Stacey Chapman pulled hard on the cold metal of the gate. The rusted iron hinges resisted and it squealed as it moved. She winced at the sound as it cut through the quiet of the cemetery. She pulled hard again. It moved another six inches but would go no further. She glanced around to ensure she hadn’t attracted any unwanted company, then checked her watch. Twelve minutes until midnight. She still had time.
She adjusted her glasses, tied back her long, brown hair, and then slipped through the antiquated gate. The moonlight illuminated the mausoleum up ahead. The ancient structure sat with dry, dead vines engulfing it, as if unwilling to release their prize. They snaked their way around grey weathered stone as old as the trees surrounding it. Two ornate pillars fought to hold up the stonework as it slumped with the weight of its century-long burden.
She edged closer through the long grass and weeds. The pockmarked outer wall of the structure was covered in years of mold and damp. The motionless stone face that hung above the two large, black wooden doors sneered down, warning off anyone foolish enough to try and enter. That’s me, she thought as she crept forward, stupid, stupid, stupid. She could just make out the name above the doors, carved into a worn, granite plaque
She felt uneasy seeing that name. Every person in town knew it and the legend it bore. Vincenzo Marcovelle—the Monster of Milford. He was a child killer, murdering three of his four young daughters with a hand sickle back in 1913. She heard that when the authorities stormed Vincenzo’s home they found the bloodied bodies of his children laid out on the floor, their arms crossed over their chest with one white rose in each little hand. Vincenzo was there, clenching the blood-soaked sickle as he calmly rocked back and forth repeating “Just one more,” over and over again.
He would never get a chance to finish his grizzly task. Vincenzo’s trial was quick. He was found guilty and two weeks later sent to the electric chair.
Stacey shivered when she pictured it. There had been one empty spot on the floor the day they took him away, empty save for a single white rose. The place meant for the fourth daughter, Mary, Stacey’s great-grandmother. Mary had been away at the doctor with her mother that day and much to Stacey’s relief, had been spared.
Stacey had discovered the relationship by accident the day before, when looking through a stack of genealogy papers spread out on the kitchen table. A recent hobby of her father’s, he had traced their family tree all the way back to its origins in Europe and found the connection to the Marcovelle line. Her best friends Cory and Trina had a field day when she told them.
“Holy shit, Stacey. You’re related to the Monster?” Cory said eyes wide with glee. They had met because of the Marcovelle legend. They were assigned to be partners for a presentation in English. She wanted it to be about music, but Cory had insisted it be about the Marcovelle family. It didn’t take him long to come up with the idea of Stacey taking a midnight selfie with her great-great grandfather.
“It would be so lit! The creepiest family reunion ever.” Cory had said.
“Come on, Stacey, you have to do it.” Trina added. “Of course, if you’re too scared then just—“
“I’m not scared!” Stacey snapped back.
Of course she wasn’t—at least not of Vincenzo’s ghost. She just wasn’t so sure about anyone else that might be hanging around in graveyards in the middle of the night.
As Stacey reached the mausoleum doors, she felt as if she were being watched. She looked around, fearful. She couldn’t see much through the darkness but the vague shapes of gravestones and a few squat trees. She wondered if her friends had followed her.
“Cory, is that you?” she asked the darkness, “Trina?” She waited for a response, but the night remained still. She decided to make sure. “Hey, Cory, Trina says she wants to hook up with you but I told her you liked boys.” There was still no reaction. Satisfied that her friends weren’t spying on her, she turned back to the door.
She cleared away a few brittle vines and then stopped as she noticed the rusted chain and padlock lying on the ground. She reached out to grasp the lock and wasn’t surprised to find that it twisted freely in her hand. The cemetery was a popular spot for vagrants and drug users. She hoped there were none in residence tonight.
Turning back to the doors she gave them a push with both hands. They didn’t budge. So she braced her shoulder against them and pushed as hard as she could. The door screeched and scraped along the ground until it was open just enough for her to fit through. Leaning her head in through the opening she was assaulted with the smell of urine and another old, musty scent she couldn’t place. “Ugh, gross!” she said. Disgusted, she pulled her cell phone out of her back pocket and typed.
I’m right outside the mausoleum. Can I just take a pic of the front doors? It smells totally disgusting in there.
She waited a moment for Trina’s response. It wasn’t encouraging.
Nope! The dare is 4 u to take a selfie inside the mausoleum right at midnight. Say hi to Vincenzo for me!
She typed back, Screw you, thought for a moment, and then added a smiley face emoticon for good measure.
She imagined at one time the family must have been wealthy to have their own burial crypt. The legend was that Vincenzo wasn’t even buried there originally. Because of his crimes, he was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere upstate, only a year later his body was exhumed due to reported paranormal ‘disturbances’ in the cemetery that contained his remains. The authorities didn’t believe any of it of course, but the burial ground started to gain cult status among spiritual thrill seekers. They would appear in droves, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Monster of Milford. It was enough to convince them to move Vincenzo to the family mausoleum.
