There are some days you just shouldn’t get up. I ought to have known when I read my horoscope. ‘October 1st – Aries – Expect the unexpected. A friend may surprise you.’ Oh did he ever. Let me take you back to the beginning of the month:
Marty and I decided to go out for a drink that night. He’d been dumped by his latest floozy and we were both pretty plastered by the time we tumbled out of the bar at one in the morning. Staggering down the high street we paused outside the picture window of our local store. They’d clearly spent quite a bit of time dressing it for Halloween as it was replete with glowing pumpkins, draped cobwebs, a witch at her cauldron and a vampire appeared to lurk behind a crooked gravestone, blood glistening on one protruding fang.
Marty leaned against me. I thought nothing of it as we were both beyond standing upright without help, but when his arm snaked about my waist I turned to push him off, but his lips were on mine and we were suddenly making out like a couple of horny teens. Giggling, he grabbed my hand and dragged me round the back of the store. It had been more than a few years since I’d had a quickie in a back alley and, despite the fumbling, the unsteady jostling and the reek of spirits surrounding us in our personal cloud of lust, it had proved to be an exhilarating experience; probably not how I’d look at it come the morning, but hey, you only live once.
Straightening ourselves up, Marty produced a bottle of JD from his jacket pocket and we wandered further into the back alley, passing the bottle back and forth between random gropes and sloppy kissing. I still don’t know what possessed us, but we spotted an arm sticking out of a dumpster. Marty boosted me up and, despite the chances I would cripple myself in unimaginable places, I yanked it free. I guess the store had disposed of an unwanted mannequin. Laughing, we raced back to the high street, me holding the stiff fingers with their fire engine red nails, Marty holding the shoulder end. We managed a drunken ring-o-rosie on the roundabout, stumbled across the now deserted main road and fetched up against the gates to the cemetery; at which point Marty had his idea.
Ten minutes later we were hiccuping laughter, standing over a fresh grave. I vaguely remember slurring something about disrespect and being silenced by Marty’s kiss. In a flash he was kneeling by the newly turned earth, scooping a deep hollow whilst I had a disconnected conversation with the back of his head and the arm; I don’t remember what I said, but I know the tone sure as heck wasn’t respectful. He reached up, snatched the arm from my loose grip and stuffed it into the hole. By the time he’d shuffled the earth back in and tromped around on it for a bit the effect was actually pretty amusing; a corpse struggling to break free of the grave. Marty took a shot on his cell phone and we wobbled into the night, chuckling.
Flash forward to now, three weeks later. Marty and I haven’t actually seen each other since that night, but I wish I hadn’t read the paper today. It was just a few lines buried on page five;
‘Local man found murdered.
Police are continuing enquiries into the strange death of local engineer, Marty Hartman who was found in Highstone Cemetery early Tuesday morning. Although police are releasing no details of the crime and have given no clue as to suspects, the cemetery attendant spoke to our reporter to say that the body was found buried in a newly filled grave with one arm sticking up through the soil ‘…as if he’d tried to dig his way out.’
I know I have to do this but I don’t want to. I’m going to the cemetery. I have to see if it was the same grave we desecrated. I know how foolish this sounds, that most people will think I’ve lost my marbles, but I have this feeling; I think the occupant was more than a little unhappy about our prank. I don’t know how I know this, how I can be so sure about something so unlikely, but I do know one thing… Ever since that night something has been following me.
I’ve never seen it clearly, only shadows, but that shape has three arms. Laugh all you like, but I know what I’ve seen when I walk home from work, when I’m alone in the house and look into the garden. It’s out there, watching me, like it probably watched Marty. Something cold, angry and focussed, waiting for its chance. I know it’s stupid to go there, but if this thing killed Marty I’m next and I won’t go down without a fight. You see, there’s one other thing. Lying in bed I can hear scratching, usually on the window glass, sometimes along the bricks or the wooden sill. I bury myself under the duvet and wear earplugs these days, but I can’t deny what I see in the mornings, every morning, no matter how often I clean it away; scratches made by nails, nails painted fire engine red.
Taken from the Herald newspaper:
‘Local woman found murdered and buried in Highstone cemetery. Police say the scene is an exact replica of a previous murder, that of Marty Hartman. Rumours of a serial killer are beginning to circulate in the community although officers will not be drawn on the issue saying only that their investigations continue.’
Statement of Silas Verger, taken by Constable Perkins:
I saw her, that dead girl, wandering around the cemetery with a flashlight. Asked her what she was doing and she said she was researching for a newspaper story. What with the murder and all that, I left her alone. Next thing I hear this scream, a great ripping noise and then nothing. I reckon I got turned around in the dark, cos I couldn’t see anything, or find where I’d seen that girl. I got outta there fast because of the scratching. Huh? Yeah, scratching, like nails against wood. Seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. What with concentrating on the noise I reckon that’s why I didn’t notice the mannequin arm stuck in the trash can til the next morning, the one with the red nails, like blood they were.