by Rin Sparrow
“No fucking way.”
“Oh, come on, Seth! It’s not that far.”
I looked at Kurt like he’d lost his mind, which clearly he had. We were standing in the Lemon Lake Reserve parking lot arguing over what to do with the rest of the night. I pushed a stray curl our of my face.
“It’s an hour away! We wouldn’t get there ‘til…” I pulled my sleeve up and tried to see the time.
“’Til just after midnight,” he said with glee.
Rolling my eyes, I gave a groan.
“Come on. We’re staying at Derek’s tonight,” he said, “and you know his parents aren’t keeping tabs on all of us. Derek and Jeff probably won’t get back from Mandy’s party until after one, if that.”
It was true; I couldn’t argue it. But that didn’t mean I wanted to head to Bachelors Grove Cemetery late at night, the day before Halloween.
“We could follow them to the party.”
He made his sour give-me-a-break face and I smirked. “Ok, yeah, I don’t really want to go either. But we already did something spooky tonight. Why drive an hour somewhere else and back just for the same thing? Don’t cemeteries close their gates after a certain time of night, anyway?”
Kurt shrugged his broad shoulders carelessly. “But there aren’t any proper gates there, remember? It’s abandoned. And Lemon Lake’s “Haunted Trail” was hardly scary.”
Again, true. We thought since it was a trail through the woods it’d be creepy as hell, but everything was too well lit and the path almost backtracked on itself, so through the trees you could see the backside of the other scenes you’d already been through. Which was definitely lame.
“Maybe JC’s Haunted House is still open. Why not go there?”
He side-stepped me with, “Did I mention Derek’s house is in the direction of the cemetery? So it wouldn’t take as long to get back.”
Then Kurt gave me puppy dog eyes and a melodramatic whimper, his raven hair falling over his eyes as he tugged my sleeve. He could be such a dumbass. But I was worse because his hazel eyes and full-lipped pout got me every time. And he knew it. He just didn’t realize the real reason it got to me.
I was such a sucker. “I can’t believe we’re going to go all the way to Midlothian.”
“Yes! You won’t regret it!”
I hoped that would be true, too.
* * *
The whole drive there (the longer route to avoid tolls, of course), Kurt blasted The Beastie Boys and Janet Jackson, with hip-hop thrown in like Naughty By Nature. Not all my favorites, but not bad. It beat the hell out of the Mariah Carey my older sister was obsessed with—or the hair bands my brother was still clinging to.
“Have you been to Bachelors Grove before?” Kurt asked.
“Huh? No, but Mike’s gone before. Always tries to freak me out. Tells me there’s glowing orbs over the gravestones and shit like that. But I know he only goes to scare the girls into clinging to him.” I gave a snort. Mike was only two years older than me, and he’d be graduating at the end of the school year. Thank god! It sucked so hard having a sibling in school at the same time as you. And as he was a total troublemaker, all the teachers expected the worst of me too. Which was great. Not.
Kurt just laughed. “That sounds like Mike.” He shifted gears and sped along. Literally. His speed-demon driving distracted me for a little while, but as the drive went on, all I could think of was where we were headed.
For any kid growing up around Chicagoland, Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery was notorious. It had started in the mid 1800’s and had been abandoned for decades. The gravel road to it was closed off and you had to walk a ways down to find it in the overgrown woods. I liked to think I didn’t scare easily. After all, I was addicted to the “haunted house” attractions that popped up around Halloween. But a place like Bachelor’s Grove? It felt like going there might be opening a door to somewhere that was best left shut.
“Do you think any of the stories are true?” I asked eventually.
“You know, that the mob dumped bodies in the swap by the cemetery. That the figure of a woman walking around holding her still-born baby appears? Or phantom cars? That sort of stuff.”
He snorted. “Seriously? Are you worried a ghost is gonna getcha?”
“I didn’t say that!”
“Who ya gonna call? Say it with me: Ghostbusters!”
“Don’t be a jackass! And watch the road!”
When he recovered from his laughing fit, he patted my thigh. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”
“But really, man, I just don’t think about that stuff. Who knows? It could be true. But other than being super freaky, I don’t think a ghost could really do anything to you.” He paused to ask, “Do you know anyone who’s really seen one or anything?”
