Alexi took the crumpled address and shoved it into her pocket before turning toward Brit. “You are absolutely sure the yard is empty?”
Brit closed her laptop, darkening the room to almost pitch black, “I literally just checked the registry again, and I was there last night. Place is completely empty. Just got old people and a couple of really sad kids.”
Alexi was a foot shorter than Brit but Brit was almost nothing but bones and a sticker covered laptop. “If you’re wrong…”
“I know, tough guy. I’ll pay you back, just chill, alright?”
“Pay me back and more.”
Brit walked to the door of her apartment, opened it, and let the light flood in. “You don’t have to do it, you know. You can just like, let sleeping dogs lie.”
“Funny.” Alexi started to walk to the door, but Brit stepped in front of the door way holding out her hand. Alexi placed a few crumpled hundreds into her hand.
Alexi set down her backpack against the marble and took out a shoe box covered in ornate geometric scrawl of squares, circles, and harsh lines, followed by a small gardening spade. She took a deep breath and began digging. Getting past the grass was a little difficult, but after that, the dirt was loose and easy to work with. In between shovelfuls of dirt, she smeared a line of mud across her cheek as she wiped away a tear.
As she took a moment to breathe, she looked around the graveyard and rested her hand on her thighs. “This is dumb,” she said to no one.
Bending over to pick up the box, she stopped for a second and let her eyes rest on the box, on the lines and curves and shapes, and what they meant was inside. She sat back down and started digging again.
“Fuck it, what’s the worst that could happen?” And then in a funny voice mimicking Brit she said, “‘Wanting to die and not being able to.’ Okay, well, shut up Brit.”
She shoved the box into the hole and covered it back up in dirt. She pulled out seven candles and placed them around the mound of dirt, hoping that a combination of Yankee Candles and those weird tall Mary devotional candles were gonna work here. She took the spade and began to carve a circle in the dirt around the candles, and then ornate symbols and shapes across the mound, careful to double check a piece of crumpled up paper from her pocket.
Behind her was the sound of wet flesh slapping on marble. She spun around and saw a large black hound crawling over a low gravestone, gripping it with four pitch black human hands where its paws should be. Shadows flickered off it like licking flames, its whole body seeming to be more a hole in her vision than an actual entity.
She crawled backwards on her hands and knees and knocked over Vanilla Cupcake ™ into the circle carved around the mound. The whole circle went up in flames, surrounding Alexi with heat and lighting up the tilted face of the grim beast staring her down.
She stood up, wiped a tear off the dried mud beneath her eye and leaped over the flame to the dark and menacing creature, a representation of the death and decay beneath the dirt.
The black creature of unfathomable rot bounded towards her and she opened up her arms. It leaped towards her and almost knocked her back toward the flames, but she pivoted to land in a patch of soft grass away from stone and fire. The creature landed on her and began to lick her face, his breath full of decay and rot and somehow smelling better than when he was alive. Alexi rubbed the fur behind his neck, wet, sticky, and knotted, and the grim protector of the graveyard began to violently shake its leg, and the human hand at the end of it, as if to scratch the ghost of an itch.
Alexi checked her phone and realized that sunrise was coming fast; it was time for her to go. She blew out the candles, packed them up along with the spade, and flattened the ground with her shoes.
Walking through the front gate of the cemetery she noticed that Reginald was following her but stopped at the entrance, scratching at the empty air as if a plate of glass was between them.
“I’m sorry Reg, but you gotta stay here.”
Reginald tilted his head, its burning embers for eyes matching Alexi’s. Alexi began to cry again.
“I’ll visit soon again, I swear.” Alexi began to walk away before stopping and reaching into her bag. She pulled out a small parcel wrapped in butcher’s paper and unwrapped a raw steak. “Keep the place safe, okay?” She tossed the meat towards the very good protector of the ebony gates to heaven and hell.
If you like this story, or any of my other posts, please become a Patron, or share my work with someone else who might enjoy it.
The image for this story was drawn by the talented Deidra Ricketts. You can find more of her art on her instagram. She is an expert at drawing animals and nature, as well as cars. Check her out and give her a follow!