Read Horror Business Online

Authors: Ryan Craig Bradford

Tags: #YA, #horror, #male lead, #death, #dying, #humor

Horror Business (7 page)

BOOK: Horror Business
10.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

I do know how it is. I think of the neon flyers.

Shelly English. Hilborn makes some comment at her. She tells her parents. They call the sheriff. This is how I imagine what happened.

Steve and I stare from across the street as Hilborn flails his arms and calls the officers “assholes.” The deputies grab him by the arms and shove him against his door. We hear the old man’s pained groan from where we stand. The sheriff leans in close and jabs his finger into Hilborn’s chest, accentuating each whispered word.
, I think, and then imagine Colt in a police uniform.

The trio eases off Hilborn, who slumps against his door, relieved from the pressure. The sheriff whistles and motions for the others to follow. They obey and leave the scene. Hilborn sends them off with his middle finger. He sees us looking at him from across the street. He shakes his head. One of his garters comes loose and the sock falls down. We continue on our way home.

The Cemetery



My dad never drinks when my mom’s around, but now he’s buying beer and whiskey. There’s already one empty bottle of rye in the recycle bin. He doesn’t even keep the booze out of reach—just puts it right next to the cereal. So easy to steal.

My original plan was to pour the alcohol into a water bottle, but there is already a noticeable amount missing. Instead, I shove the entire bottle into my backpack. Dad snores from the living room, and I write him a small note, even though I doubt he’ll even see it before I get back.

Sleeping over at Steve’s house. Be back in the morning.

I meet Steve an hour earlier than the girls are supposed to arrive. We help ourselves to the booze. A couple shots in and Steve can’t stop talking about boobs.

Ally and Megan arrive on time. The alcohol makes us flirtatious, which even Megan seems to find charming. I think she likes Steve by the way she laughs harder at his jokes.

I don’t offer the girls any of our whiskey, still unsure of how that will play out. I put on my backpack, loaded with the alcohol, chips, chocolate bars, and trail mix that Steve added. We travel by bike. We leave our anxious town behind.






Our cemetery rests high in the mountains that surround Silver Creek. I don’t know too much about the history, but most of the headstones are old; the most-recent deaths being in the 1960s.

From our town to the cemetery, it’s about thirty minutes by car. Because the road is so windy it never gets steep, making it easy for us to bike. It usually takes me an hour and a half to ride it, but I figure having the girls with us adds an extra hour. The inappropriate amount of effort Megan has put into her outfit—heavy make-up and revealing shirt—gives me the impression that she’s not much of an athlete, and Steve keeps getting distracted by her cleavage.

The sun dwindles. I want to get up the mountain before nightfall. The road up to the cemetery is unlit and could be dangerous at night. Dangerous and frightening.

We travel fast like witches, our bikes kicking up dead leaves. The dying-summer wind rustles Ally’s black hair. None of us wear helmets, and the alcohol makes my steering carefree and sloppy. A fast-moving car honks, nearly knocking me off my bike. I give it the finger. Even Megan laughs. It feels really good not to be scared.

The end of the main street is the beginning of the mountain road. The path to the cemetery. We don’t look back as we climb.






After an hour of climbing, it’s hard to breathe. None of us smile anymore. The whiskey wears off, and I’m left with a dull sensation. The beginning of a headache. Only the girls were smart enough to bring water. Tall oak trees line the road so thick that it blocks the sun, creating a false twilight and lowering the temperature. I shiver in a layer of drying sweat.

We stop at a little dirt pull off to take a break. The girls drink from their water bottles. I’m ravenous for it. I feel dumb for not bringing my own.

“Are we almost there?” Megan asks. Sweaty bangs stick to her forehead.

“We probably have a couple more miles to go,” I say. “We haven’t even got to the dirt road yet.”

Megan looks at me, appalled.

“It turns into a dirt road a mile away from the actual cemetery.” I feel like a deer caught in Megan’s headlights. I look to Steve for support.

“It’s not so bad,” Steve says. He’s the most athletic out of all of us. “And it gets less steep up there.”

“It better,” Megan snaps.

An owl hoots above us, making me feel very isolated. Vulnerable.

“You know,” Ally says. “This cemetery is the last place Greg Mackie went before he disappeared.” Her eyes widen at the foreboding statement

“How do you know?”

