Willow the Wisp – part three of ten

(This fall my first published book will be arriving from the printers. It is called The Horror of Loon Lake and it is a horror anthology comic paying tribute to the classic horror magazines and comics that many of us loved. Included also is one prose tale, which will feature several illustrations by the talented Nicole Bresner. In ten installments, www.horror-writers.net will serialize this short story, entitled Willow the Wisp. For more information about the book, follow its page at www.facebook.com/horrorofloonlake  – Carl Smith, aka Dr. Carl Cadaver)


                His patience was beginning to wane with every nervous check of his watch. He watched the long hands pass the three, then six, and nine followed. Eleven o’clock was just minutes away and Jonathan began to feel self conscious. For the first time in an hour’s reconnaissance he became very self-conscious that while hidden to the cemetery, he was quite exposed to the world at large. He could envision coworkers, neighbors, and local police standing across the street behind him waiting in judgmental silence. The back of his head burned with a dozen staring eyes.

                Jonathan turned slowly to face the jury of his peers to find nothing but serene Minnesota darkness. He allowed himself a long dramatic exhale and turned back to find the light had appeared. Quickly glancing at his watch he determined that the light must appear at eleven o’clock sharp and, if the events from the night before were repeated, leave again at the witching hour.

True to his supposition, after sixty minutes of watching the bewitching blue ball it promptly dissipated at twelve o’clock sharp. The light never drew near to where he crouched to peep, nor did it ever reveal itself fully as it passed between the gravestones. A mystery remained. He was nonetheless pleased with his scientific approach, and lack of being witnessed during observation. Filled with wonder Jonathan returned home to once again to sleep like a newborn baby.

The night after was an exact repeat. A day filed with anxious anticipation was followed by a sneaky observation. His entire hypothesis withstood the test of another experiment. Satisfied that his intuition was correct, he returned home content. There was a cost to his clinical approach; the sense of wonder he returned home with on nights prior had left him. Unweaving the mystery, even if only by a few degrees, had robbed him of slumber.

As he tossed and turned upon his mattress, he wondered how he had let something so mystical and unexpected become so matter-of-fact. Determined to rediscover the wonder, and to perhaps once again find a good night’s sleep, Jonathan decided he would breach the cemetery itself and find a closer vantage point. Immediately he felt a peace take hold and even though the sun was soon to rise, he slept.

Oversleeping into the next day was a blessing, and the late rising left fewer hours to pace away. His phone had rang while he slowly woke, but he decided to let it terminate. He was in no hurry to get out of bed. Slothfully he drew himself up, fed himself, preened and dressed for the day, then set to the task of waiting for nightfall. Excited to step from out of his comfortable and remote viewing spot, Jonathan’s mind raced with the possibilities of what would transpire.

Night arrived without fanfare and the world around Jonathan marched off to bed. Being well rehearsed in the visitation, he left his house with just enough time to hustle down the road and arrive just before eleven o’clock. Upon arrival he stood on the worn sidewalk leading to the wrought iron arch that served as the only pedestrian entrance to the little Lutheran graveyard. He knew the only way to enter was through the main gate. He was many things, but agile was not one of them. The spiked fences would surely pose far too great a hurdle for a stealthy entry.

He stood gazing into the darkness within. Shadows of headstones framed by a darker shade of night waited just beyond the ornate arch in the static scene before him. His ears filled with the whisper of a slight breeze off the lake and the sounds it carried with it. The chatter of frogs and splish-splashing of waves mixed with the buzzing and chirping of unseen insects. Somewhere an owl hooted. It was perhaps the greatest symphony Jonathan had ever heard, and even with his task at hand he was vexed into standing and appreciating the ambience of nature for a moment.

With a deep breath he stepped within the cemetery’s border and immediately increased his walk to a near jog. Near the heart of the quiet yard, he found a large tombstone that read “Gunderson” which sheltered his whole body adequately to snoop while crouched. The memorial served as reminder that four good souls rested beneath, and for a moment Jonathan was gripped with a chilly shudder. He was playing his spy game atop the dead. He placed his palm gingerly across the earth below, nearly caressing the damp grass that sprouted there, as a gesture that no disrespect was intended.

When he again lifted his head he noticed the light had arrived, seeping from around the corners of the stones about him. His body felt electrified with the nearness of this mystery. His breast raised and fell with thrilled breaths and his hands shook and he felt his way across the granite to pull himself to the edge. The stone was cool and smooth, its polish long worn away and replaced with a more natural finish by the Minnesotan elements.

Although they were as wide as the paper plates he fed himself from, his eyes were not prepared to behold what awaited within the illuminated heart of the cemetery. Standing as if in full worship of the stars above was the form of a young woman. Her back was to Jonathan and her feet did not fully engage the earth below. She was wearing a flowing gown and had long white hair. The beautiful specter was encased in a glowing orb that projected a soft blue light in every direction.