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Tessa tiptoed quietly through the cemetery. The moon was out, but it didn’t do a very good job of clearing away the mist that hung low over the cemetery. Tessa pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose, nervously. There were several trees planted around the tombstones, all looking like ghostly hands reaching for the sky and freedom. She walked past the tombstones, which were a ghastly white. They seemed to be floating in a sea of mist.

As Tessa walked by a particularly ugly tombstone with a gargoyle on top, she felt something grab her ponytail. Tessa screamed in fright and lunged forward, away from the grasping fingers. When she looked back, Tessa saw a few strands of her black hair hanging from a tree branch. She giggled at herself and walked to the crypts along the back wall of the cemetery. She was searching for a certain crypt, one that said McManlon on the door. She came to the first one and read the name. Harlon.

“That’s not it,” Tessa told herself and moved on. She continued reading the names; Reede followed by Merna followed by Lartoc; until she finally reached the crypt that said McManlon. She walked around the crypt to see if there were any windows or cracks in the stone that would allow her to see into the dark room. There were none.

“Well, I might as well get this over with,” Tessa said. “I hope I’m able to move that door.” Tessa walked back to the door and examined it. She noticed that the dirt in front of it looked like it had been swept. The sweeping continued in a half-circle, as if the door had been opened recently. Additionally, there were gouges in the door itself. When Tessa grabbed the door handle and pulled as hard as she could, the door swung open easily, and she was knocked off her feet.

“Wow, that was easy,” Tessa said breathlessly. “Maybe the groundskeepers keep the doors oiled or something.” She crept silently in, but froze when she thought she heard breathing.

“It’s only the wind,” she reasoned with herself. “Just that and nothing more.” She stood up from the half-crouch she had fallen in when she heard what she thought was breathing and looked around.

There was a family of skeletons lying around the perimeter of the crypt. Along one wall, there seemed to be a man. He had on a dark colored suit and had a cane and top hat. His suit and hat were in tatters, but the cane looked only slightly decayed. It was made of a dark, polished wood and looked like it could last until the skeleton had turned to dust.

Along another wall was what seemed to be a female skeleton. This one had on what looked like a formal evening dress. It was impossible to tell what color it was as it had decayed into a light gray. The dress would have been pretty had it been new. The woman was also wearing a necklace that had a teardrop-shaped sapphire on it. The necklace was very beautiful and Tessa couldn’t believe the woman had been buried in it.

Along the other wall was the skeleton of a child. The child’s skeleton was small and the shoulders were hunched over. It seemed to be a boy. He was wearing a little suit, very much like the one the man was wearing. His seemed to be a grayish color, though. The boy didn’t have a cane or a top hat, but he did have a little stuffed bear next to his arm. The bear was falling apart and the stuffing was poking through holes in the arms and legs.

Tessa decided that a little bone from the woman’s hand should be enough. Also, the woman’s skeleton was closest to the door. Tessa crept over to the skeleton and eyed it. She looked at the hand and decided to take the index finger. She gently lifted the woman’s hand and twisted the finger off. Tessa then pocketed the finger, put the woman’s hand back down, and tiptoed back to the door. When she reached it, she turned around and looked around the crypt one last time.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’ll return the bone as soon as I can.” With that promise, Tessa walked out the door and pushed it closed. Then, she made her way back through the cemetery, past the ethereal tombstones, and through the wraithlike wind clawing at her legs. Tessa saw the gates looming ahead and broke into a lope. She couldn’t wait to get out of there. She made it past the gates and walked hastily back to her house. She walked in her front door and into her room.

“Did you get it?” One of her friends asked anxiously. “Let’s see it.” Tessa reached into her pocket and grabbed the finger bone.

“Ohhhhh,” her friends sighed. “You did it. You finished the dare.” Tessa nodded and smiled.

“I ought to return this now, though,” she said. “I’ll be back in a little while.” Tessa pocketed the bone again and grabbed her jacket. She shrugged into it and walked back out of her house. She jogged back to the cemetery and through the wrought-iron gates. The moon was still out and it was still light enough for Tessa to see her way. This time, she ignored the mist and tombstones and headed straight for the crypt. When she got there, Tessa noticed that the door was open slightly.

“It was probably the wind,” Tessa said, uneasily. “That door is a little loose.” She pulled the door open and slipped in. She walked to the woman’s skeleton and laid the finger down where it had come from.

“Thank you,” she whispered and turned to leave. Suddenly, a moving shadow caught her eye. She moved toward the wall with the child’s skeleton. Tessa watched intently, but didn’t see the shadows shift. She shrugged and turned toward the door. It was closed and Tessa distinctly remembered leaving it open. Tessa walked over to it and pushed. The door slid open a few inches, them stopped. She pushed again, but the door wouldn’t budge. Tessa stepped back a couple of paces, turned her shoulder toward the door, and ran into it. The door opened enough this time for her to slip out. She did so and turned to close the door. As she did, a hand grabbed her shoulder.

“Boo!” Someone shouted behind Tessa. She screamed and lunged to the left, wrenching the hand off her shoulder. She started running, but stopped when she heard the laughter.

“Jeez, Tessa,” her friend, Ellie, said. “It’s only me. You need to relax.” Ellie was doubled over, she was laughing so hard. Tessa walked back toward Ellie, laughing.

“Relax?” She asked incredulously. “You tell me to relax in a cemetery.”

“You’ve got a point. Let’s go back. You’re mom is going to be looking for you.” The two girls walked back to Tessa’s house. They walked in silence most of the way, but when they were about a block away from Tessa’s house, Ellie asked, “Tessa, why did you go get that bone? You didn’t have to. You could have just said no.” Tessa thought about it for a minute, then answered.

“I wanted to see if I could conquer my fears of cemeteries. I guess I thought that if I went in one at night, it would have helped me get rid of that fear. I think it worked because I’m not scared anymore.” Ellie nodded. The two had reached Tessa’s house and were walking in when Tessa’s mother looked out the window.

“Tessa,” she called. “What were you doing out there?” Tessa and Ellie exchanged a look and Tessa answered, “We were looking at the moon. It’s so big and bright, isn’t it?” Her mother looked at the moon, nodded, and went back to her room. Tessa and Ellie walked into the house and to Tessa’s room. Tessa and Ellie started getting ready for bed. Their other friends were already lying in their sleeping bags and talking drowsily. Tessa and Ellie lay down and the other girls asked what they did back at the cemetery. Tessa laughed, answered, “Ask me in the morning.”, and she promptly fell into a deep sleep.
This story won my high school literary magazine's halloween writing contest my sophomore year. :) I am rather proud of it :)
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September 29, 2006
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