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"What Lives in a Cemetery?" (Alvin Schwartz's "The Window" re-told by Michael Atkins)

Copyright 2019 Michael Atkins

Released under the Conditions of the Open Literary License, Version 1

Margaret had two brothers. Their names were Paul and David. The three of them shared a small house on top of a hill. The hill was just outside a village.

One summer's night, the house was so hot that Margaret could not sleep. Her room was in darkness. Margaret sat in bed watching the moon. On that night, the moon was full. It looked like a giant pearl. It glowed like a saucer shaped lantern and scorched the apples of Margaret's cheeks. Margaret watched the moon wander across the sky. Suddenly, something caught her eye.

Margaret saw a pair of chartreuse colored lights moving through the woods. They were near a graveyard at the bottom of the hill. Margaret assumed the lights were the eyes of an animal. But, she could not tell what type of animal the eyes belonged to.

Soon the creature left the woods. It crept up the hill. And, it wandered towards the house. For a few minutes, Maragaret lost sight of the lights. But then, she spotted them. They were much closer. They were coming across the lawn. And, they were approaching Margaret's bedroom window.

Margaret's eyes popped open. A pair of seaweed colored shutters collapsed around Margaret's pupils. Margaret's head turned. Thick coils of charcoal colored hair battered her shoulders and the side of her neck. Margaret's eyes focused on a grid. It was made of reeds of oak. It wove between twelve panes of glass-- three panes high and four panes across.

Glints of stars and black appeared through the panes of glass. A tar colored shape moved across the panes of glass. It covered some of the stars. The shape looked like a man. And yet-- it didn't.

Margaret was terrified. She wanted to run from her room. But, the door to the hallway was next to her window. Margaret was worried the creature would see her before she could escape. She was afraid it would break in and grab her.

The creature stopped. Then, it turned and moved in another direction. Margaret hurried to the door. But before she could open it, the creature was back. Margaret froze. Her head turned. And, she stared through her bedroom window. She found herself gazing at a shrunken face. It looked like the face of a mummy. A pair of champagne colored eyes erupted from the middle of the creature's face. They glowed like a cat's eyes. Margaret shivered. She wanted to scream. But she was so frightened, she could not make a sound.

The creature broke a pane of window glass. A rotten bouquet of bony fingers snaked between reeds of oak constructing Margaret's window. The tips of the fingers slipped behind a slick, golden latch. They turned the latch away from the window. The creature pried the window away from Margaret's bedroom wall. It slipped over the edge of Margaret's window sill and crawled inside. Margaret tried to flee, but the creature grabbed her. It twisted its long, bony fingers through soft coils of Margaret's hair. It pulled Margaret's head back and sank its teeth into soft skin wrapping her throat.

Margaret's brothers Paul and David slept in rooms down the hall. Paul lay under a thick, wool blanket. It was made of red and black plaid material. David fell asleep on a leather chair beside his bed. The back of his head rested on bourbon colored tufts wrapping the top of the chair. A bible lay on David's chest. His fingers lay on top. A dreadful shriek split David's eardrums. His head popped up. His eyelids peeled apart. Peacock colored shutters collapsed around his pupils.

Paul was sitting up in bed. Red and black wool was wadded on top of his lap. His palms were squashed against a cool, slick sheet wrapping his mattress. Paul tickled his sister all the time when they were little. He knew her scream when he heard it. He stared into thick darkness filling his room. He squinted.

"...margaret..."

A chunk of paint slathered particle board popped away from a frame surrounding Margaret's door. The door swung away from the frame. A shiny, gold knob near the middle of the door crashed into sheetrock beside the door frame. David pointed a double barrel, twelve gauge shotgun through the door frame leading to Margaret's bedroom. He studied Margaret's room. Peacock colored irises floated from the left corners of David's eyes to the right.

Paul appeared beside his brother. A silver revolver dangled from the fingers of his right hand. Paul looked beside the door to Margaret's bedroom. He spotted his sister. She lay on a sheet of ivory colored carpet. Pearl colored light illuminated the left side of her face. The right side of her face lay in a pool of blood. The light scorching Margaret's face came from her window. Paul spotted a hole in the window. It was knocked through a pane of glass near the lower, right corner. Paul aimed his revolver at the hole. He flipped back the hammer.

"I see it!!" David shouted. He pointed his shotgun at oak reeds wrapping his sister's window. He stepped in front of Paul's revolver. Paul lifted his pistol. He aimed it at the ceiling. David looked over red and white stripes wrapping his shoulder. He fell asleep in a striped shirt he wore during the day. He stared into his brother's eyes. His eyelids popped open. His pupils shrank. "I'm going after it!!"

