A fierce wind blows across the Bethel Cemetery grounds. This is a cleansing, Wyoming style. Tomorrow is Samhain, and all must be ready. Nothing must stand in the way of what is to happen here at the appointed time.
Leaves scatter everywhere, swirling around, telling the world their story. The multicolored delights just recently fallen from the trees will soon turn brown and add to the dead look of winter. By morning, none of the leaves will be left in the cemetery. It has been mandated.
One gravesite stands apart from the rest, mounds of dirt placed to the side, allowing room for those who will come and grieve. There is no need for a cleansing wind here. There is not a leaf to be found. The tombstone, its fresh marble surface shining in the moonlight, displays the name of tomorrow’s occupant.
Born: September 14, 1947
Died: October 30, 2013
“Feast at my burial. I’ll bring the beer.”
* * *
I toss my suitcase on the bed, tired from the long trip and the rotten travel conditions. Something weird is going on in the skies. The turbulence was freaky. Several times I thought the end was coming, the little prop job almost slammed to the surface before the pilot was able to pull the nose up at the last second.
Blaze asked me to meet him here at the Plains Hotel in downtown Cheyenne, he said there was something very important he had to tell me. But when he didn’t show up, I booked a room. This is an interesting place. The bell boy had rattled off tales of the people killed here, ghosts running around the joint, and other stories of the paranormal. His jabber-jawing earned him a good tip from me.
Heading back to the lobby, I stop at the front desk and ask if there’s a dining room at the hotel. I’m starved. Nothing like a roller-coaster plane ride to whet an appetite. Plus, I need a beer.
“Yes, Mr. Kullis, the dining room is down the hallway to your right. The food and beverage selection is quite excellent. Enjoy your dinner, sir,” the clerk smiled. “Oh, just a moment, I nearly forgot. I have a letter for you.”
‘Hi, Zack. It’s Blaze,’ I read. ‘I won’t be able to meet you at the Plains – I’m dead. Kind of sucks, but I’m being buried at the Cemetery tomorrow night at 8:00 P.M. and I’d like you to be there. Strange time, I realize, but you’ll understand why tomorrow. No need for fancy duds. It’ll be quite dark and no one will give a fuck what you’re wearing. See you tomorrow night, buddy.’
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Blaze is up to something. The man’s a real wise-ass. I just wonder when he’ll arrive on the scene and try to scare the living shit out of me.
I walk into the dining room. The waitress seats me at a table close to the window where I can see what’s happening outside. Perfect. I don’t like being hemmed in. Too many years in the FBI have taught me to always have an escape route planned. In this case, it’s a window, but it’ll do.
She takes my order and asks if I would like a drink while I wait for my meal. “Thank you,” I say. “I’ll have a Budweiser, please.”
It hits the spot, and I drink slowly as I wait for my meal. The wind is howling outside, sending debris ripping down the street at a frightening pace. It tears a sign apart across the road. I’m glad I’m on this side. But then again, what if the wind shifts? I’m right next to the fucking window. So much for an escape route – a safe one anyway.
“Here’s your dinner, sir,” my waitress says, placing it before me. “I see you were watching our unique natural phenomenon. It keeps the air clean, if nothing else.”
“I would imagine it does. Is it always like this?”
“Yes, except in the summer when we could use a breeze.”
“Amazing. I guess you get used to it after a while.”
“Not really. The state has a pretty high suicide rate, I’m sure the wind has a lot to do with it. Would you care for another beer?”
“Yes, please,” I say, surprised that suicide and beer should both roll off her tongue so easily.
“I’ll be right back with another Budweiser. Enjoy your dinner.”
My steak is sitting in a pool of warm blood, shaking wildly as though daring me to try cutting into it. Bones adorn the outer perimeters of the platter the steak sits on. When I attempt to butter my potato, they begin attacking my hands. Damn that fucking Blaze! What’s that joker up to? I know he’s behind this.
“Is everything all right, sir?” my waitress asks when she returns.
“I believe my steak is a bit too rare,” I intone with a hint of sarcasm. “Would you have the chef cook it a little longer, please?”
“No problem, sir.”
