly by my side and somehow I knew they were following my gaze and saw what I was seeing…
We all ran.
We ran through the dark cemetery just trying not to fall. We stumbled into mossy headstones and dodged past trees. I felt something hook my hand and pulled it away without looking. The cemetery felt like it was trying to keep us in; slick rocks and grass made it hard to keep our footing and here and there it seemed tree roots lifted to trip us and bring us to the ground. We didn’t notice the cuts and bruises until much later.
When we made it to the gates, they were locked.
“What the- ” Chuck said, “When I came in…”
We had never seen them locked before. Even in the middle of the night small town cemetery gates are never locked.
We looked at the wrought iron gates and the fences around them; they were ten feet tall. The points at the top were menacing. The only footholds on the fences were the braces at the top and bottom and the spiraling flower like design on the outside, you know the kind that is supposed to be pretty but turns out macabre. To get a grip we would have to put our hands and feet through the bars. Even then it would be hard to get a hold, especially in the in the rain.
A moan started soft and grew closer and louder. As it grew, it sounded as though it was not just one voice but many.
Looking back, I thought I saw mist behind us.
“Max…” Chuck looked expectantly to Max, though Max was younger by two years, he always seemed to be the leader.
Max was looking at the gates. “We need to get out of here.” He looked at me. “Jim, can you climb the gate?”
I was fighting panic. “I’ll race you to the top,” I said as I climbed frantically up the gate. The older two were close to my sides. My shoes kept slipping off the slick metal. I looked back and saw the mist getting closer. My pounding heart grew so loud it was as though there were no other sound. My blood felt thick and heavy yet it seemed to push me forcefully upward.
The moan grew closer and louder still. It felt like the cemetery itself was groaning.
I felt the top of the gate before I knew how high I was. The misty figure was moving slowly but it was not far from the gate, twenty feet at most. I screamed and scrambled over the sharp points.
Max and Chuck turned to see the thing approaching and seemed to burst over the top of the gate.
In my rush to climb over I caught my pants on the tip of one of the bars and it stabbed through, trapping my left leg as I slipped down. I panicked. I couldn’t pick myself up to get my pants unhooked and I couldn’t get down.
The “ghost” was getting closer. It was maybe ten feet from the gate and looking up at me. I heard the moan again. It came from deeper in the cemetery. That is when we saw them. They seemed somehow darker than everything else in the cemetery, yet I could see them clearly. They looked like rotting bodies, glistening wet in the moonlight, shambling toward the gates. They were all making a straight line toward us. I froze as I realized what I was seeing.
“Chuck, help me pull Jim off.” Max said calmly as he reached up to my foot.
Chuck did not move.
“Chuck!” Max said sharply. Chuck started then looked at Max.
They both grabbed my legs and pulled hard, ripping my pants off the bar. Water sprayed as we mostly slid and fell the remaining distance to the wet dirt below. The mist figure reached the gate as our feet and backsides hit the damp ground.
It reached through the bars toward me. I scrambled backward, but I was too slow and it grabbed my right foot. A shock of pain and fear ran through my body as the frigid hand dug in. I tried to kick it with my free foot but my foot passed through it like thick fog.
Chuck was already up and grabbing my shoulders to pull me away. I felt the cold grasp drag off as though claws were trying to reach bone.
The mist figure was reaching for me. It looked like it was trying to force its way through the gate. Its “body” seemed to pass through the bars like fog through a fence but only half way. It struggled; straining back and forth. The gate creaked, but it did not get through.
As I scrambled to my feet the “zombies” were reaching the gates. They pressed against the gate trying to force their way through. The lock clattered but held.
We ran home, never looking back.
In the morning, I noticed red scratches trailing down my ankle where the ghost grabbed me, the thin angry lines turned to welts and, to this day, appear and ache when the weather is about to turn cold or wet.
After school, we went back to the cemetery to look for the tape recorder, which Chuck had dropped when he fell off the crypt, and my watch which I vaguely remembered my wrist snagging on something while I ran. We didn’t find either. Nor did we find any other trace of our “adventure”. The gates were open, and the only foot prints were ours.
Talking about it, we could not agree on what the ghost looked like. What appeared as a misty figure to me looked like a glowing green outline to Chuck, and Max just said it was the ghost of a man.
At the time I was confused. I now understand that the differences in what we saw were simply a matter of perception. Two people can look at the same thing and see it in a completely different way. You’ll know what I mean if you just keep your eyes peeled.
Chuck is ever the joker and Max is still an idiot but they never push the practical jokes too far anymore. Not with me anyway. I guess having rotting corpses and a ghost chase you builds character.
Since that night we have been able to see them. I think strong emotion opens us to their existence and once we have seen them and believe they are real, we start to see them other places too.
It wasn’t until a few years later, when a friend went thrill seeking in a haunted house, Max, Chuck and I decided to start seeking out the paranormal again; but that is another story. This was what really started it all for me; we found out ghosts are real and that opened the door for so much possibility.
If you ever need our help you know how to reach me.
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