Nowhere to Hide

Nowhere to Hide

By Gary R. Beard
© 2022 by the author

 

Hunkered down behind a huge tombstone of an angel with wings spread wide like a savior, Aiden checked his phone for service. I am so stupid, he told himself again. As quietly as possible, he looked over his shoulder between the angel’s feet and her robes, but it was too dark. At that moment, he could see nothing. The moon was playing a cat and mouse game, hiding behind clouds and then illuminating the cemetery at the most inopportune time. Try as he might, he could not see them. But he knew they were there, following him in a slow, methodical, horrifying pursuit. And he could hear them, whispering malignantly; their abhorrent murmurs growing out of the menacing darkness surrounding him.

A tear rolled down his cheek as he considered his odds. All he wanted was what others seemed to get so easily, love. Aiden was terribly lonely. He couldn’t seem to maneuver his way through the complex dating world in the digital age. Despite his sister’s help creating a profile, he just didn’t seem to fit the mold desired by most women. At twenty-seven, his odd fascination with horror fiction and movie monsters put him sorely out of place. He rarely went out, and most of his online interactions were in chat groups focused on the horror genre. Finally, after several failed dates of trying to be someone he wasn’t, he insisted on putting his true interests in his profile, instead of the made-up hobbies his sister had suggested. At least then he could forgo the humiliation of having women look at him like he was slightly off when he talked about his true passions.

At first it was just radio silence, but then, lying awake in his room in his mother’s basement, just as we was drifting off, feeling utterly dejected, his phone dinged. He had a hit from the dating app that matched mathematically inclined people. Being a former Mathalete, he felt it was his duty to carry on his analytical genes. He stared dumbfounded at the profile pic of his match. She was gorgeous, or at least what he could see of her, since her picture showed her looking off into the distance. He could tell she was physically fit and that her hair was a deep sable brown and her skin, what he could see of it, was smooth and clear. “Wow,” he said aloud.

Her name was Chloe, and she’d written a response that indicated a similar passion for monster culture. “I don’t know if this will work, since you say you want to get married dressed as Count Dracula, and I want to say my vows as the Bride of Frankenstein. Honestly, I’m just not sure about mixing monster DNA, lol, but let’s give this a try anyway.” He had been instantly smitten, and oddly aroused, at the thought of intermingling monsters. Yet now, cowering behind the angel, he began to rethink why he had agreed to meet in Loudon Park Cemetery in Catonsville, the largest cemetery in the world. While he was excited that someone else was as delighted about all things macabre, was a cemetery an appropriate place for a first date? To make it more fun, they agreed to come in costume, complete with masks. Now, as he considered the masked people hunting him, he tried to remember who’s idea it had been to wear the masks. And, more disturbing, as their meeting time slipped further and further away, he wondered what had happened to Chloe? Had they already gotten her? What were they doing to her and was he next?

They had decided to dress as their favorite movie monsters and only unmask once they had met and were comfortable with one another. Chloe claimed she was shy and wanted to get to know Aiden better before revealing herself. Aiden was so excited about dressing up, donning another persona, that he didn’t register the otherwise odd request. Only in the back of his mind did he wonder what she was hiding. Was something wrong with her face? Is that why she was hiding part of it in her profile pic? Was she horribly disfigured?

They agreed to meet in the cemetery at the grave where Vincenzo Viccelli and Anna Boehner were buried. They were lovers, according to Chloe, who made a suicide pact when their parents refused to let them be together. Ironically, the parents relented and allowed them to be together in death for eternity. Aiden had to look for the location of their graves online and found them right in the center of the large cemetery. He wasn’t far from the spot now, was he? Maybe Chloe had actually hired these people to terrorize him, to give him this horror-filled experience? As sweat rolled down his back and the moon peered out from behind the clouds, revealing, not two, but three dark, hulking figures; their blades glinting in the moonlight. Aiden decided that Chloe couldn’t be behind this. He had been so clear that he didn’t like this kind of horror - what he called reality-horror. This was too real for him. He preferred creepy, suspenseful and mind-bending horror. He especially liked Edgar Allan Poe, and he thought now about Premature Burial and wondered how many graves around him, if un-interred, would reveal claw marks on the inside of the coffins, people wrongfully buried. He had told Chloe that was one of his personal fears: the claustrophobic hysteria of being left alive in a coffin with no air and no chance of escape, those last moments of asphyxia-addled panic before succumbing to an invisible foe. He was secretly pleased by the fact that medical science had gotten so much better at pronouncing people dead.

