Graves of the Undead

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Continuing my Undead story ark, with this short story I decided to go back to the past again uncovering more mysteries and adding some new characters into the mix which I plan to do with future entries.

In the wee specs of morning, blue eyes shifted from one end of the room to the other.  It took a while for his sight to adjust to the rays flooding in from the window.  George canted his head to the side to notice the candle stick still burning from the previous night.  There was no more darkness that danced with unseen shadows, it had been the following day and it started off with a long silence.  George stumbled his way over to the water basin in the adjoining room from a night of drunken squalor.  Dousing his face and neck with cool water, the headache subsided a little, but still the throbbing echoed.
Sighing and contemplating a little, George threw on a pair of fresh clothes and made his way down into the lounge.  Tables were eagerly set up and barmaids funneled out of the kitchen carry slabs of meat, farm fresh eggs, and just-baked bread.  He sat down gripping his head as one of them brushed a hand against his shoulder.  He obliged by tipping his hat, offering a quick smile, and tapping his finger on the rim of mug.  One by one a whole dining room was served and George sat quietly as he ate the four course breakfast.
Much of the patrons scurried afterwards, back to their rooms, off to take morning baths and dress in meager attire ready for the day’s work.  George waited for all to leave until he was the only one in the lounge left.  His grizzled beard left a complex tone to his face, his lips frowning, and his eyes hazy but coming to life little by little.  Bringing out what seemed to be a handheld metal case, he pulled out a previous rolled cigarette.  Scratching the match against the wooden table he lit and smoked.  He muttered something to himself that was inaudible so no one could hear not even the barmaid cleaning up after the meal.
Walking a little bit more heavy laden he made his way back up to his room, turned around and locked the door.  His musket and cattleman lain atop the dresser which held a numerous about of reading material as well.  Some of them open to certain pages, others closed but cleverly bookmarked.  He came over to the bed, felt underneath for the latch, and with all of his strength tipped over the mattress that landed on its side with a thud.  There was large brown sack underneath, flattened but heavy, oblong but stationary, easy to fold yet hard to carry from place to place.
Dragging the sack onto the floor, the sound of metal penetrated the floor.  Undoing the latches and buckles holding the layers of cow leather together, he finally opened it.  An assortment of low profile bladed weapons glinted in the sunlight, a couple of daggers and machetes, an old scimitar and cutlass that seemed to be dragged up from Davy Jone’s locker.  A spear made from heavy iron stolen recently, the kukri was forged by himself when he was younger, two different hand axes, an array of buoy knives, and lastly an old Grecian war blade given to him by an old monk completed the variety of weapons.  All that was there including something more, something close and near dear to his heart.
From an in sewn pocket came out a cross made of tarnished bronze and gold.  For a moment he closed his eyes and said a little prayer to himself.  “Father, give me strength and courage to do what is necessary in my time of need.  For thy are my rod and staff, and you place a footstool at the base of my enemies.”  Out of all that has happened already, from everything he has seen and witnessed, from what brought him to this place as a broken drunkard, he still had faith.  And that faith that gave him composure and steadfastness in what he had to do next.  And he gripped the cross tighter, twisted the base, and out from the bottom a single silver stake emerged.
The nights were few and far between, and a fog came rolling in.  His horse neighed and its head reared back to poke at George’s leg.  A little tug on the reign forced the horse to concentrate on its objective.  It was close to midnight and the horse trotted through the remains of a cemetery.  George’s blue eyes went back and forth eyeing the graves to the left and right to him.  Most of the headstones were cracked, a few of them broken, a couple were still intact.  Fumes from a freshly lit cigarette made the night seem warmer and more bearable.
On the back of the horse slung a wooden crossbow, with five bolts attached to a sling.  The kukri and a cutlass were strewn across by leather straps, held in hide sheaths.  His cattleman was gripped tightly in his right hand, his left hand guiding the horse from one row to the next.  The horse’s and his own breaths could be seen rolling their way down towards the undead ground.  The smell of unsanctified bloodshed bothered both of them.  But George doubted the bloodshed, it was the smell of rotting corpses recently dug up.  A couple of the gravesites had been eroded and a few had been open.  What George was more interested in was to investigate.
Hopping off the saddle, he tied his steed to a dilapidated crooked tree.  From there he walked over the one of the open graves carrying a lantern.  With a single match he lit the burner and turned the igniter.  The glow from the lantern was a beacon in the darkness, a calming shelter for those still alive.  He narrowed in on the open grave and speckles of blood could be seen.  A hand went down to rub and touch the crimson liquid.  He smeared the blood between index and thumb.  “Coagulated.  Recently dead.”
