It All Started with a Bet

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
An unfortunate drunk is "forced" into entering a graveyard at midnight because of a bet made with friends to prove he's a man.

Submitted: January 18, 2008

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Submitted: January 18, 2008

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It all started with a bet.

I’ve walked through our forgettable town’s untended graveyard hundreds of times. It was the shortest means of getting home after work. Our town may have been small but our existence was long. And with a long existence come long lineages. And although names may live on, their bearers do not.

The graveyard had been resized many times during the town’s peaceful existence to accommodate the many deaths that inevitably occur over time. It was because of the graveyard’s enormous size that I was forced to walk through rather than around it. Not once did I feel threatened or endangered by my shortcut. But all good things come to an end.Venturing through a graveyard, especially through one rich with history such as ours, is no sin, as long as your reasons are understandable.

One afternoon, after a shortened day at work, the local pub had seemed all too inviting. I sat around, unwinding while watching a forgettable football match on a tiny colorless television set, wasting the day’s hard earned money on alcohol. The sound was off and the captions had begun to grow blurry. The clock on the wall showed fifteen past five, but I felt no rush.

I regret not leaving then and there because shortly later a few of my co-workers and old friends arrived, anxious for a good time. They saw me and waved me over.And so I sat and gossiped and drank, forgetting about the time.

Somehow, like many men’s conversations may stray to, we had stumbled upon the subject of courage, how every man should be free of fear to be able to call himself a man. How a real man is fearless.

The men, bored and slightly drunk, noticing that I had begun my alcohol binge earlier and was already well on my way to a night where they’d be forced to carry me home, had decided to have a little fun with my situation. They joked of my wife, then of my lack of children and finally my apparent weakness to alcohol. I became questioned of my manhood and as any drunk would, I took it all too personally.

And how do many men try to prove their courage, make evident their undeniable right to manhood? Through bets and dares that prove more that man’s utter stupidity than the existence of any trace of courage. 

For hours I argued, irritated, as the men had their fun and jokingly demanded proof. Next week it would be some other poor self-conscious drunk at the center of such meaningless banter.  I yelled and pounded my fists, all to no avail, as the men laughed and continued their ridicule. Talk was getting me nowhere, I felt action was needed. I felt my honor had been ripped out from under me, as if I were naked on a stage only to be pointed and laughed at. I was confident and willing to prove any who questioned me wrong. I was stupid.

The time was fifteen till midnight when one of us had devised a frivolous plan I assume was more out of wonder if I was drunk or stupid enough to follow through with than an actual form of proof. It was to be the graveyard, where ghosts of the long dead lingered and hungered for a soul dumb enough to trespass. I was to walk from one end to the other when the clock stroke midnight as proof of my fearlessness. Grown men don’t believe in ghosts; ghosts are only a mind’s manifestation of fear.

So what was I to do? Deny a simple bet and continue to be laughed and mocked at? It was enough that they had been making a fool of me all night, now I was to make one of myself? Or walk through the graveyard I know almost through memory and silence any doubts of my right to a pair of testicles? A sober mind would have little trouble deciding between the choices, but a drunken mind sees no choice. Those men would see me walk out the opposite end of the graveyard and stand corrected. My manhood would be beyond doubt and theirs’ would be spotlighted.

These thoughts rushed through my mind as fast as bullets, and made such absolute sense that I took no time to actually think. How little sense a drunken mind makes when looked back on, how silly and unimportant were my reasons, how stupid my actions. Alcohol gives men courage when they need it least.

And so we headed out. They left me at the entrance while they made their way around, laughing quietly and glancing back at me with joyous amusement. I hesitated. Not out of fear but to be sure they had ample time to reach the other end before me. I wanted to see the look on their faces when I showed mine, undeterred and confident.

I waited, staring at the open rusted gates that represented the entrance, the entire time thinking of how stupid they would feel, how much satisfaction I would gain. Not once did it occur to me what I was actually doing, not that it would change things at that time if it had.But how naïve it was of me to think of only the result and not the process.

Finally, I took my first steps into the graveyard. Dry leaves crunched and twigs snapped under every footstep but my ears were deaf to the sounds, dulled through determination and concentration. It was cloudy but the moon was full and its light plenty.Gravestones stretched almost as far as the eye could see. All the stones were cracked and chipped and covered in vines, even the newer ones looking aged. 

I kept walking, never hesitating although the surroundings I thought I knew so well seemed somehow alien. If I were to hesitate, I thought, my friends would somehow know of it, and would only have more to laugh at.

Eventually, the unfamiliar surroundings began to tease my mind. I looked around only to find myself in a seemingly endless field of graves and their markers. The old rusted gate that I had passed through had vanished and there was no exit visible ahead of me. I spun nervously around and around, losing my bearings and feeling the dreaded emotion of fear begin to creep into existence. I was lost in the middle of a graveyard I knew like the back of my hand. I stopped spinning and headed in the direction I faced, figuring I’d stumble upon an exit eventually.

After only a few steps a strong wind began to manifest itself and summon with it a strange and foul smell.With every step I took the wind grew fiercer, threatening to knock me over. Exhausted, I gave up fighting the wind and collapsed behind the nearest gravestone, finding the only type of shelter I could from the forceful wind. Its roar was deafening and I worried it was not only the wind that howled. 