Looking again, he saw that the figures were closer now. One of then waved to him frenziedly, causing him to jump nervously, since he thought he was well hidden. He got to his feet and ran, causing a cacophony of maniacal laughter to erupt - the devilish sniggering came from all around him, not just behind him. Unfortunately, the moon had shed the clouds like an ancient death shroud. Even at half full, it shown brightly in the night sky casting eerie shadows throughout the old cemetery, and making it much more difficult for Aiden to hide.

A chill went up his spine as he considered his potential demise. How would they do it? If they wanted to shoot him, they could have done it already. Instead, he feared they wanted something much more personal. Stabbing? Torture? He usually loved feeling scared, at least in the safety of his own home, with the doors locked and under some covers, with the TV flickering. But this, this was truly terrifying. As if in response, the wind picked up some dry leaves on the path, sending them skittering across the ground and swirling in the air in front of him like some kind of spectral presence.

Right from the beginning, after leaving his car, he had an uneasy feeling that he was being followed? Why would Chloe do that, he wondered. Was she also nervous, afraid he might be some kind of psycho? Why would she agree to meet in a dark, deserted cemetery anyway? Why had he? Who suggested it? He stopped and spun around to see if they were still following. Peering into the gloom of this poorly lit place of the dead, his heart thumping hard in his chest, he started running again. This is a trap, he thought. Can’t I just run out of the other side of the cemetery? He wouldn’t have his car, but maybe he could find help. He could knock on doors, scream for help.

A branch snapped behind him. He stopped, frozen, afraid to look back over his shoulder. At last he did, catching a glimpse of someone in a long white robe with a foot or more of frizzed hair on top of her head, Bride of Frankenstein. Tentatively, he stuck up his hand to wave. “Chloe,” he called, causing The Bride to laugh hideously and throw back her head in ecstatic delight. How had they gotten between him and his car? Wasn’t she in front of him before? He thought he had originally seen her off to the side behind that elm tree. He was closer to the elm now, close enough to see the pale face that popped out and glared at him threateningly, Dracula’s Bride. How was that possible? How could she be in front of him and behind him at the same time? Enough, he thought, and broke into a run, heading to the right of where he was. His first impulse was to scream, but he was hoping they wouldn’t see he was running again. His plan was to circle back to his car. Fumbling with the cell phone in his pocket, he knew he was becoming hysterical. The few lights in the cemetery pricked his eyes as he ran into the empty darkness ahead. A scream was bubbling up from his chest as he imagined he could feel the others gaining on him. Then, as if materializing out of the ether, he saw a face covered in hair resolve out of the pale moonlight, a werewolf. He looked even more terrifying than the others. Changing course again, he began scanning the tombstones for a place to hide, but everyplace was too exposed. The moon also appeared to be toying with him, dipping behind clouds and then coming out in full brightness. He needed to find some darkness if he hoped to survive. Only then did he realize that there were more of them now. The five behind and what looked like two or three more ahead, closing in on him, leaving him no escape.

Then he spotted it. A small family mausoleum lay just ahead to his right. Throwing himself at the baroque-style door, he fully expected it to be locked tight. But with an unwelcoming loud creak and moan, the door gave way. Pushing it shut, he looked around for something, anything, to block the door, but nothing was on hand. Just before ducking inside, he saw two more creatures coalesce out of the night dressed in nothing but veils. In no hurry, they moved towards him as if floating, each carrying what appeared to be stakes! My God, he thought, they really want me dead.  This was not a prank or just an attempt to scare him.  They meant to murder him.

Leaning against the door, while looking at the crypts in the wall, he decided to take the chance to pull out his phone. He had a text from the girl he was supposed to be meeting.

“Sorry, but my account was hacked. I’m really not into horror. Best of Luck.”

The spine-chilling recognition that he was alone in a cemetery with at least seven people with nefarious intent, made him tremble with fear. He could hear them now, approaching, making no effort to disguise their menacing footfalls. More distressing was the knowledge that at some point he temporarily had a cell signal. As he stood staring in disbelief, he witnessed with relief one lone bar appear on his phone. But he was out of time. They were here. He would be dead by the time the call went through.

