“Shadowend Funeral Home?” Robby Falcon turned his gray F-150 off the main road of Baker High School and onto the service road that led to the interstate. “Brayden, that placed stopped being scary when we were in elementary school.”
Brayden Briley, packed his dip can with a loud pop and said, “Look, Falcon, it’s not about being scary man. It’s about having the place to ourselves.” Brayden opened the dip can, swiped out some tobacco, and stuck it in his front lip. He wiped his lip and checked his face in the side mirror to make sure no remnants of tobacco hung on. He looked at Falcon again. “Remember? Privacy?” Brayden reached in his back pack and produced a dime bag of weed and a fifth of whiskey.
Falcon did a double take. “Brayden, dammit! Put that away man. People can see!” Falcon slapped at him with one hand and kept the other on the steering wheel, then turned left to merge onto the interstate.
Brayden chuckled, “Don’t be such a baby, Falcon. No one can see.” Brayden stuffed the alcohol and weed into his back pack, hiding it underneath his history and math book.
Falcon’s face relaxed when he saw Brayden stow their stash away. “And how do you know Shadowend will not be occupied with other said teens engaging in underage drinking and other shenanigans?” He checked the rearview. His curly, sandy blond hair was damp and disheveled from 7th hour P.E.
Brayden placed an arm on the seat and grabbed Falcon’s shoulder. “Look man, that placed stopped being a party spot in the early 90s man. Sure, in the 80s it was the place to go. The stories were fresh then and people were looking for a scare. The place is so dead now, that not even the cops go out there. It’s perfect. The funeral home is considered so lame and overdone, its almost like its not even there.” He removed an empty plastic water bottle from the cup holder and spat.
Falcon sped up and merged. “Did you invite them?”
“Yeah.” Brayden spat again.
“And they said they’d come. What’s the big deal?”
Falcon gave Brayden a backhand to the chest. The slap made a hollow echo throughout the cab. “What do you mean ‘what’s the big deal’? I’ve been trying to go out with Sarah since like 8th grade.”
Brayden made an umf sound and almost spat his dip on the windshield, then giggled. “I know, so don’t screw this up. Which, by the way, when I talked to Annie and invited them, she said that Sarah had told her just the other day about how hot you looked in your baseball uniform.” He jabbed Falcon in the ribs. “Huh? Huh?? Hey slugger?”
Falcon swiped at Brayden’s hand and gave a half smile. “What time did you tell them to meet us out there?” Falcon took his exit.
“2:00 am.” Brayden scratched his head, disturbing his short and wild black hair.
“2:00 am it is,” Falcon said, and took a left.
The full moon hung high over Shadowend that night. It directed its rays on the dilapidated funeral home like a spotlight, as if the structure was a lone actor on a stage of rustling tree branches and waving grass. Falcon and Brayden pulled up to the building five minutes before 2.
Shadowend sat on ten acres of land. An overgrown road with busted asphalt led back to the main building, which sat encircled by a wrought iron fence. The once active funeral home and cemetery stayed in business until 1980, when unexpectedly, the owners fled or disappeared. Soon after, the rumors circulated about the owners. A Satanic cult, eaters of the dead, child murders, aliens, and whatever else the imaginative minds of teenagers could come up with. But the truth was, no one knew.
The lights on Falcon’s truck shined on the face of the funeral home. The Victorian looking house, once a pristine white, now faded old and graying, like a sad elderly man in his last years of life. The windows were cracked, and some had holes the size of baseballs in them. The screen door sat cockeyed on its hinges, and the post which held up the awning of the porch was leaning..
“Oh, nice pick Brayden,” Falcon said, staring through the windshield. “I hope someone doesn’t fart too loud. They might knock the place down.”
“She’ll hold, capn’,” Brayden said in a terrible imitation pirate voice. “Now come on.” Brayden grabbed his backpack and got out the truck. Falcon killed the engine and followed.
A few seconds later, headlights appeared. It was Annie and Sarah. The two girls hopped out of Annie’s white Mustang and Sarah waved a bottle of vodka at them. “The whiskey won’t be enough, boys.” She said and winked at Falcon.
