Grave Consequences

The sleepy little town of Steeplehill has one secret that's finally been unearthed.

*An entry for the Coldest Girl in Coldtown competition.*

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1. Grave Consequences

            Miles ran his hand over the frayed ends of his checkered shirt. It had been his father’s, his brother’s, and finally had become his. The shirt had seen more than he had. And now it saw the Steeplehill Cemetery being trespassed into. His brother angrily beckoned for him to climb over the wall.

            He was all of twelve years, wiry and lean. He could easily climb the metal grates. It wasn’t the pointy tips of the metal bars that scared him, but the ominous slabs of marble beyond the walls. His father would be there, beneath his feet, along with a dozen other relatives. He imagined that they wouldn't approve of what he was doing. It was enough to make Miles want to run back to his house, where his mother would greet him with a weary smile and a cup of cocoa.

            “Oh, grow a pair, Miles!” his brother hissed from the other side.

            He didn't need more urging. He tried to forget the hot cocoa and his mother, his brother would never leave him alone if he chickened out. His feet landed softly onto the perfectly mowed grass. It was a nice place, he thought. As the night chill crept through his shirt, he couldn't help but think it was a much nicer place during the day.

            They walked past the rows of neatly arranged gravestones, keeping an eye on the church nearby. His brother didn't even seem afraid, but Miles clung to the shovel his brother had shoved into his hands, knowing that his hands would shake if he didn't. Miles watched as he padded along silently past row after row of the ominous little stones. He wondered what his would look like if he died. He wondered if his brother would finally end his ‘hobby’, as he called it, if they buried Miles at the Steeplehill Cemetery.

            “It’s here somewhere,” Barry said, more to himself than aloud. They stopped in front of the object of his brother’s desire. Martin St. Garrett.

            Filthy rich dirt bag, his brother had said about the deceased. His brother didn’t really believe in not speaking ill of the dead. Seeing the giant gravestone, complete with a picture of an obnoxious-looking man, confirmed to Miles that his brother was right.

            The grass was sprouting on the ground beneath their feet. The funeral had been three days before. Everyone who was close to the man, or his money had left. Barry took the shovel. He was a brawny sixteen year-old, hardened by work at their garage. He lifted the shovel up high and shoved into the ground with a grunt.

            “Barry!” Miles hissed, worried that even the dull thud would wake up the ancient groundskeeper, snoring away in his distant shack. His brother grinned, no longer afraid of being caught. He didn’t get caught the first time, when he had made a dozen mistakes. He certainly wouldn’t be caught the hundredth.

            Barry shoveled out the dirt until the sleek polished edges of the coffin, and the wilted lilies on its top, were finally visible. With a strong jerk of the shovel the hinges of the coffin gave away, and Barry looked down onto Martin St. Garrett’s face. Even in death, the pretentious look was unmistakable. Barry brought the shovel down, wiping off the expression once and for all.

            Ignoring the coldness, the sliminess of the dead man’s hand, he slipped off the diamond ring, the gold cufflinks. Not bothered by his brother’s disgusted look, he swiped the man’s watch. Men didn’t have many things of value. He knew from experience. He dropped the lid of the coffin. Miles flinched as the sound carried through the empty night air. But in Steeplehill, no one would hear it. Even if they did, they wouldn’t care.

            His brother handed him the shovel, and Miles set to shoveling the dirt back in. It was hard work, but he was glad he wasn’t the one to have to touch Martin St. Garrett’s hand. Slowly the hole filled up, and finally he patted the ground with the shovel. He doubted anyone would ever find out about the theft.

            “Miles, come ‘ere,” his brother called.

            His brother stood just a few yards away. Miles almost didn’t see him, but his voice came from underneath the drooping branches of an enormous willow tree. Its branches swayed lightly, but hid most of what was behind them. He walked forward unsteadily, something in the back of his mind telling him that his brother had come up with another very bad idea.

            “Check this out,” Barry said, pointing towards a giant grey building with his thumb. It was the size of their house, Miles knew it could easily be bigger. Barry inspected the heavy wooden door, pressing against it and smiling to himself. He knew that Martin St. Garrett’s watch, his ring, wouldn’t hold a candle to what was inside the mausoleum.

            The door was old, made of excellent oak. But it was covered from top to bottom in strange little scratches. He assumed it was animals and stepped back. Steeplehill, a long time ago, had been one of the richest places in the country, home to the summer homes of ridiculously rich families. He had a feeling that he had stumbled onto the tombs of one of those families.

            “Jackpot,” he whispered to himself.

            “I don’t think we should do this,” Miles suggested weakly from behind him. The strange little markings on the door. His brother saw scratches, but Miles saw letters. There was something strange about the mausoleum. It didn’t have the stillness, the eerie peace to it that the rest of the graveyard had. It was like the structure was waiting to be opened, like an bomb waiting to explode.

            “Shut up, Miles,” Barry said. He grabbed the shovel from Miles’s hands and walked towards the wooden door purposefully. The door-hinges were completely rusted, yet miraculously the door still held when he drove his shovel into it. The second time he heard the crack as wood splintered.

