“It’s not fair,” Jerry complains with tears on the verge of bursting out of his dark brown eyes.
Jerry is a scrawny boy with pale white skin, glasses as big as his oval head and braces that sum up how much of a nerd he is.
“Don’t worry about it, Jerry. Tomorrow morning we are going to report those jerks for what they did to us,” says Larry.
Larry is a short and portly kid with dark curly hair that flows all the way to his shoulders. He looks like the son of a rock star. But in reality, both of his parents are pencil pushers who know nothing about music. He is a shy kid who always hides behind his rich locks of hair when confronted with an uncomfortable situation. He usually opens up when he is with his friends.
Jerry frowns and yells out, “Tomorrow?! I am telling my parents today that Peter took my bike, that thing cost a fortune.”
“Let’s not escalate the situation guys,” says the chubby Shaun who is wobbling just behind Jerry and Larry.
Shaun has bedraggled short ginger hair. His honey brown eyes are hard to appreciate because his face is plagued with an abnormal number of freckles.
“I think it’s just another one of their pranks. They will surly give us back our stuff tomorrow,” he continues.
“A prank? Are you serious? Wake up, Shaun, they took our bikes and Larry’s skateboard and now we have to walk home like cavemen and you think this is a prank? It’s bullying, in fact it’s theft that’s what this is. The sun is already going down and we are still far away from home. What do you want me to say when I arrive home after six?”
“Look, all I am saying is we need to be careful of how we handle this situation, Jerry. Reporting this would wedge a war against those guys. They may make our lives a living hell if we snitch on them,” Shaun reasons.
Jerry angrily turns to face Shaun and says, “Well, I think it’s time we start snitching on them. Every day they take our food, our lunch money and a bunch of our stuff. If we continue to suffer in silence it is never going to stop. I say it’s time to snitch on Peter and his goons.”
“Now that I think of it, Shaun is right. Snitching could be a death sentence for us,” Larry chips in. “I don’t want to be those guys’ number one enemy.”
Jerry kicks a couple of stones in anger, “You guys are unbelievable. So what do you want us to do? How are we even going to get to school tomorrow? We are going to walk again? Tommy what do you think?”
Tom had been nursing a black eye he got for trying to stand up for himself when they were raided by Peter and his friends. He has the reputation of being the tough and troubled kid.
His pitch black hair is groomed into a military cut. With broad shoulders and bulging firm biceps, Tom is undoubtedly the fittest of the group. He always seems to have scars and bruises on his body which allude to the fact that he may be having troubles at home. But none of his friends dare to ask him about it because they all fear him. His ocean blue eyes always carry a sadness of someone who has seen a lot and doesn’t want to talk about it.
“I don’t care what you guys decide to do but that jerk Peter is going to pay one way or the other,” Tom says with the bass of a choir backline singer.
“You and I are singing the same song, Tom. We both want those guys to pay for what they did. I am sure you have a more diabolical plan in mind but I would suggest we use the law to get back at them,” Jerry says.
“I said I don’t care what you do! I will do my own thing,” Tom barks out.
“Uhm guys?” Larry says as he stops at a faded foot path next to the road.
“What do you mean you don’t care? We are on the same side here. We need to figure out a way to take them down together,” Jerry says to Tom all the while ignoring Larry.
“We are not on the same side. I have my methods you have yours,” Tom replies.
“Guys?” Larry says again in a desperate attempt to get his friends’ attention.
However, they keep striding along paying him no mind.
“Yes, but I am saying we should think of something together because our objectives are the same,” Jerry continues persuading Tom.
“Guys!” Larry screams like an army drill sergeant.
The rest of his group stops and turn back to face him.
“Do you know if we take this road it will lead us to Soul Street and that will cut our journey in half?” Larry asks.
“What? No way, this path will make us pass by the graveyard. I am in no mood to piss off the dead,” Shaun tremulously says.
“Larry is right we need to take that road to make sure we each get home on time,” Tom says with a stern expression that’s always etched on his square shaped face.