Falcon gave Sarah a nervous smile. Man, she looks so hot, he thought. Her red hair glistened in the moonlight, as if each particle were made of rubies. “You look nice.” Falcon said, then regretted how awkward it sounded.
Brayden snickered then said, “Yeah Sarah, I tried to talk Falcon in to wearing his baseball uniform, but he refused.” He put his arm around Annie and gave her a wink.
Sarah cut her eyes at Annie, then Brayden.
“Oh whatever,” Annie said. “We all know you have the hots for one another. Just get it over with.”
Falcon and Sarah exchanged skittish smiles, then Falcon reached out his hand. “Come on, let’s go explore the house.”
Sarah flipped her hair over her shoulder and grabbed his hand. Falcon walked her down the cracked cobblestone walkway and up the porch to the cockeyed screen door. Annie and Brayden followed.
Falcon turned his phone light on, then opened the front door. The light reflected off a dangling chandelier, hanging almost head level. Directly in front of them were red, carpeted stairs with white railings. Strewn across the floor were broken pieces of furniture, mortar from the ceiling, and numerous beer cans. In the back of the room, a dark hallway drew their attention.
“What do you think is back there?” Sarah asked.
“The morgue,” Brayden said and stepped through. “Come on, or you just gonna sit there and stare at it all night?”
The four teens eased through the doorway and let the screen door bang behind them. They skipped to the hallway, as if dodging landmines, trying not to trip on all the debris scattered across the floor. With all the lights on their phones shining, the group followed Brayden down the long hallway, then half way down, turned left.
Their lights gleamed back at them and reflected off a rusted chrome table, littered with grass, dirt, empty cigarette packs, and other pieces of trash that had deteriorated into unrecognizable black smut. A tube from the embalming station dangled over the side.
“Come on, Annie. Climb up there and lay down.” Brayden raised his eyebrows and winked.
“That is so disgusting.” Sarah coughed and placed a hand over her mouth.
Annie slapped Brayden. “So romantic.”
A deep humming noise, hollow and echoing, buzzed from the back of the mortuary.
“What was that?” Falcon asked.
Brayden motioned with his head. “Sounded like it came from the cold chambers.”
“Cold chambers? What’s that?” Annie tilted her head.
“The place where they would store the bodies.” Falcon said and followed Brayden to the back of the room.
The cold chambers sat along the wall in rows of threes. The doors were open, and the table on the one at the bottom left was rolled halfway out.
The humming noise came again.
“Where is that coming from?” Sarah stepped closer and squinted into the darkness.
Falcon shined his light on the cold chambers. “Sounds like its coming from one of those.”
The sound flowed again, this time softer.
Brayden eased forward and knelt by the cold chamber; the one with the table rolled out. He held his hand over the opening, palm facing forward. “I feel a breeze.”
Falcon knelt beside him, crawled halfway into the chamber, and shined his light into the back. “You guys aren’t going to believe this.”
Sarah placed a hand on Falcon’s leg. “What?’
“There’s an opening back here. Like a tunnel or something.” Falcon crawled further in. A trash bag had been duct taped over an opening and it crackled as a breeze waved it. He pushed the bag aside with the back of his hand and shinned his light through the opening. “Oh yeah. It’s a tunnel.”
“Sweet,” Brayden said. “Let’s see where it leads.”
“Um, no!” Annie grabbed Brayden’s jeans by the waist and tried to pull him back.
Sarah cracked open the bottle of vodka and took a swig. “Come on, Annie. Don’t be such a little bitch.”
Annie snatched the bottle from Sarah and took a sip. “Fine.”
“Hey give me some.” Brayden tried to grab the bottle.
Annie pushed his forehead. Brayden chuckled, took the bottle, and drank.
“Hey assholes, y’all coming?” Falcon’s voiced flowed from the tunnel. He was already in.
The three teens giggled, then joined Falcon.
The tunnel sloped in a slight decline, and there was dirt on all the sides, top, and bottom. They could still feel the cool breeze coming from ahead of them. The air smelled musty, like an old library. Falcon fought his way through spiderwebs and other retreating insects.
“Hey Annie, let’s hope they ain’t got no rats down here,” Brayden joked.
“Ew, shut up.” Annie slapped his butt.
