October 24, 2011

Halloween Short #2 - A Ghost Story

Jessica didn’t believe in ghosts. 

That’s why the cemetery across the street from her home never bothered her like it did her friends.  The old, gray stones and worn brick wall added an ambiance of serenity, not fear.  Jessica long enjoyed her quiet walks through the oaks, past the old graves and new.  She would avoid the wakes and memorial celebrations, opting instead to visit at dusk when most were too superstitious to venture past the gate.

Jessica’s cat loved the cemetery just as much as she did.  Not wanting to act like a typical feline, Buggs would allow her to take him for walks on a leash like a trained puppy.  Sure people stared, but Jessica didn’t care.  She and Buggs would ignore them and continue on their way along the street and through the gate into the peaceful cemetery.  It was a regular routine for them.  A break from everything.

One evening just before sunset, Jessica fastened the leash to Buggs and they headed out to the cemetery.  It was almost Halloween and the cool, crisp autumn air whipped the barren tree branches around like skeletal arms.  This was Jessica’s favorite time of year.  The leaves were dead and gone, painting the ground in a canvas of colors.  Orange pumpkins and cartoon decorations adorned homes and businesses.  It was the month where everyone could pretend to be something else.  It was also the time when not many people risked nighttime walks in the cemetery.

The oldest graves were on the far side of the property.  Large oaks interspersed with crumbling tombstones were the only remnants of a time long passed.  No one left flowers or wreaths on these graves, and Jessica suspected that was due to the lack of living relatives instead of human insolence.  The two of them began their walk in this part of the cemetery.  The setting sun cast beams of light through the desolate oaks creating eerie shadows that seemed to ebb and flow around the headstones.  They were alone, and Jessica reveled in the peace. 

Looping around the graveyard, Buggs and Jessica came to the center where a veteran’s memorial had been erected after the First World War.  The tall structure was nearly twenty feet high and consisted of a rectangular stone base with a statue of a solder carrying a flag adorning the top.  The names of local fallen heroes decorated the plaques and a red, white, and blue wreath had been placed at the foot of the memorial.  Benches lined the circular pathway, creating a place where the mourners could reflect.

Jessica hadn’t taken the time to appreciate this monument before, so she tried to step closer to read the dedications.  The slight tug on the leash grabbed her attention and she looked down at her cat.  Buggs was staring intently at the closest bench and he would not move when she gently pulled on his leash again.  A small growl erupted from deep in his chest and she watched as his ears flattened and his back hunched up in a defensive posture.

At first, Jessica thought that someone else had entered the cemetery and maybe they had a dog.  But upon glancing in every direction, she quickly realized that it was just her and Buggs.  She couldn’t stop the chills from forming along her neck or the hair on her arms from rising.  Buggs was a friendly, careless cat who didn’t react this way to anything.  As his rumbling growl turned into a screeching howl, Jessica looked back and forth between the bench and the memorial.  Was Buggs seeing something she couldn’t?

As soon as that thought left her mind, Buggs hissed and spat and leapt up so high in the air, the leash stopped his ascent.  He screamed, flared his claws, and twisted his body like only cats can do.  When he landed back on the ground with another hiss, Jessica noticed that he had slipped out of his leash and she had a brief moment of panic that he would escape.  Buggs did run away, but he headed in the most direct path back towards their apartment.  She watched him leap over the stone wall and leave the cemetery before she even had a chance to react.

Something had scared Buggs, and it was something that she couldn’t see.  Suddenly, she realized how alone she was.  It was just her now, standing between the bench and the memorial and quite possibly some type of ghost that had just terrified her cat.  But ghosts weren’t real, were they?

Jessica wasn’t so sure anymore.

She wrapped her arms across her chest and shivered.  She couldn’t see it, but she just knew that something was there watching her and laughing at what he’d just done to her cat.  “That wasn’t very nice,” she scolded the air, hoping that she sounded strong. 

Turning her back on the memorial, she briskly walked down the path that led out of the cemetery.  The chills didn’t go away until she reached her front porch where Buggs was sitting and waiting by the door.  His eyes were wide and when she scooped him up in her arms, she could feel his heart pounding in his chest.  Her heart was fluttering too, and with one last glance towards the cemetery, she let them both inside.

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