Been rereading HP Lovecraft this past few weeks. He’s not my normal read, but I like it from time to time. While reading the story “The Tomb” an idea of my own popped in my head whole though the ending surprised me. Wrote it in about three hours, and took a couple of days to edit. It maybe more Bradbury’s Dark Carnival than Lovecraft. What follows is my very short story (Flash Fiction?) Let me know what you think.
by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden
The sun was only minutes from setting when I drove between the freshly white washed walls and rod iron gates. There would be less than half an hour before the caretaker would lock up for the evening so we didn’t have much time.
“Thank you for coming with me Arleen,” I said to my fiancée next to me as we drove between expansive green fields dotted with flat rectangular stones.
“Of course, John. I know family means everything to you.”
“I’m glad you understand. Especially since most of my family is here.”
My car left the newer green lawns behind and pulled on to gravel-covered paths between ancient trees that stood sentinel with weeping branches for those they guarded.
After parking, Arleen and I walked deeper into the darker and older parts of the cemetery.
Before us stood dozens of massive stones, each with my family name etched and carved into the marble and granite with a litany of names and dates. This land had once belonged to my family, and this had been their private graveyard. Over the years as the family spread out, and the population of the town increased, these fields were donated to the community and a necropolis was born.
I led Arleen between the cyclopean monuments, telling her of this great uncle, or that great great-grand father who went insane.
“There seems to be a lot of that in your family tree.”
“What?” I asked with great concern.
“You’re marrying me, aren’t you,” she laughed at her own joke. I did not find it all that funny, but politely smiled.
“Back here we have the oldest of my ancestors. They’re all in the—”
That’s when I saw them.
Three teenage hooligans huddling around iron-gate of my ancestors’ final home. One of them was rattling the lock and chain that sealed the ancient crypt.
“Hey, stay away from there,” Arleen shouted at them, “That’s private property!”
The boys turned at the sound, their faces drawn, eyes sunken; they looked like skeletons freshly up from their graves.
Quickly glancing about I spotted matches, aluminum foil, syringes and the rest of their drug paraphernalia sitting atop cousin Herbert’s stone. I half smiled realizing that if he was alive he’d probably join in their festivities.
The tallest of the three, who perhaps hadn’t yet lost his manhood to the drug, snarled at us. “Whose property? Ain’t nobody here to complain. Go away if you know what’s good for you!”
“This is his family!”
“Oh, it’s his family is it? Maybe he’d like to join them.” At the man’s words the other two pulled out knives.
Arleen now really was scared, but I took her hand and gave it a squeeze of reassurance that everything would be all right.
“You do know there are reasons why that gate is chained and locked up strong,” I said as one of the boys turned back to attempting to break open the old rusted lock.
“Ya, to keep out thieves like him!” Arleen snapped at them with a renewed surge of confidence.
“There ain’t a lot that can keep me out.” The man snarled again.
“Perhaps,” I let him have his ego, “there are some locks that aren’t meant to keep people out, rather they are to keep things from getting out.”
It took a second to sink in to their drug addled brains. The two knife wielding lowlifes looked at me then glanced at the old rusted lock and chain on the crypt’s iron door.
“Follow my lead,” I whispered to Arleen as the leader of the small gang swatted the heads of his compatriots like the stooges they were.
“Don’t listen to him, you fools. He’s just messing with you. There’s nothing there—”
“Don’t ‘shush’ me!” He snapped back at me.
“I wasn’t talking to you.” I replied matter-of-factly, but stared into the darkness of the crypt behind him and then said; “Go back to sleep, they won’t be bothering you much longer.”
Arleen looking at me like I was crazy, but I again squeezed her hand in reassurance.
“Who the hell are you talking to?” He shouted at me.
I sighed, “You see, my family doesn’t like to be disturbed.”
“Do you think we’re mad?!” He shouted.
“There is little doubt.” I replied with a smirk and then made my eyes go wide with fear and took a step back.
“I warned you,” I said with as much terror I could muster and pointed a long finger toward the crypt behind him.
“Run!” I screamed and pulled Arleen with me. We took off towards the newer plots, but at an angle I could keep an eye on the three drugged out trespassers. They must never have confronted anyone like us before for their leader just stared at us in utter confusion. His lackeys were even more so. One of them must have jumped at my sudden shout and stepped backwards bumping into the rod-iron gate. The rusty old chain rattled into the darkness of the crypt and echoed out against at them like a cold breeze on their necks.
That’s all it took. The three jumped and screamed as one and ran as fast as they ever could. They soon over took us and were many yards a head and running for the exit of the cemetery. Perhaps the caretaker would catch them, perhaps not.
We stopped running and I gave a loud laugh at such a sight.
“That was very cruel to do to them,” Arleen said but couldn’t help laughing herself as we headed back to the stones.
It was then, as the last rays of sunlight faded, we heard the rattle of the chain once more as it fell loose, followed by a low screech of rusted hinges of the ancient iron-gate.
My family had arrived to celebrate our engagement.