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You never know what can be lurking in the cemeteries you casually drive by. Kelly McLaughlin, an innocent six-year-old girl, didn’t even know spirits existed when an apparition materialized, instantly tapped into her consciousness, and followed her home.

Will the McLaughlin’s ever get their lives back or will this spirit continue to haunt them?

Chapter Chapter 1

Materializing in the Mist

THE CRISP OCTOBER WIND howled steadily against a grove of aged maple trees on the western edge of the Union Cemetery in Easton, Connecticut. Thick black clouds began to creep across the sky as dozens of red, yellow, and orange leaves snapped free of their branches and rode the winds in torrential curving arcs toward and throughout the cemetery. The leaves whisked toward the roof of the Easton Baptist Church, and violently skimmed the old crooked weather vane on the steeple. They swooped down suddenly toward the frostbitten earth and the black Mercedes station wagon that was traveling southbound on Stepney Road, along the rusted wrought iron fence lining the perimeter of the cemetery.
Linda McLaughlin, a professional artist, wife of a real estate broker, and mother of three, admired the beautiful leaves as they banked along the tall, statuesque memorials, blew over and through the fence, and landed suddenly onto the windows of the car. Linda smiled, glancing into the rear-view mirror at her blond-haired six-year-old daughter in the back seat. “Oh, do you see how colorful the leaves are, Kelly?”
Kelly sat on the right side of the car. She held a one-eared stuffed bunny against her loose-fitting white sweater. She smiled and pressed her palm on the window and against the slick red leaf stuck there. “Yeah,” she giggled. “They’re pretty.”
Suddenly, a loud thunderclap came out of nowhere and rattled the windows in the car. “Whoa,” Kelly whimpered. She slid down in her seat and cringed.
Linda scanned the sky and said, “It looks like we have some pretty awful weather coming.”
“Yeah,” Kelly sighed, looking out the window, “…pretty awful.”
“Maybe we should get the pumpkins another day,” Linda said.
“Okay,” Kelly replied. She pouted a bit, because she wanted to carve the pumpkins with her big brother, Tyler, but she knew that she’d get completely soaked if they tried to sort through all of them outside Silverman’s Farm Stand.
As they continued down the road, Linda thought about scarecrows, witches, candy corn, apple cider, and of course, the one thing on the minds of everyone, what with only a week left until Halloween. “Be very watchful, Kelly. Maybe you’ll see a ghost. We wouldn’t want one to follow us home, would we?”
Kelly winced and yanked her hand away from the window. She squeezed her bunny tightly, touched its pink nose, pouted some more, and said, “Stop it, Mommy. That’s scary.”
Linda chuckled as they drove alongside the cemetery. “Oh, sweetheart, there are no such things as ghosts.”
As they drove along, Kelly turned to look out of the right side windows and glared at the many tombstones in the distance that were casting long gray shadows on the ground, and stretching away as far as she could see. She studied the multitude of shapes, from small black grass-covered markers to larger graying stones with obscured, mossy faces. Kelly frowned. All of these things were a mystery to her. She had never known death. She was too young to know how to name what she saw.
Moments later, as the car passed under an overhanging tree, a sudden wall of water rained down and completely covered the windshield. Kelly gasped and closed her eyes. She thought about being at home and curling up in her warm, soft pink comforter. She felt the car slow down and heard the windshield wipers come on at full speed. When the car lurched forward slowly, Kelly opened her eyes. She studied the gravestones and spotted something out of the right side of the windshield, ahead in the distance. She leaned forward, squinted, and strained to make out a faint cloudy shape among the memorials inside the cemetery, but it was too far away for her to see it clearly. Intrigued, Kelly reached to the side window and rubbed the condensation off the glass with her palm, trying hard to see what was there. ‘What was standing inside the cemetery in this terrible storm? Had her mother not seen it?’ she wondered.
As the car continued, and the shape became closer, she saw that it looked to be a gray smoky mass collapsing in on itself into the shape of a man. Moments later it appeared to solidify completely. It stepped out of a thin, stagnant wall of mist. Kelly’s mouth fell open in awe as it walked straight toward them, walked through a grave stone, and then straight through the iron fence. It stopped suddenly on the curb at the edge of the cemetery just as they were about to drive right by him. Kelly inhaled deeply and slid down in her seat, trying to make sense out of what she had just seen, and trying to avoid being seen by the scary man. She closed her eyes tightly and squeezed her stuffed friend with all of her might.
