Two Minutes till Midnight
live in the mountains of Oregon, my name is Dewey. I’ve been living here with my wife and two sons since my company transferred me up here from southern California two years ago. Bob, my best friend from college, was raised here. He’s the one who pushed for my transfer. He’s been here all his life and loves it. Says it’s a great place to raise the kids.
On a Friday night about two months ago the gang was over at my house playing poker. The kids were watching TV in the den, one of those new reality shows was on about people going around hunting for ghosts in old houses and other places. Bob had to keep telling his wife Karen to stay in the game because the show on that night was filming in her hometown.
These so called ghost hunters were spending the night in what they believed to be an old abandoned insane asylum that was haunted. They had sound equipment and cam-corders set up everywhere trying to catch spirit movement and spectral voices on tape. All this hocus pocus crap seemed to fascinate everyone else, and even though I couldn’t really get into it I called the game to an end so Karen could check out what was going on back in Minnesota.
When the show was over we all went out back onto the deck and popped open a few beers. We were standing there talking about the usual stuff work, our kids, and finances when Karen asked us what we thought about the TV show. Bob said that he didn’t really believe in that sort of thing, but that it did kind of interest him. My wife Valerie thought it looked fun, she would of course she loved scary movies and creepy stuff.
Karen was the one who seemed to be obsessed with the fake bullshit. I’ll admit, I could see how it had a certain appeal to it for some people, but come on, ghosts and spirits; I just don’t think shit like this really happens.
Well the next week on poker night Bob and Karen called and asked Valerie if we would watch their son Matthew, they were going on a ghost hunt. I got home from work, all psyched up ready to whip their ass at poker just to find out that I had to go rent movies for the kids to watch while Valerie made dinner.
This totally bummed me out. Bob and Karen were our best friends, we had been getting together with them every Friday night for the longest to play poker and let our kids hang out. I was a little mad; Bob could have asked me at work during lunch how felt about this. He knew how much I looked forward to poker night. We had played some together back in college and could get pretty competitive with each other.
On the way to the movie store a commercial came on the radio about a contest the local station was sponsoring. Evidently the disk jockey there was a big fan of these ghost hunter shows because he was all jacked up about one of them hosting an amateurs contest.
The way it worked seemed simple. All you had to do was get together with a group of your friends and spend the night somewhere that was supposed to be haunted. If you were lucky enough to catch some kind of proof of spectral visitation on film while you were there the show’s producers would pay you for your footage and broadcast it on nationwide TV during a special episode.
When I got home I told Valerie about it and she jumped on the internet to check it out. She found the website and went over the rules, everything we had to do seemed really easy so we figured why not, we might even win a few bucks. She saved it all so we could show Bob and Karen when they came to pick up their son later that night.
A week later we all had babysitters lined up so we could spend the night in a local cemetery. There weren’t any real rumors about the place being haunted, just a few stories the local young people around town made up that no one really paid any attention to. We figured that it would make a good place to start, and it would give us a good chance to check out our equipment.
During the week leading up to that fateful night I drew some money out of mine and Valerie’s savings account and purchased some camera equipment. I bought two super nice hand held cam-corders with tripods for still shots, a camera with night vision technology, and some recording and listening gear. Everything was top of the line stuff.
We left our two boys at Valerie’s mothers for the weekend and met her and Bob at a coffee shop just past the mall for cappuccinos before going out that night. All of us made sure to get enough java in our systems to keep us going all night, plus Bob and I bought enough espresso to fill up two thermos bottles I brought from home.
About an hour before the sun went down we all got into Bob’s minivan and headed for the cemetery. On the drive there Karen showed us an old newspaper clipping about the cemetery that she got from the local library. It said that back in the late 1920’s two local teenagers were found by a creek in the woods behind the place, mutilated terribly.
The newspaper stated that the caretaker from the cemetery had found the bodies while walking by the creek on his lunch break. When the county corner performed the autopsy his official findings listed the cause of death being an attack by a wild animal, possibly a cougar or small bear.
