Above the grassland countryside, the stern October sun slipped under the crest of the Kilfield mountains. As the angry glow was snuffed out completely, scorches of drifting fog leaped from the grounds of a large colonial graveyard far below the valley.
A pair of bright headlights on a rural dirt road emerged in the chilling darkness. The old station wagon roared on bumping and rocking over deep ruts in the road, before swinging onto a side path. A secure metal gate stalled the vehicle.
Seventeen-year-old Adam Norton climbed out of the front passenger side and made for the gates. When he took hold of the cold bars, his spine tingled. He sensed something eerie beyond it. With his gleaming glasses, he looked up at the wrought iron lettering of “SERPENT GRAVEYARD” with a carved crafted snake slithering in and out of each character.
“Hurry up, Adam,” said his friend Seth from the window of the driver’s side. “You think we’re going to put up here for the night?”
Adam pulled himself together and nodded. He inserted the mouth of a rigid bolt cutter over the bulky wrapped chains and bisected it. He pulled off the heavy metal loops and discarded them upon the frigid earth. With a great push, the rusty gates opened completely. A resounding squeak echoed throughout the forgotten burials. Adam pulled his collar up around his cold neck and waved for Seth to proceed. Seth speeded in, nearly running over Adam’s toes as he back-pedaled.
“You freaking idiot!” exclaimed Adam.
Adam resented his best friend’s immaturity. Both were high school seniors. Between the two, Adam was more mature and serious than his playful buddy. He brushed off Seth’s latest thrill-seeking gratification and followed the wagon in, quickly closing the screaming gates behind them. The wagon slowed to a stop. Adam could faintly hear his girlfriend, Natalie, speaking to Seth in a distraught matter. She climbed out of the rear passenger side just as Adam met her.
“Rot in hell, Seth!” she yelled.
Adam held her gently by the shoulders. He could feel her shudder. “It’s going to be okay,” he assured her. “We’ll be all right.”
Her nervous eyes swept across the cemetery. “Serpent Cemetery!?” she asked. “Are you guys serious? Adam, you didn’t say we were coming here.”
“What difference does it make?” Seth barked. The driver’s door flung open. He exited, while a lit cigarette dangling from his lips. In comparison to Adam and Natalie, he was shorter in height, as was his patience when it came to fraudulent business. “A graveyard is a graveyard,” said Seth. “It’s no big deal.” He slammed his door shut. “Who’s going to wake up and complain? The boogeyman?” He started for the vehicle’s trunk.
“This will work out, Natalie,” insisted Adam. “While we dig, all you have to do is stand guard at the gate entrance and alert us if you see anyone coming down the road.”
Seth lifted open the trunk and rapped foul worded lyrics to himself while sorting out a horde mess. Adam noticed how Natalie was being very observant of his rude friend and politely turned her chin back to face him.
“If we’re careful this time, we won’t get caught,” he continued.
Natalie jerked her head away from his cold fingers. “It’s not that.” Her brimming eyes surveyed the multitudes of tombstones spaced out from one another over a sparse field below a large darkened hill. “It’s this forsaken place. It was a mistake to come to Serpent Cemetery. That’s why I’m so angry with you two. Can we get out of here now?”
Seth, while still ruffling, smirked at Natalie.
Adam cracked a smile. “Natalie, don’t be silly. We came here in great need. Our parents turned their backs on us after we admitted to the thefts at the store. This is our only way.”
“If we don’t pay off our obligatory fees to Attorney Hammond, he’ll drop us like a pile of horse manure. We’ll be stuck with some inexperienced court-appointed attorney and the fines we incurred for state restitution.”
Seth finally gathered a pair of shovels and a trash bag. He closed the trunk and rejoined Adam and Natalie.
“You guys don’t understand,” said Natalie.
“Oh, come on,” Seth said, looking annoyed. “This ancient graveyard is likely to have a fortune in jewels wasting away in shallow graves.” Thinking fast, he handed Adam a shovel. “Just like we did when we worked at the Fashion Empire, we can make some serious dough by selling the stuff on eBay or Craigslist.” Seth grinned as he reflected. “Only this time, I’ll have Adam open a new account under a fake name.”
With a stretched serious face, Natalie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “How could you guys not know this cemetery is cursed by a wrathful spirit?”
Oblivious, Adam looked to Seth.
“Ridiculous,” said Seth. “Who believes in that old superstition?” He rolled his eyes. “It’s colder than a corpse out here. Let’s get this over with.” Seth sauntered towards a quadrant of burial plots.
“Natalie, what are you talking about?” whispered Adam.
“You don’t know the story of Simon Hossein? He’s the lunatic from colonial times.”
“In 1676, Simon Hossein was a drifter who proclaimed himself the disciple of the Snake Serpent who tricked Adam and Eve in the Old Testament,” continued Natalie. “He preached hatred as the salvation to humanity and used black magic to seduce people to kill each other.”
Adam noticed Seth checking out columns of dark aging tombstones in the far distance.