Stacey put her phone into flashlight mode and held it up in front of her, then, crinkling her nose against the smell, she stuck her head through the door once more.
“Hello? Is there anyone here?” she asked the darkness, with no response. “If there’s any rapists or murderers in here I feel it’s fair to warn you that I’m pretty scrappy, so don’t try anything, OK?” She smiled a nervous half smile then slipped through.
For an instant she felt something grab the bottom of her jean shorts and panicked. She swung her fist down and behind to hit whoever had grabbed her and struck something sharp. Crying out in pain, she looked down and saw that her shorts were caught on an errant nail sticking from the woodwork.
“Dammit,” she cursed, more from fear than pain. A long scratch ran across the heel of her hand already beading with blood. Swearing again, she wiped her hand on her hoodie and reached down to remove her shorts from the nail, then pushed the rest of the way through the door.
She took a couple of steps inside then stopped and played her light around. The interior looked like something out of an old horror film. Large, round arches undulated around the room on whose walls hung antique steel brackets. At one time they would have held torches but now contained long-neglected lanterns blanketed in a thick layer of dust. As the light swept through the room, it brushed over rows of storage niches that held the ashes of the dead. Over each one sat a brass nameplate. Most were covered in a rough green film—Benjamin, Antonio, Samuel, Desmond—the names continued in rows around the interior.
She moved over to one archway that contained only three plaques. As her light illuminated each one she felt a chill as she read: Ruth Marcovelle, Constance Marcovelle and Lucy Marcovelle. Here were the remains of the three girls that Vincenzo had murdered all those years ago. She felt a sudden pang of sadness at how innocent these young girls had been, and how they were betrayed so terribly by the very man who should have protected them. Reaching out, she touched the cold metal of each plaque in turn, saying a silent prayer. She lingered a moment more then turned away.
Her foot struck something that went clattering across the stone floor. Startled, Stacey shone the light in the direction of the sound to find an empty beer can resting against the side of a large structure at the center of the room. Gradually raising her light from the floor, she could make out a large, marble sarcophagus. She cautiously moved over to it and ran one hand over the smooth surface of the stone, her fingers making a trail in the thick layer of dust. The tomb itself was unremarkable. The rectangular slab was featureless except for a single word carved into the marble in bold letters:
So here he was, the infamous child killer himself. She stared at the tomb and for a moment she could picture the Monster of Milford throwing the slab aside and rising up with bleached bones and dry, papery flesh, reaching for her to join him in his eternal sleep. She let out a nervous laugh.
“OK Vince, I hope you’re not camera shy,” she said as she turned off the flashlight then set the camera app to selfie. Turning her back on the tomb she held the phone out in front of her. She could see the sarcophagus behind her and lined it up in the shot. She thought for a moment, then held up the middle finger of her left hand as a special gift for Trina.
She was about to push the photo button when something moved behind her on the screen. She was sure of it. A grey shadowy mass went from left to right in the space between her and the sarcophagus. Turning to look, her eyes darting back and forth, she pointed the light in the same direction but could see nothing except the rows of burial niches lining the wall behind her. She swallowed, then licked her lips. Probably some animal, she thought, not entirely convinced.
Stacey lifted the phone once again, now wanting to be done with the whole thing. Her hand trembled as she snapped the photo. The flash strobed a few times then stopped. Lifting her fingers to rub her eyes, she cursed. “Dammit! Good job Stacey.” She could see nothing but a mass of bobbing white dots. She blinked a few times then tapped on her conversation with Trina, quickly attached the photo and sent it. Still trying to blink away the dots, she held the phone out in front of her like a flashlight and began to move.
It buzzed before she’d taken more than a couple of steps.
LOL Good job Stace! But it doesn’t count
She lifted one eyebrow and typed back. What are you talking about? Why doesn’t it count?
The deal was for you to do it alone. You cheated.
“Huh?” she said, then typed, I AM alone! Neither of you had enough guts to do this with me remember?
She could see the large doors at the other end of the room and turned toward them. She got about four steps when her phone started to vibrate. Trina was calling her.
“What do you want, Trina? This really isn’t the best time.”
“Get out of there now, Stacey.”She sounded nervous.
“What do you think I’m trying to do? Did you think I planned to camp out here?”
“Stacey, seriously, there’s someone else in there with you. Just get out NOW!”
“Stop it Trina! It’s creepy enough in this place without you trying to scare me. Stop being a shithead!”
“Stacey, I mean it! Look at the picture. There’s something—“
She hung up, Trina could be such a jerk. She could see Cory pulling a stunt like that but not her.
“There’s someone in there with you!” Stacey said in a mocking, high-pitched voice. She chuckled, but she felt her heart rate speeding up. She hadn’t looked at the photo before sending it, but now she felt a sickness rising from the bottom of her stomach as a trembling finger hovered over the screen and tapped the message that contained the picture.
The photo went to full size, and what she saw there drained the blood from her face and left her tongue feeling like sandpaper.