Since then the local teenagers that go out into those woods to hang out and drink beer all say that just before midnight on certain nights you can hear something prowling through the cemetery. Karen said the librarian told her that story was true. She told Karen that back when she was young a group of women from her church were at the cemetery late one evening before the sun went down preparing for a funeral that was taking place the next day when they saw something in the wood. All of the women came home to their husbands that night with stories of hearing voices in the cemetery and seeing something wild running through the woods.
I seriously doubt all of this is true. I’ve really been trying to get into this bogus crap because Valerie wants to give it a try. She thinks it could enhance our togetherness as a couple. Horseshit! Give me a six pack of cold beer, an empty house, and a naked wife and I’ll show you how to enhance something. But she’s my girl so I promised to go along with her on this.
So here we are tramping around an old graveyard in the middle of the night, looking for ghosts. I have one cam-corder set up on a tri-pod near the back of the cemetery close to where the two teenager’s bodies were found, Bob is carrying the other one, and I have the night vision camera. Plus we hooked up all of the listening and recording equipment before sundown. If we start hearing spooky noises Valerie can start recording them with a remote control she has in her pocket.
We walked around the whole graveyard twice, even circled the few mausoleums that were in the place and came up with nothing. It was getting close to midnight so I suggested that we go back to the van for an espresso and doughnut break. I figured maybe we had made enough noise to wake up the dead and that given a chance they would come out of their graves and have a cup of caffeine with us. Valerie didn’t think I was very funny though, she was trying to take this shit serious for Karen’s sake. You know how women stick together, especially when they think they can show up a man.
I was pouring out espresso to everyone when Bob dropped his cup; he said he saw something running through the back of the cemetery. Karen took off running towards the woods trying to catch a glimpse of what he saw. We all yelled for her to stop, but she was too caught up in the moment and didn’t hear us. Bob ran after her, holding up his cam-corder as he maneuvered through the tombstones.
Valerie clicked on the recording equipment and then the two of us went over to the other cam-corder to see if it was focused on Bob and Karen. While I stood there adjusting the screen on it Valerie took the night vision camera and tried to catch a visual of our friends.
The next thing I knew Valerie was screaming, I could hear Karen screaming, Bob was shouting for help, and then everything went blank. I don’t know what happened really, or how I blacked out. The amount of time elapsed on the cam-corder from the time I went out to the time I woke lying on the ground next to a tombstone was only two minutes, the last two minutes of the day before midnight.
I yelled for Valerie and found her not too far away from me lying on the ground confused. It wasn’t very hard to find Bob; he was at the back of the cemetery yelling for Karen. We joined him, and minutes later found Karen sitting against the back of one of the mausoleums by the rear fence. She seemed O.K., just a little dazed.
This was enough for me. I grabbed Valerie by the hand and started walking towards Bob’s minivan. Once she was safe inside on the backseat I started packing up our gear. Bob agreed with me, he was so spooked he was shaking. Karen jumped in the front seat and sat there motionless, staring straight ahead with a blank look on her face. When Valerie asked her if she was alright Karen turned her head slightly and answered yes very softly. Later that night Valerie told me she thought that Karen had a wild look in her eyes.
The next day I started looking over the footage stored on the two cam-corders. The one on the tri-pod showed everyone running and yelling after Karen, and then it went blank, nothing but a black screen for those two minutes before midnight. Then at exactly midnight it came back on with scenes of the cemetery, and me pulling myself from the ground.
The one Bob was holding showed the same thing, him running after Karen, a blank screen for two minutes, then scenes of the cemetery and all of us looking for Karen.
The real spooky shit was on the night vision camera and the listening equipment. I thumbed through the shots taken while the camera was auto-shoot for those two eerie minutes and saw the weirdest thing. When Karen stumbled out of the trees into the grass at the edge of the woods a sold white mist enveloped her. It lifted her slightly off the ground and had what looked like bursts of electricity shooting through it.
The last scene was the spookiest. Just before midnight, in those two minutes of the day, before the mist around Karen’s body dissipated, a horrible looking face floated in front of hers. An eerie black fog was flowing from its mouth into hers, then nothing. The remaining scenes in the camera after that were all black.
