Post # 303 A Tale From A Crypt, a story by me!

October 31, 2014 at 8:29 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 303 A Tale From A Crypt, a story by me!

A Tale From A Crypt

 

Mark looked around the room, noting the groups talking, the volume level of the music, the amount of snacks and drinks out. His Halloween party was always his biggest party of the year and he worked to make it a success. Some people were in costume, but most were in everyday, comfy clothes. He set the bottles of beer he was carrying into an ice-filled tub and scanned the room again. Sharp details stood out. A witch’s hat towering almost to the ceiling, a black robe swirling with red underneath, toilet paper mummy wraps, bright laughter erupting from one corner.

A hand grabbed his shoulder as he stepped into the crowd. “Mark, who’s that on the patio?”

He grinned. “That’s George. He lives nearby. You should talk to him. He’s pretty interesting. Knows all the local history.”

Mark pushed through, speaking to various people, until he was outside. The night was warm, but with a slight chill. The small glow sticks he’d put in the small cemetery that abutted his property cast an eerie pallor through the long grass creating the perfect effect. That cemetery was one of the reasons he’d bought this house. It was a small, family plot, only about a dozen and a half stones in various stages of disrepair. It was surrounded by an ornate, black metal fence with a gate that opened only after a struggle. Mark had visited many times.

As most of Mark’s parties did, eventually most people found comfortable spots on the patio. A small bonfire illuminated the area with flickering patterns, driving back the minimal cold, and adding atmosphere for what was supposed to be a spooky party.

Mark spoke up, “Hey, everyone! I want to introduce my friend, George, here. He’s lived in the area all his life and we got to know each other, hmmm, almost from the moment I moved into the house.”

There were general murmurs of welcome and George smiled. Conversation flowed and eddied as the evening wore on, until finally Mark judged the time to be right. He stood and the group look on expectantly.

“Okay, everyone, it’s time for the Annual Spooky Tale contest,” he said loudly. There were cheers and smiles. “For those who don’t know the rules, or don’t remember them, here it is. Anyone who wants to tell a spooky tale for Halloween can do so, in any manner they choose. After the last tale has been told, we vote on a winner for this year. The prize this year is a bottle of highland scotch whiskey I picked up on my travels, as well as the privilege to wear the title of Master Story Teller for the next twelve months. Any questions?”

 

The tales wove through the night involving hooks in car doors, maniacs dressed as Santa, ax-wielding murderers, ghosts, witches, and a dozen other denizens of the dark. When the last vampire had met its grisly demise, Mark stood up.

“Are we done? Any others want to scare us tonight?”

George had remained silent through the other stories, but raised his hand. “I’d like to tell one.”

Mark smiled, splitting his face. He’d hoped for this. “Certainly! We’ve got plenty of time for one more. I suggest everyone get comfortable.”

George smiled again, waiting for stillness. When all eyes were focused on him, he said, “This story started about a hundred or so years ago, perhaps a little more. There was a young lady hereabouts called Emily. She was a sweet little girl, very popular, very pretty. As she grew, she discovered that her looks and popularity could get her things, and the thing she wanted most was suitors. By the time she had reached marrying age, the local boys were lined up for miles to see her. She was a flighty thing by this time and played with their emotions heartlessly. She begged favors, pitted one against another, destroying hopes and dreams almost with every breath.”

“Wow, she sounds like a real bitch!” one young lady said.

Several heads nodded and George continued. “It wasn’t totally her fault. People treated her like royalty, and being young and naive, she came to believe it. She played the queen’s act for quite a while until out of the blue, a man arrived who captured her attention. He came to town with his parents to start a new business and became very successful in a very short time.”

“What was the business, do you know?” Mark asked.

George shook his head. “No, but they were so successful right from the start that Emily’s parents invited them to parties and gatherings right from the beginning. That’s how Emily came to be aware of a stranger in their town, and her curiosity was piqued. The more she learned about him, the more she wanted to know. But there was one problem for Emily. The young man, whose name also happened to be George, was not interested in her.”

Someone in the crowd laughed and said, “That must have driven her crazy.”

George agreed. “She wasn’t very happy with that. George spent most of his time with the business or with his parents. He did go out on the town occasionally, and sometimes in the company of a young woman, but never Emily. Emily did all that she could to let George know she was available. She stopped seeing her other suitors altogether. She made her parents invite him to garden parties. She visited his parents often.”

“Did it work,” Mark asked, curious in spite of himself.

“Yes, over time, the two became a couple. People just naturally took it for granted that where one was, the other would be, also. Eventually, they were only ever invited out as a couple rather than apart. Emily was very happy, but George was less so. He liked Emily well enough, but he wasn’t certain that being in her company exclusively was what he wanted. Then, of course, there was the inevitable pressure to marry. Neither of them was getting younger and both sets of parents wanted them settled and successful as soon as could be arranged. Eventually, George bowed to the pressure and proposed. Between the two families, it was going to be the wedding of the decade.”

George stopped for a moment staring into the flames as though seeing events transpiring. “Emily, certainly, was as happy as a prospective bride should be. Making wedding plans with her friends and family made her complete. Her father wasn’t disposed to deny her anything she wished in the wedding. It quickly became the event of the season. George was busy with the details of his business and the home he was trying to create for Emily, but as time went along, he felt more a stranger to the activity of a wedding, and became less and less enthusiastic.”

“Did Emily know?”

George shook his head. “She was wrapped up in being a bride and the more time that passed, the less the couple really saw of each other. George claimed his business was keeping him late. What was really happening, according to the tales, was that he started visiting the bar near his business. He wasn’t a drunkard, but he was avoiding seeing Emily as much as possible.”

