If you’d like to start the story from the beginning follow this link to Chapter 1, if you’d like to refresh yourself on what’s happened follow this link to Chapter 2. I hope you enjoy this, the latest installment of The Grave Dancer.
Spokes spinning in the light of passing street lamps, Paul steered his bike along the street. Houses ablaze with evening’s activities blurred by the young boy. He dodged around parked cars and old camper trailers regardless of any danger. Above him the sky was afire with the setting sun.
This day’s been full of fire. Paul thought to himself as he bounced back onto the sidewalk, avoiding a car backing out of a driveway. The car honked at him, but he disappeared down the curving road.
Paul crossed the street, heading for his uncle Gary’s house. Behind the houses a long row of towering pines rose in the twilight. Like a wall of silent watchers, each pine marked the edge of the Monroe City Cemetery that abutted the suburban development.
The city cemetery. Thought Paul with a thrill. It was the perfect short cut. Uncle Gary was a truck driver for Flying J and only resided in his home every few weeks. Naturally he’d given his favorite nephew the keys to his home, and gate locks. All summer long Paul and his friends had the best kept short cut in the entire town.
“Remember Paul, don’t tell too many people about this. I’d rather not have a bunch of bike ruts for a backyard.” Paul smiled at the memory as he slid his bike through the open gate. The backyard made a gradual slope down to a low chain linked fence. There another gate lay propped open and beyond, the cemetery.
Coming up short of the gate, Paul sat back on the bike seat, surveying the property before him. He shivered, guilt twisting at his gut like live embers as recent memories came to him. His mother and father, arguing about him.
“James, I don’t like our son hanging out in a cemetery. It could be dangerous. What if someone takes him? What if he crashes into a headstone? He could die.” His mother had said, wiping her hands on a towel as she stepping away from the kitchen sink. “It’s just creepy.”
Paul found himself hovering by the large floor vent listening. The vent provided extra ventilation and heat from the kitchen to the upstairs. It also dubbed as a megaphone for annoying his older siblings, and anyone else in the house.
His father had shaken his head, “Judith, calm down. This is Paul we’re talking about, our mild mannered, straight laced Paul. He’s been all over this town on that bike, probably to places more dangerous than the cemetery. I doubt anything will happen to him there.”
“But the things that have happened there, don’t you remember?” His mother persisted.
James had help up a hand, ending the conversation. “We’re not suppose to talk about that, remember? What’s in the past is in the past.”
Returning to the present, Paul felt a shiver run down his spine. Above him the pines waved their limbs, beckoning him on.
“If only you could see me now, mom.” He said to the open air. The night breathed with him as he soaked in the moment. And for an instant, his calm, demure attitude faltered. In its place, anxiety and fear reigned.
I’ve seen death today. He thought, remembering the aged man’s face, so familiar and yet so alien. His fear turned to urgency as he visualized his friends waiting for him at the library.
“Let’s go.” He spoke to the night. With that he was down the sloping lawn and between the bushes and pine trees. No more than a drifting shadow among the grave stones. He maneuvered the bike without effort, his path well worn into the ground.
Bet Mr. Portsmith’s had a stroke over this track. He thought, jouncing over a large tree root and between two obelisks. Something stirred within his mind as he followed the lilac hedge along a manicured path. I wonder if the old croaker’s been by here recently. He’s always here-
Paul came up short, almost flipping his bike as a figure emerged from the end of the hedge. Tottering for a moment, Paul stood suspended with his bike balanced. A person dressed in glowing white stepped out between the head stones.
What the-? Paul lost his balance and fell hard between two rough sandstone grave markers. Thankfully the bike missed the stone and he’d fallen without a sound. He jumped back up, looking wildly around for the figure. It was walking at an angle to him, headed for a clump of dogwood bushes, and the statue garden.
Who is this? What’s going on? Skin prickling with nervous energy, Paul picked his way down the lane of grave stones. He buried the thought of all the dead bones he was walking over deep within his mind as he went.
Now’s not the time to panic, Paul, come on! He moved at the same pace as the white clad figure, managing to keep them in his line of sight. Both walked deeper into the heart of the cemetery.
