☓ chapter one ☓ She could handle the oxygen tank, her grandmother’s haggard skin, and the hospice nurses that came by more than they had a month ago. Leaving was something she could not handle, however, and standing by the doorway made her regret even stepping foot outside of her grandmother’s room. Instead, she stood across from a man who had adorned a business suit a few minutes ago and snatched a briefcase from the living room, his grip on the handle firm. He had the look of a lawyer you saw on TV shows -- an ugly tie and a serious look that appeared to have been fixated there for a long time. And it had. She couldn’t remember him with any other expression when around her. She remembered her mother saying that it would only take a while for whatever grudging emotion he held against her to vanish within thin air; she didn’t believe it would ever happen or that he could even manage it for that matter. “Yvette, thank you for stopping by, but I think it’s time you go.” And it didn’t seem like he was ready to forgive her from that fight a year ago. “I was just leaving.” Yvette responded in a hollow tone, guilt bubbling in her stomach at the thought of that fight. “I just… Bye, Dad.” A curt nod was all she received in response. Alternatively, she just gave a slight wave to the hospice nurse that stood awkwardly in the living room and withdrew herself from the old Victorian home she once lived in and making a beeline through the garden to her white Honda. And the next stop would be just as forlorn as this one had been. Her mother’s birthday shared today’s date -- October the fourth. Since two years ago typical behavior would imply that today would be her “do nothing” day. She would skip her college classes. stay in her room -- or now her dorm room since staying with her grandmother proved difficult for commuting and her sanity -- and watch various shows that came on the television and if there was nothing good on, she would sleep the day away. Something had convinced her to do otherwise this time -- more specifically someone. Visiting her grandmother today and seeing her father prompted a sudden, overwhelming guilt. Two years ago, her mother had passed away due to a cause the doctors could not name or could not identify. It had been unprompted and happened so suddenly that she didn’t believe the call her uncle gave her. She was fine the day before and the next day she was on a gurney being delivered to the morgue. Yvette sighed, clenching the steering wheel with her right hand at the thought then stuck her key in the ignition with the other. Looking over, she analyzed the single rose that sat in the passenger seat. What kind of flower would someone put near a tombstone? Honestly, she was too anxious to get out of the flower shop that she didn’t interpret the meaning a rose might hold. Love. It did fit; she loved her mother dearly and always would. But seeing it just made what was coming next feel so real. How many times did her father visit her mother’s grave bearing a flower like she would be when she walked down the isle of stone and located the one with the familiar name on it? In all honesty, Yvette didn’t know him that well to visualize the flowers or the tears that possibly spilled down his cheeks. Growing up with him wasn’t a spectacular experience filled with smiles and laughter. In the beginning, maybe, but when she hit a decent age that had changed. Eventually the fairy tales her grandmother told her that Yvette was so fond of had to halt due to her father’s orders. “I don’t want you filling her head with nonsense,” he had said. With her grandmother being so stubborn, the only solution was to cease the frequent visits. Many other things took place in between, eventually leading them to stop talking to one another. Pushing those thoughts aside, Yvette took a deep breath and pushed some of her blonde hair back behind her ears with her gloved hands. It was rather cold this time of the year. It snowed rather frequently, no matter how little, but thankfully she had gotten a break this night. Although it was freezing, there was no white slush on the ground present. She snatched the flower from the passenger see. Admittedly when choosing a flower, she had been frugal when selecting the one. Working at a fastfood joint didn’t pay too much and she had to help pay her grandmother’s bills. She made a note to herself to remember to save more next time. Yvette clutched it in her hands, getting out of the car and walking along the rows of tombstones, looking left and right for the relatively new stone that was placed on her mother’s grave. “Where was it?” she mumbled to herself, trying to remember the funeral they had held. It had been close to some of the older mausoleums that contained people as old as the American Revolution. She remembered needing time away from her coddling relatives, walking along the tiny stone buildings and looking at the words engraved in stone. Their age certainly showed; the stone didn’t look as strong as the newer ones did. Whether it was the reason she was here or the place in general, Yvette felt really uneasy. She soon halted her idle thinking, finally recognizing some part of the area and looking to the right. There it was. “Bertha Hamilton,” she read aloud, “endearing wife and devoted parent.” Kneeling before the grave, she twisted the rose in her hand before placing it against the stone. “Hi there.” she said awkwardly. It would be even worse to say all this in her head; she would feel that, if ghosts did exist, that her mother would scold her for simply staring in silence. Instead, she swallowed up some of her sanity and began to speak as if her mother could hear her right at this moment. “It’s been a year since I saw you.” She struggled for a brief moment, swallowing down whatever tears threatened to spill over. Why was she getting so emotional so fast? “Um, I’m in my third year of college now. I have a roommate now. Her name is Tiffany and she’s -- well she’s annoying as hell. Stays up talking on the phone or comes back to the dorm drunk and with her boyfriend. Or just somebody she met at a party. Not really sure and don’t want to ask. Thankfully, the girls next door don’t mind if I stay the night over there. We’re not really friends, but they understand that no one wants to feel like they’re in a porno when your roommate acts like she didn’t even see her there and the boy gives you the eye.” She gave an uncomfortable laugh at the memory and then visibly shuddered. Tiffany never studied for her classes, it seemed, and didn’t care for when Yvette wanted some peace and quiet to do so herself. Instead, she would talk amicably to her friends or talk to her boyfriend. Sometimes she would even make rude remarks directed towards Yvette and pretend as if she weren’t right there. And it’s not like Yvette didn’t try to get a new