“We are already late. We are never going to get home on time. Besides I have heard of scary things that happen on this road at night,” Shaun continues to protest.
“Grow up Shaun you are twelve years old. You are too old to be still believing in ghosts and besides it’s not yet dark,” Jerry reasons.
Both Tom and Jerry begin to walk back to the path where Larry is standing. Shaun remains rooted where he is and asserts, “I am dead serious guys, bad things happen on that road. I am not going through that path.”
“Well, enjoy walking that long road by yourself. Hope you won’t arrive home tomorrow,” Larry quips.
“You guys can’t let me walk alone, someone has to come with me,” whines the corpulent boy.
“Come along fatso I will hold your hand if I have to,” Tom says as he follows Jerry and Larry down the path.
Shaun runs after them because he lacks the courage to walk on his own. The boys follow the path that snakes into a dirt road full of tall oak trees and innumerable weeds.
The descending sun adds a petrifying atmosphere to the road. All four boys are dead silent as they take in the peculiarity of the route. The old trees have wrinkles on their trunks which make them look like frowning faces. The trees branches are thin and droopy and they are eclipsing the orange glow of the sunset. This makes the sagging tree branches create an intimidating tunnel on the path. The roots of the trees are sticking out from the ground and worming into the road.
The tall weeds and brown grass surrounding the trees are swaying from side to side like a belly dancer. The road has few other distinct features about it expect for the house of the dead that soon comes into view when the boys walk for about ten minutes.
The graveyard that Shaun was so terrified of is glorious in sight. It has perfectly manicured green grass with grey tombstones succinctly aligned into straight lines. The caretaker of the place must work his fingers to the bone. A four feet tall wire fence encircles the graveyard. The iron steel gate is painted white and locked by a golden key chain.
When the boys pass the place, Larry turns to Shaun and says, “So what was all the fuss about?”
Shaun frowns at the remark and continues striding forward all the while resisting the edge to hold Tom’s hand. When they pass the graveyard, the same scenery that was present before, returns. The ugly trees and army of weeds on either side of the road look exactly the same. The boys can’t tell if they are coming or going. All of their jaws almost plummet to the ground when they soon find themselves at the graveyard again.
“What the hell? Did we make a wrong turn?” asks Jerry.
“We were walking in a straight line the whole time. How could we have made a wrong turn?” Tom hisses.
“This doesn’t make any sense. How could we possibly be back here?” Jerry questions.
“I don’t like the look of this,” Shaun says as he reaches for Tom’s hand.
“Calm down, okay? We must have gotten our bearings wrong somewhere. Let’s keep walking and see what happens,” Larry says to bring everyone at ease.
The boys continue walking down the road. Their sneakers are now sullied with dust and their bodies are gradually beginning to fatigue. Thirst and hunger soon begins to torment them. The road’s features don’t alter as they continue plodding anxiously. After another ten minute walk they find themselves at the graveyard once more.
“Guys I think we are lost,” Larry admits.
“You think?!” Jerry screams in his face.
“I have a feeling there are supernatural forces at work here.”
“Can you stop saying that, Shaun, we need to find a way out of this road,” Jerry asserts.
“Think about it, man, we having been walking for about good thirty minutes and the sun hasn’t moved an inch,” Shaun says pointing at the sky.
“Look, I think we just need to retrace our steps and go back to the main road because I don’t know what the hell is going on here,” Larry voices out.
“I agree let’s just go back,” Tom adds.
The boys go back the way they came. Tom and Larry are frustrated, Shaun is obviously terrified while Jerry is intrigued by their conundrum. After another ten minute stroll the other way, the sight of the graveyard makes all four boys’ hearts drop to their stomachs.
Panic grips them tighter than the embrace of a python. Confusion and fear verbally impairs each of them to the extent of not knowing what to say to each other. They soon notice someone walking towards them from up the road. They all stand motionless unsure how to react as the person approaches.