“What are you doing here?” Paul hissed to himself. The figure stepped around a low head stone. Feeling a strong desire to both flee and forge ahead, the youth pushed his bike forward. Crouching low, he cut down another dissecting path. What little light remained from the sunset faded, casting him into deep shadows. But the person ahead of him glowed, as if lit from within.
“This has to be the strangest day I’ve ever had.” He said to himself, picking out a gnarled bush to place his bike behind. He peered around the shrub to see the figure turning a circle, scanning the darkness of the cemetery.
It’s a woman. He thought, surprised. Seeing that the form was definitely female, and clad in a dress. Dark hair flowed down her back as she stepped into a circle of stone statues. Their worn limbs raised in greeting to their living audience. All at once the woman bowed to them, raising a hand to her lips and blowing a kiss to each. Then, to Paul’s astonishment, she began to dance.
“She’s insane.” He said as the woman in white moved her limbs around, circling the middle statue. Each stone form lay two to three feet from each other, forming a rough crescent semicircle. Between them an open patch of grass lay. Many times Paul and his group of friends had dared one another to lay down on that patch of grass. For years the neighborhood kids had talked about the area being a pathway to the dead. If you laid down on the spot long enough, staring at the carved faces, a door would open under you and swallow you up. But it was only something to say to freak younger kids out.
Now Paul found himself staring opened mouth at the woman as she danced around those graves. In the dark, snatches of singing could be heard, but he was too far away from her to make the words out. A feeling that he was being watched sent the hair on his arms standing on end. Quickly he crouched down, looking down both pathways to either side, and behind. He made out the shape of his bike’s front tire, but that was it. Beyond him the woman sang on.
A strong desire to flee gripped the boy as a voice in his head screamed for him to run. What are you doing here, Paul? What are you thinking?
Before he could respond, the woman screamed. Paul leapt to his feet, instincts taking over. He jumped the few rows of stones back to his bike and dove behind the bush. The woman continued to scream, filling his mind with terror. He looked around the edge of the bush, only to see a sweeping beam from a flash light cut through the night. It passed over his bush and illuminated the surrounding area.
That was when he saw the other forms moving in the night. A man’s voice cried out in pain and terror as the woman continued to scream. A familiar voice cried out into the night.
“Don’t let him get away boys!” It was harsh and gravely, just as the man in the school greenhouse’s voice had been.
“Nooo!” Screamed the woman and an explosive gun shot rang through the graveyard.
The gravel voice yelled again,”You moron, don’t shoot her, shoot the guy!”
Dogs began to bark in the neighborhood beyond the graveyard as Paul gripped the handles to his bike.
Get out! Get out! They’re shooting people! Get out! He almost broke cover and ran with his bike, but hesitated at the sound of sobs grew close to his hiding place. The woman was running right towards his hiding place.
She’s gonna see me! He pressed his body into the bush as far as he could, branches scraping against his arms and face.
In a flash the woman rounded the bush and passed within inches of him. She turned wide eyes and an open mouth upon him. A scream froze on her lips. They locked eyes for the briefest of instances. Each individual taking in the sight of the other. And then she was gone, running back towards the lilac hedge.
GO! GO NOW! Paul screamed in his head, his throat tightening with adrenaline. He tore his bike from the bush and all but threw it before him. Beams of light danced all around the graveyard as he threw a leg over his bike and pushed himself off. Men were screaming at one another. As he passed a thick based monument, Paul saw a man dragging a bloodied body away into the darkness.
“Look there goes someone! Quick! Get’em!” Gravel voice had seen him.
“Dang it!” seethed Paul as his tires slid over wet mud. The men gave chase, yelling obscenities at the boy as he found an open pathway and pulled ahead. More dogs howled into the night. Back door lights and flood lights illuminated the backyards of several homes.
With his heart racing, and leg’s pumping Paul skittered out onto the main road, heading North to the library. Tears were racing down his skin and he was surprised to hear sobs escaping with each breath. Sounds of pursuit were disappearing into the darkness as he past the cemetery.
Only a few more streets and I’ll make it to the library. He thought, hope easing the sick feeling in his stomach. That was until he heard a revving engine, and the squeal of tires. He looked back to see a swerving pair of tail lights flashing at him in the dark.
Holy crap they have a car! They’re coming after me!
“No!” He gasped, foot slipping on a pedal.
The car was coming for him, engine roaring in anger. Paul did the only thing he could, he pedaled faster.