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Excerpt from Grave Danger by S. K. Gregory
Aurelia ran along the street, feet pounding as she chased after her best friend Claire. She knew where she was heading without her even having to say it. She was going to the cemetery out near the river, on the edge of Stone Marsh. It was all she had been talking about since the school year began. She wanted to visit the cemetery on Halloween and try and summon a ghost. It was an obsession with her.
Aurelia had only agreed to it to shut her up. Claire was always obsessing over something, but Aurelia suspected that this one was due to the fact that her grandfather had died over the summer. They had been really close, and Aurelia couldn’t blame her for wanting to know if there was something more out there. Claire had been reading any book she could get her hands on about ghosts.
What Aurelia did object to was the fact that Claire had invited a bunch of people from school along, too. They were going to gather around one of the graves and chant a spell. Or rather what passed as a spell. Claire had printed one off from her computer.
A group of little kids passed them, all dressed as Disney princesses, and Aurelia found herself wishing she was little again and could still dress up in costumes without it being considered lame.
We could have gone trick or treating anyway, Aurelia thought. Even if it did risk ridicule, how could you say no to free candy?
The thought of spending the evening in a cemetery terrified her. Not that she would ever admit that to anyone or she would never hear the end of it. Hopefully they could say the spell and, when nothing happened, they could head back to Claire’s house and watch some horror movies. Her mom always let them have a ton of junk food when Aurelia stayed over. It was better than being at home with her aunt. Aurelia knew something about losing people herself. Her mom died when she was ten and it still hurt. Aunt Gloria was her mother’s sister and the only one who was able to look after her when her mom died. A small part of her hoped that something would happen, but she knew from experience that life often disappointed you.
She could see the iron gates up ahead with the words Stone Marsh Cemetery embossed across it. There was a newer cemetery on the other side of town: New Mount Cemetery; this one was really old.
I wonder how many people will actually show up? Aurelia thought. There wasn’t much to do in Stone Marsh, so probably most of them. She just hoped that Claire wouldn’t take it too badly when it didn’t work.
She could hear voices up ahead, including Mickey Clarke’s, a guy in her class. He was an idiot, always cracking jokes, thinking he was hilarious. She hated him. If he made fun of Claire, she was going to punch him.
Four of their classmates were inside the cemetery. Mickey, his best friend, Leon, Jenny, and Sarah. The girls were huddled together looking scared, while the boys were jumping over graves, whooping loudly. Mickey was stocky, with dark hair and a face full of freckles. Leon was smaller than him, skinny with red hair.
“Show some respect!” Aurelia snapped at them.
They both stopped and a wide grin spread across Mickey’s face.
“Why? Does your family own this cemetery?” he asked, his eyes darting to Leon and back again.
“Why would my family own a cemetery?” she replied.
“Because your last name is Graves. Graves? Get it?” he said, cracking up. Leon joined in.
“Oh my God, you’re pathetic,” she said, turning her back on them.
Claire gathered them around an old grave. The headstone was so faded that it was impossible to make out the name on it, but the date said 1899.
Tucking her blonde hair behind her ear, Claire unfolded a sheet of paper. Silence fell as they waited for her to read the spell. And waited. She shoved the sheet of paper toward Aurelia. “You do it.”
“Why me?” she protested.
“I’ll do it,” Mickey said, reaching for the paper.
Aurelia pulled it back before he could grab it. As much as she didn’t want to read it, she wanted Mickey to read it even less. He would only make a joke of it.
Sighing, she cleared her throat and started reading.
“We call upon the departed, hear our plea. Return and walk among us, so mote it be.”
Mickey snickered. As the others looked around for any sign of a ghost, Aurelia was busy watching Claire’s face. When nothing happened it went from hopeful expectation to misery. What did she expect to happen? Her grandfather to appear in front of her? It wasn’t even his grave.
“Maybe I could …” Aurelia started.
She was interrupted when a man in a torn suit burst into the clearing and ambled toward them, moaning loudly. The girls screamed as he lurched forward, dirt falling off him as though he had just crawled from his grave. They all took off running back down the street.
When they stopped, Sarah and Claire were crying and Leon looked as though he was about to pee his pants.
“Oh my God, you’re a witch,” Mickey said. At first, Aurelia thought it was another lame joke, but the look on his face told a different story. He was actually scared.
“What? Don’t be stupid,” she protested.
“You raised a zombie,” he insisted. Leon nodded, backing him up as usual.
Aurelia couldn’t believe how ridiculous he was being. Spells and magic weren’t real. She turned to Claire for backup and was shocked to see that she seemed to agree.
“Well, you read the spell. And that guy …” she trailed off, not knowing what to say.
“You guys are crazy. Witches aren’t real. That guy was probably going to a Halloween party and he was trying to scare us.”
None of them looked convinced. Sarah was backing away from her, her eyes darting around as if searching for an escape route.
“This is insane. Claire …” Aurelia moved toward her friend, but Claire took a step back.
“I’ll see you … tomorrow,” she said, hurrying away. The others left too.
Halfway down the block, Leon looked back and yelled, “Witch!”
Shivering against the chilly October air, Aurelia tried to convince herself that this would blow over. They didn’t really believe she was a witch. That was crazy. Wasn’t it?
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