The Night's Embrace

Alex looked over at his friend and saw the terror in his eyes.

"How can that be?" Tony asked through clenched teeth. "How can she be..."

"Pregnant?" Alex finished.

Tony could only nod in agreement.

Alex looked at the corpse in the coffin. "I know, I know," he mumbled in disbelief, "it doesn't make sense. She's been dead for…" he brushed years-old dust from the tarnished plate on the front of the sarcophagus, "four years. There's no way she could be pregnant."

The body was in fact quite dried out, shrunken from years of lying in a coffin. The teeth were exposed due to the gums in the mouth receding, giving it an eternal grimace that chilled the blood. Where there had once been eyes, were now only blackened holes with traces of cobwebs stretched across the tiny chasms.

All in all, it appeared as a body would after years in a tomb.

Except for the stomach.

Swollen to the point of being grotesque, the woman looked as if she were at least eight months pregnant.

Tony ran a hand over his week-old stubble. It wasn't his idea to explore Mount Olivet Cemetery, much less at night. But when they found the door to the mausoleum open, it seemed like an interesting idea at the time.

He could kick himself now.

Tempted to poke at the bulge, Alex had to force himself to resist. He couldn't help but imagine some long-dead baby coming out; tiny, ashen features twisted into a deadly scowl; gnarled hands ready to curl themselves around any neck they could reach; soulless eyes squeezed into narrow slits. These images, and others even worse, played themselves out in his head.

"Well, what should we do now?" Tony asked. He felt a headache coming on and wanted nothing more than to be back in the relative comfort of his small house.

Alex thought for a moment, and then answered in an anxious voice: "You know, if this woman is really pregnant, I mean reallypregnant, then we might be able to make some money."

Tony perked up. "Money? How?"

Alex continued. "If we could get her out of here, I would bet that people would be willing to pay anything for a look at a pregnant corpse." He paused for effect. "And I mean anything."

Almost as if on cue, a biting wind hissed through the doorway of the mausoleum.

"What's that?" Tony asked. Stark terror shone on his face.

Alex laughed. "It's only the wind, you coward." He looked back down at the corpse. "Come on, let's get her out of there."

Against his better judgment, Tony reached down and grasped the body.

It felt light as a feather, and cracked and popped when they lifted it up from its final, or not so final, resting place.

Tattered remnants of its dress fell back into the coffin.

Movement outside the door caught Tony's attention.

"I saw something," he said in a hush. "There's somebody out there."

"You're imagining things."

"No, I'm serious, I saw something."

Alex didn't believe his friend, but couldn't deny that he also felt uneasy. "Fine, we'll have a look, just to make sure."

They carefully set the corpse back into its coffin and approached the doors.

Outside, rows of tombstones, obelisks, and other mausoleums, all silent with their eternal purpose, loomed throughout the cemetery.

But nothing moved except for trees in the wind.

"You see," Alex grunted. "I told you you were imagining…"

The figure stepped out from behind a tree. It towered well over six feet tall and was covered in loose-fitting rags. Lichen hung in gangly strings from its body.

"What the…" Alex mumbled.

The figure was male, of that much they were certain, but they couldn't see what its face looked like. Shadows obscured its features.

Except for one: the eyes.

Even in the night's embrace, the eyes shone with an unnatural radiance.

They reflected death.

But Tony could tell that there wasn't malevolence in those eyes. The death he saw was not for them, it was the man's own.

A vampire?

Tony pushed the thought away. Vampires didn't exist. They were only in fiction, and people's imaginations.

The men watched the figure in stunned silence as it moved toward the mausoleum. It didn't walk with grace or fluidity, as vampires of lore did, but with an awkward gait, like a drunk.

Occasionally, it bumped into a tombstone.

Alex found his voice. "Who the heck is that?"

He didn't really want an answer.

The figure drew nearer to where they stood. Still, its face was mostly obscured by shadow, although a few select features were revealing themselves: torn skin, dry and brittle from age; stringy clumps of hair, matted with graveyard dirt; and a gaping mouth that held only a few rotten teeth, as well as bits of thread that the mortician had used to sew it shut for the funeral.

"I think we should get out of here," Tony whispered. The words felt like chunks of lead in his mouth. "That thing, that zombie is gonna get us if we don't."

Alex nodded. "Yeah," he said as he slowly stepped back…into the woman standing behind him.

He spun around to come face-to-face with the same corpse that had been lying in the coffin.

The bulge in its stomach swelled outward to the point of bursting. It wore the same fleshless grin as before.

Tony pulled Alex away, and stumbling down the front steps of the mausoleum, they ran into the night.

The male zombie approached the tomb. One of its hands snagged a bush and was torn off. Dust trickled down from the stump, but it didn't notice, its attention was on the other zombie, and its unborn child.

With great effort, it walked up to the other corpse, clasped hands with it, and stepped inside.

The doors to the mausoleum slammed shut.