His head shifted from side to side eyeing more headstones with a couple more open graves to be searched.  Inside one of them had been nothing, no remains, no signs of vandalism or ruckus.  The other however held more to arouse his curiosity.  He found a single necklace embroiled with gold and diamonds, stained with the same coagulated blood.  Underneath that was a series of fingernails that were oddly shaped and came to sharpened points.  He thought to himself whoever could have done this could be close by, or it could have been a night or two ago.
The horse grunted and stepped back a little.  George looked over noticing his steed giving him a warning of some sort.  Nervousness of domesticated animals usually gave off signals.  The cattleman he recently holstered came back out and slowly he clicked back the hammer.  Something in the air grew heavy and more revolting.  The smell of death seemed clearer and closer.  The horse began to pace as George knelt behind one of cracked headstones.  With one hand his hat came off and placed it on top of the headstone.
Something was moving in the distance.  Not only could he hear it but he could see it.  A dark mass moving silently a couple of rows ahead of his sight.  It appeared to be hunched over, its back arching upwards.  Looking like a man just slightly taller with stringy hair and a gloating beard.  And no breath came forward, just a creeping silence.  Its hands jutted forward looking like talons, and the way it walked was jagged and sporadic.  It seemed as if this creature did not abide by the physics of time, more like a spectral form jolting in and out of frame.  It would be hard to place a shot into something that moved like a still picture from one moment to the next.
This entity quirked its head towards his steed with violent malicious red eyes.  Its jolted movements frantic as it walked made its way over to his only mode of transportation and a close companion.  But he had to make sure that his shot would count as the horse baited this thing.  Its figure moved with the fog, in and out of the haze, its hands growing wider and more oppressive.  He rested the cattlleman on the headstone, one eye closing to hone in on the target.  His other hand gripped the butt of the revolver, and once that bastard was within two feet of his companion a bright flame exited and let out a loud boom.
Immediately the figure howled and backed away, but it caught glimpse of its attacker.  That red glare staring back at George let out a gruesome howl that of a wolf.  The movement shifted from jolted spurts to a daring sprint.  The creature leaped forward bypassing numerous headstones landing merely feet away from this cowboy.  George unloaded two more shots, one grazing this creature’s leg, the other ricocheting off a grave. 
The spectre covered in darkness made his move, exposed himself, now he was in attacking distance of George.  It contorted and slithered, lumbering itself upwards about two feet in the air.  George saw it transform into something more hideous and taller which made his sureness turn into doubt.  A frown came and he started to run away from his steed.  Not looking back he could hear this creature gain traction on him, and he knew just then he couldn’t outrun it.  That was when he felt a pair of claws clutch onto his shoulders and pick him up, tossing him into one of them open graves as if he were nothing but a rag doll.
The fall took the breath right out of him and he saw the creature huddle over the grave.  That dank smell only made those eyes appear more excruciating.  The creature circled the hole, growling and biting and hissing at George.  Through the mass of unkempt hair and beard, he saw the face of a man.  But it was not, he knew better.  Saliva poured from its mouth, blood stained fangs menacingly devilish, completed unhinged and definitely rabid.  He raised the cattleman once more to let out another piercing shot but this lumbering thing that used to be man dodged with a speed unseen.
It jumped inside the hole with George and instead for a going direct kill, its claw like hands lifted up the human with little effort.  It brought him to his face so he could smell that foul odor and pushed and held George up to the headstone above with one hand.  Its nails like daggers pierced his throat as he held him up.  George tried to punch the creature’s back of the elbow to see if it would buckle, but this damn monster was too strong.  The thing began to laugh as he saw the cattleman drop to the dirt below.
“Too much fight in you, one who disturbs my slumber.  Brave…maybe courageous, but foolish nonetheless.”  Little did this creature know that George had something on him that was more effective than a pistol.  But he waited patiently to see if this creature knew anything about what he knew.
The creature lingered forward to peer into George’s eyes, his breath smelled of ragweed and manure.  His face grimaced baring his fangs outright, that man-like face underneath was just a handle, a mere blinder for what he truly was.  Something of the night that drank the blood of the living, part of some unholy tapestry.  George had dealt with one before long ago at his homestead, but this one had more strength, a brutish large frame and power behind his towering height.