"David--" Paul began. David poked the barrels of his shotgun under the bottom of Margaret's window. It was open a little. David flipped the window towards the ceiling. He laid his shotgun on an oak border surrounding the window, laid his hands on top, and hopped outside. Paul heard thick, leather soles along the bottoms of his brother's boots mashing long, thin blades of grass into the ground. The sound quickly faded.

Paul dropped beside his sister. He brushed charcoal strands of hair away from her neck. It was stuck to a blood soaked hole in her skin. Paul sucked hot, summer air between his teeth. He slid his fingers between strands of his sister's hair and a wound on her neck.

"...margaret?..." Paul whispered. Ridges covering the tips of Paul's fingers dragged across an oval of lacerations gouged into Margaret's porcelain colored skin. The oval looked like a bite mark. But, it was shaped like an asterisk. Blood was trickling from the lacerations. It soaked the neck of Margaret's nightgown. Paul exhaled a nervous breath.

"...oh, my little sister..." he whispered. He tugged a cream colored sheet loose from Margaret's mattress. He dragged it away from the bed. "...hold on, margaret. you're gonna be okay..." Paul laid a corner of Margaret's sheet over the asterisk shaped wound on her neck. He squashed his palm on top.

David had no idea what he was chasing. All he could see was a shadow running down the hill. It looked like a man. But, it hobbled along like a gorilla. It had a good head start. David didn't feel like shotgun pellets would hit it if he shot at it. He wished he had grabbed his brother's revolver, instead.

There was a shriek. It sounded like a tea kettle whistling. But, it wasn't a tea kettle. It was the creature that attacked Margaret. It sounded terrible. The noise made hair along the back of David's neck stand up.

"...w-what?..." David exhaled through heavy gasps. The creature's head turned. A pair of chartreuse colored eyes appeared near the right side of its head. They glowed like a cat's eyes. David's heart thumped in his ears. He wasn't sure he wanted to catch this thing. He aimed the barrels of his shotgun between the glowing, green eyes. He gasped for breath. He heard the creature shrieking again. It was horrible and unsettling. The noise made David's stomach churn.

The toe of David's boot crashed into a thick, jagged stump sticking out of the grass. "Ah!" he shouted. David flipped over the stump and tumbled down the hill. He crashed through a pair of tall gates made of black, iron bars. His shoulder blades landed on a cold, hard rectangle. The bottom of David's shirt wrapped around a corner of the rectangle. Red and white stripes slipped up David's back. They wadded around his elbows and pulled him to a stop. The barrels of David's twelve gauge shotgun landed on his lips. A heavy, oak stock at the end of the shotgun landed on David's belly.

"Puh!!" David belched. His arms swung around his shotgun. They squeezed it against his chest. David's head popped up. His eyelids peeled apart. Peacock colored shutters shrank his pupils. David yanked his shotgun off his chest and pointed it. He didn't see the creature. That made him uneasy. David's head swirled to the left. His shotgun swirled with it. David aimed the barrels of the shotgun at thick, black air surrounding him. He didn't see anything.

He swung the shotgun the other direction and looked around. No matter what direction he looked, David felt like the creature from Margaret's room was standing behind him-- staring at the back of his head. David saw a flash of glowing, champagne colored eyes inside his mind. He exhaled short, shaky breaths. His arms shivered.

"...jesus, god..." he rasped. He aimed his shotgun in front of him. He realized where he was. He was sitting at the edge of a cemetery at the bottom of the hill. Rows of gravestones stood in front of him. David looked down. He was sitting on a slick, slab of marble. There were letters carved into the marble. They read "Miranda Kelley".

David hopped off the edge of the marble rectangle. He stood up and looked around. He pointed his shotgun at silent darkness surrounding him. He inhaled hot, summer air. He exhaled deep, slow breaths and looked around. He listened carefully. Whatever he chased to the bottom of the hill was gone. David let it get away.

The local police believed Margaret was attacked by an escaped lunatic. They told Paul and David that a man escaped from an asylum nearby. He was a paranoid schizophrenic who believed he was a vampire. Paul pointed at the asterisk shaped wound on Margaret's neck.

"Are his teeth shaped like *this*??" he inquired. A detective investigating the attack quickly changed the subject.

