“Come on Mikey, try it again!” came the shout moments after a loud splash was heard coming from the pond. “You still haven’t thrown any farther than me! You know I’m still winning!”
I took up the challenge, picked up a rock, hefted it from hand to hand making sure it was the right size and then threw it with all my might.
“Yes!” I yelled, pumping my fist in the air. “I beat you. Take that and stick it.”
It was late summer, only weeks before the three of us had to go back to school and we were enjoying the evening down by the local pond. The three of us were tight you know. Brian Saunders, who we called Brain because he was the smart one of us, was a little guy, small and skinny with a cowlick sticking up from the back of his head that wouldn’t stay down no matter what he tried. Boy, we loved to tease him about it. I don’t think it mattered that much to him though. He was a quiet one and a bit of a dork. He was the kind of kid who knew the reasons why your tongue would stick to a metal pole in winter. He’d tried it himself once when we dared him and then looked up why he couldn’t get it unstuck. That’s the kind of thing he would do. He didn’t have any brothers or sisters and his parents were scientists or something. If he wasn’t hanging out with us, his nose was buried in a book. Other kids were always picking on poor Brain but Spike and I were always ready to stick up for him. We got into lots of fights defending poor Brain. In fact, that’s how we met.
Brain, as usual, was being picked on and I didn’t like the way things were looking. Spike headed over at the same time, fists ready, to defend someone smaller than him. Sam Peters, we called Spike, which was kind of weird because Brain was the one with the spike, was a different kind altogether. He was the adventurous one of the group; he was the one who could throw rocks what seemed like a mile.
There was something off though, about Spike’s family life. He had a bunch of younger brothers and sisters, I’m not sure how many, but there were a bunch. His mother was kind of washed out looking and his dad was a big, mean guy and we didn’t like going to Spike’s place. We never talked about it, but Spike would often show up with bruises and once he had quite a shiner that he never told us how he got.
And then there was me, Mike Debrowski. I was known as the level headed one of the group, but that Spike, he sure could get me into trouble at times. I was the youngest in my family with two older, bratty sisters who loved nothing better than to try and get me to play dolls with them. Can you believe that? But the three of us guys had hung out together since we were in grade one and now that we were twelve and headed towards Grade eight, we were the big guys now.
Spike threw a few more rocks after that and though he came close, he still didn’t beat my throw that night. I was pumped because it was the first time I’d ever beaten him.
Twilight was setting in and we knew we’d have to go home soon. I was hoping my mom would let Brain and Spike stay overnight in the tent we had in the backyard again. There wouldn’t be many more of those nights now that school was only a few weeks away. We had spent many a night sleeping out there, talking sports, arguing who our favourite baseball teams were and how they would do in the World Series and dissing girls even though none of us were ready to admit that we had started thinking of them in a slightly different way than we did the summer before. The air was crisp; the evenings weren’t as hot as they had been a few weeks ago. The sound of crickets and cicadas filled the air as we left the pond, dutifully pounding and jumping on each other as we headed back to my place.
We’d been so busy laughing and making fart jokes we didn’t know that we had come upon the old cemetery that stood between the pond and my place. We lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone else and the old cemetery was a landmark on the outskirts of town. It was a scary place during the day, but at night it seemed to take on a life of its own and most times we hurried by quickly.
But this night, there was a streak of the devil in Spike because just as we were coming up to it, he stopped us and looked over.
“Hey, I have a great idea, he said slowly with a strange glint in his eyes. “How about we hang out here late tonight and see what happens?”
Brain and I looked at each other wondering what was up with Spike.
“Uh, I don’t think so Spike,” I said. “I don’t even like this place during the day.”
“Oh, come on Mikey,” he replied. “Don’t tell me you’re scared. Bach, bach, bach,” he taunted, imitating a chicken. “I dare you. In fact I double dare you.”
At this point Brain surprisingly spoke up. “Come on Mikey, it might be fun.”
“Uh, sure it will,” I said but it was impossible to ignore a double dare so I knew since it was two against one, we would be headed there that night.
Later on, after my mom said it was OK that Spike, Brain and I could sleep in the tent, we talked strategy. Spike thought it would be neat if we headed over to the cemetery at . There was a full moon and he said it would be perfect. I grabbed one of those old fashioned alarm clocks that doesn’t take batteries and set if for – just in case we fell asleep. Of course we didn’t. We were pumped at what we were planning and even I started to get a bit excited at the thought of adventure.
We spent the night talking over ghost stories and other scary stuff; pretty stupid really, but we were primed when the alarm clock went off, letting us know it was time. Shushing each other as we climbed out of the tent, trying not to make a sound, we headed over to the old cemetery.
We’d barely got into it when we heard it, a loud strange noise, a long loud mournful cry. Brain jumped in the air and landed on Spike.
“Shit, Brain. Get off my foot!” Spike spoke in a loud whisper.
“Didn’t you hear it Spike?” Brain answered. “I think it was a ghost.” He added in a low and frightened voice.
“You moron,” Spike replied. “It wasn’t a ghost. It was an owl. Look at all the trees in here. There’s probably lots of them.”
“Oh, right. I knew that.” Brain answered sounding relieved.
Spike and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes and thought “what a dork”. Brain was still cool, even though he was scared of an owl.
We had thought to bring flashlights even though the moon was bright. We wandered around the cemetery, heading towards the older graves that had the old head stones. They sure did look different at night. They were creepy with all those old trees. Although none of us would admit it, we were getting a bit freaked out being in there at night.
I was in the lead and as I was walking along I thought I heard something and I knew it wasn’t an owl. It sounded like chains rattling followed by a low wailing sound. Spike and Brain were arguing behind me, probably about Brain and his fear of owls. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a movement.
“Shhhhh,” I turned around to them.
“What is it Mikey?” Spike asked.
“I heard and saw something,” I whispered back. “Something different.”
“Probably an owl again,” Spike answered and made a hoot, hoot sound.
“Shut up Spike! There’s something out there I’m telling you.”
Brain started looking a little scared again.
“What do you think it is Mikey?” he asked as he peered into the trees, into the shadows that the moon didn’t reach. “Do you think it might be ghosts or something? Because there isn’t any such thing you know,” not about to let Spike know he still really did believe in them.
Just then we all heard it. It was a rattling sound followed by a long, low wail this time. It sounded real scary, especially in a cemetery, at , with a full moon.
“Shit!” Spike exclaimed. “What was that?”
The hairs on my arms stood up.
“I don’t know, I said, “but I’m out of here.”
Then we heard it again, a rustling sound, followed by that eerie moan. Only this time it was closer, a lot closer. The three of us looked at each other and hightailed it out of there. Spike was in the lead with Brain next and me trailing behind. I managed to trip over something and I landed real hard. When I tried to get up I think I must have twisted my ankle or something. Spike and Brain had disappeared, afraid that whatever that thing was, it was after them. I thought I was a goner when I heard a different sound this time. It was giggling. And that giggling sounded exactly like my sisters. Then I realized they must have known somehow what we had planned. Little did they know what this meant once I caught up to Spike and Brain.
Like I said they didn’t know it yet, but war had been declared that summer night.
There was one more short one after this one that I'll post soon.