“Those stories about the graveyard that Pete told us sure were a lot of bunk, Mimi,” Steve said. He was walking Mimi home from the Halloween party they had gone to that night.
“Oh, sure! Everything’s a lot of bunk to you, Steve! You laugh everything off!” said Mimi. Her voice had anger in it, but it also betrayed a slight trembling.
“I know, I know,” she continued. “Pete was just trying to scare us, right? But you’ve heard those legends about the Tunnel Road graveyard, too. Admit it, funny things are supposed to have happened there.”
“Sure, Mimi, if you say so. That’s just why I thought we’d walk home the long way, by Tunnel Road, to prove to you that there wasn’t anything funny going on.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You don’t live a block away from Tunnel Road like I do!”
“You people who live up there have the wildest imaginations!”
“And the people who moved away from Tunnel Road, they all had wild imaginations, too?” countered Mimi.
“And those dug-up coffins the police found, those were hallucinations, I suppose?”
“Real, but strictly kids’ stuff,” Steve said, brushing it off. “Some guys’ll do anything for kicks. They just want to get a few people like you scared, that’s all.”
“Even my grandmother said she had suspicions of…you know, those…things that Peter was talking about.”
“Ghouls?” Steve laughed. “C’mon, Mimi, give me a break, will ya? There’s no such thing as grave robbers anymore! That went out with modern science.”
“I’m not talking about real-people-type grave robbers, you fool!” Mimi said in an angry whisper. I’m talking about the other kind, the spirit kind that are half animal, half ghost.”
“You mean the kind that look like that thing walking behind us?” said Steve.
“Very funny! But as you can see, I’m not laughing!”
“You mean the kind that rob graves and eat corpses?” Steve said with a mocking smile.
Mimi stopped walking. They were at the beginning of Tunnel Road. Steve looked at her, and he could sense that all of this really was no joke anymore. Mimi stared ahead vacantly. Her muscles stiffened. Her fingers worked on the clasp of her pocketbook, twisting it nervously.
Steve had wanted to make a show of his bravery tonight in front of the girl he wanted to ask to go steady with him. He thought he would impress her. But instead of sending her trembling into his arms for protection, all his talk had gradually gotten Mimi so worked up that romance was the last thing on her mind.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered to the frozen figure by his side.
She acted like she hadn’t heard him, but started to speak.
“When my grandmother was a young girl, she lived on Tunnel Road. She even used to play in the graveyard.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” asked Steve.
“As she was walking home one night, she saw a gleam of light coming from the graveyard. She heard sounds like people hard at work digging, too. She went in to investigate, kneeling down behind a tombstone. By the light of an old-fashioned lantern, she saw some dark figures standing next to an open grave.
“Ghouls?” gasped Steve.
“She never knew who-or what-they were. All she said afterwards was that they were yanking with all their might on a thick rope. She remembers something coming up out of the ground, but then she fainted. Her parents told her they found her the next morning sitting next to that tombstone with a blank look on her face.”
“She couldn’t have been unconscious all night!” said Steve.
“That’s what I always thought,” Mimi replied. But anytime the subject was brought up, she insisted that she didn’t remember anything else that happened that night. I think she remembered more happening, but didn’t say.”
“Probably afraid to relive it,” suggested Steve. “She probably should’ve have gotten it off her chest. Would’ve made her feel better.”
Mimi turned with a reproachful look towards Steve.
“Something scared her terribly, Steve. I don’t know what it was, or even if it was real. I do know that when I was younger and my parents and I moved back near the old homestead, she made me promise not to go near the place.”
“And did you?” Steve asked skeptically.
“What do you think?”
“I don’t believe you!”
“It’s not so much the promise,” Mimi said. “but if you could have seen those old eyes of hers when she talked about it!”
Steve put his hands in his pockets and looked at the ground, thinking. She’s acting like she’s a little girl, he said to himself. Mimi took a long, deep breath.
“C’mon,” she said. “You want me to go through the graveyard with you? Then, let’s go.” She grabbed his arm and started pulling him along.
“You really mean it?” Steve asked her as they walked.
She looked up at him with an expression he could not interpret.