I posted this story last year, but I was sort of late in my submission and it ended up buried about 5,000 comments down. Now, two days into the contest and there’s already 365 comments! Well, here’s hoping it gets seen this year.

You know what they say about curiosity...

A quick preface about myself and where I’m from. I come from a tiny town in East Texas. The kind of place where everyone knows everyone (and their business), neighbors tend to be neighborly, and anything relating to the big city is just too damned big. My graduating class size was 14, including myself. If you don’t get it yet, it’s a very rural town. I experienced many things one might describe as paranormal or supernatural while growing up there. But one event in particular stands out among all others.

When I was a sophomore in high school, my science teacher/coach handed out a photocopied topographical map of the town to anyone who wanted it. I thought it would be really cool to have something like that, so I raised my hand for one. This was in the mid-90's, so there was no Google Earth at the time. Or Google, for that matter. As I’m perusing the map, I see the school and the two cemeteries at either end of the road the school sits on. The black cemetery at one end, the white (and much larger) cemetery at the other end. But then I noticed that there was a third cemetery just south of the large white cemetery. Sitting right in the middle of a pasture behind the power plant? That can’t be right?

Well, I filed it in the back of my mind but would remain curious about it for years. The mysterious cemetery that nobody I asked about knew about. Fast-forward a few years. I’m 19 or so, and while hanging out with some friends telling scary stories, I mention this place. Of course, everyone gets interested! So we set out in the middle of the night to find it. It took a couple of hours of checking the map against our location in this huge pasture, but we finally found an area fenced in with old barbed wire that did not have a cattle gate like all the others like it. We poked around a bit inside and found a headstone. We had found it! This was the first of several return forays into the night that we would make over the months. And they were all uneventful.

Then came a night that wasn’t.

My best friend and I decided one night that would we go back out there and see it again. Really look around this time. Usually, by the time you walked the couple of miles to get out there, you were too tired to spend more than a few minutes and were ready to go home pretty quickly. But this time, we planned to linger a bit. So it was about 1am, and we were watching out the front window, just waiting for a certain car to go by. As the town cop (there was only one), right on schedule, drove by for his last round of the night, we slipped out the door and started making our way to the other side of town. Avoiding open spaces as much as possible, since we certainly didn’t want to get into any trouble. Down the old dirt road set in a field, run across the street and slip behind the baseball field, all the way around until we reached the cemetery road. I hate this road. It’s just an old single-lane blacktop road that cuts through the woods. The way the trees surround it and grow over it, in the summer (when our story takes place), it turns into a half-mile long, dark tunnel with nothing but dead people waiting at the other end.

Well, we soldier on and start walking down the road. Almost instantly, we find ourselves in nearly pitch blackness. There is no moon on this night, but a little bit of starlight sprinkles the ground. As we’re nearing the halfway point, we hear a noise to our left. A whump-whump-whump sound. We turn, and see this huge white object flying at us fast through the trees! We jump. We curse. We make noises that we would not have admitted making at that age. Then the huge white object turns right as it reaches the fence. A horse. Two near-coronaries later, we think about considering this a sign. But like fools, we don’t. And we continue down the road, flanked now by a white horse.

We break out of the trees and reach the cemetery. Everything goes according to plan here. We climb the stairs going over the fence and start heading towards the back of the cemetery. I’ve been in a lot of cemeteries over the years, and none really bother me except this one. It doesn’t really look spooky or anything. Maybe because I know so many people who are buried there. Oh well. We get about halfway back, then climb over the fence into the pasture. Now just a quick jaunt out to the hidden cemetery. About another half a mile. We get there with no issues.

We hop over that fence and start wandering around, just trying to find something new. There weren’t really many markers in there. We found one old metal one where the lettering had come off. The kind that you use until you get a proper marker. It had probably been there for 50 years. I’m guessing they wouldn’t be receiving their proper marker. We found some surnames that we recognized. Then I found the one that caused all the trouble.

It was right next to the fence, and it was tiny. Maybe six inches wide and sticking about eight inches out of the ground. There were no markings on it. I squatted down with my flashlight and looked around some more. Then I found a very strange stone. It was thick, like a normal stone, but it was only about two inches tall. I brushed at the dirt at the edges, and uncovered more stone. I kept going and uncovered more and more. Finally, I had revealed the top few inches of a full-sized head stone. It had sunk probably two feet. My friend came over by this point and was on the outside of the fence so he could have a better view. I turn around where I’m still squatted, and look at the small stone again.

