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(Prologue: At Halloween, many people test their bravery by venturing into dark cemeteries. Jenna and her best friend, Lucy, who has always been fascinated by the unknown,
decided to do just that.)
ELDERLY COUPLE MISSING: Some strange things have occurred since George and Mary Cruor went missing...’ Devil’s Backbone Weekly newspaper’s bold headline lay visible alongside the sewing machine as Jenna finished the last few stitches of her witches’ costume. She bit the thread and held up the iridescent black gown, admiring the whispery cob webs she added for effect. Later she would attach the large hairy spider with glowing eyes to the heavy garments shoulder.
Incessant banging on her bedroom door sent electric needles up her spine, but before Jenna could speak ---
“Hope you’re not NAKED!” said Lucy, Jen’s best friend, as she wrangled into the room sideways in what consisted of a yellow box with legs. “Ta Da!”
“You almost gave me a heart attack!” Admonishing Lucy with a shake of her head, Jenna suppressed a smile. There Lucy stood, wearing a homemade Sponge Bob costume – black pants and hat, yellow corrugated cardboard, painted to mimic a sponge, holes and all. “For real?” Jen covered her mouth, suppressing laughter, a giggle escaped.
Hands on her cardboard hips, Lucy replied, “Don’t hate the sponge; it’s the best I could do on short notice.” She laughed too and pointed to Jen’s costume. “Let’s see.”
Jen shimmied into the puffy material head first. “All I have to do is add the spider.” She motioned for ‘The Sponge’ to sit on Jen’s desk chair - pulled two Tootsie Roll Pops from the nightstand - threw a red one to Lucy and unwrapped orange, her favorite.
Lucy stared at the pop, trying to work out how to eat it, her head encumbered by itchy cardboard. “Nice costume - tonight’s the night – you better be ready! Once the wrapper freed the tasty morsel; her slurping reminded Jen of a dog’s zeal discovering a bulbous ham hock. Lucy intentionally smacked her lips in satisfaction.
Lucy’s lack of manners, expected.
Jen cringed, swallowed hard: Halloween… “So . . . what time should we meet?” Lucy inherently arrived everywhere late. Classmates in their sophomore year at Raven High School, Lucy had racked up a shoebox full of pink late slips. But because she was class president, teachers overlooked this indiscretion.
“Nine? Outside the gate.” Lucy grinned, stood up.
“You better be on time!” Jen said, “I promised to bring my camera on your crazy quest, but if you don’t show . . .”
Lucy wrangled with the bedroom door and called back, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there.” A feeble attempt to reassure Jen’s suspicious nature.
“Remember a flashlight and your tape recorder!” Jenna yelled - finger in the air - as Lucy disappeared. A chill bit through her. Not wanting to end up as front page fodder, the next victim of the ‘Cruor Curse’. Why had she agreed to do something this insane? She shuddered at the thought of waiting near Blood Cemetery, alone.
Jenna glanced at the article about the missing couple: ‘George and Mary were last seen shuffling down Fluid Lane, near Blood Cemetery around 10pm, by a woman walking her Doberman. Wishing to remain anonymous, the woman also noticed a strange blue glow, dismissing it as someone’s headlights. Stranger still, George carried a fresh bouquet of flowers.’ The article went on to say their mysterious disappearance added fuel to the local legends. Other sources maintained they wandered into the unearthly woods at the end of the lane, where neighbors claimed to have last seen them, knowing that black bears and coyotes roamed the countryside around the small eastern town. An exhaustive search conducted by the county sheriff’s office turned up nothing.
Blood Cemetery has a different name now, but back in the late 1860’s, right after the Civil War, the Blood family was the first African American family in Devil’s Backbone, Connecticut. The whole clan is buried there, in a crypt near an imposing, masculine angel - wings open - bowed head, high on a pillar holding an oversized book: A book of atonement. People swore the angel’s lifeless eyes followed them. They swore the Blood’s haunted anyone who dared to disturb their graves. They swore you would be sucked into the earth and join them in eternal slumber. Disappearances plagued Backbone: The sheriff’s scratched their heads - No leads - No clues - No progress.
According to town archives, descendants of the Blood’s moved west long ago.
Jenna’s father, Arthur Blackstone, grew up in Backbone. He would often tell spine-chilling stories around backyard campfires linking the supernatural events that occurred there. Jenna, along with her younger siblings, Rachael and Rory, clung to each other, mesmerized. Sometimes Crazy Lucy, as the twins called her, stayed over and indulged in scaring them with eerie sounds. All in good fun.
JENNA spent early evening accompanying Rachael and Rory, dressed as Tweedledum and Tweedledee from ‘Through the Looking Glass’, around the block and back home. It was time. She headed for the cemetery, flashlight in hand.
Sounds of children’s laughter and delighted screams faded into shadows. She turned the corner onto Fluid Lane. So far so good. The graveyard rested in looming oak trees that hovered like crows over carrion, a half-a-block away. The crypts, white marble against the contrasting darkness, cast an ominous glow from the single street light. Misshapen mounds thrust skyward against an oily blackness. Breezes whispered, winding thru heavy oaks; casting ghostly sighs that mingled with each windward breath. Pulsing against forever; yearning to be freed; calling - calling. Jenna leaned against the six foot high wrought iron gate, adjusted her witch’s hat, felt the camera in her pocket, and positioned herself under the singular illumination.