roommate. The dorms were just too packed full that she couldn’t even if she wanted to. “My job is going well,” Yvette continued. “As well as a fast food restaurant can go, I mean. And my boss is--” A twig snapped. It had caused her to jump from surprise and whip her head around to in back of her. Like in a horror film, a silhouette could be seen despite the darkness of the sky. The sun had already settled and the air, even though she was there for mere minutes, already felt as if it were getting more chilly that before. To prove that it was, Yvette gently blew and watched as it turned into a white mist before disappearing just as quickly as it came. The figure was still there; whoever it was stood still like they were statue and facing this direction. Her feeling of unease from before only grew, something she had attempted to ignore while she spoke. “Um,” she turned her head and began to force herself on her feet, “bye, Mom. I love you.” The single rose had tipped over, causing her to lean over for a moment and adjust it. Talking to that stone, oddly enough, didn’t feel as weird as she thought it was. Her father would likely shun the notion; he was a firm believer that once someone was dead, they couldn’t hear you as much as others loved to think. The idea of your loved ones hearing you from beyond the grave was both comforting yet unsettling when you thought about the things they heard, but it was a still a nice thought. Either way, she was done talking to inanimate objects or even her mother who couldn’t respond even if she could hear Yvette. Instead, Yvette averted her attention once more to behind her, taking the sudden realization that the silhouette was now slowly approaching her. The sky had darkened a bit more, making whoever it was seem more eery, but now she could identify that it was a man. He appeared tall-ish and had a limp in his step as if his leg had fallen asleep and he was trying to walk before it woke itself back up. And for someone with a limp, he was moving pretty fast. A moment of brief, unprompted panic sat in the pit of Yvette’s stomach, forcing her to move forward while only sparing the man a few glances as she walked in the other direction. Then paranoia sat in, prompting the thought that if she could only lose him by walking around one of the mausoleums… “Hee,” the man wheezed, causing her to whip around and releasing a brief shriek as she did so. He was much closer than he was before, being at least one foot behind her. He had halted in his steps, causing her to do the same. The uneasy feeling she had when she first entered the place now translated into anxiety, causing her hands to shake though that would be hard to see from the man’s point of view. The sun barely shown at this point and in a moment’s noticed it would have dipped behind the hills and hid itself from view. Taking a moment to view the man had sent her to sudden repulsive, making her feel ashamed at being judgemental, but there was something wrong about this man. His eyes appeared to be caked over with some yellow-ish fluid, his green eyes taking to an unhealthy yellow tiny. Dirt was caked to his skin, more prominent on his hands and the top of his brunette, outdated hair. And then his clothes began to pop out to her -- referring to them as clothes being rather generous. They were practically torn apart and completely dirtied white a few clumps of dust here and there. His clothes reminded her of people from two hundred years ago that Yvette had view pictures of in her Journalism class. He groaned again, causing her to heart to beat faster and gaining her undivided attention. His voice was ragged and struggled to released clear words. “You,” he finally managed to say. “Feed me.” Immediately after saying that, he reached out aggressively and grabbed onto her coat. Yvette released a screech, shoving the man away from her before turning completely around and darting off in the other direction. The man released a loud, aggravated groan in protest and she could only guess that he began to hovel after her. There was no way she was going to turn around and risk tripping over something. Horror movies taught her that important lesson. For a brief moment, she skidded towards a halt, casting a quick glance towards the man -- noting that he was far away enough for this quick decision -- and surveyed which way would be best. Soon, she choose to go right and darted down the isles of crypts before taking a left and then another right. A good zigzag would, hopefully throw the man for a loop -- but of course she spoke to soon as a hand roughly grabbed her throat and yanked her back. The man moved quick enough to have her land on the ground instead of leaning into him. Looking up at him, he gave the look of a savaging animal, a new feature she had forgotten she saw earlier. Dark veins ran down from the bottoms of his eyes, running lines and popping up on various places of his skin. And then there was something new. His eyes had gone red around the white as if his eyes were bleeding and sharp fangs were protruding from his yellowed teeth. A animal-like hiss was released before he dove down and roughly turn her head to the side. Before he could do anything, however, she used all her strength to force him off of her. It took a lot more effort than she thought, the man being ridiculously heavy for someone who appeared to be so thin. As soon as she had fallen she stumbled to her feet and once again, clumsily, ran away from the man. A moment later she felt as if she caught a break. The man didn’t appear to be too close or aware of where she was, but she couldn’t just continue running. Along the way she had tripped enough times that the knees of her jeans had ripped and bloody scratches made themselves known, both on her knees and on the top of her head. Being so sore and admittedly not as physically fit to continue this, the only thing she could really do would be to hide and wait until the man disappeared. Or maybe morning when the gravekeeper turned, but that was a last resort. Think, think, think, Yvette thought quickly, eyes darting around the area. Only mausoleums were around at this point, having gone further into the graveyard where older bodies lie. A sudden idea came to mind -- the only one available, really -- and she darted over to one of the more eroded looking mausoleums and reached for the handle of the door handle, the door being made out of what she assumed to be iron. It took a lot of her strength to open a door which probably hadn’t been opened in years. Yanking it open, Yvette couldn’t help but fall back before she forced herself to quickly scramble to her feet and enter the small stone structure, pulling the door closed with just as much strength as it took to open it. “Oh, God.” she breathed, collapsing to her knees in defeat. And now all she had to do was wait this out.