I say to my friend, “Hey, didn’t old graves used to sometimes have both a headstone AND a footstone?”

He says, “Yeah?”

Then I shine my light at the ground right below the footstone, and I hear him curse as my blood runs cold. Right there, illuminated by my light, as if it were covered by a only quarter-inch of dirt, was a pair of skeletal feet. I slowly tracked my light towards me along the ground. Lower legs...upper legs...a pelvis... I don’t think I was even breathing at this point. The light continuing towards me, I see a pair of hands, arms, a rib cage... And then I was pointing my light straight down. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, but no. There was no grinning skull looking up at me. Because I was squatting directly on top of it.

Folks, I’m sure that from reading stories like this, you may begin to wonder if things of a metaphysical nature exist. If people are truly capable of superhuman feats. Well, I can tell you that my feets definitely became superhuman that night, and I learned to fly. I can barely remember my feet touching the ground as we sprinted the entire half-mile back to the main cemetery fence. We vaulted that fence at nearly the same moment and landed...in waist-deep fog. Somehow, in the hour or so since we had left this cemetery, a fog had rolled in that concealed everything except for the tippy-tops of the tallest headstones. After what we had just experienced, you can only imagine what we were envisioning crawling around under the cover of the fog. We very quickly made our way through the cemetery, going only slowly enough to avoid tripping over anything, then ran over the steps getting us the hell out of there. Once outside the fence, we were also outside of the fog. It was a chain link fence! How does that even work??

So we sort of power-walked down the spooky tree tunnel of doom. Luckily, the horse didn’t reappear because we probably would’ve died at that point. As we exited the tunnel and turned back behind the baseball field, we thought we were finally clear. We’re heading back toward the street when I notice something extremely odd. I get my friend’s attention and point up. The sky, which had been the normal black with twinkly stars, now appeared dark red. And there was a single cloud right above us. And I will swear to this day...

“Does that look like a hand to you?”

“Uhhh. Yeah. It does.”

“Last one home doesn’t make it home?”

“Yeah!”

And we ran. It was about a mile back to my house, through unlit streets, down a railroad track, with dark woods on one side of the road, and open fields on the other side, tall grass waving in the wind and making that hissssss sound. We kept looking behind us, all around us. We didn’t really say much until we finally got to my house and “safety”. We talked about what we thought we saw for a bit, then decided to go to bed. A lot of running and several adrenaline dumps will wear you out pretty well.

Maybe an hour or two after we went to sleep, I woke up suddenly for no reason. I was lying on my back, and when I opened my eyes, I saw it. About four feet above the bed, sort of floating, and looking straight down, was a disembodied head. I gently tapped (struck repeatedly) my friend. He woke up and mumbled a confused “Whaaat?”

I said, without moving my lips as much as I could, “Look...up...”

He turned and looked. He didn’t say anything.

I said, again not moving my mouth, “Do you see it?”

He nodded his head. “What do we do?” he murmured back.

We lay there for several seconds, neither of us moving. Then he fell back to that age-old defense against monsters, ghosts, and boogeymen. He pulled the covers over his head. I followed suit. A 19-year-old and a 17-year-old, both hiding under the covers. And you know what? I’m not ashamed to admit that. The head never actually did anything other than stare with a less-than-friendly look on its face, but that was enough.

Morning came, everything seemed normal again, and we agreed that we had received some sort of warning. Stay off my lawn, you damned kids! And we agreed to do just that.

Epilogue:

So, we never went back there together. To my knowledge, he’s never been back since. I’ll have to ask him. I, however, have been back. My sister is 10 years older than me. So about a year after this little adventure, I’m 20, she’s 30, and we were talking about something or other and I mentioned the hidden cemetery. She also grew up in this town and thought she knew everything about it, so this secret bothered her. She made me take her out there. We went out there in the middle of the day. I was nervous, to say the least. But I took her anyway. Once we got there, she went exploring, and me? Well, I just had to see. I went back to the grave that terrified us so badly that night. Would I still see the bones? The answer is no. What I saw instead was worse. I saw a hole. Not like a dug grave, but a hole that was irregular, maybe a foot across, three feet long, and deeper than I was willing to measure. Did it indicate that the coffin lid had collapsed? Or did something crawl out of it? Either option looked possible. I just turned 41, and I haven’t been back there since that day.