“Maybe we better keep up, Natalie.”
“He wreaked havoc throughout the colonies, but it came to an end when he arrived here in Kilfield.”
“Let’s go, Adam!” shouted Seth as the cold air whooshed from his mouth. “I’m sick of your girl’s lame bickering. Throw her in the trunk with the rest of the garbage.”
“Shut up, Seth.” countered Adam.
“If Natalie wasn’t caught by the security guard over packing her purse with jewelry, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. Don’t forget, she snitched on us.”
Natalie held Adam by the shoulders. “A trail of death followed Hossein,” she said. “He terrified people. It was so awful. They condemned him after a quick trial.”
“They hung him. But he didn’t die. So, they burned him alive, yet he continued to laugh and spoke of attaining greater power someday.”
“You need to calm down.”
“He was eventually decapitated and his stirring body parts were buried throughout these grounds.” She looked away from Adam. “When they started to bury his head, he reportedly said ‘with 99 souls rested, rebirth shall occur.”
Adam strongly believed Natalie was so against their intentions of grave thievery that she concocted a bizarre story to scare them from commencing their grim plan. Before his words of encouragement could ring out, she trembled as she continued talking.
“Hossein’s evil sorcery is still believed to have its cursing effect on Kilfield today.” Her wide eyes looked all around. “It is strong in this forsaken place. Can’t you feel it?”
Adam gently took Natalie by her icy hand and rubbed it. “That sounds like campfire folklore. This is an old graveyard.” He chuckled. “I know for a fact the city still uses these grounds to bury unclaimed bodies. Nothing bad ever happens here.”
She stared at him. “Adam, I’m scared.”
Adam sighed. He lowered his lanky frame to Natalie’s level. “This is our only chance to avoid spending up to four years in a youth detention center. Do you want that?”
Natalie scratched her chin. She despised the thought of incarceration too, but the ensuing implications in disturbing the cursed colonial graveyard scared her more.
“Our parents stopped paying Attorney Hammond,” he continued. “He’s a damn good lawyer. We must pay up if we want to keep him.” Adam paused. “This is less risky than robbing some convenience store. We need you to be strong.”
“Over here!” Seth excitedly called out.
Natalie reluctantly followed Adam to the center of the stone-rifled cracked plots where Seth waited with an edge of impatience.
“This one looks old and promising,” said Seth.
They stood directly before an awkwardly leaning tombstone with the beam from Seth’s beaming flashlight upon the name: KURT PENN.
“I don’t think the older graves are engraved with birth or death dates,” continued Seth. “We’ll focus on a few of these and get the heck out of here with whatever we can find.”
“The earlier the burials, the more shallow they should be,” said Adam.
Natalie peered up at the shine of the moonlight. “My mother and grandparents always talked about the evils lurking in this cage of hell.” She shivered.
Seth went in his pocket and removed a second small flashlight. “Why don’t you make yourself useful and stand guard.” He handed her the light.
She reluctantly accepted it and started making her way towards the front gates with her head pitifully down. Concerned, Adam couldn’t keep his eyes off her.
“What are you waiting for, you bumbling, meathead?” taunted Seth. “Let’s do this.” He placed his flashlight at the foot of the dirt grave.
Adam gazed blankly at Seth. “I’m starting to think she believes this cemetery is haunted.”
Seth dipped his metal spade into the crisp cold ground and proceeded with shoveling.
“Would you rather dump her or our attorney?” asked Seth. “Quit acting like a chick.”
Adam grew deeply worried. He rested his chin over the handle of his propped shovel. “Is this our only option?” He looked at weary Natalie posting herself before the gates.
Seth shook his head in disbelief while lugging more dirt from a small hole. “No lawyer has a better reputation than Hammond when it comes to working out reasonable plea deals. Remember when he said we might not face any incarceration time?” Seth flashed an amused smile at Adam. “I’ll buy that for twenty grands.”
“Yeah, twenty thousand and counting,” Adam answered bitterly.
Adam realized the ground around him was littered with tiny piles of disturbed soil. He plunged his shovel downward into Seth’s man-made crater and started heaving larger amounts than Seth. Seth took notice and cracked a smile of triumph.
“This time, we keep the stuff in the shed behind your house,” insisted Seth. “From now on, Natalie handles the sale transactions on a computer at the city library. She can make a check out to… maybe my little brother. We have different last names.”
Seth giggled. Adam’s face turned red. He took Seth’s comments as an insult. His young brother happened to be only six years old.
“I have fake IDs,” continued Seth. “After we open two or three of these poor suckers, I’ll have enough dough not only to pay off court costs and fines but also buy back that nice house the city confiscated from my mom.”
“Before you do that, she better clear up those legal matters over fraudulently filing for federal assistance for home repairs,” Adam retorted. “I know damn well you pocketed that cash.”
Seth snarled. “Stay in your lane, pencil neck.”
When Seth heaved his shovel from the hole, his eyes squinted at an unusual whiteness beneath the dirt on his spade. He gently rattled it where enough dirt fell off to reveal a closed scroll with wooden rollers on each end.