I sighed. “You know my Aunt Margie, she’s always said weird stuff happens in her house. My parents at least believe enough that she always come to see us, rather than us going to her place in Massachusetts.”
“I never heard that. But I’ve only met her, like, twice.”
Looking out at the lights flashing by, I shrugged. “Yeah, she’s big into it. She’s had a psychic come out to her house before and I think her place was even featured on some cable show for hauntings.”
“No way! Really?”
“Yep. She says they’re friendly spirits. Sometimes she’ll wake up with someone watching her though.”
“Holy shit!” he burst out with nervous laughter. “That’s fucked up.”
“I can’t say I’m sad we haven’t been to her place yet,” I snorted. “Anyway, it’s always made ghosts and stuff seem possible to me, but my logical brain thinks it’s crap.”
Remembering where we were headed, I decided I wanted to change the subject. “What other music do you have in here? Where’s the mix tape I made?”
I knew Kurt saw right through me as I leaned down to jumble through the cassettes strewn on the floor, but he at least stayed quiet about it.
We arrived about ten to midnight. Not that I was checking the time. Because I didn’t care. Because I wasn’t thinking of ghost voyeurs or spectral babies or anything, not at all…
“Finally here!” Kurt said, grinning. He rubbed his hands together and chuckled in his best Mr.Burns impression. I snorted. “You weirdo.”
“Don’t be a killjoy. This is gonna be fun!”
“If you say so.”
He parked the car just shy of the chain that blocked the path into the woods, a beaten up ‘Closed’ sign hanging from it. I’d expected to see other cars, with other people like us sneaking around for a scare. But nope. We were alone. Just us and the crickets. And corpses I guess, though we’d have to go deeper into the woods to actually see the cemetery.
We stepped out of the car and I took a breath. My heart was not pounding. There weren’t any streetlights nearby, and it was fucking pitch dark, with a steady wind making the trees sway and creak, their crooked forms even blacker against the dark sky.
“Did you bring a flashlight?”
“That’s a no.”
“What if we miss the cemetery? We probably won’t even see it through the overgrowth along the trail.”
“Hang on.” Opening the trunk, he rummaged through it and I debated whether I felt safer with the car light on or off. Sure it was dark as hell without it, but having it on made me feel exposed.
“Ah-ha!” he cheered. Straightening up, he clicked on a light, and I gave him the look.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Oh, admit it: it’s funny!”
Shining in Kurt’s hand was a glowing plastic pumpkin attached to a cylindrical black base that looked just big enough to hold a couple D batteries. He pushed a second one into my hands.
“How are these supposed to help us? They give off like no light.”
“Pop the pumpkin off, dummy. It’s a flashlight underneath.”
“A tiny one,” I said, turning it over in my hands.
“It’s better than nothing, right? Let’s go.”
Tossing the pumpkin heads back into the car, we stepped around the chained posts and started walking. The moon was actually pretty damn bright—at least when we walked in the middle of the path so the branches of the trees didn’t block it.
“Where’d the pumpkin lights come from, anyway?”
Kurt shrugged. “I think my parents bought them years ago for me and Lindsey.”
“How long exactly have they been in your car then?” I constantly teased him about the state of mess in his car, but he had no defense. It was like a black hole in there: things went in and didn’t come out. Maybe best not to think on that.
“I dunno, a while I guess,” he replied. I couldn’t see his face but I knew he was pouting.
My mood lifted and I let him lead the way. Which had nothing at all to do with the fact that watching his ass in the growing moonlight got my mind off all other matters.
Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad night after all…
* * *
AUTHOR’S NOTES: After living at each end of the country and growing up in between, I still stick to the claim that nobody does Halloween like the Midwest! So many seasonal attractions and so much good ghost lure leftover from immigrant settlers and (around Chicago of course) Al Capone and other gangsters. Bachelor’s Grove is the perfect example. And this story is based on some of my own teenage adventures. I did go to Lemon Lake and Bachelor’s Grove, and I did frequent Haunted Houses. There were also abandoned mental hospitals in Indiana that were a popular places to roam for thrills, though I never got up the courage for those! More to come!