This story was written specifically for the “31 Days of Halloween” event.
The original idea actually came from the ending of the story, and me trying to figure out what had happened to reach that point.
I’m deliberately presenting this story in draft form, with minimal editing. I may decide to develop it further, but for now, it seems as complete as it plans to be.
“After Dark” by Timothy Bateson
It was overcast the night my friends and I walked to the cemetery on the edge of town. Everyone told me that it was going to rain tonight, but I couldn’t smell it in the wind.
I’d lived in the city for most of my youth, and knew every smell and sound that the city was capable of producing. I also knew most of the streets, but the outskirts of the city were a mystery at times. And that’s why I’d brought Jenks along, even though he really wasn’t part of my circle of friends.
Jenks had grown up on this side of town, and had talked about how special the graveyard was on Halloween night. He’d regaled us with stories of nights spent wandering between gravestones reading the inscriptions. Though I didn’t really believe him, several of my friends had, and Jenks was labeled a weirdo.
I had my reasons not to believe him but I kept them to myself. After all, Jenks was the weirdo, not me. Somehow, despite everything, I was the popular one.
I was lost in thought as we approached the cemetery, and I missed whatever they were discussing, until Rollo asked how we were going to get in.
It was after dark, and I was interested in hearing the answer myself. So I turned to Jenks and asked him what his plan was to get all of us over the wall.
“There’s a loose section that I climb over, and it should hold even Rollo’s weight.”
Yeah, there was the other reason why Jenks wasn’t part of our circle. He spent a lot of time picking on Rollo and I didn’t like it. Rollo was one of the kindest people I knew, and didn’t deserve the kind of crap that Jenks gave him for his weight problem. The kid liked to eat, sure. But then when it came to mealtimes, he usually brought something that the rest of us could share.
I had Jenks show us where to climb, and we scrambled over, one after the other. I landed on the other side of the wall last amid nervous giggling and glances back toward the street. Smiling I called everyone to order, and waited for the merriment to quiet.
This wasn’t a normal night, and the reduced level of light made everything seem eerie, especially with the low-lying fog. But I knew that there were no reasons for most of us to be nervous.
The only people here, other than us, were long dead, and I was okay about that. The dead were nothing to be afraid of, and I reminded everyone of that. As nerves seemed to settle Jenks suggested that we should head deeper into the cemetery so he could show us his favorite headstone.
I nodded, and gave him the illusion of being in charge, if even for a few minutes. There was no harm in it, especially after his dig at Rollo. In fact, if anything that cemented my resolve to let him lead us deeper, if he dared. I still had my doubts about his claims.
Five minutes later, we were standing over a grave that looked freshly dug, even though the inscription indicated that it was much older. In fact, according to the headstone this was where an eighteen year old boy had been buried over sixty years ago.
I looked around my circle of friends, and decided to end the charade, and kick off the main event of the night.
I let my incisors extend, and watched the others do the same. That’s the moment we all turned on Jenks, and I grinned.
And then I started the countdown. “Ten… Nine…” It was on seven that Jenks finally took the hint, and ran. It would be a good hunt, as long as he didn’t fall into any of our graves, or faint like last year’s prey.
If he made the wall, he was safe, and the rules said we had to offer him the chance to join us. If he refused, he’d die anyway. But after his dig at Rollo, I wasn’t going to give him the chance to be one of us. Jenks did love graves, so maybe we’d hide his remains in one when we were done feasting.
“Dinner’s on me tonight boys. And no playing with your food, you have to be back in your graves before morning.” Of course, they didn’t need the reminder – we’d played this game for six decades.