After some time, Margaret recovered from the attack. Her brothers tried to convince her to move to a safer place where it would be harder to break in. Margaret thought long and hard about it. But, their father built the house when they were little. Margaret spent her whole life there. Everything she knew and loved was there. She couldn't bare the thought of selling their home to a stranger. Her brothers eventually agreed. But, they had no idea what attacked them. And so-- they had no idea if it would come back.

Months passed. And scorching hot summer days became cool, windy nights. Margaret was bundled in an old quilt her mother made when she was little. The outside was woven with squares of overalls, plaid shirts, a little strawberry colored dress, and other clothes. The squares were sheets cut from clothes Margaret and her brothers wore when they were little.

The asterisk shaped wound on Margaret's neck healed a week after Margaret was bitten. A faint, star shaped scar was all that was left. It was the color of cotton candy. It was barely noticeable. It was brushed on porcelain colored skin along the side of Margaret's neck. The thin, pink scar hovered above a square of blueberry colored denim attached to the quilt Margaret's mother made. Coils of charcoal colored hair lay along faint lines sprouting from the bite on Margaret's neck.

A grid of reed shaped shadows wrapped Margaret's murky hair, creamy neck, and colorful blanket. They were shadows cast by the frame of Margaret's window. The pane of glass that was broken was replaced a few days after Margaret was attacked. The quilt Margaret's mother manufactured flowed over the edge of Margaret's mattress. A ridge formed where the blanket curved over the edge.

A shadow appeared. It emerged from the ridge pressed into the blanket. The shadow rose from the edge of Margaret's mattress like the moon rising from the edge of the horizon. Margaret lay on her side-- facing the window. The shadow crept towards the tops of Margaret's thighs. It was round on top. The edges of the shadow turned towards the edge of the mattress. And the shadow continued to rise.

A pair of almond sized lights appeared near the bottom of the shadow. They were the color of champagne. They manifested from the ridge in Margaret's blanket. And, they wandered towards Margaret's thighs along with the shadow. The shadow wandered across Margaret's blanket. It stopped when the top of the shadow was even with the backs of Margaret's legs. The chartreuse colored lights illuminated a square of navy blue denim near the peaks of Margaret's thighs.

Five finger shaped shadows rose from the edge of Margaret's mattress. They wiggled between reeds of shadows and lay flat. The tips of the fingers pressed against a transparent square between the reeds. They dug into the translucent space. And, the finger shaped shadows wandered towards a reed below the bottom of the square. Margaret's bedroom was silent like a tomb. Squeals like knives digging into porcelain replaced the silence. Margaret's eyes popped open. Shutters like seaweed retracted around her pupils.

A pair of glowing, pistachio colored eyes stared back at her. They illuminated thin, dehydrated skin stretched over a thin, bony face. The skin looked like the surface of a prune. A pair of holes were torn into the middle of the face-- where the face's nose should've been. A pair of twitching lips were attached below the holes. They were dry and peeling. They wiggled like pedals shaking in the wind. Rows of long, crooked teeth were visible between the lips. They were thick and coarse like brick. And, they were turned sideways.

David and Paul were up late. They hadn't slept right since their sister was attacked. The brothers were seated at a thick, oval shaped table in their dining room. The table had seating for six. David and Paul sat at the narrow ends of the table, facing each other.

A gold colored fixture full of dim lights hovered above the middle of the dining table. It was made of six inverted question marks of tarnished brass. Tiny balls of light rested near the outer curves of the question marks. They were enough to barely illuminate the dining table and David and Paul. A shiny, oak surface on top of the table reflected the curved, golden fixture. The surface of the table was the color of tar.

Paul's forearms lay on the slick surface of the dining table. Red and black wool stitched to his shirt wrapped his arms. An open text book lay across Paul's arms. A pair of blueberry colored irises near the upper half of Paul's face stared at pages laying in front of them. Paul read to himself. "...synonymous with fangs, infectious charm, and a foreign accent, the modern day vampire has come a long way from its antisocial predecessor-- who spent its days sleeping in an aetheric tomb and its nights absorbing spiritual energy from the same victim again and again..."

The sole of David's suede boot rested on the edge of his chair. Blueberry colored jeans covered his legs. A plaid wrapped forearm dangled from David's knee. An open book lay on his side of the dining table. A set of fingers emerged from yellow and black plaid surrounding David's arm. They lay on the lower, right corner of a page. They slid the page to the left. David's middle and index fingers pointed at a title near the top of the next page. It read "Faeries and The Hexcraft."