She was in the foreground with Vincenzo’s tomb behind her, but standing about a foot to the right of it was a figure. She wasn’t sure if it was male or female but it was large and it had one dark, hand resting on the tomb. It’s facial features were distorted in a wash of grey and black but it’s eyes were like deep, black pits. The figure’s other hand looked to be holding something with a handle that ended in a long curve. It looked like some type of blade.
It looked like a sickle.
Stacey could feel adrenaline coursing through her as a voice that sounded like the crunch of dry, dead leaves hissed in her ear.
The scream that came from her was like no sound she had made before. The phone fell from her hand and instantly the room was cloaked in blackness. She ran, charging headlong into the darkness, not caring what was in front of her.
She managed only seven strides before slamming face first into one of the walls.
Disoriented, she shook her head and held up a hand to her nose. She tasted the blood as it ran down her lip. She no longer had any idea where the door was. For a moment she thought it had vanished—that whatever was in here with her had sealed her in forever so it could kill her at its leisure. Then, as she twisted her head around in panic, she saw a thin strip of light in the darkness ahead. It wasn’t far and relief flooded through her.
Thank God, she thought, thank God, thank God, thank God.
Then she was falling.
Something pushed her hard on her back and she went sprawling forward, her ankle twisting. She heard a snap as she hit the marble floor. The pain was excruciating and she cried out. Rolling over onto her back, she gripped her leg to her chest.
“No!” she pleaded to the darkness, tears blurring her vision, “I’m sorry! Please! I’ll go…I’ll leave right now, just please don’t hurt me.” The crypt remained silent in response. Her ankle throbbed but her fear won out of the pain and she tried to push herself up. She didn’t get far before something shoved her back down again. This time, the force didn’t go away, as if a heavy body was sitting on her. She next felt something cold press against her throat and knew that it was Vincenzo’s sickle. Then the breathing returned—that dry, dead inhaling and exhaling right beside her ear.
“Just one more.”
The voice sounded like it came from inside her head. She could hear the satisfaction in the thing’s words at finally getting what it had so longed for—the last of an unbroken bloodline.
Stacey was not going to die in this terrible place. She heaved with both her arms to lever herself up, but the more she tried, the more pressure the apparition put on her body. She could feel the frigid blade cutting into the side of her neck. She tried to kick her legs but the pressure on her chest was too much and she was quickly running out of air. Dots danced and popped in front of her eyes. Desperately, she flailed her arms out looking for something, anything that could help her. She began to weaken. She tried to scream again but nothing came out.
Then, her right hand hit something. She saw a small, blinking orange light in the dark. Her cell phone! She snatched it up and struck blindly at where she thought the thing’s head was. She hit something solid and heard a satisfying crunch. The terrible breathing turned into a pain -filled hiss and the pressure on her body vanished. She coughed and gasped for air, then tried to stand.
Her broken ankle wouldn’t support her weight and she fell back down, dropping her phone again. She crawled the last few feet to the door, crying uncontrollably. She put her hand on the edge of the frame and pulled herself into the thin strip of moonlight that leaked through the opening. Again the monstrous voice echoed in the chamber, louder this time.
She thrust madly for the light outside the mausoleum but then something grabbed the back of her hair. She screamed and thrashed, but her hair wouldn’t come free.
Panicking she reached back to fight off the entity but felt sharp metal instead. Her eyes opened wide in realization. It was the same nail that had caught on her shorts on the way in. She quickly grabbed a tight wad of her hair just in front of the nail and pulled as hard as she could. There was a ripping sound as it tore free, then with tears and snot running down her face she reached out and grabbed a handful of weeds, pulled herself into a kneeling position and scrambled from the mausoleum.
She wanted to stand and run but her ankle wouldn’t let her, so she crawled as fast as she could across the dew-soaked grass. Stacey didn’t know if the thing was behind her or not but she didn’t care. She just wanted to get far away from this terrible place and the nightmare it contained.
Then a hand grabbed her leg.
She shrieked and kicked furiously but the entity was too strong and the pain in her ankle was too great. Her nails clawed the ground for purchase as it pulled her back along the damp ground. She looked around in desperation for anything that she could use as a weapon but there was nothing but the cold grass.
A weight settled on her back and an unseen hand jerked her head back. The last thing Stacey Chapman heard as the cool metal of the blade slid across her throat was three whispered words.
“Just one more”
The boy strode quickly down the dirt road. The night around him was quiet. He tore off his black robe as he went holding it away so as not to get bloodstains on his clothes, and wrapped it around the old hand sickle. He smiled, remembering what if felt like when the blade sunk into her flesh. Like something was complete.
It felt good.
He wished it didn’t have to be Stacey, but she was what the Monster required—the end of the bloodline. It had to be her.
Cory walked a short way into the woods beside the road, dug a hole with his hands and dropped in the bloody robe. He was weighing up whether to bury the sickle too or toss it into the quarry on his way home when his phone buzzed.
Cory! Answer the phone! I still can’t get thru to Stacey. Where r u?
He looked at Trina’s message, then at the sickle lying in the dirt.
Just one more.
Credit : Robert Parris
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