Struggling against the headstone, George gripped the creature’s hand trying to pry open its fingers.  Carefully he spoke.  “I know what you are.  Damnable heretic.  Nocturnal immortal.  Bloodsucking scapegoat.  Nosferatu.”  The other hand scourged the inside pocket of his duster and out came a barbed-link cutter, whipping around the wrist of the hand he tried to pry.  The mechanism locked together underneath, his right hand yanking downwards watching the wire gorge his wrist in half.  The claw-like palm separated from his forearm leaving nothing but a blood drenched stub.
The creature howled and backed away, the tall monstrosity quickly gripped the stub as if trying to find his hand in mid air.  With the vampire stunned, George gripped the sides of the open grave and made his way onto grassy ground.  After a while the creature shook off his momentary hesitancy and George was already sprinting towards his steed.  The vampire flew upwards into a vertical jump and George could hear the vampire.  He knew this thing would not take his wound lightly, now it was coming for the kill. 
Looking up he saw the vampire land between him and his companion.  Out from the back of his duster he drew his buoy and one hand axe.  The creature came after him with a speed unmatched but George had known about these things for quite some time now.  Gone was the slow descent of attacking motions, the cautionary preambles of powerful strokes and swings.  He knew how to ward off these damned nightmares.  When the vampire swiped with a fearsome claw, George ducked, rolled, and sliced through cartilage right above the knee cap.
The vampire tumbled slightly, and through that sluggish movement, his hand axe came from behind hammering into the giant vampire’s lower spine.  This made the creature angrier but halting his movements in rapid burst.  Those howls from before turned into grunts from both knife and axe.  Even though their large frames gave them power over most common men, if one had good footing one could throw them off their game, like water damaging the base of a tower.
These two quick strokes made the vampire come to his knee, and closed the distance between George and his companion.  Hurriedly he unlatched the crossbow, one bolt already loaded into the riser.  Below the silver tipped bolt was a thick cartridge holding a vial, something George constructed, attached, and branded.  A vial holding nothing but water…that is blessed water.  Lifting up the crossbow with some effort, he aimed steadily, this time the fog did not hold the vampire at bay, he was as clear as the night around him.  He pulled the trigger and the bolt lodged itself into the creature’s neck as it began to turn and head towards George.
It winced from the initial point of entry, but it only took a moment before the hulking monster started to spasm.  A look of panic and dread came to his crimson eyes.  One hand yanked the bolt out from the confines of his neck but it was too late.  He peered at the silver tip (which immobilized him) and then the cartridge holding the vial, which was empty.  George gave a smirk followed by a winning smile.  The vampire began to shake, clutching his throat with both hands coming down to a complete kneel.
“You want to know what that was?”  George exclaimed as he unsheathed the cutlass and kukri from the back of his steed, “Blessed water added with allium sativum.”  He victoriously walked over to the downed paralyzed beast.  “Also known to your kind as garlic.”  The vampire began to sweat underneath that mound of hair, his long beard turning from black to decaying grey.  His bloodstained eyes clearing into opaque pools.  Its biceps and forearms beginning to blister forming welts, his breathing becoming sporadic and hoarse.
“How…” the vampire gurgled, “…impossible.”
“Not impossible, simple science mixed with faith.  Alchemy with a splash of biblical fortitude.  Something that your kind fears and rebukes.  Weapons nonetheless in the hands of a hunter.”  Tears began to fall from the beast’s eyes looking up to this enigmatic cowboy.  Truly a dedicated one, always one step ahead of him even when he thought his downfall was eminent.  Both the cutlass and kukri came to his aching throat, blades touching the blistering skin.
“My brother knows where I am, doesn’t he?”
The vampire choked out, “So you are the one.  How long has it been since my master plagued you?”  It smirked lightly but then frowned from the pain beginning to build up inside its lungs.
“Two years too late.  I have a message and you, my friend, are going to relay it back to him.  Only…you don’t have to be alive to take it with you.”  In two quick decisive slicing motions, the cutlass and kukri scissor their effort together.  The sharpened blades leaving blood soaked steel upon them as the head of the creature went tumbling backward and onto the unholy ground of the ruined cemetery.  The vampire’s eyes stared up into the starry sky still wondering what message had the hunter intended before his mind went still and blank.