David and Paul heard Margaret shriek. They looked up. Paul stared into his brother's peacock colored eyes. David inhaled through his nose. He exhaled through his lips. He reached below the table. His fingers curled around a slick, wooden stock.

David slipped an AR-15 over his end of the dining table. He laid the rifle across his chest. He grabbed a hold of a grip shaped like a parenthesis along the edge of the barrel. David slipped it back a little. The shiny, gold jacket of a .223 round was hiding underneath. Paul revealed an AR-15 rifle from *his* side of the dining table. Paul's had a plastic, camouflage stock. It didn't look as nice as his brother's. But, it worked just as well.

A half circle of shiny paint was glopped beside the knob to Margaret's door. It was the color of buttermilk. It was more dull than paint covering the rest of the wall. The half circle of paint popped away from the wall. Shards of particle board were hiding underneath. Margaret's door swung away from its frame. A shiny, gold knob crashed into a circular crack in a panel of painted sheet rock beside the door frame.

David and Paul aimed AR-15s at Margaret's bed. Margaret stared back. She squeezed the quilt her mother made around her shoulders. She wrapped the edge of the colorful blanket over the lower half of her face. Seaweed colored shutters collapsed around her pupils. Margaret looked down the barrels of her brothers' rifles. She exhaled a shaky breath.

"...t-t-the window..." she gasped. Irises like pool water slid across Margaret's face. They studied reeds of oak woven across her window. David and Paul slipped through the opening to their sister's bedroom. They aimed their rifles at panes of glass stacked between reeds of oak. David stared down the barrel of his AR-15. He nodded towards Margaret's window with his head.

"...there..." he whispered.

A squeal like a steaming tea kettle pierced cold, autumn air. The squeal was followed by rapid stomps on layers of raspberry and cheddar colored leaves. Paul and David raced down the hill below their house. The butts of their rifles were pressed against their shoulders. Paul and David's cheeks lay against ice cold barrels attached to their rifles' stocks. The barrels of Paul and David's rifles battered the apples of their cheeks.

"The *noise* that thing makes!!" Paul shrieked.

"I know!" David shouted back. "I *told* you!!" Paul lined up a pair of shoulders between the sights of his AR-15. The shoulders were the same color as the sky-- pitch black. Dots of stars appearing beside the shoulders were the only indication the shoulders were there. Paul squeezed panicked breaths between rows of clenched teeth.

"I got a shot, David!" he shouted.

"Take it!" David screamed back. Paul squeezed the trigger of his AR-15. The butt of Paul's rifle crashed into a valley between his shoulder and his collar bone. It felt like someone smacked his ribs with a hammer. Paul's rifle bounced off his chest. The rifle's trigger collided with Paul's index finger. And, the rifle continued to fire. After six rounds were ejected from the end of Paul's rifle, he stopped squeezing. The charcoal colored shoulders continued racing away from him. Paul glanced at his brother. He shook his head.

"It's so dark out here!!"

A pair of chartreuse colored lights spun above the shoulders. They appeared from a space six inches higher than the right shoulder. They focused on David and Paul. Another tea kettle squeal erupted from a space below the lights.

"AAAAAAAAHH!!" David screamed. He squeezed the trigger of his rifle. Strips of flesh tore off the creature's shin bone. They erupted from a crater of meat the size of a baseball. They swirled away from the organism's leg and collided with blood gushing from the wound. The creature uttered a short shriek-- like a bottle rocket. David and Paul watched its leg. The creature's calf crumpled like an accordian and collapsed. The creature's body weight drove the creature's knee into a pile of crispy leaves. David and Paul heard the creature's leg bones crack.

"Got 'im!" Paul shouted. The creature tumbled down the hill. Flailing arms, long bony fingers, one and a half legs, and ear splitting squeals rolled down acres of crunchy tree excrement. Plumes of rose, sweet potato, and canary colored leaves erupted from long, dried grass. They battered David and Paul's faces. Particles of dried leaves stuck to Paul's eyeballs. Grains of crunchy cellulose swirled up David's nostrils and stuck to the back of his throat.

"Puh!" David exhaled. He and his brother dropped on their backs and skidded to a stop. Paul raked dried leaf pulp away from his eyes. David turned his head and coughed. He hacked up a wad of dried leaf particles and snot and spit it out.

"...david...!" Paul whispered. David hacked. He snorted. He turned and spit more garbage on the ground.