“It’s the last time
saw him. He told me that he was going to do some location scouting, you know, for the movie. He thought that the cemetery would be a good setting.”

“I didn’t write any scenes for a cemetery,” I say.

“That’s what he told me. The next day, there was one of those announcements at school.”

She means when the principal gets on the intercom to alert the students of another disappearance. We’re told that we should be extra careful and sympathetic regarding this sensitive issue and so on. Most of the time, the principal mispronounces the name.

“He was
,” Ally clarifies, and she looks to the surrounding woods as if expecting Greg to jump out and scare us all.

“That doesn’t mean that he disappeared
the graveyard,” Steve says, looking at me for verification. He looks scared, but it could be the dehydration. “I mean, he probably ran away.”

“If that’s what you think happens to them,” Ally says.

“Do you girls like whiskey?” Steve tries to change the subject.

“Wait,” I say. “What do you think happens to them?”

don’t know,” Ally becomes defensive.

“You have whiskey?” Megan asks, in a better mood.

“Yeah, we
do. Have you ever had it before?”

“I’ve snuck some of my dad’s beer. Once.”

“You’re probably right,” continues Ally. “He probably just ran away.”

Ally gets on her bike and starts to climb the hill again. Steve and Megan are still talking about alcohol.

“Come on,” I say. “Let’s go. We should get to the cemetery before it gets dark. We can have the whiskey when we get there.”






Once the road turns to dirt, we stop riding. We’re tired, and our bikes don’t have very good traction. We finish the rest on foot, pushing our bikes. Owls hoot overhead. Noiseless silhouettes of bats fly over us and spiral up to the heavens, probably waiting for the night’s permission to turn into vampires. The sky turns overcast, making everything look black and white and underexposed. Every crack from a falling branch sets me on edge. My legs hurt from all the riding, and the dull feeling in my skull progresses into a full-blown headache. I don’t feel like resting. A mosquito lands on my neck and I smack it; my hand comes back speckled.

We turn a corner and see where the path narrows and funnels into the gate—the cemetery entrance. The rock wall that runs the parameter rises high and forms into a giant archway over the gate, with an iron “G” cemented in at its apex. None of us know what it stands for.

Two headlights flash on when we come close. Two eyes sitting under the archway.

The cemetery’s guardian.

A motor starts and the car creeps toward us. I look at my friends and think of the practicality of running off the road into the woods. The car sounds old from the way it coughs and sputters. Probably as old as the cemetery.

When it’s close enough, the driver rolls the window down. At first I think it’s a student because of the letterman jacket, but then he talks and my eyes adjust from the sudden blinding of the headlights. He’s not young, but skeleton-esque. His eyes bulge under a thin crew cut. His jaw looks sunken because of the way his cheekbones protrude. His voice is high and delirious.

“Hey kids,” he falsettos. “Whatcha doing?

“Nothing,” I say.

“Camping,” Steve says.

“In the graveyard?” This sends him into a fit of laughter. “Shit. Don’t you know about the curfew? There’s a monster out there snatching up kids.” He scans our group and runs a gray tongue over his gapped smile.

A woman rises from his lap. Lipstick smears the corner of her mouth like a giant cold sore. She’s only wearing a bra. Her hair hangs down and covers her eyes. “It’s gonna be dark soon,” she says in a deeply raspy voice that is anything but sexy. “We can give you a ride if you want.”

“No thanks,” Ally says, tugging my arm.

“I see how it is,” the guy says, eyeing Ally. “Come on Darline. Let’s leave these kids alone
so they can …
” A low chuckle. “
We warmed it up for you!”
That sends him into a hysterical fit, and the two screech off down the dirt road. I hear him laughing until they disappear around a corner.

None of us are having fun anymore.

We enter the cemetery, and it swallows us.






Nighttime looms, and I’m sure behind every headstone there’s a ravenous ghoul ready to pounce on any one of us. The clouds part, and the moon illuminates the graveyard. Every firefly is a set of werewolf eyes. Ally walks close to me, and I let my hand hit hers as we walk. She doesn’t move to avoid it. Megan and Steve bring up the rear. Every now and then, they giggle. It’s a nervous laugh, and I wish they would stop. We enter the clearing at the edge of the tombstones. A group of vampires flies overhead.

