Art by Nathan Warner
The night was still young as the mist settled over the fresh-cut grass of Yup cemetery. Tombstones shimmered lightly from the condensation, and tiny red lights on a select few began to glow as the darkness swallowed the area. Mathew had just arrived for his first night shift and was feeling unenthused about being there for the next eight hours.
The legend of this graveyard has had people spooked for centuries, stories of people going missing from the south end of the property and mysterious bones popping up from unmarked graves. Non-believers just blame the local wildlife for the unearthed remains, but no one has ever been able to explain the numerous reports of missing people.
“They’re just fancy rocks and rotten corpses,” he mumbled, walking lazily through the graves and passing two fresh mounds of dirt from the day before.
It’s disrespectful to walk over the graves, but Matt didn’t care. He was a man of science and didn’t believe in silly things such as ghosts, zombies and curses. He paused to look at the intricate head stones of the newest members of ‘club dead’. Their dirt piles were still soft…
“Fresh meat!” he laughed to himself, a classic zombie joke to kick off the month of October.
Mathew was accompanied by his trusted friend, a necessary companion to alert to oncoming drops in his blood sugar. His service dog, Maverick, trotted closely beside Mathew. Adorned in his new seasonal attire against his shiny black coat, he was easily noticed, even in the dark. A beautiful set made by a rising brand called YupCollars, their autumnal theme had just been released, and Matt couldn’t pass it up. Fall was his favorite time of year, so it was only appropriate his black lab fit the bill with a full set. Harness, collar and leash, Maverick was one spoiled dog. However, he deserved it; he had a very important job to do, so it was only fair he looked the part.
With his cold nose in the air, he was enjoying the smell of fresh flowers that a grieving family had left for the recently deceased. The smell was far sweeter than that of the two new arrivals to the cemetery. Despite being buried 6ft down within sturdy and elaborate coffins, the dog’s nose still caught the unpleasant draft of embalming fluids and old clothes.
“What you sniffin’, Mav?” Matt asked, obviously not expecting an answer but hopeful for one anyway. He clutched the leather leash tightly in his hand.
“I heard that old people smell like soup – I guess here don’t smell much different, eh?” he chuckled uncomfortably, still waiting for a response he knew he wouldn’t get. Maverick looked up at his obviously uneasy friend, his soft brown eyes warm with love and admiration for Matt. This helped ease his mind a little before they arrived at the security building’s entrance.
Matt opened the door with a long, drawn out sigh as the rusty hinges squeaked loudly. The tiny building felt like a cubical inside. It had a quaint bathroom with just a toilet and a fountain – hardly a sink at all, but at least the tap worked.
Discouraged, Matt looked around the closet-sized lavatory for soap. He only found an aged tissue box with crinkled brown paper towel crammed inside, hardly sanitary... The cobwebs above him were abandoned, no spiders to be found as the food supply was so severely lacking during these cool temperatures. The flickering light was a nice touch at least, very fitting for the occasion. He rolled his eyes as he turned the light switch off, which of course was backwards and needed to be flipped up to cut the power from the faulty bulb.
Outside of the bathroom was a small desk and a rickety wooden chair, with an old fashioned TV monitor set neatly in the far-right corner for video surveillance. There were four cameras throughout the grounds of the property, all aimed in different directions to best capture any suspicious activity – mostly just rowdy kids looking for a thrill.
October was a popular time of year for youth to come creeping through the cemetery, looking for spooks from the legends or places to hide on Devil’s night when they tossed eggs and smashed pumpkins from just across the street. A quick escape before getting caught, no bright lights, and plenty of places to hide, Matt knew all too well. He used to do the same years before and got into quite a bit of trouble with the previous security guards. They’ve all since retired or changed shifts, finding humor in the comedic karma that Matt now had to stand watch over the property he used to cause such a fuss over. At least he knew the area well…
Maverick let out a low grumble as he settled down beneath the desk at Matt’s wet, muddy boots. His blue and green checkered blanket was thin, but smelled like home and gave him comfort while out on long trips with Matt. His squeaky rubber pork chop settled neatly between his paws and a fresh bowl of water placed on the opposite end from his blanket, Maverick was ready to work. Matt had a large black and red backpack filled with supplies needed for his shift. Inside was a change of clothes, flashlight, book, candy bars, phone charger and other essential items.
“Let’s get this over with…” Matt sighed and turned on the small TV – it was going to be a long night just staring at the black and white screen. Good thing he had his new novel to help keep him mildly entertained.
With a flicker and a few delayed seconds, the screen turned on, but only three of the four cameras where running. The south end of the property was the least visited by the public because of the stories rumored behind it, but it the most occupied by the oldest gravestones from the war over 100 years prior. Most of the stones were unnamed and dated only with the year of death, an unfortunate reality for many who fought for freedom.
“Whatever…” he sighed and leaned back in his seat. It creaked loudly as a fair warning of its brittle leg support – in other words, ‘you better not’.
Suddenly, the south camera flickered on and off, and Matt leaned into the TV to better see the image coming through. Something seemed odd as a bubble formed in Matt’s throat. He coughed to clear it and watched the screen closely. A tall, dark figure loomed suspiciously over an old tomb before the camera cut out again.
“Probably just a tree,” Matt said nervously, his voice cracking, and Maverick lifted his head. His floppy ears perked forward as he placed a gentle paw on Matt’s boot, one of his many response tasks.
When the image reappeared, the figure was gone. Matt breathed deeply and looked down at Maverick with concern. Static came over the fourth camera’s screen before flickering a few more times, and Matt’s gaze returned to the TV.
Then, Matt jumped back into his seat and nearly fell backwards. Maverick growled as his fur stood on end, and Matt’s breathing became rapid as he stared at the screen in disbelief. A mangled face was staring back at Matt from the fourth camera…
To be continued.