Authors note: - Yet another short story I started a while back. I cleaned it up a bit and corrected a few mistakes (I've come a long way). It's all done! Weeeee! R&R please.

The Grave Keeper

"Perhaps passing through the gates of death is like passing quietly through the gate in a pasture fence. On the other side, you keep walking, without the need to look back. No shock, no drama, just the lifting of a plank or two in a simple wooden gate in a clearing. Neither pain, nor floods of light, nor great voices, but just the silent crossing of a meadow."

-Mark Helprin, "A Soldier of the Great War"

"I hear he's an escaped mental patient!" One whispered. "No way! I heard he's just some weirdo with no life." Another scoffed. "Hardly! He's an insane killer!" The last gasped around a fake frightened voice.

Lauren shook her head in disgust. "I can't believe you guys, you're terrible. Going on like that." The group of teenage girls stopped and glared at her.

"And what do you think is the truth." Cindy snapped at her as she flipped her long blond hair arrogantly.

"I think he's just some poor guy who lost one to many people and never got over it." Lauren snapped back.

The group of girls stopped just out side the old cemetery gates and stared in at the place that held the man they were presently arguing about. It was well over a hundred years old, statues of angels, old gnarled trees and broken head stones made it look like it belonged in a Hollywood horror film. Hundreds of people were buried there, ranging from the poorest to the richest. In the distance on a hill covered in lush green grass a lone figure stood in the shadow of a gothic angel.

"What ever his deal is, he creeps me out." Cindy shuddered and the two other girls with her nodded emphatically in agreement. Lauren sighed.

"He's only creepy because you don't know him. For all we know he could be a nice guy." She shrugged and continued the walk home. The group of girls quickly followed her as the sun became hidden behind a blanket of thick gray clouds.

"I have an idea!" Cindy laughed evilly. "Why don't you go find out!?" She grinned at the other girls who giggled.

            Lauren stopped walking and gave her a dark look. "Please, you just want to make a fool out of me."

Cindy gave her a mock innocent look. "Now why would I want to make a fool out of you!?" The girls tittered wildly making Lauren groan.

"Cindy, nothing you can say or do will make me go in there and talk to some guy I don't know." She turned on her heels and quickly walked away from them. To her annoyance they followed.

"You're scared." Cindy's dark mocking voice made her stop in her tracks and turn around.

"I am not." She glared angrily at her tormentor.

Cindy just laughed. "You are so afraid! I swear you're such a coward!" She smirked at her companions. "Isn't that right?" The two girls nodded emphatically and echoed her. "Such a coward."

Lauren made a sound near a growl and rolled her eyes. She said through clenched teeth. "I'm not going to let you goad me into this!"

Before she could turn away Cindy laughed darkly and said in a knowingly evil voice. "I dare you."

She stopped in mid turn and took a sharp breath. Cindy laughed harder. "I knew that would get you!" her friends laughed with her.

Lauren just glared then sighed softly in defeat. "OK, what do you dare me to do exactly?"

Cindy giggled getting an arrogant smirk on her face. "It's really quite simple. All you have to do is go talk to him." Lauren raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "That's all?"

Cindy nodded. "Yes that's all. Well…" She grinned. "You have to do it at night!" Her friends gasped then giggled evilly.

"And how could I prove to you that I pulled off this stupid stunt?" Lauren raised an eyebrow at her antagonist. Cindy simply said cheerfully. "Do you have a camera?"

Lauren shook her head no. "My dad does but I can hardly use it."

Cindy rolled her eyes. "Why not?"

She glared at the malevolent blond. "It's a complicated four hundred dollar professional camera! He'd kill me if I so much as touch it!"

Cindy pouted then smiled. "You can use my Polaroid camera. That way we get the proof real fast."

"OK so what do I take a picture of? Him?" She motioned to the tall man on the hill.

Cindy nodded with a smirk. "Simple huh?"

Lauren sighed in exasperation. "OK, fine. Bring the camera over to my place. I'm going home to study and do homework before you destroy my life." She quickly walked away from the giggling group and headed home.

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