“I think we should stop here.”

We take off our backpacks and huddle in a small circle. We pass the water around and finish it.

“Anybody want some whiskey?” Steve pulls the bottle out of my backpack without asking.

Megan smiles. “Totally.”

We pass the bottle around. Our inexperience makes us retch with each swallow. Ally looks like she wants to vomit and passes on the second time around. The liquor works quickly. My initial fear is replaced by warmth and eagerness. My headache subsides. Being in the cemetery isn’t such a bad idea after all. Steve hiccups. Megan rolls her head around on her shoulders. I slant toward Ally and move my hand so our pinkies touch.

“Shit,” Steve says after a drink. He takes another swig, half of it running down his chin. “Fuck, man.”

We crack up. It’s the only thing to fend off the monsters lurking in the woods surrounding us.

“Didn’t you bring an Ouija board?” I ask.

“No,” Ally says. “There wasn’t any room left in the backpack.”

“I wish we had an Ouija board.” Megan emphasizes the last few syllables to cover up the slurring: w
ee gee board

“We could tell ghost stories,” Ally says.

We each tell our stories, shining a flashlight beneath our chins to under light our faces. Ally begins to tell the story of the green ribbon, but halfway through she can’t remember if the girl was killed by her boyfriend or in some automobile accident, and she doesn’t even end it with the head falling off. Megan’s story is about the babysitter whose stalker is actually calling from within the house. It’s boring, but Steve pretends to be interested. I tell one about a phantom hitchhiker, ending it with a loud yell that doesn’t scare anybody. Steve’s idea of a ghost story is just some zombie tale, but it keeps going off on gory tangents. When he starts to talk about gouging eyes, Megan asks him to stop.

“Gross. Let’s do something else.”

With the liquor gone and our courage replenished, we decide to look at the headstones. A lot of graves are tagged or broken from weekend visitors.

“Look at this one.”


Here Lies Phillip T. Wright

Born: March 29, 1895

Died: May 21, 1957



The word “shitassmotherfucker” is tagged on it.

“A warning from the grave,” Steve says, curling his fingers toward Megan. In a demonic, guttural voice, he says: “Don’t smoke, shit-ass-mother-fucker.”

“Stop it.”

“Look, here’s another one.” Ally leans in close to brush some dirt off the tombstone. It’s an old-fashioned cross with one of the arms broken off. Someone drew a heart with initials in it: an RB and JB. I wonder if it is the handiwork of the disgusting couple in the car. The tombstone reads:


Here lies Abigail T. Buchanan

Born: October 14, 1943

Died: October 14, 1957

A Touching Angel, In Loving Splendor


“She died on the same day she was born,” Ally says. “On her fourteenth birthday.”

Same age as Ally.

“C’mon,” Steve says, drunk and flirting with Megan. “Let’s go look at the other graves.” I get the hint and don’t tag along.

“You don’t really believe in ghosts, do you?” Ally asks after our friends disappear.


“How come?” She sits down and leans against the dead girl’s broken tombstone. I sit next to her.

“I guess it’s a little boring to think that I can touch everything that scares me.”

She considers my answer. I try to picture what she looks like under her sweatshirt, but the residual unease of the graveyard dulls my imagination. “That’s probably the best reason I’ve heard for believing in ghosts,” she says. “Still not going to convince me though.” She puts her hand on mine and leans against me. I’m pretty sure it’s on purpose.

“How many funerals have you been to?” I ask.

“Just one. It was my grandpa’s. I was pretty young, so I didn’t understand the whole death thing. I just remember everyone crying. But I do remember him. It actually makes me pretty sad to think that I didn’t cry at his funeral.”

“You were little.”


“Kids are dumb.” I add, which makes her smile.

“I know.”

“So let’s say there
ghosts, and you could see any dead person you wanted. Would it be your grandpa?”

“So theoretically there
ghosts”—she looks up from my shoulder to emphasize her doubt—“and I could pick any dead person to see.” She pauses and considers her options. I move my arm around her shoulder so we’re cuddling. “I actually think I would want to see my old golden retriever, Brittany. I think seeing a ghost dog would be like a hundred times more adorable than seeing a human ghost.”

BOOK: Horror Business
10.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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