"Thppp!!" David spat. He looked up. The creature collided with a wall of bronze, smoke, and tar colored rocks. They were part of a wall surrounding the cemetery at the bottom of the hill. Clouds of leaves piled on top of the creature. Paul and David listened to the creature wail. It was the most hideous thing they'd ever heard. It was like listening to squalling tires or rusty nails digging into glass. Then, the shrieking stopped.

The creature erupted from a mountain of dried leaves. It landed on its good leg. Its bad leg dangled beside that. Paul and David froze. They watched the creature down the barrels of their AR-15s. Pearl colored light from the moon illuminated the creature's face. The creature's skin was dehydrated like a raisin. Its lips quivered. Rows of sideways teeth peeked between the creature's lips. David's index finger tightened against the trigger of his rifle. But, David didn't squeeze.

The creature's head tilted back. Eyelids the color of tar slipped over glowing, chartreuse colored irises near the middles of the creature's eyes. The creature's upper lip slipped up its teeth. Coarse, pineapple colored teeth glowed in the light of the moon. Teardrop shaped holes above the creature's upper lip wrinkled. The creature inhaled crisp, autumn air through what was left of its nose. It inhaled a long, cold breath. Then, it began sniffling-- kind of like a dog capturing a scent. Short bursts of cool, dry air were sucked through the creature's nostril holes.

"...david..." Paul rasped. "...what *is* it...?" The creature gritted its teeth. It lowered its head. It faced David and Paul and opened its eyes. The creature looked like it was grinning. David studied dark, rotten flesh wrapping the creature's neck. The creature's neck skin had the texture of tree bark. Horizontal slits lined the creature's neck. They looked like old knife wounds. The creature sucked air between gaps in its teeth. It ripped its jaws apart and squealed. The slices along the creature's neck flapped open. They wobbled like fish gills when the creature shrieked. Pomegranate colored meat appeared when the creature's neck slashes flopped.

"Jesus Christ!" David shouted. The creature stopped shrieking. Its good leg bent. The back of the creature's thigh flattened against the back of its calf. The creature's chest flattened against the top of its thigh. Then, the creature sprang into the air. The wall surrounding the cemetery was pretty tall. David guessed it was about twelve feet high. The creature flipped over the top of the wall. It landed on the other side. David and Paul heard dried leaves crunch when the creature landed. Then, they heard leaves stirring and colliding when the creature hobbled away.

"Ah!" Paul shouted. "It's getting away!" Paul and his brother scrambled to their feet. They hurried towards two sets of iron bars covering an entrance near the middle of the cemetery wall.

"Whoa!" David screamed. "Wait a minute!" David and his brother froze in front of the cemetery gates. They stared at a big, thick padlock. It dangled from a thick chain strapping the gates together. It was as big around as a basketball.

"David!" Paul yelled. "You said you fell through the gates that night!"

"It wasn't locked!" David shouted back. "Now, they put a lock on it??" David aimed the tip of his rifle at the lock. "Get back, Paul," he instructed. Paul hugged his AR-15 against his chest. He scrambled backwards. Mountains of dried leaves swirled out of his way. David fired at a keyhole near the middle of the padlock. The lock swung like a pendulum. The .223 slug from David's rifle left a tiny dent. But, the padlock looked about the same.

"You're kidding me!" Paul shrieked.

"RRRRAAHH!!" David snarled. He squeezed the butt of his AR-15 against his shoulder, pointed the barrel at the lock, and squeezed the trigger. Eight more rounds ejected from David's rifle. Then, the rifle clicked. The padlock hopped like a baby chick. But, it stopped and rested against the gate after David's magazine ran out.

"Watch out, David," Paul ordered. David lowered his rifle and backed away. Paul pressed camoflauge colored stock against his shoulder. He laid his cheek against ice cold steel erupting from the other end of the rifle's stock and crept towards the cemetery gates. He aimed the barrel of his rifle between black iron bars and looked around. He listened.

Paul heard leaves shuffling. They sounded like they were far away. Paul looked carefully. A pair of champagne colored lights appeared. They were a couple hundred feet away. The lights wandered away. They disappeared behind a small building made of stone. Paul figured the building was a tomb. But, he wasn't sure. It was too dark. And, the building was really far away. Paul exhaled from his nostrils.

"We've gotta get inside this cemetery."