“Hey! Stairs!” Falcon yelled from the front of the line. Before him, the tunnel widened to a winding metal staircase. The teens scurried down the steps, and when all their feet touched the floor, they stood, mouths agape at their surroundings.
“What is it?” Sarah turned in circles, shining her light. She then snatched the bottle from Annie.
“Stain glass window. Pews. Looks like a church,” Falcon said.
“Buried under ground?” Annie asked.
Falcon shrugged, still glancing around.
“Holy shit! Look at that!” Brayden pointed his light straight ahead.
The teens stood at the back of the sanctuary. The middle aisle led to where the pulpit should be, except there wasn’t a pulpit. What looked to be an old pine box rested in the middle of the stage, having been covered with stacks of old Bibles and religious relics. Only the corners of the pine box remained visible. Bibles and relics had even been piled on the floor around it and up the sides.
Falcons started down the aisle. “That’s odd. Like really odd.” He craned his neck around and glance at his friends, then smiled. “Let’s check it out!”
Brayden raised his eyebrows and followed.
“Look,” Annie protested. “I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason why that box is covered with Bibles and stuff. We should leave it alone.” She eased behind Brayden.
Falcon arrived first and blew the dust off some of the Bibles. “What do you think’s in the box?”
Brayden lifted his shoulders, then he and Falcon exchanged mischievous glances. “Let’s find out.” The boys began to push and fling the Bibles and relics onto the floor, making loud thuds and clanging sounds.
Sarah drank more vodka, not at all interested in this little adventure anymore.
Annie bit her nails and fidgeted with her hair.
The top of the pine box had torn out pages from the Bibles glued to it.
“You think it’s a coffin?” Brayden asked and ran his hands along the pages.
Falcon nodded. “Sure looks like it.” He studied the relics on the floor, then grabbed one. It was an old iron cross, with the end fashioned in a point. Falcon jabbed the point between the lid and the box and pried. He went along the entire left side, popping all the nails loose. He threw the relic to the ground, then called to the girls. “Hey ladies, time for the big reveal.”
Brayden rubbed his hands together, giddy as a school girl. Sarah huffed, drank some more vodka, then shuffled over rolling her eyes. Annie tip toed over with sweaty palms.
“Guys, like I said, that thing was buried for a reason. I don’t think opening it…is a good idea.” Annie bit her lip.
Brayden rubbed her back. “Oh come on. Are you serious? It’s probably just an old decaying corpse.”
“Yeah and besides, we’ve found something here no one else has. Who knows? Maybe this discovery will make this place poppin’ again.” Falcon grasped the lid with both hands and lifted it opened. The old wood groaned in protest.
Brayden shined his light into the coffin, and his mouth fell open. Annie clamped a hand over her’s with a gasp. Sarah dropped the vodka bottle, and Falcon furrowed his brow.
Lying in the coffin was a body no more than five feet long. It was wrapped in faded cloth. Written on the cloth were more religious symbols and phrases in Latin. White hair snaked out from the corpse’s head, and a small opening was cut over the mouth. In the opening was a rolled-up piece of paper.
Falcon went to pull the piece of paper out its mouth but was stopped by Annie’s hand clamping around his wrist. “No. Absolutely not,” she grimaced. “This isn’t right. This doesn’t feel right. We need to go.”
Falcon jerked his arm away and dismissed her.He retrieved the paper and unrolled it.
“Well?” Brayden asked.
Falcon handed him the page. “More Latin.”
Brayden tossed the paper on the body. “Too bad none of us can read it.” A movement caught Brayden’s attention out the corner of his eye. He stared down at the corpse. “Hey did y’all see that!”
Falcon waved a hand at Brayden. “Stop messing around. I’m gonna shut the lid.”
“Thank God,” Annie mumbled and rubbed her arms with her hands. “Feels like it’s gotten colder since we’ve been here.”
“No I’m serious look at her mouth!” Brayden pointed.
The group leaned in to get a better look. The cloth around the corpse’s mouth moved in and out, as if it were breathing. .
“That’s it I’m done.” Annie pushed away from the coffin and sprinted down the aisle toward the stairs. The other three turned their attention away from the coffin and watched Annie in disbelief.