“What’s this?” Seth said under his cold breath.
The sound of Adam’s spade in the soft earth ceased when he caught a whiff of the papyrus roll. “It looks like some old document,” he said excitedly. “Maybe it has some value.”
Seth recovered his flashlight and cast the light on the scroll just as Adam eagerly stretched it open. Tiny words of a short story were scribbled in fresh blood red. Appalled, Adam turned to Seth. Seth sighed, suddenly unimpressed.
“Fake,” he said. “Some stupid kids were playing around in here. That there is a prank.”
“If this isn’t blood, I don’t know what is.”
“By the looks of it, it’s worthless. Don’t get soft like your girl Natalie.”
“Give me the light,” Adam said with an edge of his impatience in his voice.
Seth shook his head in disbelief. “We wasted enough time.” “Here,” he said while handing over the flashlight. “Hurry up and throw that crap away.”
Seth returned to digging quickly. Adam eagerly read the passage as the wind-induced the sheet to flap in his trembling hands.
Adam, his face white as a ghost, lowered the scroll and pointed. “Stop digging!” he shouted. “I heard of this maniac. This scroll reads like an obituary. Kurt Penn is buried here.”
By now, Seth had already dug two feet and was standing over a small hole. His lily face, glaring at Adam, was drench by the sweat of his labor and restless mind.
“He was that ugly psychopath who shot up people at the hospital last year.” continued Adam.
“I appreciate the warning,” replied Seth as he backed off. “I heard that guy’s face would’ve made a pit bull puke.” Seth brushed the stains of dirt off his pants leg. “What the hell is he doing out here? That ugly bastard should’ve been cremated.”
Adam tossed the scroll into the hole. “Like I already said, if a body isn’t claimed, it’s buried out here.” Adam picked up the flashlight. “Too bad dates aren’t inscribed on any of these tombstones”.
A cold hand grabbed Adam by the shoulder from behind. He screamed and he spun around. He found Natalie shivering in the chilly breeze. By the look on her face, she was equally afraid. Seth giggled; practically jumping up and down with excitement. His racket of childish behavior infuriated Adam to vent at Natalie.
“What the hell are you doing, Natalie?” asked Adam. “You want me to drop dead and become an addition to this graveyard?”
“That wasn’t my intention,” she answered. She retorted, placing her hands on her hips. “You both-“
Seth’s consistent laughing reached its pinnacle. He had wandered over to another grave. He held his bumbling chest as he used his other hand for the support over a blackened tombstone.
“Will you keep it down you jerk?” pleaded Adam.
“You sounded like a girl.” mocked Seth.
“Go to hell, Seth.”
Seth paused. He seriously looked around. His blank face shot back at Adam. “Am I already there?” Seth resumed snickering.
“Douche bag,” Adam said under his breath.
“Ignore him,” insisted Natalie. “Adam, I saw you reading the scroll you found in the grave. What did it say?”
Adam lowered his head. He carefully weighed his words. “Nothing much…” He scratched his chin. “It’s just a prank about a dead guy made up by some crazy person.”
Skeptic, Natalie knelt beside Kurt Penn’s grave. She reached for the scroll in the dark hole. Adam curiously turned to Seth who was twirling his finger beside his head to indicate Natalie was insane. Adam gestured to Seth to he would handle her. Natalie struggled to her wobbly feet. She opened the stroll. Her jaw dropped upon seeing the bloody writings.
“Oh, my goodness.” she softly uttered. She held the document up for both men to see. “You idiots. This is proof of the evil magic of Simon Hossein.” She gazed back at the station wagon. “We better leave before it’s too late.”
Adam, a loss for words, sighed heavily.
“We better go before the monsters get us,” taunted Seth.
Seth unzipped his pants and turned around to urinate directly over a grave. His actions induced Adam to shake his head in disbelief.
“Dude, do you have to do that here?” asked Adam.
“The disciple of Satan will put that macaroni in his mouth,” warned Natalie.
“Speaking of Satan,” said Seth. “What the devil are you talking about?”
She pressed the scroll to her chest and appeared like she was in a trance. “I’m not playing a horrible joke. Hossein’s spirit is waiting to unleash greater hell against mortals like never before.” She allowed the script to slip from her hands. “He is waiting for a sign or something.”
Seth struggled to zip up his pants. He accidentally scraped the skin of his private part and cursed. He angrily secured his pants and turned back to Adam and Natalie.
“You don’t scare me, Satan,” Seth called out half-jokingly. “You circumcised me you evil bastard! Show us you have a pair and come out here!”
“Stop it, Seth,” said Adam. “Natalie’s already petrified.”
Seth threw back his head in distress. “Natalie, there’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of,” he said as he discreetly tried to compose himself from the sore between his legs. “Kurt Penn’s grave is evidence that nothing happens around here but an occasional burial for a sucker no one cares about.”
Natalie rolled her eyes at Seth.
“Nothing bad happens to the caretakers burying these bodies,” continued Seth. “Why should it be different with us digging them up?”