A few days passed by and a local minister made his way out into the fields.  There he gathered his livestock, a couple of horses he drew into the barn, some chickens were given barley and grain in a coop, and two pigs were fed gregariously from a local trough.  On his way back to a meager looking building, he gathered some plywood and a single hammer with nails.  This was no lanky built priest of some synagogue.  This was a man of God praying diligently even when his crops were flooded by a spring storm.  A purposeful led preacher whose congregation loved to hear heartfelt sermons and appreciate his sacrificing nature.
Down a gravel path George rode his horse towards the work in progress building.  The minister eyed him from a distance and George gave a smile in his direction.  As he got off his horse, he made his way over to the minister not even saying a hello but picking up a couple more feet of plywood in one arm and a sack of homemaking tools in the other.  Both of them walked inside the farm house slowly being built into a house of God.  Laying the plywood against one wall, George took off his duster and hat giving the minister a hand as he brought out a box of bibles.
With each taking one small box, they moved to the pews that were built roughly three days ago placing a good old fashion bible in each of shelves on the back of them, spacing three to four to five at a time down every aisle.  Not even an utterance the minister knew what George had accomplished, not just previously but within the given year.  There was no need for talk of encouragement or victory, just another passing endeavor.  A task that was carried out gaining more grounds on an everlasting eternal battlefield.  After the bibles were in their right places, each one of them sat in the front pew, both of them letting out a sigh.
“The cemetery…has it been cleansed?” the minister finally spoke.
“It has.  The work is done.  Each headstone and gravesite torn down, prayed upon, and put to the flame.  Just like you taught me.”  George spoke while crossing his arms upon his chest.
“Just like what we taught each other.  We both know and understand what lurks behind the shadows.  I do my part and you do yours.  Was there any?”
George contemplated the minister’s question, and finally he said, “Just one.  They are becoming more powerful.  More unhinged…more rabid…more ungodly.  And he knew my brother.”
The minister turned his head towards George with sparkling green eyes.  “It could have been one of his henchmen or maybe a sentry.  Possibly guarding something no doubt.  That cemetery used to be an Injun burial ground at one time.  The perfect breeding place for damned.”
The minister arose from his seat and afterwards so did George.  They made their way towards the back of the farmhouse and out the back door.  There in the yard acres of green pasture gave way to a solitary store house.  George unlatched his weapons from his back and his waist when the minister unlocked the shed door.  There in this store house was a makeshift workshop.  Weapons of steel, iron and silver adorned the walls.  An assortment of bladed and piercing daggers, swords collected from whence pirates roamed the high seas, a collection of ceremonial scimitars and falchions all were hung according to height width and length.
“At one time the Injun’s made common ground with other natives.  They used to dwell in tombs and catacombs etched in the sides of ravines and mountains.  Over time their appetite became astoundingly carnivorous, turning from simple cattle and stock over to the bloodlust of humans,” The minister scrounged a workbench, brining out wooden and metal casings with silver ore to be refined later, that was what George excelled at over the years, “The vampire gains its strength from those who do not believe in it.  And given time, that strength doubles sometimes triples in potency.  The first kin came strictly from native Americans.  Those that had their rituals of witchcraft and sorcery.  Blood was used as a sacrifice, an atonement if you will, George.”
George moved behind him and picked up a carving stone.  He made his way over to the pit fire loading up an excessive amount of oak and timber in the furnace, then placing the coal on the top rack.  “I have heard the tales.  I did my homework as you have done.  ‘They finally found the perfect bloodletting, that of a bat.  And from thenceforth blood became the life that endured the soul and eased the pain of life.’”
“Good.  You have been reading more.  Have you decided to record your findings?”
“I am keeping a journal of my inquiries.”
“Hopefully one day another soul shall read it.  And another, and another.  Knowledge is infectious, it can spread like a famine or can be burned and forgotten.  But there are always those who seek out answers of the unknown and unheard.  The vampire and his kin seek to destroy such answers.  Maybe that is why they have their numbers.  To hide themselves amongst the masses.”
George began to collect metal scraps from a nearby bushel that he began to heat in the furnace.  But when the minister spoke his last line he canted his head towards him, a somber look came upon his face.  “Ryan…my brother.  I believe he leads them and commands them.  What I saw two years ago…all those men, some turned, some not.  Exactly like a congregation.”
The minister eyed him somberly expressing his empathy.  “Not a congregation.  A coven.  An assembly of like-minded men.  Cultish mentalities run deep in those who are naïve.  Easy bargaining maneuvers.  They negotiate no price, only their own lives.  In the end, their minds and souls become twisted.  In this case, some of whom you saw, have been completely turned.  For them there is no coming back.  Even they realize that…they relish in it…believes it makes them powerful.
