Grant Sauder worked late on Friday nights. So after all the tables in Vinny’s were wiped down, napkins restocked and front door locked, there wasn’t much more to look forward to. The walk home was usually quiet. Sometimes The Golden Wall across the street was still open, and he’d grab some Lo Mein and a Coke. Sometimes the Chens were closing up and heading home to their two-family house in Oakdale. Grant always thought of the Chens when he went to pick up his bike at Sam’s Spokes in Oakdale. One time he saw Mr. Chen in the shop. He was picking up a tricycle for their son Jeremy, who would be in middle school by now. It was the same one he had as a kid, or at least it looked like it.
Normally, Grant would have his bike with him for nights like this. Two days earlier it had been stolen. If his head had been in the right place, maybe this is something he could have avoided, but lately that wasn’t the case. He broke up with Cheryl the day before. He knew he still had feelings for Theresa. He had mixed emotions about everything these days though, to be honest. He liked Cheryl a lot too. She was sweet and funny and cared about him. He thought he might’ve rushed into things with Cheryl too quickly. He couldn’t stop thinking about Theresa though. It was a warm, friendly, loving feeling. A lot of emotional responsiblity for a high school kid, but what the hell did he know or care yet. Grant's tiny world was all he knew and that made it gigantic.
He lost a major part of his life when his mom died, and whether or not he knew it, he wanted to fill that part back in. “Sure,” Cheryl fought back tears. “Just.. just don’t call me. This is done-done.”
“I’m so-“ Cheryl cut off Grant.
“Please don’t.” She walked away. He felt terrible. Confused and absolutely terrible. Cheryl had even come to his mother's funeral and stood by him as they lowered her into the ground. He threw his bike lock against the ground. The lock was busted. The next day at school, he tried to leave the unchained 10-speed behind the dumpsters, but lo and behold, it was gone when the bell rang.
Grant had been distant with everyone in his life lately, but mostly Cheryl. Since his mom passed, he found himself looking for comfort, and the relationship he had with Theresa was old and familiar. They were neighbors since Clint Andersen bought the MinuteMart, which just so happened to be the same year they were born. Three months before he started things up with Cheryl, Teresa left Grant standing in the middle of the street. “Not tonight, mister.” She smiled playfully. This all had taken place moments after he tried to kiss her. He knew he didn’t stand a chance in hell, yet he still tried. He wasn’t embarrassed really. He went for broke. He hadn’t slept well the past couple weeks and decision-making was not a top priority. He stood there in the middle of that warm summer night, crickets chirping, staring blankly as Theresa walked away to the side door of her house. A big gust of wind blew past him.
That summer breeze was a distant memory, and all he could smell now was the crisp fall night. It blew some leaves around and Mrs. Wembly’s cat, Kellogg, ran across the street. Two years prior, Grant’s mom had found Kellogg in the parking lot of the Rite-Aid. Mom reconfirmed her dislike for cat hair and its undeniable ability to drive her allergies through the roof, but Mrs. Wembly was forever in her debt. Snowman cookies every Christmas. Grant’s favorite. He focused back on his walk. He didn’t mind the walk so much. It was only five blocks to his house. Dad wouldn’t be home yet. Maybe not for another hour. He worked an evening shift as the janitor for the Aldwell Regional Bank. It was the second job he started since losing Carol. So between the day job at Rand’s Auto Repair shop and Grant’s delivery job at the pizzeria, Lou had to find more work. A dark blue Toyota corolla whipped past Grant. Tommy Belfor, screamed “Giddy up, dickhead!” He was going 40 in a 25. Typical. This was same Tommy that sat two rows over from Grant in Biology and threw up during The Miracle of Life after running his mouth all week about how grossed out everyone would be once “the oven doors opened." Grant flipped him off and laughed.
Then he heard it. It wasn’t clear at first, but he could swear he heard something. It sounded like laughing. Or at least that’s what he thought he’d heard. He kept walking. Picking up the pace. Was that an echo? Didn’t sound like his voice. He had three more blocks.
The first block of those three was Church Field, which is where the old First Christian Church used to stand. When First Christian’s land was sold last month, it was torn down, the cemetery that was attached to the church was excavated, and its plots and the deceased they held were relocated across town. All that was left was a long rickety fence that you’d probably need a tetanus shot just for rubbing up against it, a few trees and some empty graves scattered throughout the field. They should’ve left those poor souls where they buried them the first time, Mrs. Wembly told Grant the other night after he delivered her a pie. It stuck with him, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it since. Every kid in town knew never to pass through there after dark. Kevin Keefer swore something grabbed his leg one time he was walking through. Then again, this was coming from Keefer Reefer, the same guy who thought he saw four UFOs on the fourth of July, so most folks laughed it off. Grant laughed a low muffled, nervous laugh. Trying to lighten up a very dark, very lonely trip home.
With Church Field coming up on his right, he started to cross. He never liked to walk on the field side. Crossing the street and passing by the Shelley’s house was always his go-to move.
He started to cross and stopped dead in his tracks. There was something there. Maybe someone. But it was watching him. He heard that noise again. The laughing, but as he listened closer it was more of a wheezing whistle. He turned and walked back to the other side of the street. “Graaaaa...” it whispered. It sent a chill down his spine. It sounded familiar, but wrong. Was it Tommy messing with him again?
“Tommy? Is that you? Fuck off, man.”
Grant was on the other side next to the field now. Another bigger wind blew through and with it, “Gra..”.
He turned. “This isn’t cool, man. Cut it out!” From out the shadows a headless figure emerged. The blood drained from Grant's body. I gotta get some sleep, was the first thing he thought. He backed up and started to run. What the hell was that? I gotta get home. If I get home after Dad he’ll kill me. I need to apologize to Cheryl, butiNEEDTheresa
Darkness. Grant had fallen down. There was pain. He opened his eyes and could see nothing. Just like the night his mom died. He’d blacked out and woke up in his bedroom. It was pitch black. His father barely held himself together. There had been an accident on her way back from work. A truck carrying sheet rock in front of her stopped short. It wasn’t secure. It had gone right through the windshield and— Grant was gone. He vomited. He got that same feeling. Feeling around in the dark for something. Anything. He looked up and saw the pale light of the moon. He had fallen into an empty cemetery plot. He lay there in silence trying to remember if what just happened to him was a result of sleepless nights and shadows playing tricks on his eyes.
Then he heard it again “Gra...”. The sound of dragging footsteps across the grass. He panicked and tried to climb out, but the sides of the grave kept crumbling around him. The footsteps got closer and were now on the fresh soil of the nearby filled graves. He couldn't get out. The figure was above him now and he stood back frozen in terror. This headless ghoul closing in, his fingers dug into the dirt behind him. It stumbled towards him into the open ground, falling over on top of him. Grant couldn’t even catch his breath. He tried to scream but nothing came out. As the creature fell forward, so did it’s head. “Graaa...nt!” It was Grant's mother. “I’m home now.”
They should’ve left those poor souls where they buried them the first time.
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