Natalie glanced around at the abundance of graves. “Look, I’m not an expert on the cosmic entity, but I believe Hossein is waiting for an opportunity to unleash his wrath when we least expect it.” She looked at Adam. “Coming here was an unnecessary risk.”
“Good lord!” Seth snarled. “Adam, why are you quiet? Can you please convince your girl that buried four-hundred-year-old burned body parts aren’t going to reattach themselves and devour our souls?”
Adam stared at Natalie. “Natalie, this folklore about satanic sorcery has gone way too far.”
Appalled, Natalie’s dark eyes widened.
“We won’t hear any more of it,” continued Adam.
Natalie furiously charged up to Adam. “I am disgusted that you are taking Seth’s side. Are you dating him or me?”
Adam looked to the ground in blushing vain. “Come on. It’s not like that.”
Seth intentionally cleared his throat. “Excuse me. While you two seek out a relationship counselor; maybe Satan himself, I’ll be starting on the next grave.” Seth proceeded to move deeper into the shadowy burials. “Since most of them are as ancient as Jurassic, I’ll hit the jackpot. I’ll do it with or without you cry, babies.”
Adam caught sight of Natalie’s fiery eyes.
“Natalie, do we have to do this here?”
By now her face had turned red. “You treat me like I’m some old foolish gypsy.”
Adam took a step back. She edged closer.
“Why can’t you respect what I have to say for once?” she asked. “Everybody back in town knows this graveyard is haunted. Why can’t you two knuckleheads see that?”
“Because ghosts and goblins don’t exist!” shouted Adam.
“Stupidity certainly does!” she fired back.
Natalie, emotionally disturbed, walked back to the entrance of the gate. Instantly, Adam felt regretful for his outbursts. He shook his head.
“Damn,” he said softly to himself.
Adam swallowed his pride and followed her. Natalie stopped at the steel barrier and grasped the bars. She pondering whether or not to walk the three miles back to the city alone in the nightly cold.
Adam sighed behind her. “Natalie, please. I’m not angry.” He paused. “This is important. Don’t ever think I hold your life in my hand like a master does a slave. If the stakes weren’t high, I would’ve never had you come out here.”
Natalie refused to look at him. “When do you ever ask me for my opinion?” A blinding downpour of tears emerged upon her red cheeks. “You always let Seth talk you into the stupidest schemes.” She cleared her throbbing throat. “I know you blame me for us getting caught and fired.”
“Of course not,” responded Adam. “We all participated in the thefts for two years. We were bound to get caught sooner or later.”
She glanced upward at the glow of the moon. “If I wasn’t so greedy, I wouldn’t have filled my purse with so much jewelry. When that nosey guard called me just as I was leaving the store, I should’ve pretended not to hear him. ”Natalie turned to Seth. “Then I slipped and implicated you.” She wiped her face with her hand.
“And Seth,” added Adam.
She rolled her eyes. “Maybe we can talk to Attorney Hammond. We can throw Seth under the bus for the best possible plea.”
“Forget that. We’re all in this together.”
“Seth is the one who talked you into stealing in the first place,” she argued. “It’s always about what Seth thinks and wishes.”
Adam looked annoyed; but restraint himself.
“He never allows you to have a say so in anything,” she continued. “He treats you like his little puppet.”
“Seth has been my best friend since the first grade,” Adam said calmly. “You and I have been dating on and off since when? Our freshmen year. Give me a break.”
“So, you’ve dated Seth longer?” she mocked.
“Will you quit it,” said Adam, looking uncomfortable. “Seth and I don’t see eye to eye on everything. This is something we must do if we want to stay out of jail.” Adam keenly waited for Natalie’s understanding. “The money trail led to Seth’s house where the three hundred thousand dollar cash was recovered by the police. Attorney Hammond was the only qualified lawyer available to take our case…”
“You and I could’ve found another way to pay that money-hungry vulture,” Natalie interrupted.
“Come here you two!” called Seth from far off.
Seth had startled Natalie; causing her to gulp deeply. Chilling perspiration formed around her collar. Adam turned to run like a child reacting to the school bell. Out of curiosity, Natalie trailed him into the gloomy blackness. From a distance, they could see Seth’s distant pencil-thin flashlight falling across a forsaken grave. Natalie saw her ballooning breath in the stark cold air while doing her best to keep up with Adam.
They found Seth with his shovel in hand. Above him, a very old tall tree with a shriveled mass of stretching branches stood out like a spider web. A foot size tampered hole was near Seth’s soil contaminated boots. Seth steadied his shovel in the air while his other hand tightly grips a scroll.
“It’s another worthless scroll!” Seth blasted. “I should’ve checked before digging.”
“Whose burial is this?” asked Adam.
“You’re not going to believe it four eyes,” he slammed down the scroll and directed the beaming light at a small headstone. It read: TOM BRACKEN. “It’s that grumpy astronaut. I thought there was nothing left of this guy.”
