Willow the Wisp – part two 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)


                He quite liked walking past the graveyard, with its weathered memorials standing proud within earshot of Long Lake’s lapping waves. It was the one place that he could imagine exactly what was going on within. Unlike the riddle of single family homes, the grave held no secrets for Jonathan. The neighbors within the iron gates simply slept. How lovely, Jonathan thought, to sleep beneath the coniferous trees next to a beautiful lake and hearing its aquatic lullaby.

                It was on this initial walk of his forced sabbatical that something appeared very unusual to Jonathan’s eye. He paused, slowing his gait until his feet failed to advance. He had been past the little cemetery before many times. He had seen it buried in snow, lying still in stark brown, and alive with rejuvenating greens. He had seen it lit by the brightest full moons, hidden by the clingiest fogs, and dimmed by overcast starless nights. Yet this night, something seemed quite different.

                Soon he realized that within the aging memorials was a spot of light, glowing with a strange luminescence that cast no shadows as it floated about. He rubbed at his eyes and lost the illuminated area at first, only to find it again bobbing among the tall crosses, mourning angels, proud pillars, and wide headstones. It seemed to dance about rhythmically but without any real trajectory or apparent intent, not unlike the flight of early summer’s monarchs.

                Jonathan lost track of time, intermittently losing sight of this wispy light only to find again soon after elsewhere deep within the graveyard. His pocket watch made its singular protest as it passed the midnight hour, breaking his attention momentarily. He turned around, suddenly aware that he had been standing in the middle of the street for almost an hour tracking this unusual display. He convinced himself that the sight was lost for good after another 15 minutes of walking a few paces, stopping, and peering intently back into the small graveyard. He then walked home.

                He slept.

                Waking the next day Jonathan’s mind was immediately filled with wonder. He asked himself what it was that he had seen. He drove past the graveyard twice to see if the sun would reveal anything to explain his apparition. Satisfied that there was no easy scapegoat, his mind turned again to creating little fictions.

                Perhaps it was a grave robber with a lantern dangling from the end of a pole. Maybe mischievous local kids were playing hide and seek. He entertained the idea of two young lovers fumbling about in assumed solitude. He laughed when he considered the possibility of an enormous firefly bopping about the stones. Whatever the source, it had consumed his every thought. The day stretched into nervous waiting and mental distraction.

                Eventually night fell and Jonathan once again slipped out into the dark of night. The sunless neighborhoods seemed different to him. He was no longer a hungry ghost making a solemn pilgrimage but instead a motivated investigator. No more lingering curious looks at the closed doors and curtained windows, no more wondering why he was the only soul stirring in the dead of night.

                Soon he arrived at the little graveyard, and he crossed the street to corner of the ornate iron fence. A large bush was growing just within the fence, granting Jonathan a vantage point shielded from any eyes that might be stirring within the gates. He crouched and parted a few rustling branches and watched.