I then turned on the listening equipment to see what it had recorded and chills ran through my body, causing goose bumps to travel across my skin. Everything that we said and talked about as we walked around the cemetery that night, the conversations we had, the yelling for Karen to stop, even the joke I made about waking the dead and having coffee with them was on there. However, when the tape came to that spot two minutes before midnight all that went quiet. The only thing you could hear was a very strange, husky voice chanting in some unknown language like it was casting a spell. For those whole two minutes this voice spoke, screeching out that curse, then it stopped. After that all you could hear was me calling for Valerie, Bob calling for Karen, then nothing.
Sitting there in my den looking at the camera shots and listening to the recording equipment by myself spooked the shit out of me. I grabbed a cold beer and went out back into the yard, lit up a cigarette, and sat down at the picnic table by the back fence, stunned. My nerves were shot, what I needed was a stiff drink, not beer. Was that shit I saw real? I know what I heard, but was that real too?
I couldn’t show any of this to Bob and Karen. What I needed was more proof, something more tangible. If I could catch this on tape happening again, at another time, then I would really have something. But how could I do that without Valerie knowing what I was up to? If I told her she would either try to talk me out of it, or want to go with me. I couldn’t put her in that kind of danger, I had to figure out something.
The rest of the weekend went by like clockwork, church on Sunday with the kids, stock car races and baseball games Sunday afternoon. Valerie called Bob to check on Karen and he said she was O.K., just a little out of it still. She was lying down to get some rest; if anything changed he would call.
When Valerie went upstairs to take her usual Sunday afternoon nap I sent the kids out back to play in the yard and took this opportunity to jump on the internet. My goal was to do some research on the cemetery and the two young people that died there. It took some time but I finally found what I was looking for.
The article that Karen had showed us came from the town’s main newspaper, a rather straight forward legal organ for news. The towns other paper was a smaller rather racy one called The Habersham Gazette. It had a very different story to tell.
It seems as though the two unlucky teenagers were the product of a prank gone bad by the local high school students. They had been dared to spend the night in the cemetery in order to be accepted by the popular in-crowd. When their mutilated bodies found the day after rumors of everything from the cemetery caretaker killed them, to a plot involving a jealous boyfriend that took revenge on them were spread around the town for weeks after the murders.
It took months for things to settle down and get back to normal. The old caretaker left town and was never seen again, making him the number one suspect. No one was ever arrested for the murders, they were still boxed up in an old cold case file at the local sheriff’s department, probably would be forever.
The reporter that wrote this particular article followed it up with several more in the weeks following the grisly murders. He believed the caretaker was innocent, and that no other jealous party was involved. His belief was that woods behind the old cemetery were haunted with the evil spirit of a corpse eating ghoul.
Using a search engine from my desktop I typed in the word ghoul and came up with a really morbid description. It said that a ghoul was an evil spirit that lives in up in the trees of really old forests and survives by eating the flesh of anything dead. Occasionally it has been thought that they would dig up graves in a cemetery and eat the rotting flesh of a freshly buried corpse. Could that have been the grotesque face I saw in the mist around Karen?
I was too far gone to stop now. I surfed around and found the records kept by the local hospital back then. I then lucked up and found the death certificates for the two young teenagers. After some in depth searching I was able to locate an inquiry made by the young girls parents about why she missing both of her eyes. They were never given a good explanation for this, just a vague answer that no one really knew how this happened.
It then dawned on me to check the local newspapers again for articles related to any weird, unexplained deaths that took place around those woods since that dreadful day. What I turned up nearly floored me.
In the past ninety five years since the murders a total of six people have been found in the woods by the cemetery dead. Their mutilated bodies were found with the eyes missing. Some of the graves have been found dug up with the fresh corpse that had been laid in them gone missing. And six different people have been found in their homes dead, with both eyes missing.
This shit was getting deep. I decided to have a look around the cemetery the next day. Before turning off my laptop I saved all my research on a memory stick and erased the most recently gone to file. I didn’t Valerie tapping around on the internet and finding what I was looking at.
When I got to work the next day I talked to Bob and asked how Karen was doing. He said she seemed to be fine, just complaining about having a bad headache behind her eyes, so she stayed home from work. He was going to check in on her before coming by our house later to pick their son up. Their kid rode the bus to our house everyday so he could go to school with our boys. The school in their neighborhood wasn’t too great.
