“I don’t believe in ghosts.”
It was an easy thing to say at midday and with kids bustling around me. I stared at the boy in front of me and his gang of friends behind him. The boy smirked.
“Sure Adam, maybe I could just show you the video.” He waved his phone in front of my face tauntingly. “Lost for words, huh?” Rat turned around towards his friends, “Hey guys, the chicken is f-frozen in fear.” He laughed and his friends laughed with him.
Rat suddenly shoved me. “Hey, chicken boy, I’m waiting for my taxes.” He held out is hand. Something inside me snapped. This school sucked. The people were mean and all of the “nice” people were too scared to stick up for you. If only I wasn’t so scared of ghosts, I thought to myself. If only I hadn’t got scared by Rat in Halloween. I replayed the incident in my mind.
It was Halloween and I had been trick-o-treating with my friends. All my friends had left after a while and I was walking alone. I was a bit scared walking alone and had been doing a sort of tiptoeing. I turned a corner and Rat jumped out and scared the living daylights out of me. He had videoed it all and then sent it to everybody in the whole year.
Lets just say, long story short, that everyone thought I was a wimp, and when I walked around the school I was practically like a ghost. “Hey dreamer boy!” Rat shoved me backwards with more force this time. “I’m still waiting!”
I shook my head uncertainly.
“NO?” Rat spat. “No?” Rat glanced back at his gang. “Do we take no for an answer?” His gang exuberantly shook their heads. Rat grinned and tripped my legs. “I’ll show you what we do when you say no!” Rat shouted furiously. Kids playing heard the commotion and they started forming a circle.
“Fight, fight, fight!”
My cheeks burned with embarrassment. Rat had a much sturdier build although our height didn’t differ. I slowly got up blinking my eyes.
“You want a fight, Rat?” I asked in a shaky voice. Rat grinned and his nose stretched as a perfectly wide target. I swung my fist back and punched with all my strength. I was disappointed when no blood came and cursed under my breath as Rat slowly got up again. He blinked furiously and tenderly touched his nose. He growled.
“You’re going to pay for-”
“Hey! Break it up!”
We all looked towards a teacher storming towards us. Rat’s eyes bulged.
“You may have won this fight chicken boy, but you’re still a wimp!” I grudgingly accepted that in my mind. Even though I had just beaten him in a fight, I still hadn’t earned most of the kid’s respect. They’d all seen the video of me freaking out and I’d still be categorised as a wimp. But I was determined to prove that wrong.
“I-I’m not a wimp anymore.”
“Really? Tonight let’s meet outside the cemetery,” he smiled, “I’ve got a dare for you.”
I gulped. The cemetery was a graveyard next to our school. It was supposedly haunted when a kindergartener from our school called Marcus disappeared while inside at midnight. No one in their right mind would go to the cemetery at night, but I sensed that this was the only time for me to redeem myself. I wiped my sweaty hands on my school trousers. The kids all looked at me intently. It was now or never.
“Ok, w-whatever,” I stuttered. Rat smirked.
“See you at the cemetery gates then, loser.”
It was 11:30 and I was standing outside the cemetery with a bunch of kids from my year wanting to see the dare.
“So, do you know what to do chicken?” Rat sneered. I shivered with anger and fear. Rat had been taunting me over the past 15 minutes while we waited for midnight.
“Yes, Rat I’m not stupid. All I have to do is go destroy a tombstone at midnight.
I cursed at how scared I sounded. I shivered as a cold wind blew through me. I couldn’t believe what I was doing. But I have to do it, I thought to myself. I looked at my watch.
11:45. 15 more minutes.
I felt like a ball was lodged in my throat. Rat seemed impatient as the kids started murmuring that it was too cold.
“Whatever. Just go now, stuff midnight.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Now?”
I trembled as I stepped towards the gate of the cemetery. A strong gust of wind blew at me. Like it wanted me to go inside. I looked back as I reached the rusty gate. The dozen kids stood huddled a safe distance away from the gate, murmuring furiously under the dim light of a light post. They had all agreed that they didn’t want to go inside the cemetery to see if I did actually break a tombstone. I then said that Rat could go with me and video me doing it. I remembered at how uncomfortable Rat was at the idea of going to the cemetery. But he had to agree.
I suddenly felt a crazy urge to run back to the group of kids huddled together. Back to safety. Back to the light and people. Two faceless white pillars supported the gate on either side. Faceless…
I blinked. I looked at the boy next to me. “Are you sure w-we should go?”
“Just shut up and walk.” Rat growled.