She removes the plate, and I sip my second beer. When she returns, I find that everything is cooked to perfection. There is no blood on the plate, and no more snapping bones. “Is everything okay this time, sir?” she asks as she watches me take my first bite.
“Absolutely delicious, thank you.”
I finish my meal and order one last beer.
“Would you prefer to sit here with your beer or go to the lounge, sir,” my waitress asks.
“Actually, I’m waiting for a friend of mine to pop up on the scene. He sent me a letter saying he was dead and to meet him tomorrow night at the cemetery. But Blaze is quite the trickster.”
“Yes, do you know him?”
“Indeed I do. He cuts quite a figure in this town. But he did die, sir. This morning, in fact. He has been sick for a while, you know.”
“I heard he was, but I had no idea he was that sick.”
“Yes, I’m sorry to say. He had quite a following. The cemetery will be packed tomorrow night. I’ll be there for sure.”
Wow! Even in death, Blaze found a way to make the situation a merry one.
“Why is he being buried only one day after his death?”
“He arranged it this way. He didn’t want a mortician working on him. A simple pine box, closed lid, and a quick, natural burial were his wishes. But he arranged for a feast to be catered at the grave site. The man knew how to live, no doubting that, but he certainly knew how to die with style!”
My respect for Blaze growing, my curiosity as to who this man really was growing by leaps and bounds. I knew him, but apparently I didn’t really know him.
“Why will so many people be there? Don’t most already have plans for Halloween? Parties, tick-or-treating with the kids?”
She smiled, “Blaze was loved by everyone. He was a very generous man when it came to children and his friends, and helped everyone he knew as much as he could. Plus, his was always the best Halloween party in town. Something special will happen tomorrow, rest assured of that.”
“Well, I guess we’ll find out,” I say.
Linda, the waitress (I can tell by her name tag – hey, we FBI guys are sharp) is right about Blaze in many respects, but she’s not telling me the whole story. I can hear the hidden inflection in her speech, read her various body mannerisms, and I know there is more to it than she’s telling me, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll go tomorrow night and see for myself, pay my respects to my friend, and leave the following day. I owe it to Blaze. He’s helped me out a number of times in the past. It’s the least I can do.
“If you don’t mind, Linda,” I say, “I’ll just sit here and finish this beer before going back to my room.” She brings me my check, I pay and drop her a twenty as a tip. “I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
“Thank you very much, that’s very generous of you. Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
After nursing the last few sips of my beer, I head back to my room, every step of the way feeling as if I am being followed. I see nothing, but it doesn’t matter; I feel everything; I’m not alone. I’m on the cusp of a grand adventure.
Thanks, Blaze. You know how I thrive on the unknown. Tomorrow, buddy. Tomorrow.
* * *
I arrive at the grave site early, or so I thought. There are already easily a hundred people assembled. The catering is in full swing, tables of food set up for everyone, well in advance of the burial. Blaze’s casket sits off to the side of the party, watching; almost seeming to survey everything that’s going on in the cemetery.
Kegs of Killian’s Red, Blaze’s favorite beer are set up in huge ice baths, and a bartender is busy pouring away.
Walking to the tombstone, I see the inscription and have to laugh. Linda was right: Blaze knows how to die with style.
I grab some food. There’s a little bit of everything here. Enough entrees and desserts to blow your socks off. Over a thousand miles from the closest ocean, and yet there are fresh lobsters, steamed clams, succulent oysters, as well as prime-cut locally raised steaks and burgers.
Spotting Linda, I walk to her and say, “Hello again. I’m glad to see you here. You mentioned there would be a big turn out, but I never expected this.”
She laughs. “This is only the beginning.”
With everything else going on tonight, I imagine her words resonate with truth. As much as I don’t wish to see my buddy being interred in the ground, I can hardly wait to see what happens next. It’s as if I’m in a movie, one scene after another playing before my eyes, waiting for my part to begin.
Eight P.M. arrives and two men maneuver the casket over the open grave and lower it into the ground. All eyes are on what’s happening. When the pine box hits the bottom of the hole, the men begin tossing dirt on top of it, shovel by shovelful. In a matter of fifteen minutes, all that meets the eyes is a mound of soil not quite as flattened out as it should be. There are no words spoken, no eulogy given. Strange, but I guess that’s the way Blaze wanted it.