Using the corkscrew he had brought for wine, he began, unsuccessfully at first, to pry off the facia of each of the crypts. Finally, he found one vault that was easier to open.  The fascia was loose, allowing him to wedge his fingers inside and pull the vault cover off. The woman, Maria Louisa Bruce, was only nineteen when she died over a hundred years ago. His plan was simple: crawl inside, seal himself in, make a phone call, and wait. While the thought of going inside the actual vault was making him hyperventilate with panic, it was better than the alternative. A ghastly face at the door, a high-pitched girlish scream, he recognized as his own, propelled him into the vault. Using his elbows to army crawl he pulled his body forward over the powdery white bones of his hostess. He didn’t question what had become of the coffin. The bottom appeared to be in place, as were the sides. Breathing in her musty fungal essence as he tried to move over her dreadful remains, he sadly realized that this was not the nocturnal union he’d had in mind. Dragging himself on his stomach over her skeleton, he could feel his cape scraping and snagging along the ceiling of the tomb. The sides abraded his shoulders; his face was practically planted in the remains of the former/current occupant. Gauze-like material seemed to be everywhere, its contents long since decayed. As he reached the top of the crypt, he came to the skull. The mausoleum had hindered the normal rot, which left the gruesome head still possessing blackened flesh receding from the bulging eyes and teeth, causing the corpse to look like it was grimacing at its unwanted intruder. Fighting the urge to vomit, Aiden realized he was holding his breath in fright.

Trembling, he could see that they were all outside of the tomb, watching, waiting. He quickly discovered that he had no hopes of barricading himself in. Instead, he braced himself in the tomb in case they tried to pull him out. He would go down kicking and fighting, but unfortunately for Aiden, that was not what transpired.

Silently, they entered the mausoleum and peered through the crypt opening at him. One of them smiled a cruel lopsided, sardonic grin. “Please. You have the wrong guy! I don’t even know you. What could I have done to make you want to kill me,” he screamed. Two of them lit votives and placed them on the ground in the five points of a pentagram as if in some kind of satanic sacrificial ritual. And then, without a word, two of them lifted the hatch to the crypt and applied some noxious, chemical-smelling substance.

He quickly realized that from the beginning, his predators had forced him towards the center of the graveyard, away from his car, away from roads, away from potential safety. With dawning horror, he understood they had driven him to this spot. He hadn’t just found this sanctuary; they had preordained it for a premeditated gruesome finale—his finale. And then, with no great fanfare, they sealed him in.

With mounting claustrophobic panic, Aiden laid on his side and wrestled his phone out of his pocket. The light illuminated how desperate his situation was. Still, he was thankful for the light after they wedged the block of stone in place. Only in looking at his phone did he see that his efforts, his instincts, were all wrong. Hiding had been the wrong move entirely. With rising dread, he saw that he had no bars. Struggle as he might, he could not get the leverage needed to kick out the block, especially with the monsters holding it in place.  “Why?!” He screamed at his assailants. Kicking and screaming seemed to have no affect on his tormentors; instead, it only tired him and expended his oxygen at a faster rate. “Please,” he gasped after a while. “No,” he yelled as he faced his own mortality. “I don’t deserve this!” But in the cramped darkness, he wasn’t sure if he had drowsed in between outbursts of anger and frustration. Soon the hushed silence was all he could hear over his racking sobs. He assumed they had gone, but he couldn’t be sure.

“Fret not, for you will be legend.” Aiden tried to quiet his breathing and strained to hear the faint male voice. “You, who have long adored the horror genre will soon become part of it. I will memorialize your demise with words that will long outlast even a normal lifetime. I hope to make the horror of your death immortal—one that will be told around bonfires for generations to come.”

Wet with cold sweat, he found himself panting for the last morsels of air. In a final exercise of futility, he tried again to kick off the vault cover, but his fate was sealed. No one would find him in time, despite the perpetrators playing a taunting game, leaving clues of his whereabouts on social media. Thirst or asphyxiation would take him long before anyone ventured that deep into the vast cemetery. His greatest nightmare had come true, his premature burial.

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