#13 – The Steel Specter – Lindsay Clark

It was the graveyard that hid the secrets of night.  The little graveyard hid behind the tall hill north of town – twenty minutes by day, double by night.  No roads led there except the inescapable road by death – and with that, there is no path home.

James took the path by night.  Lantern clutched in one hand and pocketknife in the other, his eyes darted from tree to tree, watching and listening.

A twig snapped – goose bumps crept their way up his arms as he went rigid, the small knife faintly gleaming in the moonlight.  “Where are you?” a tiny voice said in the blackness between trees.

The knife disappeared back into its casing as James relaxed.  With a sigh, he held up the lantern to a pair of pale blue eyes.  Timothy shielded his watering eyes as he stumbled out of the blackness toward his brother.

“Hurry up,” said James as he pulled Timothy closer, “we don’t have much time.”  James started walking into the darkness ahead and Timothy stumbled to keep up with his older brother.

“You know what they say about the Angel…” Timothy called out, “six people are missing, James.  Six.”

“I know what I’m doing,” James said as they stepped out of the shadow of the woods.  “I just want to look at it.”

The two tread into the light of the full moon.  Before them, the graveyard spread out like a black stain of stone on the sodden landscape.  Statues stood out like specters amongst the crumbing sarcophagi.  The brothers slowly walked past the iron gates that read ‘MEMENTO MORI’ in faded letters.

“Remember that you must die,” James whispered. “That’s what it reads.”

Timothy clutched his brother’s arm with shaking hands.  James held up the light to each stone face they passed—they were wrought with pain, shaping the figures into grotesque forms.  And then they saw it – the Hawthorne Angel, wrought entirely out of black steel.  The eyes were twin glass marbles that twinkled in the moonlight, reflecting the faces of the two boys.  A long scythe was in one hand—the other was outstretched, beckoning all visitors to come closer.

Timothy cried out when his brother stepped toward it, but James didn’t stop.  “It’s a stupid myth,” James said.  He stretched out a trembling hand to touch the Angel’s extended one.  “See, it’s just a slab of steel, nothing more…”

Before they could touch, though, a thundering noise sounded from behind them.  James clutched at his pocketknife as he spun around, trembling and fearing the worst.  Timothy dashed behind his older brother, away from the sound.  It rang out once more—the graveyard clock, chiming out the call of the dead, the hour of midnight.  James relaxed as the clock sang its deathly toll, twelve strikes in the night.

As the final chime rang out, a new sound rent through the air—the boys turns around and saw the unearthly sight of metal bending and screaming in the blackness.  The dark steel of the Hawthorne Angel warped and moaned, its arms and wings stretched open wide around the closest thing to it – Timothy.  They suddenly closed around the boy in a twisted cage of metal—

James backed away in horror.  His foot caught on an unearthed tree root, making him fall.  When he looked back up, the noise was gone.  The Angel was back in its solemn pose, one arm outstretched…and Timothy was gone.

The twelfth chime died out, fading away like a slow exhale.

~ Lindsay Clark, San Antonio, Texas

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