After fifteen minutes, Jen imagined creepy ink like things crawling up behind her, serrated knives for teeth, barred and ready to strike. Her pulse throbbed, blinding her ears to all. Movement out of the corner of her eye. Something there. Relief. A yellow glow marched down the center of the street, flashlight leading. She made it!
“You ready?” Lucy swore as she adjusted ‘The Sponge’, uncomfortable and awkward. “Here, hold these…” She passed Jen the light and recorder, turned around and pointed to her back, “Just undo the hitch, I’m itchy all over!”
Out of the yellow box, Lucy tugged at her red sweater; wiped at the sleeves to smooth and discard any yellow flecks. Sponge Bob rested against the iron gate, forlorn. An owl broke the din.
Flashlights ready, they walked together, under the Blood Cemetery arched name. Jen paused, faced Lucy. “Whatever you do, do NOT leave me, promise?”
Lucy patted Jen’s arm, held up her right hand as if testifying in court, “May I be sucked into oblivion!” As she stepped forward, onto hallowed ground.
“Ha, ha, NOT funny,” Jen grabbed Lucy’s arm.
Lucy twisted back, her face distorted. “Dam . . . , chill out, what could happen?” She yanked free, oblivious to the anxiety Jen’s eyes betrayed. Lucy stomped off, not waiting for an answer. Above the chirping crickets, a shrill howl echoed.
Jen hesitated, her stretched nerves felt like she’d fallen into a bed of nails.
Lucy whipped her head around, mumbling, “Come on,” and clicked the tape recorder button. The dark angel glared at their approach. Jen, mesmerized by its eyes, caught her foot on a gnarly root, and slammed face first into dead leaves. Mold and decay assaulted her.
“You alright?” Lucy groped for Jen’s hand, helped her up.
She wiped her mouth, “Ugh . . . , I lost my stupid hat.” Flashlights converged; scanned the leaf strewn ground. “Must have blown away.” Lights cut the darkness, scrutinizing the graveyard.
In a heightened whisper, Lucy added, “We’ll get it later, let’s take a break.”
They slumped under the angel - leaned against the pillar beneath its outstretched wings. Beetles eyed by a hungry hen. Crickets droned. Nothing happened. Lucy sat and fidgeted with the tape recorder, playing back scratchy sounds of nothingness. Jen fished in her pocket for her supply of Tootsie Roll Pops. Their loud smacking added a note of brevity to the surrounding din.
Lucy yawned. “Hey, take my pic with the angel of death.” Jen raised the camera from her sitting position and snapped.
Lucy’s eyes adjusted. She yawned and stood up. “I’m bored. Let’s walk around.” As they explored around the crypt, Jen felt a dead weight envelope her, a malevolent presence spoke to her mind… ‘Join me’. She stole a look behind her, expecting . . . ? Nothing but darkness. She felt along the Bloods’ Mausoleum; cool to the touch in the balmy night. Fresh flowers in urns bedecked the crypts rusted gate. Fresh flowers?
Suddenly Jen froze, “Lucy?” Her throat closed. Dread closed in, dampness crested her brow. Something close behind her. Her arms and legs, marble pillars. An oppressive voice coaxed her toward the ground. Unseen hands, compelling. A blue pulsing orb no larger than a human head hovered near the angel - seven feet off the ground - casting an unearthly glow to its surroundings. Flight response took over.
Jenna heard herself scream, as if her voice had separated from her body. She bolted, dropped her flashlight, and headed for a hazy light in the distance. The street light, safety.
Shuffling noises followed close behind her. Lucy.
Dust choked her lungs as she scrambled through the dry leaves. Coughing, she stumbled over the long dress, picked herself up and hoisted the encumbrance. The open gate receded as her body screamed.
Lucy watched as Jen disappeared into the darkness. Lucy, seized by heavy hands, felt the ground grow around her, like a blueberry being sucked into a straw, enveloping her flesh. Her flashlight dimmed.
Jenna clung to the gate, horror struck, turned and gazed in disbelief as the pulsing blue orb floated closer to Blood Crypt. Towards Lucy! Mechanically, she grabbed the camera and snapped a picture, to this day she doesn’t know why. Her body stiffened as a terrified scream came from the direction of the Blood Mausoleum.
COLD. . . Jen stirred. A sharp headache edged her into consciousness. The hard ground; muscles ached. Voices, close. Her eyelids fluttered open. A candelabrum of concerned faces conjoined around her. Her father’s face permeated the haze.
“Jenna,” He patted her hand. Other converging voices fell into oblivion.
“Dad, what. . . happened?” Gentle hands helped her sit up. “I . . . ,” Jen faded back into nothingness.
YEARS later, Jenna Blackstone stood in front of Blood Crypt; an urn of fresh flowers adorned the entrance. Fresh flowers, always. Her mind wandered back to the article, ‘…descendants of the Blood’s moved west long ago’ echoed from the faded clipping she kept as a reminder. The last part of the article had been placed on another page. Jenna knew now what the piece inferred, ‘Cruor means blood’. So their descendants - not all gone, so who’s left? Her hand held the image she snapped the night Lucy disappeared. The blue orb showed only as red eyes in the darkness. Lucy lost, like the others.