Adam nodded. “Another recent burial? Talk about bad luck.”
“Perhaps Hossein intended for us to find him,” said Natalie.
The young men brushed her off. Adam was anxious to learn the contents of the latest scroll. He swiped it up.
Seth smiled as he reflected. “Adam, remember when Tom Bracken came to our elementary school to talk to us about advancement in space travel?”
Adam, oblivious to Seth speaking, rolled open the scroll. It too was written in what appeared to be dark fresh blood. Natalie looked over Adam’s shoulder at the document and sheer horror clutched at her pounding heart.
“Words again by Satan’s disciple,” she said quietly.
“Bracken ragged on how the space program forced him to visit our school,” said Seth. “Instead of a topic on space exploration, we heard his boring presentation on him never wanting to have kids. That fat bastard sent me to the principal’s office for yawning.”
Seth finally realized no one was listening to him. “Forget you two then.” He waved his light away from the scroll. “I’m going to find another one.”
“Hey, I need that light.” protested Adam.
Seth ignored Adam; venturing deeper into the maze of tombstones. Natalie shot Adam a told you so look.
“Turn on your light,” Adam demanded.
Natalie timidly activated her spotlight over the scroll. Both of them read keenly on, unaware of sinister activity behind the tree; up the pinnacle of a grassy green hill. A horde of slimy black snakes, ten to fifteen inches long, slipped out of strewn little holes peppering atop. Their numbers kept increasing. Soon, one side of the mountain was littered with scurrying reptiles heading towards Seth’s glowing light far below. As the slippery snakes made their way down, the green hill gradually converted to a brown formation over its aging limestone.
At the edge of the colonial graveyard, Seth shoveled away over a rifled grave. As he labored and sweated, multitudes of tiny dark eyes watched his every move. He was unaware of being surrounded by a horde of approaching slithering snakes.
Suddenly, their quick teeth hissed for him to hear. The intrusion startled him. He froze briefly before bending to grasp his flashlight from the chilling dirt. Seth’s face contorted in stark terror, realizing a colony of upright serpents were all around and prepared to attack. His grip on the circling beam trembled as sheer terror clutch his pounding heart. He stood silently in a defensive stance.
All at once, the slimy creatures flew at him in a rush. Some sailed over his crouching head. Most of their gnawed fangs penetrated the flesh of his open neck and petrified face. Several snakes slipped in his mouth; drowning out any possibility for him to cry for help.
As Seth choked and shivered, his punctured face became marred with red welts. His overly infested body of attached bloody thirsty snakes spun wildly. He lost his balance and stumbled onto the dirt. Numerous streams of blood filtered from the bite mark ravaging his weak body. The coiling snakes were sucking his soul out of him. All his cold body could do was wobble and crave an end to his immense suffering.
On the other side of the burials, Adam was certain he heard a faint cry. He lowered the scroll and scowled when he realized Natalie was not at his side. He stepped away from Tom Bracken’s grave and looked around aimlessly with his flashlight. Both Natalie and Seth were nowhere in sight. What he spotted some distance away was a colony of swarming serpents pouring in his direction.
Stricken by fear, he took off running into the deeper part of the forbidden cemetery. Heart pounding, he could hear the satanic slithering from his slimy pursuers filling the night air. The serpents staggered side by side; maneuvering passed tombstones.
Before too long, he found himself drawing closer to an old single-story brick building. It resided in the dead center of the massive graveyard. Adam didn’t notice it before. He knew this dwelling was his only shot at barricading himself from harm. He gasped and could feel warm sweat dripping from his eyebrows. He darted to the front door. He gave it a push with all his strength. The thick heavy wooden door squeaked open on its rusty hinges. Adam had barely enough for him to squeeze his body inside. Nearly exhausted, he used his back to secure it with a thud. The hollow boom echoed through the dark dusty interior.
Adam closed his eyes and took time out to catch his breath. He no longer heard the stealthy serpents. His watery eyelids gradually opened over the room shone by window moonlight. A closed pine coffin rested over a table in the middle of the long, musty room. Immediately, he saw a scroll on top of the box. The walls all around the room were plaster cracked. Sparse spider webs dominated the aging interior; most especially in a doorway leading to unknown darkness.
This foreboding shelter sent a riveting chill up his spine. He started to swear at himself for disbelieving Natalie’s adamant warnings of the cursed cemetery. Now, he was convinced it was haunted. He figured his refuge seems to be an ideal haven for Natalie and Seth if they were able to evade the deadly snakes. He wished somehow this was a horrible joke Seth orchestrated.
“Natalie?” he whispered. “Seth, are you in here?”
Suddenly, a soft breeze made the scroll slide off the base of the casket and onto the battered wooden floor.
Adam pondered what unfortunate soul lied dead inside the box of priceless wood. Curiosity got the better of him. He slowly made his way over to the coffin. Weary, he picked up the scroll.
A woman’s low drifting groan echoed from the gloomy doorway. To Adam, it sounded like Natalie was in trouble.