Before I could ask him if he noticed any weird mental changes in Karen, since she seemed to be physically O.K., he told me something very strange. He said that he rolled over in bed the night before to pull Karen close to him and she turned her face away from him. When he took her by the chin and turned her back towards him she had a wild look in her eyes, almost like they were glowing. I tried to console him by telling him not to worry about it; he was probably just his imagining things since he was so stressed out.
Lunchtime rolled around and I told my supervisor that I had an emergency dental appointment to fill a tooth I cracked on some hard candy over the weekend. With one of the new cam-corders on the front seat of my car I headed out to the old cemetery to do some investigating.
I parked under a tree off in the grass next to the wrought iron fence surrounding the mausoleum we had found Karen by that night and started recording from there. As I walked through the grounds around tombstones and head markers I had an eerie feeling crawl up my spine. I felt as though someone was watching me.
I made my way to the back of the spooky old graveyard and walked through the iron gate that led out into the forest. The grass was really tall here and was parted like something had walked, or more like shuffled through it towards the woods not too long ago. I was beginning to wish I had brought along a gun.
At the edge of the tree line everything was completely still and silent. No breeze blew through the tall oaks, and there wasn’t the first sound of a forest creature stirring around in the underbrush. It was almost like death had descended upon the place. I couldn’t move, I was too scared to go on.
I stood there for a long time, letting the cam-corder run, catching scenes of the gentle forest before me. I had almost talked myself into turning around and heading home when something behind one of the massive oaks caught my eye. All of my senses were jacked sky high now, heightened to their fullest. Someone or something was watching me from behind one of the majestic trees.
I flipped open the side view screen on the cam-corder to see if it was catching what my eyes were beholding, even though I couldn’t believe it. Very slowly a ragged looking, disgusting little creature with a hunched walk shuffled through the trees towards me. It didn’t have any clothing over the milky white skin that hung loosely from its wrinkled little body. The hands and feet both looked clawed and grimy, and very little hair clung to its deformed scalp.
The thing barely looked alive. I couldn’t move, my mind told me to run away, get as far away as possible, yet my feet were frozen to the ground. It was so close to me I could smell the decaying stench it gave off, and its rancid breath. I don’t know why, maybe I felt sorry for the poor creature, but I reached out my hand to it like you would for a stray dog to sniff you before you petted it on the head.
This was a mistake. The creature lunged at me and tried to tackle me. I fell backwards onto the grass and crab walked in reverse trying to get away from the horrible little thing. Luckily I had the strap on the cam-corder around my neck so I didn’t lose it when I fell. When I got up I started to run away from it, but before I did I noticed the weirdest thing. The eyes inside of its misshapen head were ice blue, almost human like, they looked like they were pleading with me for help. I ran as fast as I could back to my car, locked the doors and turned the engine over.
I was so nervous my hands shook like leaves that strived to barely hang on to a tree limb on a cool fall day. I put the car in drive and spun out of there looking in the rear view mirror as I cut off the grass onto the blacktop road. The creature was still there at the edge of the woods, half hidden by a large tree. It had its head thrown back and was howling like a wrathful spirit, mourning its loss.
My nerves were shot so bad I had to pull over when I came to a small country store on the side of the road. I sat there for a while with the window down smoking cigarette after cigarette trying to calm down. It took a minute for my heart to slow down; the smokes weren’t helping at all. Maybe it was time to quit.
On the drive home I laid the cam-corder in the passenger seat next to me and turned it on. I glanced over at the flip out screen as possible as I drove, hoping that I could make sense out of what had happened. When it came to the spot where the creature lunged at me I noticed something about the eyes inside its ugly head. I had to pull over to rewind and look again. My heart dropped out of my chest when I saw what was looking back at me.
My pulse was racing so fast I couldn’t find my cell phone. When I finally pulled it out of my pocket I hit the speed dial number for Valerie. She answered on the second ring and was pretty upset. Karen hadn’t come to pick up her son yet and she couldn’t get either her or Bob on the phone. I told her to calm down; I would swing by their place on my way home and check things out.