“Why didn’t he just talk to her about it? I know I’d like any fiancé of mine to talk to me.”

George grinned. “Who knows? Perhaps his heart wasn’t in it. Maybe talking about your feelings just wasn’t done in those days. But, as often happens, he started talking about his troubles to the barmaid, a slightly older girl with a sympathetic ear.”

Several groans rang out and a couple of cries of “Uh oh!”

George nodded. “You know where this is heading, right? Before long, George no longer wanted to marry Emily. His heart had found its home with Livvy. It’s an old story. It’s never meant to hurt anyone, but someone gets hurt all the same.”

The crowd fell silent as George stopped, stretching the silence over several seconds.

“It didn’t go well, did it?” Mark finally asked.

“No, not well at all. But not as you’d guess. George went to his parents first and told them he wanted to call off the wedding. Of course, they were horrified. It was an excellent match, and the two families had become very close. George was inclined to be obstinate, but his mother, who was in delicate health asked him to reconsider. She played with his emotions to the point that he continued his engagement with Emily and promised not to see Livvy again.

“But that was a promise he found very hard to keep.”

“She didn’t get pregnant, did she?” The disappointment in the voice dripped like candle wax.

George shook his head. “Not in those days. Not with honorable people, and they were all honorable. George wasn’t a cad; Livvy wasn’t a trollop; Emily was guilty only of thoughtlessness. They were just three people caught up in difficulty that was hard to correct. Emily didn’t even know Livvy existed.”

“But she did, right?” Mark was captivated by the story.

“In a manner of speaking. The day of the wedding broke and it was a splendid day for it. The church was resplendent in white decorations. Emily was dressed and waiting in the anteroom. The organist was playing softly as guests arrived. It was a happy, joyous, and somber occasion. But George never arrived. Instead, a note was delivered to Emily. George explained that he had run off to be married to another girl, and offered an apology.”

“Hoo, that’s harsh,” someone said.

“Well, about two months later, George came back to face his family and Emily. He’d left Livvy in their new home since none of it was of her making. He’d made his decisions and needed to own up to them. When he arrived at his parents’ home, though, no one was there. As he was driving to the old business, he noticed activity in the church yard. He went to see what was going on and found his parents and Emily’s parents at a grave side.”

“Aw, crap,” a voice said. It seemed like the consensus.

“The loathing was terrible. Emily had never recovered from the bitter disappointment and had finally taken her own life when she knew that George wasn’t coming back. Incredibly, George had arrived as they were burying the poor girl. Emotions ran high for everyone. Hateful, stinging words were flung back and forth. Even the minister had to step in between George and the families. The outcome was George was banished, forever. His parents, Emily’s parents, most of the town never wanted to see him again.”

George took a swallow from his drink and looked around. All eyes were on him. “So George left. He’d lost everything but had gained what he most wanted. He returned to Livvy, only to find that she had taken ill and passed away in his absence.”

A murmur of shock ran through the party.

“George was devastated. He’d lost everything. Not knowing what else to do, he liquidated his assets, left the country, traveled through Europe and Asia, alone, and bitter. It was a full twenty years before he returned to his home. By then, his parents had passed away. Emily’s parents had left the town. No one recognized the stranger, and even the events that had forced him to leave were shrouded in legend and old tales. One evening, soon after returning, George allowed his footsteps to take him to the cemetery, and to the family’s plot. His thoughts carried shame, remorse, and sorrow as he looked at his mother’s grave. She had died shortly after he left. His father lasted many years, alone. George couldn’t bear the thought of what he’d caused.”

“Wow,” Mark said.

“Then he heard a slight noise.” George continued not hearing or not heeding Mark’s comment. “It sounded like someone calling. Far in the distance, a voice carried by the wind. He looked around and saw nothing but the leaves scattering before the wind. The voice became stronger. It called his name. It came from all directions, insistently calling his name. Then he saw a figure, pale, draped in white. It approached him along the pathway, holding out its hand to him.”

A strong gust blew through the yard as if on cue. The flames guttered and snapped.

“George recognized Emily. He took a step back but felt helpless to flee. ‘Emily’ he said in a strangled voice.”

“The figure continued to draw near and George could make out details. The skull-like smile exposing teeth and bone. The empty eye sockets, the colors of face makeup running down cheek flesh that was old and desiccated. George recoiled in horror as a thin and bony arm reached out to him. The white bridal glove hung in tatters. George wanted to run, but terror rooted him to the spot. Even his voice failed him, at the end. As the hands clawed at him, the toothy smile never wavering, he tried to scream. His entire soul erupted into a voiceless protest. Not even a gurgle sounded from his throat.”

George looked down at the ground for a moment, as though engulfed in memory. Finally he raised his head.

“They found him a couple of days later. Dead of a heart attack, according to the county medical examiner. Oddly, though, they found him at Emily’s grave, not his parents.”

George looked up with a smile. The tale was over, the spell broken, and the cold wind that still blew was simply a cold wind.

Someone started to clap, until everyone was clapping and shouting, delighted in the tale. Shouts of “Winner!” and “That’s the one!” echoed for a few minutes.

Mark stood with a broad smile. “I guess there’s no need to vote, is there? That one was clearly the winner.” He held out the bottle to George. “Story Master, you have earned this reward.”

George accepted it with a shy smile.

“And that, my friends, is the end of the evening. Thanks for coming by.”

After the last guest had gone, Mark went back out to the fire pit where George still sat.

“That was an amazing story,” he said.

“I hope they all enjoyed it.”

“They did. Same time next year?”

“If you’ll invite me,” George said. Still smiling, he stood and walked into the cemetery.

Mark watched him until the shadows swallowed him up.

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Enjoy!

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