“Your brother, I believe maybe one of their dark priest.  The way you described him, his ability to transform at will, his strength and his wisdom.  A worthy adversary, but can still be killed.  Not like a man anymore but a creature not of this earth.  That is why we are here.  To expose them for what they are.  And if this is true what you say…that they plan to resurrect a church of their own, then we must be vigilant and steadfast.  Become like our enemies but not completely.”
George nodded his head in agreement as he began to hammer and form a silver needle which he began to roll with ease into an oblong cylinder melting out the sides and using heating irons and coils to clamp the endings to brand them.  “Biding our time?  I agree.  I don’t doubt that there will be more of them.  But we too have to hide in the open.  Possibly increase our numbers as well?”
“In time we will.  More people will come to the realization of what we know.  It may not be any time soon, might even be generations after we are gone from this earth.  Then that darkness that prevails will be held within the light of day.  Your brother’s minions will have to find new ways to shield themselves.  That is when our creed that we forge here today will come to light.  Even if it is only a handful, they will strike in the daytime to unearth their tombs and caskets.  Little skirmishes here and there shall hamper their efforts, make them rethink their strategies.  Then they shall double down, possibly even forcing great, honorable, distinguished men to be their lapdogs…their caretakers if you will.  Hiding in plain sight.”
“You sure have your way of words, old man.  Hopefully that kind of wisdom carries on through the ages.”
“Trust me, it will,” the minister stepped back, halted George’s current work, grabbed his arm and brought him over towards a large metal container not that much bigger that a suitcase, “In here is a couple of my most sacred possessions I have gathered across my travels upon this earth.”  He opened the top by unlocking it with an ornate key.
From the top he handed over a bronze cross to George, one that was two feet long, sturdy but light.  “This is something I made during my time in an Egyptain province.  Something that I constructed that held back a mysterious lurking evil.  At first I did not know what it was and it never revealed itself.  But I remember how I felt, what I experienced, its power it swayed over certain persons.”
“What is it?”
“It is simply a cross.  But the power and uniqueness behind it was able to destroy a very prominent vampire.  Not a sentry…not a henchmen…but a dark witch, able to control the elements and her corporeal form.  A woman I met in this province heralded this darkness none like I have seen before.  She held in her palm, an ankh.  But what I know now it was no ankh, but a key of some sorts.  A key to a mystery that I have not unlocked.  I am hoping you will.”
George felt the cross in his hands, it felt like a ward, but something underneath its bronze and gold markings made it swell with an unwavering faith.  Close to the bottom he realized the butt of the object could be turned.  When he twisted the column out emerged a silver stake smelling of wolfs bane and allium sativum.  “With this weapon I was able to take on the witch.  Throughout my travels I found that wolfs bane and garlic flowers were natural occurrences to repel this strain of vampirism.  Refined silver being an immobilizing agent to a vampire’s congealed blood.
“This witch saw its natural occurrences and immediately was threatened by such a weapon I built.  I was able to take out three of her kin with this.  When I tracked her through a savannah, she began to use the skies against me, making the wind arid, a slithering of snakes and scorpions beckoned to her.  But I prevailed and cornered her in a deserted valley.  I closed in on her but something in that desert protected her…something terrible…something ancient…something not of our time.
“My faith pushed me forward and the witch in one last effort transformed into something not of this world.  I cannot explain what it was exactly.  I was hypnotized…transfixed.  But through that haze I saw her heart…glowing and beating inside her chest.  I drove this weapon through it and all life expelled from her, not instantaneously but gradually.  Whatever protected her that night in that valley made it thunder and lightning.  Rain and hail scoured my vision…howling winds threw me backward.  The only thing I could do was turn around and make my way back to the province.  Something there did not want me to venture any further.”
George’s mouth hung open, perplexed and astounded at the story.  “Whatever happened to the key…the ankh?”
“I was just a little older than you are when this happened to me.  It took me some years to get my head on straight.  To get my bearings back from that horrible night.  One of my cohorts, a friend that I know in England visited Egypt many years after I traveled that country.  There he met a wandering witchdoctor that sold precious artifacts and heirlooms.  He wrote to me just a year ago that what he brought from this man resembled the ankh I described to him.  George, I need you to travel to England, seek out my friend, and find anything you can about this key and what it truly opens.”  

Submitted: October 10, 2021

© Copyright 2021 mnicorata. All rights reserved.

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