            Miles heard something else, an eagerly whispering voice. Barry gave the door another blow, and another, until it finally gave way, still resting on its frame. He looked back at smirked at his little brother. The scared expression that he got put him off, but he kicked in the door theatrically.

            The dust that came out surrounded them like a fog. Miles couldn’t breathe. The shallow little breaths that he took left him smelling dust, decay, sand, and the slightest tinge of something that should not have been there. He placed the weakened smell, the sharp edge that the odor had. Garlic.

            “Barry!” he called out. The action resulted in a coughing fit, and he slumped down on to the ground, where the air was clearer. He saw Barry’s feet, but they weren’t nearby. His brother, the brave one, was a half-a-mile away, climbing over the gates of the graveyard in a frenzy. He had left Miles behind.

            He scrambled to his feet and tried to follow his brother, to leave the dusty haze behind. He heard the voice again, the lilting voice that had sounded so eager, now sounded exhilarated. Miles looked behind him, but the dust still held in the air, like an impenetrable shroud.

            “Calm down, Amelia, you’re scaring the child,” a rougher voice spoke. Although the words spoken were kind, the voice was cold and foreign. He started to run, not caring which direction he went. He broke out of the dust and into normal air.

            A girl stood in front of him, dressed in an ankle-length tattered green dress. She was pale, bordering less on white and more on grey. Her ashen blonde hair was pinned back, and she smiled at him in what he guessed what was an attempt at friendliness. It failed, and he tried to bypass her to the cemetery gates.

            The man stood in front of him, and Miles collided into his front. The smell made him stumble back immediately, desperate to get away. But still the smell of dead garlic, rotten flesh, and something else vile that he could not put a name to, emanated from the man’s dirt-stained tuxedo. The man was smiling as well, and the sight put Miles on edge.

            A thin white hand rested on his shoulder. He shuddered and moved away. They formed a trio, and he saw that they were a family. A family of pale, gaunt people that had emerged from a grave. His mind was still working, as his eyes frantically searched for the nearest escape. There was no way out other than the one behind them.

            “Be at ease, we will not hurt you,” the man assured him.

            Miles didn’t believe him. He saw the dark stains on the man’s tuxedo. It wasn’t difficult to guess that long ago, the stains had been red. The woman, his wife, stood to the side, with the kindest expression out of all of them.

            “Be at peace, child, we mean no harm,” she said in a sweet voice. She slowly stepped towards him, and placed her cold hand onto his cheek. “What is your name?”

            “Miles Douglas,” he answered, having no option but to answer as she looked at him with hypnotic green eyes.

            “Ingrid Blackrow. My husband Samuel, and our daughter Amelia.”

            The girl waved shyly and squeaked out, “Thank you.”

            “I thought that we were going to be trapped in that tomb forever,” Samuel said. “You’re certainly not the kind to go around freeing vampires.”

            Samuel looked at the scrawny child in front of him, looking about twelve. His hands were empty, and his clothes frayed. He didn’t look the kind to be working on the vampires’ side. For all knew, the rest of their community had forgotten about his family. He had thought they would be stuck in the mausoleum until the walls turned to dust, until humankind no longer existed.

            “Who are you?”

            Samuel’s expression fell to shock, as he took a breath and froze. He smelled the flowing blood in the air, and heard the beating of Miles’s heart.

            “Vampires?” the boy whispered.

            “No, nothing of the sort, I was joking,” Samuel said. But Miles already knew. Every cell of his body was telling him that he was in danger, and that he should run while he could. His muscles refused to do his bidding, still looking into the eerie green eyes of Ingrid Blackrow.

            “Well, what do we do now darling?” the woman asked. There was fear in her voice. Miles didn’t see the reason behind it. They were predators, he was prey. His mind was telling him that every second. They could rip him to pieces, drink his blood, and no one would ever find him.

            “I’m not- not going to te- tell anyone,” he stuttered out.

            He saw the relief in Ingrid’s face. Before they moved, he continued, “I’ll leave you alone. Just please don’t hurt me.”

            He started towards the gate, “Please try not to hurt many people.”

            “We never hurt anyone,” Samuel said. “The church has been unfair in its representation of our kind. Especially the church of Steeplehill. If only we could reveal all their secrets…”

            “I’m going,” Miles commented, not knowing how to respond. He didn’t believe them, but he couldn’t tell that they were lying either.

            “We hope to see you soon,” the girl said.

            I hope not, Miles thought. He ran all the way home, where the house was dark. The clock in the kitchen read two o’clock. He crept up the stairs and into his room, waiting for the thundering in his heart to stop. It didn’t, and it didn’t let him sleep. In the morning he awoke to Barry’s tight embrace.

            “Miles!” his brother yelled into his ear.

            “Sh- What is it Barry?” he mumbled, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

            “What happened last night?” Barry asked him.