Paul was right about the small building. It was an old tomb. In the light of day, Paul found it less creepy-- less. The building was shaped like a tiny house. Pentagonal walls covered two sides of the building. The bottom, left, and right edges of the pentagon were perpendicular. And, the left and right edges were half the length of the bottom edge. Two additional edges were attached to the tops of the left and right edges. They intersected at a ninety degree angle above the middle of the bottom edge. This gave the tomb's structure a gothic appearance. The tomb resembled a temple.

The pentagons covering the ends of the tomb were made of chunks of marble cemented together like bricks. The marble pieces were rectangular, but they were irregularly shaped. The lower edges of the pentagons wrapped around the sides of the building. The tomb's roof was a foot lower than the top edges of the tomb's ends. Slate tiles covered the roof of the building. The tiles were one foot by one and a half foot. On each side of the roof, the tiles were arranged six rows across and four rows high.

Wide steps made of concrete led to a pair of doors. They stood near the middle of one end of the building. The doors were tall and skinny. They were made of slate. But, they were different than the tiles covering the roof of the tomb. The doors were the color of robin eggs. Tall, skinny holes were cut into the upper halves of the doors. They were covered by rows of black iron bars. A ring made of slate hung below each hole. The rings were handles used to pull the doors open.

The inside of the tomb was surrounded by cruddy, mud colored bricks. They were old, cracked, and beginning to crumble. A pair of arches spanned the ceiling. They were made of the same bricks-- cemented with a larger width at one end than the other. The arches started on one side of the floor. They traveled up one wall, across the ceiling, and down the opposite wall. A pair of doors covered a hole in the floor. They matched the outer doors-- minus the windows.

A burial vault was hiding below the doors in the floor. It was a room sized space surrounded by marble blocks. Inside the vault, the stench of death hung in the air. It smelled like a mixture of burning tires and rotten eggs. Remains of caskets were scattered along the floor of the vault. One half of a casket lid rested against a corner of the vault. The outer shell was made of shiny, cherry red fiber glass. Shredded sheets of rose colored velvet dangled from the side facing the wall. Chunks of foam were scattered around the lid half. They were once squeezed between the velvet and the fiberglass.

Part of a skull lay on its side. It rested below the partial casket lid. Some of the skull's teeth were missing. So was its lower jaw. Long, knotted strands of hair sprouted from a button sized chunk of scalp attached to the back of the skull. Beside the partial casket lid, broken strips of pine lay scattered in a heap. They were part of an older type of casket.

A skull and part of a spinal cord emerged from the heap of pine shards. A humerus bone emerged beside the spinal cord. An ulna and a radius bone were attached to that. Carpals and metacarpals stretched from the ends of the ulna and radius bones. It looked like the skeleton was reaching for something.

A torso rested beside the shattered strips of pine. It was pretty fresh. It was part of a lady. Her lips and parts of her cheeks looked like they were torn or chewed off. Her neck was ripped to shreds. Her eyes were torn out. One of the torso's breasts was missing. And, the torso's ribs were gnawed to the bone. Both arms were missing. Other broken caskets and body parts were scattered throughout the vault.

A black, leather boot rested beside strands of flesh dangling from the torso's shoulder. The bottom of a black robe surrounded the top of the boot. A salmon colored sash was tied around the robe's waist. A half inch strip of a clerical collar showed between a gap in the robe's collar. Long, wide sleeves dangled from the shoulders of the robe. Two sets of well manicured fingers dangled from the ends of the sleeves. The lock David and Paul fired at dangled from the fingers. The lock was warped, dented, and scarred with soot. But, it was still somewhat functional.

David and Paul stood below a hole in the floor of the tomb. Peacock colored irises near the middle of David's face searched pieces of coffins. Blueberry colored irises near the middle of Paul's face scanned bones and torn ligaments. The brothers both had short, brown hair. Paul's was the color of almonds. David's was the color of coconut husk. The brothers wore plaid shirts, dark jeans, and cinnamon colored hiking boots.

Margaret stood beside her brothers. A white, ruffled blouse hung from her neckline. Sleeve cuffs surrounded the middles of her forearms. Jeans the color of bluebonnets wrapped her legs. The bottoms of Margaret's jeans crumpled around a pair of suede boots. They were the color of camel fur. Soft, licorice colored coils sprouted from the center of Margaret's scalp. They surrounded porcelain colored cheeks. Seaweed colored irises near the middle of Margaret's face stared timidly at marble blocks covering the floor of the burial vault. Charcoal colored eyebrows lifted above Margaret's eyes. Crinkles wadded soft, pale skin along her forehead. David studied the lock he shot. He pressed his lips together.