Sarah was the first to look back at the coffin. When she did, she screamed. The corpse sat up, and the breathing became more visible, as the cloth around its lungs expanded and relaxed. In reactionary manner Brayden, who always carried a folding knife with a four-inch blade, whipped it out and started stabbing the corpse in the chest. He than worked on the stomach and tore away the old cloth. A translucent liquid poured out, followed by a flurry of baby eels.
“Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod!” Brayden dropped the knife and leaped back.
Falcon slammed the lid and dashed towards the stairs. Sarah had already joined Annie. The four teens scurried up the stairs, crawled through the tunnel and out the cold chambers. They ran back down the hall, then paused at the front door. A shadow moved passed the window, and faint moaning sound came from the porch.
“Is there another way out?” Sarah asked between breaths.
“The back.” Brayden turned toward the hall and sprinted, the others right behind him.
The teens arrived at the back door, which was a faded and chipping white. Brayden turned the brass deadbolt and opened the door. Concrete steps led down to a cobblestone walkway. The walkway led to the abandoned cemetery. Through the clearing they could see a tall hill. The full moon hung over it and illuminated the top. They watched as shadows loomed. Something approached from the back side of the hill. As the things moved closer, the shadows took form.
They looked human.
A few seconds passed, then a mass of human figures appeared. They walked with contorted and jerky gestures and moaned. Some tripped over each other and rolled down the hill.
Brayden slammed the door and locked it back. “Guys we are seriously…”
“The truck,” Falcon interrupted. “It’s our only chance. We can make it if we go now.”
The others nodded, and they took off down the hallway. Falcon led the way. He went to pass by the mortuary room but jolted to a stop. The others bumped into his back.
“What the hell? Why’d you stop!” Sarah shrieked.
Annie shined her light ahead, then let out an ear-piercing shrill.
The corpse from the coffin stood in the middle of the hallway. The grave cloths hung off her in shreds. Her skin was as pale as the moonlight. Symbols were cared into her body; not the religious symbols that once decorated her coffin, but different ones. Evil, dark looking ones. Eels still pumped forth from her stomach, falling to the ground with sloshing and splattering sounds. Her white hair seemed to glow, and her eyes looked like dark red marbles. She opened her mouth and her tongue flopped out, falling all the way to the floor with the eels. The end danced and curled on the floor. Yellow eyes formed in the tip of her tongue, as did a slit. The slit opened, and the bottom unhinged like a snake, revealing fangs.
Annie turned to run away. The tongue wrapped around her ankle and tripped her to the ground. The eels were on Annie before her face thudded against the floor. In a matter of seconds, they had eaten her skin off.
Brayden went to grab the tongue. When he got close, it struck him on the hand. He felt a warm liquid pump from the fangs into his hand. The fluid filled his entire body within moments, and a burning sensation hit him all over. He looked at his arms, and his pores leaked a red and purple liquid. Brayden fell to the ground in pain, where he sweated his insides out his pores till he died.
Sarah and Falcon couldn’t move. Fear deadened their limbs. They gawked as the tongue grew in length and thickness. The tongue coiled up and stared at them with its yellow eyes and flickering tongue. It struck Sarah first, right in the mid-section. She screamed and grabbed for Falcon. Falcon tried to hold on, but the snake proved too powerful. He watched with tear-soaked eyes and a pounding heart as the tongue-snake swallowed Sarah. Even when she was in its belly, he could still hear her screams.
Falcon backed away and stepped into the mortuary. The tongue shrank and rolled back into the lady’s mouth. She matched Falcon’s steps, going with him into the mortuary. A clattering sound rang out as Falcon backed into the embalming table. The lady’s hands extended with a slow, smooth movement towards Falcons’ neck.
Falcon stared deep into her dark red eyes. His head spun, and he became disoriented. He fell back and laid on the table. The last thing Falcon saw before he died was the embalming needle moving up his nose.
The lady didn’t bother to dispose of the bodies. She even left Falcon lying on the embalming table. She shuffled out the room, then went down the hall toward the front of the house. She walked around the staircase and into the sitting room. She sat down in her rocker and rocked. She reminisced about her days at Shadowend, when the home was in its prime.