Standing off to the side, watching the people gathered here, I feel a growing sense of expectation in the pit of my stomach; something is yet to come. Then it happens. The earth shakes, enough to almost toss me to the ground. I look around to see the others behaving as if they expected this to happen. The huge mausoleum next to Blaze’s modest burial-place splits in two from the force of the quaking, and the immense crowd, now numbering at least three hundred, stands to either side of the opening, forming as a human channel to direct traffic… but for what?
I hear scratching and clawing, and smell a hideous, musty stench coming from inside the mausoleum. Winged beasts emerge from the breach first, looking like gigantic bats, but upon further inspection, appear to resemble enormous Gargoyles with long, split tails. They rise high into the air, their wings sending the putrefaction farther out into the cemetery. And then, they fly away faster than anything I have ever seen before.
Wispy ghosts appear next, their non-substantive forms flying wildly about in the wake of the monstrosities before them. They must be lost souls released from their bondage. But where do they go now?
“Believe. Open your eyes and believe,” Linda says, as she moves next to me. “This is the closest that the Gates to Otherworld have ever been to our world. Look at the name on the mausoleum: Katz; an aberration of cats. This is the Cave of the Cats.”
As much as I try to refute her statements, I can’t. I am a witness to all measure of demons and oddities from Hell. Beings of indescribable shapes and sizes parade their deformities before me.
But wait! None of them make any effort to attack those forming the corridor directing them away from their tomb. Where will they go? What will they do?
The last of them trickle from view, and we return to Blaze’s grave site.
The dirt begins to shift. A hand rises from the center of the mound, and then another. They push away more of the fill covering the burial, and the unmistakable sight of Blaze, dirt clinging to his long beard, catches the light of the moon. The crowd cheers as he surfaces, shakes and dusts himself off, then grabs a beer from the outstretched hand of the bartender.
“Thank you all for coming out tonight,” his booming voice echoes through the cemetery. “We know what we’re up against now. These things will go after their kind first, those who possess evil to match their own. When they run out of the scum of the Earth to feast upon, that’s when the good folk will have to worry.
“And worry they will. The Dark Ages have returned, worse than ever.”
He raises his beer into the air, and the crowd joins him.
“For now, let’s party. All work and no play, and all that shit, you know.”
I walk to Blaze and hold out my hand. “You need a fucking bath, buddy. You reek.”
“Soon enough, my friend. You know, your days with the FBI are done. This is not the only Cave of the Cats. There is one in Washington, D.C. These beings from Otherworld will be busy there for quite some time.”
I laugh. “I suppose, but how do I know that you didn’t change into one of the bastards of the Underworld when you were dead?”
“You don’t. But I certainly found the perfect night to rise up from the dead, didn’t I? The doctors couldn’t come up with a plan to keep my old carcass alive, but I found a way to avoid putting myself under their care.”
“Kind of an extreme way around the health care system, isn’t it?”
“Enough talk, Zack. Let’s party. Dead or alive, I can’t die again.”
For a dead guy, Blaze makes a lot of sense. We drink ‘til almost dawn, none of the crowd leaving. My friend is right. I will stay here. This will be a long battle.
* * *
Heavy rains saturate the area, flowing into the old mausoleum. A deep well is forming, but without fortifications to support it, it collapses in upon itself, sealing the opening forever.
The Gargoyles circle in the sky, the first vestige of destruction having occurred. Like the flying reptiles of millions of years ago, they rule supreme in the air. Nothing can touch them. They do not have to return to their confinement in Hell.
Pesky planes fly into Cheyenne airport. They picked the wrong time…
~ Blaze McRob
© Copyright 2013 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.
Coffin Hop 2013
The lid cracks open; dust and a foul odor emanate from within. But there is something… something lurking at the bottom. Could it be the Damned prize? Sliding the lid further, dirt rains down upon your unsoiled shoes, you peer deeper into the dim recesses; Damned if you’ll leave here without the treasure, Damned still if you do! The gap opens wider, something from within scuttles across your hand. Is that the echo of menacing laughter you hear?
Comment below ‘tween October 24th and 31st, 2013, and you may be Damned to suffer what the Coffin yields!
…and don’t forget to follow the other Coffin Hoppers here!