He flicked on his flashlight and wandered through the door. Old wooden spiral staircases lead down into a laboratory-like cellar. Adam spotted long and forgotten glass jugs and medical instruments strewn on counters some forty feet down. He assumed this was where decease bodies were once touched up before burial. His thoughts returned to Natalie.
“Natalie, are you, all right? Are you hurt?”
Adam cautiously started down the twisting narrow steps rattled with age. They creaked and moaned under his ascending weight. Suddenly, there was a splintering crash; as the entire staircase crumbled. The upper cellar landing gave way too, caving in chunks of wood while Adam’s body dropped down with it.
“Yaahh!!!” he screamed.
He landed on his back in the realm of forbidden darkness. Instinctively, he covered his face as pieces of remaining debris fell all around him. When the hails ceased, he sat up and looked all around. He could see nothing.
Then, loud maniacal laughing stirred him to his feet. It sounded like it was coming from above. He fumbled for his flashlight. He recovered it and he cast its beam upward. He found Seth chuckling; sitting down in the doorway with his legs dangling down. His flesh was as pale as a ghost. Hundreds of tiny bite marks were evident all over his cold neck and face.
Adam, exceedingly irritated, stepped forward. “Seth, where the hell has you been!? I almost got myself killed looking for you and Natalie.”
Seth’s crazed smirking persisted. Adam gritted his teeth. He desperately wanted to take a swing at his disturbing friend.
“We’re so excited,” Seth said with a deep baritone. “The time has come at last.”
“Stop playing around! Where’s Natalie?”
Seth’s clowning came to an abrupt halt. His wacky expression converted to stone seriousness. He rose. “Escape none of you will. I have plans for mankind’s fate.” He pointed at Adam. “You immortals underestimated the serpent’s sorcery for the final time.”
“This is not the place or time for pranks! Find some rope and help me get out of here!”
“99 souls shall give me immortal rebirth.”
“Good lord!” exclaimed Adam. “Will you quit acting like a maniac?”
Seth sensed an unmistakable sign that induced him to look over his shoulder. He turned back to Adam and frown. “My power is not yet at its peak! I shall regain supreme strength soon!” His chin fell to his chest in a prayer-like trance. His hands crossed his chest and his body glided backward through the abyss.
Without warning, the crude odor of human decomposition slammed into Adam’s panting face. He covered his nose. The stench of death reiterated his profound fear in the misty gloom.
Outside, a clap of thunder exploded. Immediately, the building was filled with the sound of drumming raindrops upon the roof. Adam grew more and more frightened. His clothes were soaked with sweat. His mind lingered in turmoil.
“Adam!” a voice rung out.
He spun around and gasped up at a surprising sight. Natalie, breathing heavily, was peering down at him from the doorway. Her face was tearfully stained.
“Adam, what are you doing down there!?” she asked emphatically.
“Looking for you! Where have you been!?”
She cleared her throat. “This is worse than I thought. I counted 96 headstones. Do you have any idea what that means?”
“I already know. This graveyard is plagued with killer snakes.”
She shook her head no. “Remember what I told you earlier? Simon Hossein is seeking rebirth as a serpent snake to destroy humanity….”
“Forget that for now,” he interrupted. “Get me out of here. Call 911 on my cellphone.”
Natalie frantically searched her pockets. They were empty. “I think I left it in the car.”
She started to leave to retrieve it.
“Wait! Seth lost what little brain he has. He refused to help me out of this dump. He talked about some crazy stuff about sorcery and mortality. Watch out for that idiot.”
Natalie’s blood froze in her veins. She rested her hand on her shoulder to grip her rattled nerves. “That could only mean one thing. The Serpent and Simon Hossein claimed Seth’s soul as one for their inhuman pleasures. The dawn of hell is upon us.”
“Natalie, we have to get out of here!” he argued.
“I’m scared, Adam.”
“We’ll be dead if no help gets here! Go. Beware of the snakes.”
Natalie reluctantly spun off and disappeared into the blackness. Adam was nervously alone with the tingling air. He knew he could not loosen up until escaping his foul stench confinement. Stepping back, he stepped over a bulky item. His spotlight shined over the scroll he dropped from the fall. He snatched it up. A deep curiosity over its contents reigned over him. He opened the bloody written scroll.
Inside Seth’s station wagon, Natalie babbled incoherently as her fingers search the crack of a rear seat in vain for Adam’s cell phone. An ear-splitting howl startled her. She exited the car and shakenly pointed her flashlight. The yellow circle of light panned across the empty freezing burial grounds. She shivered. She thought perhaps a hungry wolf was circling her in preparation for a vicious attack.
For a moment, she stood erect on her trembling legs. After she was convinced of no imminent threat, she sighed. Natalie couldn’t believe she misplaced Adam’s phone. She carried it for him because he tended to forget it at either her parent’s house or on the picnic table at the mall. She felt it was a miracle that he had her for a girlfriend to ensure accountability for it. Adam was lucky he had never had to replace the phone. Natalie wondered if she accidentally dropped it somewhere in the graveyard while she was conducting a headcount of the tombstones.