The gate moaned as I pushed it open. The group of kids suddenly felt far away. The gate slammed shut. Rat coughed. I blinked. For a second I could have sworn that his face had become a featureless slab of skin.
“What’s wrong?” Rat squeaked.
“Are u o-”
“Just do what you have to…” Rat trailed off.
I frowned again. Something was wrong. I looked at my watch.
My knees trembled as I thought about the-
The first headstone appeared.
15 months when he died.
I didn’t know what to do. It felt wrong to destroy this headstone. I kept walking.
Only then did I notice that Rat was silent. Too silent. I glanced backwards and Rat was still there behind me but with a glazed look in his eyes.
“A-Are you okay, Rat?”
He didn’t answer. He just passed me the hammer. I glanced down to see another tombstone. It was quite faded and the words were hard to read.
5 years old when he died
Young … too young … The hammer felt heavy in my hand. I squinted in the dark for the next tombstone. My heart seemed to shrink when I saw that it was 20 metres away. I looked down at Marc’s grave. Five years old… I couldn’t do this. It felt wrong. Very wrong. I dropped the hammer. Or maybe the hammer dropped. I didn’t know. My mind spun. I realised that I hadn’t taken a breath, so I breathed deeply and tried to calm down my beating heart.
“What are you doing?” Rat spat.
Rat grabbed the hammer and pushed me over. I tried to yell but it caught in my throat and I hit the ground. A horrible crunching sound echoed around the cemetery as the headstone splintered into tiny pieces. I felt my heart explode with pain. The crunching sound kept echoing.
The sounds of the dead…
I felt like screaming. Then silence. The silence seemed to scream. I slowly got up. Goosebumps spread over my body. Something was terribly, terribly wrong. I looked at Rat. His face was blank.
Then he smiled.
“See how easy that was? Come on, let’s go.”
My heart stopped. Everything seemed to stop.
That wasn’t Rat’s voice. It was a voice of a little boy.
Coming from his mouth.
My watch beeped indicating that it was midnight.
My eyes blurred.
Rat screamed and dropped to the ground as a haze shimmered above him. Rat’s scream heightened.
I ran. I looked back and realised that Rat was still frighteningly close. Rat’s scream suddenly died and the night swallowed him. My phone rang as I saw the gate 5 metres away. I couldn’t hear anything now. Just the mad panting of my breath and the ringtone of my phone. I didn’t care who was calling me. I needed to get out of here. I opened the gate and ran into the night. The kids had gone.
I kept running until I reached a petrol store. “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson was playing softly over the speakers. The petrol station was deserted. I looked at the man working inside the store. I sighed in relief. I took a step forward when my phone rang. The ringtone played as I reached into my pocket.
The person on the phone hung up.
I groaned in frustration, but at the same time a tiny shiver ran down my spine.
The phone rang again.
“Mum or Dad? Is that you?”
No answer. Again.
My heart raced.
I listened intently and I thought I heard the sound of footsteps coming from the phone.
My mind did a 360 spin. I hung up.
I looked towards the man in the petrol store, but he wasn’t there.
My phone rang. I knew there was no other option than to pick it up. It could be my parents and if I didn’t pick it up and let them know where I was, I would be here all night. Alone.
I picked up the phone.
“Is anything there?
Anything? Why did I say anything?
I listened more intently.
I could faintly hear music.
It seemed distant.
I strained to hear.
It was “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson.
My heart screamed.
The same song I was listening to on the speakers of the petrol station.
I looked around me for any signs of life.
Nothing moved. The dark was a thick veil clouding my view.
“Billy Jean” was still playing on the phone. I was about to turn it off when I heard footsteps coming clearly from the phone.
I gasped. A tiny barely audible gasp came from the phone.
I breathed heavily, and I heard someone breathe heavily from the phone.
I couldn’t move.
I couldn’t breathe.
I couldn’t blink.
“Billy Jean” got louder on the phone. And so did the footsteps. Then I heard it in real life. The soft thudding on concrete. A panting of something not human.
The footsteps came from behind me. I could hear breathing. I screamed at myself to turn. TURN!
I turned around slowly, muscles shaking with the effort, and I looked up and-.
I woke up several days later. Rat was never seen again. A tombstone was made for him but no one knew who made it. I moved to another continent when I turned eighteen, glad to leave all those memories behind. I have now married, and call it fate or something, but my wife has decided to call our son “Marcus.” He’s now turned 5. He has gone to a friend’s house until 9:00. I look at my watch.
In fact, he should be home by now.