Dare of Death

Andrew pumped his legs faster and faster trying to escape from the killer. He could hear the man lumbering drunkenly behind him. Tripping over headstones, Andrew finally managed to find a tree thick enough to hide behind safely. He collapsed against the trunk of the tree hyperventilating, trying to think of what to do next.

Although the man showed trouble walking, he held the knife with ease, ready to attack at a moment's notice. He got closer to the tree that Andrew hid behind. Andrew held his breath as the man staggered and caught his balance on the tree.

He couldn't believe what he had gotten himself into; all this to prove to Matt that he wasn't scared of the stories about Mr. Edwards, the cemetery caretaker, being a killer. All of this because of a stupid dare. He shouldn't have to prove anything to his best friend. Matt was more like his brother. He spent a lot of time with Andrew and his family, because of his horrible relationship with his uncle.

Now, Matt was waiting in the car, safe and warm, while he was out here getting chased by who he could only assume was the crazy killer caretaker. Of course Matt wasn't scared of the stories. He was here all the time visiting his parents, and the caretaker had never bothered him before, although he did say he found Mr. Edwards to be a little creepy.

But to make matters worse, Matt had stolen the keys from him earlier that day specifically so they could break in that night. Andrew had noted that they were the only visitors around at the time, so Edwards probably knew it was them.

Andrew took a moment to look around the cemetery. It was a much different place at night. During the day, it had an aura of peace and quiet. People could come to mourn the lives of their lost loved ones, or even just to talk to them as Matt had done so many times before.

At night, it was a lonely place. The gates had been closed and all the friends and relatives of the deceased had gone home. It was cold and dark, sending chills up Andrew's spine. What a perfect setting for a murder, he thought bitterly, throwing his head back, resting it on the tree and shutting his eyes tight, trying to block out reality.

He could hear the crows squawking above him and he snapped out of his safe mind. He cringed from the noise, afraid it would give him away. Despite the freezing temperatures of the night, sweat poured down his face. Still sitting against the tree trunk, Andrew clutched his jacket tighter to his chest, watching the man as he stood still.

He wore a black hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head, hiding his face behind a shadow. He held a knife in his left hand. Andrew couldn't tell much more. He was starting to believe the myths of the caretaker might be true after all.

"Hey," the man said. "You can't hide forever, buddy. You know it's not fair. You have something that I need; something that was stolen from me!" Andrew's breathing became fast and uneven. He knew that voice all too well. He tried to speak up, but he felt as if his heart had stopped beating and the breath had been knocked out of him.

Fear and dread filled Andrew as the man walked slowly closer to the spot where he hid. He looked at the blade of the man's knife and imagined it slitting through his own neck. The mere thought brought a sudden wave of nausea. After a second of desperately trying to hold it in, Andrew surrendered and got down on his hands and knees, vomiting into the grass.

Hearing the noise, the man turned to face Andrew. He tightened his grip on the knife as Andrew struggled to stand. He managed to get up and run a few feet, but fell right back down again, tripping over his own shoelaces. He watched as the stranger advanced on him, staring down at the man's shoes as he moved on. His black combat boots were torn and dirty.

"Hey—!" Andrew yelled, as his voice finally returned to him, but the man grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and lifted him up to face him. Andrew couldn't believe what he was seeing. He looked back up at his captor. Their eyes connected for a brief moment, before the killer finally raised his knife, and brought it down on Andrew. He let out one last bloodcurdling scream, and then was dropped to the floor. A splash was heard as the murder weapon was thrown far into a lake nearby the cemetery.

***

Matt was speeding all the way to the police station; his best friend's scream still ringing in his ears. The road seemed blurry and he knew he was swerving, but it was deserted and he somehow got to the station OK. As soon as he arrived, he parked clumsily, ran out of the car, and barged through the door, stumbling in looking frantic. "I need help!" he cried. "It's my friend! We were in the cemetery and someone stabbed him! The killer is probably still running around there now!"

The officers jumped up and ran out the door. One stayed behind and studied Matt with a look of concern. "Why don't you sit down," he said. "You look really shaken up."

Matt took a moment to try and relax. He sat down across the desk from the officer and tried to make himself look as restrained as possible. "I just saw the dead body of my best friend, sir," he finally said. "What else would you expect from me?"

"Why don't you go ahead and tell me what happened."

"My friend and I were at the cemetery…"

"And…?"

Matt knew better than to tell the officer this was all because of a dare. He thought it best to lie, considering the officer was overlooking the fact that the cemetery was closed anyway. "We were visiting my parents, sir."

"I'm very sorry. What else happened?"

"Well, it began to get very cold, so I went back to the car to grab my sweater, but as I was about to reach the gate, I heard him screaming, so I went rushing back and that's where I found him."

"Dead…?"

"Yes, sir, I think that's already been established," Matt snapped. He was getting frustrated. Couldn't the officer tell he wasn't in the mood for stupid questions? "He was several yards away from my parents' graves, where he had been when I left, next to a large tree and covered in blood. I think he was stabbed. It really was too dark to tell anything."

"Okay, thank you for telling me. You're not looking too good. I'll have to contact your guardian—"

"I live with my uncle," Matt interrupted.

"I'll contact him and let him know you're here then. You look tired. You're welcome to sleep in one of the cells while you wait for him."

"Sure, thanks," Matt said, and made his way to one of the cells. He kicked off his boots and lay down on the bed. The cell was cold, and his t-shirt and a small cotton blanket could only keep him so warm. He felt nauseous. He couldn't bring himself to believe the past events of the night. It didn't seem real. Of all the sick things a person could do…

***

Matt removed the clothes from the dryer and replaced them with his clothes from the night before. He folded a black button down shirt and dress pants and put them to the side. He then put his boots on top of the dryer admiring his work. They weren't much, but he had done a good job of cleaning them up and polishing them for today.

Matt took the pile of black clothes back to his room and spread them out on his bed, piece by piece, just as he always did before getting dressed. His uncle opened the door and stormed in. The stomping made Matt's already pounding head pound harder.

"Don't you knock?" Matt said angrily, embarrassed at being caught in his boxers. He clutched his head, the merciless pain getting stronger with each word he spoke.

"Where are my cigarettes?" his uncle asked angrily, ignoring him.

"What? Do you think I took them?" Matt grabbed his aching head once again, reminding himself to take some pain-relievers before they left.

His uncle left the room after a minute of searching and came back with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. "Found them. Now get ready, we're going to be late!" After a minute of throwing up in the bathroom, Matt washed up and followed his uncle out the door.

The funeral was quiet. Andrew had a small family and Matt was the only friend who came. Andrew's mother was crying into her husband's chest. He held on to her and patted her back, attempting to calm her, but his own face looked pained and choked up.

Everyone said sorry to the grieving parents, but when it was Matt's turn he just gave Andrew's mother a comforting hug. It was his job now to comfort her when she was upset, and he knew better than anyone that sorry won't bring back the dead. He was saddened by the pain Andrew's parents had been put through. They deserved a son just as much as he deserved parents. Why would anyone in their right mind do such a thing? he thought to himself as he glanced quickly at the closed casket of his friend before it was his turn again. When he walked up to Andrew's father, he instinctively stuck out his left hand. "Sorry," he said, apologizing to him before sticking out his right hand. Andrew's father took Matt's hand warmly and shook it. "It's alright, son," he replied and pulled him into a hug. Oh yeah, Matt thought, that's why. Matt couldn't help but let a small smile escape his lips.