“Quite the trouble you got yourselves into, boys,” says the old man who introduces himself as Donald.
He has a cloud of white bushy beard covering his chin and cheeks. He is garbed by a long brown trench coat and a black Stetson hat that makes him look like an old Indiana Jones. His oval face has several wrinkles as evidence of his advanced age.
None of the boys ask him of his exact age but a good estimate would place him between 50 and 55. He seems very strong for his age group. An iron chest is peeking out of his sweat stained white shirt. He has shoulders as broad as an iron board and has the height of a basketball player. He is carrying a brown sling bag which he instantly opens and takes out a small whiskey bottle. He chugs the whiskey greedily.
“We are just trying to get home but we are lost,” Jerry asserts.
“I know,” replies Donald as he takes another swing at his whiskey.
The boys wait patiently for him to continue.
“I have been looking for you for a long time. The forces you are up against are very powerful. There are spirits here that don’t want you to go home. These spirits lick their lips every time little boys like yourselves pass through here.”
“You see, I told you there are supernatural forces at work here,” Shaun proudly says.
“Wait, what did you mean you were looking for us for a long time? We are only a few hours late to get home. Did our parents send out search parties to look for us? Because the real culprits to blame are Peter and his friends, they took our bikes and beat up Tom. I think you should…”
“Boys there is no time for that. We first need to get out of here and we will discuss everything else later,” Donald says as he cuts off Jerry’s ramblings.
“Where exactly are we?” Larry asks.
“We are in some form of phantasm because I have never seen the graveyard looking this good. We need to find the botch in this illusion and break through it. Come on, time is of the essence. The more we stay here, a piece of us dies and I don’t have too many pieces of life left,” Donald says as he kicks and breaks the chain on the gate of the graveyard.
He leads the boys deep into the graveyard where they dance around the tombstones to a secluded section that is full of brown weeds. The area appears to be a different world compared to the rest of the graveyard. The lush green grass that is around the tombstones and at the front of the graveyard isn’t present at the back. Brown weeds which are taller than a wrestling athlete cover the area making it hard to see the back fence.
“This has to be the blooper, boys. It’s the only area of the graveyard the spirits aren’t manipulating. We have to walk past the weeds and climb over that fence. Come on move it!” Donald yells.
As the group runs towards the back fence shrugging off the itchy shoulder rubs from the weeds, they hear groaning sounds emanating from behind them. The noise appears to be coming from the tombstones they passed.
“Move faster! They are not happy!” Donald barks out the command.
The first person to reach the fence is Tom who does light work of jumping over to the other side. Jerry follows suit but the efforts of Larry and Shaun are more laboured.
When all of the boys have made it to the other side of the fence, they see the suburban houses of Soul Street. Their hearts leap with joy.
While on top of the fence, Donald suddenly lets out an aching cry. When the boys turn back, they see him with a black claw resting on his shoulder.
“Run!” is the only word that manages to escape his lips before the claw drags him back to the other side of the fence. The boys take off like startled rabbits.
Larry and Shaun are the least athletic of the group but no one would have guessed that because of the cheetah like speed they unleash at that moment. As they distance themselves further from the graveyard, they can hear the wailing of a thousand guttural voices behind them.
They only turn back when they reach the first house in Soul Street. It becomes abundantly clear to all of them that Donald isn’t going to join them. They continue running to a safer distance. Hunger, thirst and weariness is making their running more difficult. They all decide to go catch a breath at Jerry’s house which is the closest.
None of the boys realise the high position of the sun which signals it is early afternoon. When they reach Jerry’s house, they find the lounge congested with people. All of the boy’s parents are there.
After a whole episode of crying and hugging each other, Jerry decides to ask his parents, “Why are all these people here? We were only a couple of hours late.”
Jerry’s mother can hardly respond as tears run down her puffy cheeks in slews. So Jerry turns to his father who has tears glassing his blue eyes.
The man looks at Jerry with a woeful expression and says, “Son, we were worried sick. You have been missing for two weeks.”