A quick flash of lightning lit up the sky, followed instantly by a loud, reverberating thunderclap. Kelly opened her eyes again and inched up in her seat so that she could peek over the edge of the door and see out of her window. As she did so, the man slowly turned his head in their direction, as if he could see exactly what Kelly was doing. When they passed right beside him, his eyes, two dark holes as black as night, pulsed twice. Kelly gasped and forced her eyes shut again. When she opened them a few seconds later, he had completely vanished. Kelly clutched the armrest and turned toward the back corner of the window. He reappeared suddenly and turned his head slowly toward her as he stepped off the curb and moved into the road. Kelly’s breathing became short and labored. The man turned to face the car. Her heart beat faster, as if it would break through her chest. Then, in the dimly-lit road behind her, Kelly watched completely spellbound as the monster, for it certainly had to be a monster, faded away right before her eyes as if he were never even there at all.
Thunder boomed overhead and forked lightning flashed throughout the sky. Kelly unbuckled her seat belt and spun around onto the edge of the seat. She held her stuffed bunny as tightly as ever, as if she would never let it fall. She peered over the top edge of the seat in wonder. Another bright flash of lightning lit the sky in an eerie, jagged bolt. The wind howled and forced the rain against the car in sheets. Suddenly, as if he were immune to the forces of nature itself, the man reappeared again. But this time, he was staring longingly at her. Kelly moaned as he vanished and reappeared again, more quickly this time, and closer still. She thought to herself, ‘How could he be closer when they were going so fast?’ Loud, violent thunder shook her soul. She trembled with fear. “Mom,” she said, faintly. She mouthed the word the second time, too frightened and intrigued to notice that she hadn’t made even the slightest audible outcry.
The car slowed and came to a sudden halt. Kelly panicked. She saw that they were at a stop sign. She wanted her mother to keep moving, so she rocked her entire body as if she could nudge the car back into motion with her movements. She couldn’t remember when she’d ever been as relieved as she was when the car turned and started moving forward again. The car slowly accelerated and continued northbound along the western edge of the cemetery. Kelly turned around, squinted, and saw the empty road fade away into the rain and mist behind them. ‘Maybe we’ve lost him,’ she thought. ‘Maybe he’s finally gone away.’ Her hopes were quickly shattered when she saw that the man was taking a shortcut through the trees, back along the southern tip of the cemetery, at an angle, as if he were intending to close the distance between himself and the car. Kelly lifted her bunny before her face. Mere moments later, she lowered it enough to allow her to see over its missing ear. He appeared and disappeared again as he approached the western edge of the cemetery. Kelly turned sideways, and counted to three, when out of the corner of her eye, a sudden scary shadow loomed over the rear of the car and the monstrous man appeared again in the center of the road behind them. He reached forward, pointed at her, and dissolved in an instant. Then, seconds later, he appeared right up against the rear window. He thrust his hands forward, pressed them against the glass, looked into Kelly’s panic-stricken eyes, and snarled at her. Kelly threw her arms up in the air, recoiled, and wailed in terror as her mother jerked the steering wheel, and the man’s gray, shadowy hands made that awful screeching sound as they slid down the slick rear window. The car spun around and around on the soaked leaves and wet pavement.
When the car finished spinning and the front tires had struck the curb, it finally shuddered to a halt. Kelly’s bunny flew into the front, bounced on the passenger seat, and fell onto the floor. Linda reached back and rubbed her neck. She moaned and looked into the rear-view mirror.
“Kelly, are you all right?” There was no response.
“Kelly!” Linda whipped her head around and peered into the empty back seat.
“Kelly?” She panicked.
Kelly was gone.

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Jason McLeod

Austin, TX, United States of America

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