            He wondered if it was just a dream. But the dust from the mausoleum still hung on his shirt, and he saw Martin St. Garrett’s diamond ring on Barry’s finger. It wasn’t a dream. His only option was to try to forget everything that happened. His mom called from downstairs, and he saw that he was going to be late for school.

            The hallways of his middle school were empty. He wasn’t the smartest student, the strongest athlete, or anything else. But he knew that he was the only one without any friends. Most times he kept to the back of the classroom, becoming an expert at not attracting attention to himself.

            His history teacher was also his homeroom teacher, Mrs. Townsend. She was a middle-aged woman, plump and blonde-haired, always smiling, so much it was irritating. Most of the students wanted to kill her on Monday mornings. Miles was no exception. The other kids spoke too enthusiastically about their weekends. Finally it was his turn.

            He said, “Nothing much. Stayed home.”

            “Well, we have a new student here today,” Mrs. Townsend announced. “I want you to make her feel welcome. Come on in, sweetie.”

            A short little girl walked in the class. He didn’t notice her until he saw her blonde hair half-covering her face.

            “Sweetie, would you like to introduce yourself?”

            “Hi I’m Amelia,” she said.

            His head snapped up at the name. It was the creepy girl from the night before. Her clothes were different, a light pink shirt and jeans, looking normal except for her greyish skin. She looked directly at him and smiled. It was not a good sign.

            “You can take a seat next to Miles,” Mrs. Townsend told her. Without waiting she immediately walked over to him and took her seat.

            Amelia whispered, “It’s good to see you again, Miles.”

            He didn’t say anything and for the first time concentrated on the class going on in front of him. They were learning about the Holocaust, not a fun topic. And it was disturbing the way that Mrs. Townsend still managed to keep up her peppy tone while talking about it.

            “And so as a result of this, over six million Jews died,” she ended with a perky smile.

            He walked out of the class as the bell rang, hoping that no one followed.

            “Miles, wait!” Mrs. Townsend called out. “Could you show Amelia around for today?”

            Grudgingly, he said, “Sure.”

            She followed behind him meekly. “So you haven’t told anyone?”

            “I haven’t told anyone, and I won’t, okay?” he assured her. “Just leave me alone.”

            He stopped by his locker and picked out his books for English class. Amelia grabbed at his books and he let her. She went up the steps three at a time, impossible for someone of her height, but no one else seemed to notice.

            “You hate us,” she accused him as she turned around the staircase.

            She was right. He just didn’t want to say it out loud. She shadowed him through the classes, occasionally speaking to him and getting grunts or one-word responses in return. After school, her parents were waiting for her at the main entrance. The dusty rags were gone, replaced by expensive clothes, and two giant umbrellas over their heads despite the white cloudy sky. They were standing in front of a new car, and someone else was in the drivers’ seat. Amelia ran over to them, grabbing him by the hand and pulling him along.

            “Miles is my classmate,” she announced happily to Ingrid. Ingrid handed her a small thermos and smiled at Miles. He had a feeling he knew what the thermos contained. Amelia’s hands grabbed it greedily and she started to empty its contents.

            “Don’t be afraid of us, Miles,” Samuel told him. “We are here to stay. You should get used to it. Would you like to join us for dinner today? We’ve moved into the Blackrow Estate on Meridian Street.”

            More like be their dinner, Miles thought. He gulped and shook his head.

            “Relax, Miles. We’re having chicken,” Ingrid said with a smile. “If you would let us, we want to tell you our story. Besides, it would do you good to know about the others of our kind. Ones… not so benign. Your brother met one of them last night.”

            “Barry got away last night.”

            “He got away from us, but got caught by someone else. He probably doesn’t even remember. We could tell you about this, help him.”

            “No thanks,” he muttered as he walked past them. Ingrid stiffened at the rebuke. He looked back once after ten seconds. The car and the people were gone, the school parking lot almost deserted. His house was a ten minutes’ walk away, and he spent the entire journey looking over his shoulder. He wondered about what she said about Barry. No, it wasn’t true. Barry had high-tailed it out of there.

            The house wasn’t empty when he entered. His mother would be at work, and Barry should have been in school. The kitchen was emitting loud sounds, thumps and bangs, and he stepped in carefully. Barry was searching. The contents of their fridge, an entire week’s groceries, were littered on the floor.

            He saw drops of blood and paled. Barry looked possessed, pale and gaunt, with a steak in one hand and a cleaver in the other. He occasionally ripped bites out of the steak and glanced around him.

            “Barry?” Miles asked.

            “Do we have more bloo- meat? More meat?”

            He saw the feral glint in his brother’s eyes. He knew a lot of things to come over his brother’s eyes, pride, joy, and greed. The violent streak that he saw, it was something new and terrifying.

            “No, but my friend has tons,” he said. “Can you drive to Meridian Street?”

            His brother nodded feverishly and headed for the door. Miles went upstairs and picked up the silver cross necklace his mother kept in her dresser, and few cloves of garlic from the kitchen. There was no harm in being prepared.

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