"I'm sorry about the lock, Father Hatfield." A pair of dark eyes hovered above the collar of the black robe. They switched to the left corners of a set of eye sockets. The eyes studied cherry, beige, and tar colored lines decorating David's shirt. A set of pale cheeks dangled below the eyes. They surrounded a chin the size of an orange. Thin, silver frames surrounded the dark eyes. Shaggy, smoke colored eyebrows hovered above the eyes. They pointed towards a nose sandwiched between dangling cheeks. Strands of smoke colored hair were dragged across a slick scalp above the glasses. The strands of hair were glued in place with handfuls of hair gel.

"That's quite alright, David," Father Hatfield replied. "I am a servant of God. It is not my place to judge visitors to these holy grounds."

"We'll get you a new one just like it," David promised. "It's the least we can do." Father Hatfield didn't respond. He stared. An unopened casket stood next to the torso. It was made of old, faded strips of pine. It was held together with old, rusty nails. Long, rusty hinges were attached to one edge of the casket. Pine boards used to make the body of the casket were the color of vanilla pudding. Varnish once coating the pine strips weathered away long before Father Hatfield opened the vault. Paul stood beside Father Hatfield. He stared at the ancient, wooden container.

"What's *in* there?" he asked. Father Hatfield folded his arms over his chest. Wide, charcoal colored sleeves dangled from his forearms.

"I haven't looked inside." One of David's hiking boots came out of nowhere. It collided with the edge of a lid sealing the old, pine box. David lifted his leg. Old hinges wrapped around one edge of the casket groaned like a bag full of toads. David lifted the lid until it was perpendicular to the ground. Then, he stood beside the casket and peeked inside.

"Jesus, David!" Paul barked. He stared at his brother through a set of angry, blueberry colored eyes. "Have some respect!" Father Hatfield pointed between Paul's eyes.

"Do *not* take the lord's name in vein, my son."

"I'm tired of messing around!" David belched. "We *know* what's in here." David kicked twisted, ivory colored boards nailed along the coffin lid. The lid dropped another forty-five degrees. The casket's hinges wailed. "The question is, 'What do we *do* about it'?" Paul stood beside his brother. Father Hatfield stepped beside the bottom of the casket. He peeked inside. Margaret reluctantly snuck beside the top of the casket. She peeked inside the casket with a set of crinkled eyes. She wrinkled her nose and gritted her teeth.

"...oh, my gawdd..." she squeezed through a set of clenched teeth. The creature lay in a death pose. Its arms were folded neatly over its chest. Its legs rested immaculately along the lower half of the creature's coffin. The creature's skin looked like it was made of raisins. Raisin like flesh clung to the structure of a humanoid skeleton. The creature's bones were showing in most places. Bourbon colored ribs were stacked neatly across the creature's chest. Scotch colored lines lay along the creature's biceps, forearms, thighs, and shins.

A giant, gaping hole was torn through the creature's right leg. The lower half of the creature's right calf was half detached. Bronze glints decorated shards of steak colored flesh hanging from the edges of the hole. They were pieces of a .223 slug David fired at the creature the night prior. David studied the creature's face. It was made of raisin skin stretched over a humanoid skull. The creature had no nose-- only wrinkled flesh stretched over a pair of nasal cavities.

The creature's eyes were closed. Eyelashes like snowflakes locked the creature's eyelids shut. Long strands of snow colored hair clung to raisin skin stretched over the creature's scalp. The strands of hair lay along raisin like flesh fastened to the creature's cheek bones. Lips like rubber gloves were crumpled over thick, brick textured teeth. For some reason, the creature's teeth were crooked and turned sideways.

Raisin flesh wrapping the creature's abdomen collapsed below the creature's ribs. It compressed to the size of the creature's spine. It continued along the edges of the creature's vertebrae. It expanded above the creature's waist. It stretched around the creature's hip bones and continued along its femurs. Father Hatfield looked at David.

"You guys thought this thing was a vampire?" David exhaled through his notrils. He stared through a set of peacock colored shutters and shook his head.

"I don't know *what* this thing is." He licked his lips. "But, it needs to be destroyed."

"How do you know it's not dead?" Paul demanded. He reached inside the casket. He laid his fingers along the creature's bicep. He lifted his eyebrows. "It's warm," he reported. David reached beside his brother's fingers. He laid his index finger along the lower rim of the creature's nose holes. David exhaled through his lips.

"I can feel it breathing."