Her casting spotlight locked in on a huge tree directly to the side of the old office building. Its mere presence struck her with an idea. She went to the driver’s side and popped open the trunk. She ran over to the rear of the station wagon and threw the cover-up. She extracted a thick coil of rope. She didn’t know why Seth had this mingled in with the rest of useless junk in his messy trunk but she was thankful it was there. Natalie knew she had only one way to free Adam. She ran to the tree and proceeded to wrap one end of the rope around it.
Below, in the cold building basement, the battery in Adam’s flashlight went dead.
The underground laboratory was not only darker but also much quieter. Adam never felt so alone in a life mostly spoiled by his adoptive parents. Ultimately, expressions of their pleasure of him came to an end when he admitted to participating in thefts at the Fashion Empire store with Natalie and Seth. Previously, the last thing he wanted was to lose the services of his well-respected attorney. His parents had cut him off. Now he just wanted to escape the tormented graveyard with Natalie.
Rapid footsteps above announced a presence. Adam peered up to find a soothing glow as Natalie ventured into the doorway darkness.
“Say, what took so long?” he asked.
Natalie dropped to her knees with the rope in hand. “I couldn’t find your stupid phone,” she replied. “You’re going to have to climb out of this hell hole.” She tossed down the long bulky rope.
“You lost my phone?” he said, looking annoyed.
Natalie momentarily looked behind her and back to him. “Come on. Hurry up.”
Adam took hold of the rope.
“Before you interrupted me earlier,” she continued. “I meant to tell you I counted 96 tombstones while you were preoccupied at Tom Bracken’s grave. These people buried here are castaways. Hatred consumed their souls while they were alive. No one cared to claim their bodies.”
Adam listened attentively as he started to climb.
She held her rapid beating chest. “Legend has it that Simon Hossein needs 99 unwanted souls for him and the Serpent Snake to rise as a single powerful being.”
Adam could feel the rope wobble as he committed his daring climb above the messy debris that was left from the old staircase. The searing pain in his tight hands ascending the raw rope compelled him to groan and curse.
“If Hossein returns as an immortal, nothing can stop him,” she added. “The sins of mankind can be responsible for providing him the power he craved for so many centuries.”
Hammering approaching footsteps induced Adam and Natalie to freeze in terror. All they could do was exchange expressions of fear to one another.
Seth, still white as snow in a possessive state, appeared behind Natalie. Smiling, he held his shovel tightly in both hands much like a soldier handling a rifle. Natalie was too petrified to turn around. Without warning, he prepared to swing the shovel down at Natalie.
Adam choked out a cry after Natalie. “Watch out!!!”
She spun around just in time to find Seth towering over him. She barely had time to shriek when the shovel’s spade ruptured her neck entirely. Her head left her shoulders and hurtled down into the darkness. Adam’s watery eyes followed the head down until it was no more.
“Noooooooo!!!” cried Adam. He furiously clenched his teeth.
Unknown to Adam, Seth’s pupils went blank. The shovel slipped out of his hands and he crossed his arms over his chest. His chin dropped. He appeared to be in sleep as he stood idle.
Adam’s defiant shrieks echoed in the vacuum of the chilling darkness. Naturally, he wanted revenge. He peered up; closing his fingers over the rope as if the scorching pain to his hands never fazed him. He applied every ounce of his strength to pull himself up. Adrenaline pumping profusely, it took him a fleeting moment to reach the top where he found Seth still; but swaying from the shivery wind like a weightless leaf.
Adam, panting, sprung forward. “I’ll kill you!” he hollered. He locked his icy cold fingers around Seth’s throat, pushing him back through the doorway.
As Seth violently backpedaled, his pupils returned and his normal skin complexion came back. Just like bring aroused from a deep sleep, he had no idea of what transpired and was confused. His back collided against the pine box coffin resting on the center table. The coffin fell over and Nick Feller’s blackened burnt corpse tumbled out onto the rickety hardwood floor.
Adam pinned Seth over the table and proceeded to strangle him. He could feel his nails sinking into Seth’s soft neck like blades. Seth struggled to push him off. All he could do was drool from his horrified face.
“Adam, what…the? What in…blazes are you doing?”
Adam didn’t hear his nemesis pleas. His attention was focused on performing a merciless death. It came when Seth drew a final breath and his eyes closed. Slowly, Adam loosened his grip. He studied Seth’s prostate form. It seemed like his former friend was as dead as the battery in his discarded flashlight. He backed off to the wall and cowered in the darkness. He wondered how he was going to explain his wild story to the police.
Trespassing on private land to tamper with graves was enough to put him behind bars for a few years. On top of that, he expected to lose the services of Attorney Hammond for failure to render overdue payment. Also, he could be implicated by the police in Natalie’s murder.
While Adam dreaded over his grim future, Seth quickly sat up, breathing heavily. Adam was taken aback; however, his fury was renewed. He hurried out the doorway and retrieved Seth’s shovel from the ground. When he returned to the room, he found Seth gradually backing away to the entrance door with a hand around his aching neck and his trembling palm extended.