Suddenly, the wind vanished. It went from frighteningly loud to impossibly quiet in a moment. I rested my head against the worn stone and withdrew at its bitter coldness, my eyes falling on the stone’s writing. “Here lies a man of courage and fearlessness, how he must be proud…” The line seemed mockingly unreal. And then my eyes fell upon my own name, set in stone, above the message.  This was impossible, this was crazy.  My friends were pulling the prank of the century on me, I thought to myself.

I pulled myself away from the gravestone and looked around in wild confusion, desperate to wake up from this horrible dream. 

I had no idea what to do next. There was no end to the graves in sight and pinching myself only added to the fear for it assured me I was awake.

So I trudged forward, direction not a concern.  I started with a walk, but unconsciously grew into a run as I thought of that gravestone and the impossibility of my situation. I wanted out.

As I ran at my fullest, the ground appeared to move under me, seemed to push upward and coil. I closed my eyes and kept running, only to be tripped by something sticking obtrusively out of the ground.My landing was anything but soft and I felt the air escape my lungs. I rolled over onto my back to see what I had caught my foot on and glimpsed a thick root slowly bury itself under loose soil. The sight was hard to deny after my previous experiences.

I began to feel tingly all over.I knew not why until I scratched through my sleeve at the sensations. A loud crack was audible and I felt a gooey substance spread itself around my wrist. I rolled up my sleeve to discover I had just crushed a large beetle. The disgust that hit me with the realization made the tingly sensations become sharp and painful. I rolled over and over trying to kill the unwelcome parasites underneath my clothes but the more I rolled the more of them I felt. The ground had become littered with cockroaches and centipedes and flies. Some began to bite and pinch at my defiance.

I looked around for something, anything to get me off the ground and away from the shifting ocean of insects that used to be solid ground. I saw a large enough gravestone to stand on almost an arm’s reach away and spread out my arm, desperate to grab a hold of the stone and pull myself close. The stretch proved to irritate the critters more and they stung and jabbed at the sensitive skin.

With a burst of dirt and grass, a thin hand, loosely assembled of rotted bone and decayed flesh, sprung out of the ground before the gravestone and grabbed my wrist with unimaginable strength and began to sink back down. I screamed in horror and disgust and pulled my arm with all my power and ripped that boney hand from out of the ground. But its grip stayed firm, making my entire hand grow numb and purple.

The insects never tired in their assault as I tried to stand, only to be knocked back down by an invisible force. It felt like a blow to the chest with a sledgehammer, and my lungs hungered for air as my back hit the ground. I breathed heavily, exhausted, and almost forgot about the bugs when more grass and soil flew up into the air.

At my sides, two putrid torsos jumped from out of the ground beneath the moving insects like dolphins out of an ocean. They clawed at the insects, trying to leverage themselves closer. Even in my terror I saw more earth soar above and beneath me. Arms and legs, some barely identifiable, stuck out of the ground all around me, and even felt a force pushing upward from underneath me, intent on reaching the surface. I consciously gave up on my pointless rebellion, knowing I was in hell.

I laid there, sobered by and paralyzed with fear while skinless arms grabbed at my limbs with furious intent. Flies and cockroaches filled every crevice of my body, slipping under my clothes, into my ears, between my fingers; their countless legs feeling like needles with each step they took, and they were never motionless. I could hear nothing but buzzing and gnawing, smell nothing but rot and blood. The boney limbs each pulled in different directions with unimaginable force. All the while I could do nothing but stare up into the cloudy sky in utter disbelief with immobilizing fear, and feel myself sinking lower and lower. I felt as if I had stumbled into the lair of a sleeping but furious dragon, provoked by my unexpected interruption.  

It became hard for my eyes to stay open as I felt an implacable weight grow over my entire body. It grew heavier and heavier, quickly becoming unbearable. Dirt began to cover my legs, arms, and chest, falling into my eyes, nose, and throat, making it impossible to breathe.

I was buried alive. Or at least I was convinced I was. I remember running out of air, clawing and scratching at endless earth with the desperation and instinct to keep life within me. I thought what I had felt earlier was painful, but feeling your lungs collapse and your body give up inside you was insufferable.

When I opened my eyes I was lying just outside the front gate.  The strong light from the sun forced my eyes to squint. I sat up, aching all over. But it was a welcomed pain; it assured me I was alive. I stood up and ran home almost immediately, never even so much as glancing behind me. I didn’t care about what my friends assumed, only that I was alive and that this was a miracle because only a few hours ago, I was surely dead.

I had once overheard someone say that courage and stupidity, although entirely different, are quite often mistaken for one another. How true that rings to me now. The only real way to be fearless is to be dead and buried.

I am telling you this because I want you to know. Understand that traveling through a cemetery is no sin, it is no crime. Traveling through a cemetery with ill reason or intention, however, is. And it is repented by more important things than money or time. Its cost is your mind and your sense of safety because you will know, even see for yourself, what exists unacknowledged and forgotten through disbelief. It will cost you your sanity.


© Copyright 2017 Asheron. All rights reserved.

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