"That's so disgusting!" Margaret grunted. She folded two sets of shaky fingers over a pair of tomato colored lips. She sucked in a breath. "This-- thing-- had a hold of me!" she yelped. She lowered her fingers. "It was *biting* me!!" Father Hatfield sighed.

"There's only one course of action the church recommends in this type of situation." Paul laid his palm beside the creature's breastbone. Every couple of seconds, he felt a thump.

"What's that, Father Hatfield?" Paul inquired. Father Hatfield took a breath.

"It was used in Salem a lot-- in the old days."

Father Hatfield stood on thick blades of dried Saint Augustine. They were the color and size of canned pineapple chunks. A brick of dried oak rested between Father Hatfield's palms. It was the size and shape of half a railroad tie. The circular lenses of Father Hatfield's glasses reflected a colorful sunset. The upper edges of Father Hatfield's lenses were blueberry colored. The remaining upper half of the lenses were cornflower blue. A half inch line of poppy red lay below that. Thin lines of tangerine illuminated the lower arcs of the lenses.

Father Hatfield dropped the dehydrated chunk of oak. It landed on an unfinished granite stone. It was as big around as a beach ball. The chunk of oak toppled next to a row of similar oak bricks. Oceans of pearl, cheddar, and sweet potato arcs erupted from a row of charred oak. The line of oak bricks covered a distance the length of half a football field. Plumes of concrete, slate, and charcoal colored clouds gushed from mountains of thick flames. An ellipse of unrefined granite blocks surrounded the row of scorching oak.

Paul emerged from the robin egg colored doors covering the entrance to the tomb. Father Hatfield built the fire ten yards from concrete steps leading to the doors. Paul stopped on the top step. He watched tire colored swirls escape tumbling towers of tangerine. Waves of heat washed over Paul's face. It collected along almond colored strands sprouting from Paul's scalp. It scorched tan, indigo, and crimson thatches decorating Paul's shirt.

"Jesus Christ!" Paul shouted. "I'm not sure you built it big enough!!" The back of Father Hatfield's tar colored robe and red-orange sash faced Paul. Father Hatfield glanced over his shoulder.

"I warned you about taking the lord's name in vein," he replied. "Some day-- we will all meet Him face to face, my son." Father Hatfield faced forward. "And, we must answer for the things we have done." Paul stood beside Father Hatfield.

"Fair enough." Father Hatfield inhaled through his lips.

"Where is the body?"

"It's coming," Paul replied. Father Hatfield nodded.

"It's too bad we're not a funeral home," he mused. "We could throw this thing in the crematory. Problem solved." Father Hatfield turned his head. "You look sickly, my son."

"I needed some fresh air," Paul replied.

"Paul!" his brother shouted. Paul turned around. David dragged the creature's carcass to the top step. He met his brother's eyes and bobbed his head. Paul sighed. He hurried up the steps to the crypt. He snagged a hold of wrinkled, ash colored flesh surrounding the creature's ankles. David and Paul carried the body to the bottom step. They hurried to the edge of the inferno Father Hatfield built.

"Wow-- that's one hell of a fire, Father Hatfield," David remarked. Margaret hurried after her brothers. She scurried down the steps leading to the tomb. She stood behind her brothers and stared at glowing, apricot colored swirls. She exhaled a long, hot breath.

"Throw the body on top," Father Hatfield instructed. Paul and David held the creature parallel to the row of logs Father Hatfield arranged. They swung the creature's body towards their sister. Snow colored strands of hair wafted away from the creature's face. They brushed Margaret's wrists. Margaret glanced at the creature's eyes. They were still closed.

David and Paul tossed the raisin wrapped carcass on a bed of thick flames. They began crackling. The creature's hair sizzled and disintegrated. It became sprinkles of tangerine colored embers and disappeared. Margaret could smell the creature's hair burning. It was disgusting. The creature's body folded at the waist. Its head lifted off the row of logs Father Hatfield laid on the ground.

"Hey!" Paul barked. He slipped his hand under the back of his plaid shirt. He aimed a silver revolver between the creatures eyelids. The creature's body stopped moving. Then, it sort of collapsed. The creature's forehead popped. A seam opened. And, steam erupted from the opening. Margaret gritted her teeth.

The body became engulfed in flames. It began to change color and shrink. After half an hour, it was a pile of charred bones. An hour later, the bones began turning to ash. Father Hatfield laid more logs on top of the bones. He showered the remains and logs with lighter fluid. By the time it was completely dark out, all that remained of the creature was a pile of ashes and chunks of bone.

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