The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Killion Slade
They say the numbers only come out on the Samhain full moon. It has been written over history how the numbers change each time a person is granted a viewing. Thousands have visited the stones with nothing but a blank, cold, granite facade staring back at them. Many feel, or believe, when the numbers are revealed that they predict the day of your demise.
As an amateur paranormal investigator, I had to know. I had been ghost hunting with my parents from a young age, and our spooky antics had grown into a fun family tradition whenever we got together. This trip to the cemetery was nothing different from dozens of other times we had visited.
If you were consumed with all things horror, things that go bang at night as well as in broad daylight, unexplained security camera activity, what would you do? Would you dare to look at the cross in the graveyard in hopes of seeing the numbers? Would you test your fate? I just had to!
How cool would it have been if we debunked one of the scariest ghost stories ever? Netflix would surely have to give us a ghost-hunting reality TV show. I was consumed by the stories of the numbers. It drew me in and took over. Urban legends spoke of so many who had died after they had seen the numbers revealed to them. Was it just another Bloody Mary type story, or the Monkey’s Claw? Or was someone hunting from the graveyard? Was there an ancient curse protecting the stones? I had to learn if the deathtime countdowns were true.
I confronted the myths with a naïve bravado, and I took that dare. The picture featured above was the image revealed to me. I captured it with my camera phone as the numbers began to fade. No one else in my family saw it. My sister had walked up beside me and stared at the full moon shining through the leafless tree. I asked her if she could see the numbers, but they were gone. The stone cross was bare. She didn’t see the numbers and accused me of trying to spook her. I showed her my phone. We stared for what seemed like hours at what had been captured, and my mouth grew dry. Even in the earliest hour, I knew the truth.
Later that evening, I translated the 3264 numbers of time, and it gave me eight years, eleven months, one week, two days, three hours, fifty-three minutes, and twenty seconds left to remain alive. Horrifically, those numbers revealed I would die on my twenty-eighth birthday – down to the seconds of time from my hospital birth certificate.
Why was I so stupid to tempt fate? It wasn’t until the numbers were revealed to me that I questioned why anyone would want to know the day of their death, especially me. What was I going to do with this knowledge? Was it a hoax, should I believe it? Or would I let the crystal ball drop at midnight on my witching hour without a care in the world?
Looking back on these questions, I can honestly answer that I wish I’d never tried to seek the numbers.
Sure enough, we landed the Netflix original show after I revealed what I had captured with my phone. My family and the crew dismissed the deathtime countdown as superstition and used my numbers as leverage to go back and film the pilot event for the TV show. We became as famous as the Brady Bunch. The ghost hunting family who faced down all manners of nasties in insane asylums, abandoned prisons, old hospitals, museums, and any old place that had a ghost sighting. The show was an incredible success.
For a while, I got caught up in the glitz and attention as our paranormal show took off. I forgot about the countdown as it seemed so far away, but as my twenty-sixth year grew closer, things changed drastically. I studied other accounts of the graveyard stone and how others had numbers revealed to them. How each of them had died, one way or another. One case stood out where online stories of the cemetery began receiving letters from the tourists who had visited. It reminded me of the haunted “Robert the Doll” museum where hundreds of letters were posted on the walls begging for forgiveness because they disrespected him.
The letters revealed a common theme, almost as if the letters were asking for help, forgiveness, and pleading to be allowed to live. They offered up apologies for dismissing the value of the numbers and shared accounts of losing their jobs, horrific accidents resulting in dismemberments, and many were from surviving family members who had lost their loved ones. I learned how the groundskeepers would find piles of flowers, money, bottles of liquor – all sorts of offerings to the stone. Was it to appease an angry soul who lay beneath the hallowed ground? A desperate attempt to stop the countdown? I wasn’t the only one who lived with this day in, day out torture. But it wasn’t until then when I realized that it was most likely my ghost hunting show that drew so many people to the stones in the first place.
Am I responsible for the deaths and suffering of all these people?
My life became so consumed with outrunning the curse, I thrived on danger to feel alive. I lived on the edge of a drug-induced reality trying to escape the inevitable. I challenged death with extreme acts of insanity such as jumping between rooftops, diving off cliffs into rocky waters, and skydiving. I needed to live before I was slated to die.
I had to know – I had to confront it, or I knew I would lose my mind completely. Or maybe I was looking to appease the stones as well. Anything to stop the countdown. In my twenty-seventh year, I returned to the graveyard, alone, hoping that the lack of cameras and fanfare would grant me the privacy so the stones would reveal once again.
My trip was a bust. Nothing was revealed. No bats flying around, no raven cawing out a warning. No owls hooting in the distance. Just a calm nothing. I didn’t experience any chills, anything to possibly help explain the eerie feelings incessantly haunting me. Nothing spoke to me. Nothing but cold, dead granite. I did learn the cemetery had to erect a fence around the crosses because they once found an animal sacrificed at the base of the memorial. People were becoming desperate, as was I.
I was forced to watch my days pass by like the sands in the hourglass just ticking away the time that I had left. I became estranged from my family because all they wanted to do was film me during the final time to prove the curse wasn’t true. To profit from my internal horror and suffering. They wanted to film me as the clock struck the magical minute and prove to the world that the stone was a fake.
But I knew better.
If you are reading this, then I am certainly dead. I’m not sure how I know, but I have this cellular awareness that I will have to lie in wait for the right victim to come and take a picture of the stone. There, I will be entombed with the rest of the souls until it is my time to pass on the deathtime curse.
So, I invite you now to come and visit me this Halloween. Do you dare seek out your own numbers?
Please, I beg you … come free me from this hell.
Fiction © Copyright Killion Slade
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
About the Author: Killion Slade:
Killion Slade is an award-winning, Amazon bestselling speculative fiction author. As a loyal reader of dystopian urban fantasy herself, the apocalyptic genres drew her to become a homesteader, ensuring her family could survive if a world-wide crisis ever occurred and washing machines disappeared. When not writing, she can be found raising chickens, geocaching, making soap, growing food aquaponic style, or becoming a crack shot with her 9mm and crossbow.
(Seriously, no apocalypse is taking this woman down.)
Killion’s novels include Exsanguinate (2013) and Obfuscate (2016). Killion’s current work is a collaborative anthology with twenty authors titled The Super Market along with book three, Detonate, of the Exsanguinate series due out in Spring 2018. Her short stories can be found in Sirens Call; The Danse Macabre; Cynic Magazine; Bewildering Stories; Midwest Literary Magazine; and in the anthologies Bite from the Heart; Death Sparkles; & Roms, Bombs, and Zoms.