Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Cemetery by Tom Lera

By permission, here is an outstanding Lovecraftian story by the horror writer, Tom Lera. Enjoy!


My current employment (which pays my bills and allows me to travel) is VP of Manufacturing for a Wireless Company (data not voice).

I am a Fellow in The Explorer's Club (my avocation is worldwide cave exploring), an environmentalist and conservationist. Most recently, I have been exploring Mayan caves in Belize, Guatemala and Costa Rica and the surrounding jungles. When I have free time, which is usually on the airplane, I write.

Recently I have two entries in a new Encyclopedia of Cave and Karst Science published this year stories in the webzines MockfeaR, Whispering Spirits, Anotherrealm, Demonminds, Twilight Times and The Lightning Journal.


The Cemetery

The writer’s workshop had lasted almost 3 hours, 45 minutes longer than expected, and I was brain-dead after the intense discussion and analysis of American gothic writers. Relaxing as I drove through a chilly rain along a remote stretch of the Blackstone Road, my mind wandered to the night’s fraternity party. A deer darted out of the woods directly in front of my truck and I swerved to avoid hitting it, the front of my Xterra firmly met the thick trunk of a large oak tree. I did not feel seriously injured just unnerved and badly shaken I sat behind the wheel calming myself. Once I got out and examined the Nissan, I realized it would have to be towed. I had no choice but to hook it back to campus.

Blackstone Road was lightly traveled, and it was doubtful another motorist would drive past anytime soon. The idea of walking all the way to Brown University past Swan Point Cemetery didn't particularly appeal to me, especially since it was October 31st and already turning dark.

If this wasn’t enough to fuel my superstitious nature, the fresh memories of the horror workshop I’d just left pushed my imagination into overdrive. It would take at least a half-hour for me to walk to the nearest house where, if I was lucky, the owner would even open the door, never mind let me use the telephone. I buttoned my raincoat, grabbed my umbrella from the back seat and started walking.

After about twenty minutes I neared the sprawling expanse of Swan Point Cemetery. With entrances from both Blackstone Road on the south and Williamsburg Street to the north, I could cut straight through, save considerable time, and be dry in my University dorm room in no time.

However, the idea of walking through the graveyard in the dark of night on Halloween set the hairs on the back of my neck at attention. The rain had stopped, only to be replaced by a dense fog, making it difficult to see more than three feet ahead of me. I crossed my fingers and headed straight for the imposing wrought iron gates.

Absorbed in navigating the stone walkway, I was slow to notice there was a faint but persistent sound behind me. Was someone following me? I slowed to hear better and the sound became nearly imperceptible. I turned but no one was there. Damn my imagination! Shaking off my nervousness, I began to hum a cheerful tune, and started walking just a little bit faster.

There it was again! This time I was certain I heard something. I turned so quickly I almost twisted my ankle, but again saw nothing. “What the devil is it,” I asked myself, dismayed at my choice of words. I picked up my pace to a slow jog.

The noise grew louder, clearer, becoming the distinct rhythmic cadence of footsteps. I didn't turn around, afraid of what I would see, or afraid once again there would be no one there. One way or the other it didn’t matter, I decided as I sprang into a fast jog.

Now I heard the sound of crying join the echo of footsteps. I threw down my umbrella and broke into a dead run. In my near panic I tripped over a low gravestone, fell on my face, and rolled over onto my back. Through the darkness I could vaguely see a ghostly figure approaching me, although in the dense fog I could not discern a face. It could be no mortal being, I reasoned, as I had not been able to outdistance it.

As the phantom drew nearer, I scrambled backward crab-like, finally managing to get to my feet, and ran faster than ever before. I prayed, “Please let me make it to Williamsburg Street!” where there were streetlights and a well-lit Wendy’s less than two blocks from the graveyard’s north gate.

This short prayer became my mantra, as I raced full out. All at once the ground disappeared from beneath my feet. I floated briefly in mid-air then hit the dirt hard with a resounding thump. I had fallen into a freshly dug grave and was trapped, having the wind knocked out of me. My pursuer was getting closer. I could feel the cold, clammy apparition as it peered over the edge of the grave. When I saw its smoldering, yet lifeless eyes, I knew what true terror was!

“Someone help me, please!” I rasped, my throat constricted by fear. My cry for help sounded like a far away echo.

How long I lay there I had no idea. The fog had begun to dissipate and it was getting lighter. But that was impossible! Morning was still hours away, wasn't it? Or had I hit my head in the fall and been knocked unconscious for several hours? No, it was not my imagination; the night was giving way to daylight.

I blinked several times in succession. Could my eyes be playing tricks on me or was this person standing above me the icon I’d seen on book covers? Could this be H. P. Lovecraft?

As I stared at him in amazement, I could see he was profoundly sad. For some reason, I clearly understood he was there to say goodbye to me. With this knowledge, a sense of peace and contentment descended upon me, a heavenly calmness I'd never known in life. I rose and looked at the headstone at the head of the grave and was not surprised to see my name newly engraved upon its smooth marble surface.

What a great story this would have been for my workshop, I thought as a wry smile spread across my ghostly face!

© Thomas Lera, 2005

Author note – H.P. Lovecraft is indeed buried in Swan Point Cemetery on 585 Blackstone Blvd, Providence, Rhode Island.

[If you enjoyed this, you MUST check out his new story.

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