As I raced across town, blowing through stop signs and driving well above the posted speed limit, my mind raced from one bad thought to another. I swung my car into Bob’s front yard across his perfectly laid new sod grass jumped out and ran to the front porch. Both his and Karen’s car were still in the driveway, but no one answered my furious knocking on the door.
I ran around back, leaped over the deck rail, and burst through the screen door into the kitchen. Blood was all over the place, the countertops, the walls, the cabinets, and a trail of it was smeared across the floor leading to somewhere in the front of the house. I called out for Bob and Karen, but no one answered. I was wishing I had brought a gun with me.
My hands were trembling again as I fumbled through one of the kitchen drawers looking for a butcher knife. With this new weapon in my hand I began to search the house for Bob and Karen. I followed the trail of blood until it stopped at the small half bath under the staircase. Part of me wanted to open the door to see what was inside, and part of me wanted to run.
Before I could make up my mind what to do, the bathroom door flung open and Karen jumped out at me. Blood was smeared over her entire body. Her mouth was filled with it, and it dripped from her fingers.
She reached out for me, trying to pull me into her. I knew she would kill me if she got her hands on me. Poor Bob was lying on the floor of the tiny bathroom in a bloody heap. Karen had made a meal out of his internal organs.
I turned away from her and ran down the hallway out into the backyard, searching for a place to hide. Karen, or whatever that thing inside the house with the solid black eyes was, followed me. The door to Bob’s garage was up so I ran inside and pulled it down behind me.
Bob was a true believer in tools and manly shit so there was a wide variety of potential weapons lying around on work benches, and hanging from nails on the wall. That thing that used to be Karen was outside beating on the garage door, trying to find a way in. Before I knew it she was actually lifting the latched door up somehow, forcing her way into the garage.
I reached over and snatched a chainsaw down from the wall and pulled the cord, yanking it on. Everything inside of me wanted to go back one week, before that horrible night in the cemetery, and start over. My mind raced with all the shit that was happening, trying to find a good spot in any of it, but there wasn’t one. I did what I had to do and stuck the chainsaw’s blade under the bottom of the garage door and clipped Karen in both legs, dropping her to the ground on bloody stumps.
She lay there in a pool of blood reaching out to me, screeching like a banshee. I tried to feel sorry for her, but couldn’t. She was no longer the Karen that I knew. Those coal black eyes stared back at me, terrified, yet morbidly angrily. I almost felt sorry for the thing and started to reach out to it, but had to draw back because she lunged at me and tried to bite my hand. Using the chainsaw I ripped through her neck.
I stood there and watched as the eyes in the evil bitches head rolled backwards going from pitch black to a solid milky white nothing. The lifeless corpse lay there in the driveway staring at the sky with a dead, blank expression.
It’s been almost two years since that messed up day. We never sent the footage we took that night in the cemetery off to the T.V. show; I told Valerie that it could incriminate us in Bob and Karen’s death. I had simply left their house that afternoon and drove home. Later that evening when we felt that the time was right we called the police and told them that Karen never came to pick up their son that day, and that we couldn’t get either parent on the phone.
When the cops arrived at the house they found the two bloody bodies. The murders were blamed on a rogue drifter that had been recently linked to another murder over in the mountains of Idaho.
Valerie and I moved back to southern California, just outside of San Diego. My folks live here and they help watch the boys when me and Val want some alone time. Bob and Karen’s kid went to live with Karen’s folks back in Minnesota. The boy was so traumatized by the whole event a caseworker told us he would need psychiatric help for a long time.
Before we left Oregon I went back out to the cemetery to be sure of something. With my cam-corder in my hand I stood there at the edge of those spooky woods, throwing raw meat into the bushes.
It didn’t take long for her to come crawling through the underbrush after the bloody treat. I backed away into the grass just far enough to still get a focus on the pitiful creature before me. It felt really strange that day to film her as she sat there gulping down the bloody meal. When she turned and looked at me I could still see the same person Valerie and I had been friends with in those piercing ice blue eyes.
It was really hard for me to leave Karen there in those woods that day, hunched over like a beast with blood dripping from her mouth, but I had no choice. No one would believe me if I told them that somehow that creature was my friend, and that somehow, some way a grave robbing ghoul had switched souls with her on that dreadful night in the cemetery, just two minutes till midnight.