“For God’s sake,” Seth wept. “I don’t know what’s going on. We’re friends. Why are you trying to kill me?”
Adam picked up the pace after him. “You murdered Natalie!”
Dumfounded, Seth shook his head no. Adam, with all the strength he could bear, brought down the shovel over his head. Seth’s eyes widened. He was completely out on his feet. Adam wasted no time in heaving it again. Seth’s lifeless body crumpled to the floor. Adam stood over it. He started to bring the bloody spade down on Seth’s skull again and again until the unrecognizable face became a soggy, oozing mass of red. Adam stiffened. His deep gasps came sporadically.
Adam hesitated a moment as to what his next move should be. It was time to flee. He fumbled in Seth’s pocket and was shocked to recover his missing cellphone. But that wasn’t what he was seeking. His hand slipped in the other pocket and he extracted Seth’s car key containing a skull miniature.
Adam staggered his way to the entrance door when resounding hissing alerted him. He looked back at Seth’s bludgeon body. A growing bump like nudges was ballooning all over the corpse’s chest. Internally, something was pressing vigorously to escape its confines. With fear and bewilderment in Adam’s eyes, he started to gradually back off.
A series of snakes tore through from the red gushing cracked skin; tearing through clothing, and waddled onto the bloody pool floor. There seemed to be hundreds of them. The gleaming teeth snakes steadied their upper bodies as they sized up Adam with their beady eyes. Their tiny bloody tongues wiggled at him.
Adam quickly headed out the squeaky prone door. Once outside, he managed to shut the door behind him. The sky was practically bright red, signifying the emergence of approaching daylight. This imminent change ensured Adam he may survive the nightly curse of the forbidden cemetery. An idiotic smile rippled across his face. He made a break for Seth’s station wagon situated before the entrance gates.
The smell of rotting corpses was just as prevalent as it was when he was stuck in the laboratory cellar. He ran across the endless masses of forgotten burials that reminded him of Natalie’s skin-crawling tale of the evil Simon Hossein. For the sake of the human civilization, he hoped he wouldn’t be responsible for Simon Hossein returning as a supreme immortal.
When he reached the driver’s side door, his raw fingers took hold of it and flung it open. Afraid to check if the snakes were trailing him, he hurried in. Adam started the roaring engine. He put the vehicle in reverse. It wheeled backward at a high rate of speed; plowing through the gate and sending it’s detach iron door somersaulting over the car’s rooftop. When the station wagon stumbled along the main road, it made a swift U-turn and crazily sped off.
Adam looked back, hesitated a moment, and shifted his eyes back to the endless road. His face was soaked with his warm sweat despite the bitter cold. Nothing was following him. He tried to control his heavy breathing. He took out his cell phone and dialed 911. A beep and message on its screen signified he had no signal. He cursed and tossed away the phone. He knew it would be a ten-minute ride to downtown Kilfield. Once there, he had every intention of going to the police department to report his unbelievable experience.
The station wagon continued to swerve through the median, its engine moaning like a wounded bull in the early morning of the desolate countryside.
While Adam struggled to control the car, soft hissing went unheard. Beneath his seat, directly below his frantic steering, several small snakes wandered from their hiding place. Adam seemed not to notice them scurrying by his foot. The increasing pitch of their hissing startled him. Just then, his eye was caught by the swarming snakes squawking at him from the floor. His face lit up.
“You little pests!” he cried. Adam tried to stomp them awkwardly with his free foot but missed.
All at once, they shot up at him. A couple of them landed inside his mouth. The others latch their teeth onto his neck and chest. He trembled as he choked; wrapping his hands over his air-restricted throat.
The station wagon veered from the road, smashed through a side barrier, and stumbled down a forested hill. At the far off bottom, it collided against the base of a thick tree. Flames leaped from the hood of the wrecked vehicle. Suddenly, it exploded as if a bomb detonated inside it.
Lumps of fire spread to nearby trees. The baritone laughing of once dead Simon Hossein also spread like wildfire. The surroundings became black with soot from the devastation. From the heated blaze, the body of Adam Norton stepped out of the thick blaze. He had every reason to crack his satanic smile. Simon Hossein, along with the serpent snake, was now one. An immortal, fully alive with the supreme power to torture and enslave humanity as desired.
The monster looked forward to testing its evil sorcery for fun by trial and error. After all, the gain of sorcery of this magnitude was all new. The creature looked forward to acts of vengeance in its quest. Smirking like a maniac, his skin tone changed to dark green. His scorching flesh broke into pieces. As his limps fell to the pine needles, they became a horde of snakes. The vicious colony scrambled up the hill.
The snooping snakes made it back onto high ground. Their slithering bodies crossed the desolate pavement onto an adjacent tract of land bordering the road. Their destination several miles up the dirt road was the town of Kilfield. No one in there knew what was in store for them. Hell on Earth had arrived.