Beneath the solemn gaze of the full moon, the custodian, Romero, deliberates from his cabin overlooking the San Julius Central Cemetery. Nursing his beloved double-barrelled shotgun, Persephone, in the crook of his arm, he ritualistically chambers the handcrafted slugs with care. His stare is intense, but distant, as he watches the mist creeping in over tall iron gates, seeming to discerning some hidden meaning from it.
“Fog’s coming in thick this evening, my love,” he croons, cigarette hanging loosely from his lip, its smoke drifting lazily from its cherry tip. Uncharacteristically young looking man was the the custodian and largely unknown by the townsfolk. The role of custodian would be considered by many to be one more suited to an older man with less prospects for the future. Little enough was offered in the way of compensation or prestige in the role, after all. If one had paid more attention, one might have realised that Romero had been caretaker here for more years than his youthful visage seemed to carry. But excluding funerals and the proclivities of morbid teenagers, the cemetery rarely has any visitors and rarer still do visitors cross the custodians path.
This misty evening was one such rare occasion as a strange pale man carrying a baseball bat saunters confidently through the mist, up the cemetery path to Romero’s vantage. Seemingly unnoticed in his approach the pale man comes to a halt at a respectful distance. Snapping Persephone back together, Romero turns to face The Pale Man. The pair take a moment to take the measure of one another before the caretaker’s posture shifts in an almost imperceptible acknowledgement to the seemingly apparent authority held by the visitor.
“Isaac send you?” Romero breaks the silence, there’s a hint of something strained in his voice, something akin to desperation or hope. The stranger just stares back at Romero and without acknowledging the question walks over to peer out across the graveyard.
“I need something from you,” the voice is smooth like iron wrapped in crumpled velvet, he stands with a predatory strength leaning comfortably on the bat.
“What could I have that you need?” Romero’s tone is guarded now, fear can be found in his body language but fear he can master should he need to. The silence that follows is long, weighted by some wordless exchange. Minutes pass before The Pale Man sighs, managing to carry violence and also a perverse lust somehow in the subtle motion. Lifting a small chain from his neck he reveals a small key, before turning back to face the cemetery, “Isaac said you would have it.”
Romero stares hard at the strangers back, a fierce conflict raging within him. The sound of cracking wood and guttural groans from below force him to decide, “Yeah I’ve got it, but I don’t have it here. If you want me to get it, you’ll need to handle the mess here while I go get it.”
“Of course,” the words pass The Pale Man’s lips with relish. With the sense of a man having entered a pact with the devil, Romero turns and runs down the path towards the road just as the mist completely enshrouds the cemetery. The custodian doesn’t dare look back, knowing his life is at stake and every second he takes may be the one that damns him. From behind him, the sounds of conflict just barely escape the mist telling the tale of a brutal massacre that reaches only to the cemetery limits. With reckless disregard for the laws of the road the custodian retrieves the lock-box concealed in his storage unit like the hounds of hell are on his trail, he races to make it back to the cemetery.
Hours pass and the mist is beginning to lift when Romero makes it back, his breathing ragged and his legs jelly from his flight. The Pale Man is waiting for him where he had been when Romero left, deep lacerations resembling bites on his exposed arms rapidly knit themselves back together. An outstretched hand greets Romero expectantly, receiving the box with determined purpose. Immediately The Pale Man removes the chain from his neck, the key sliding smoothly into the lock, clicking once as it is turned and releases the lid. Within, sits a single solitary fragment of ancient parchment inscribed in a long dead language. The pale man smiles widely, his sharp wolf-like canines prominent in the moonlight.
“Such a small thing, in the end” he muses solemnly.
“That’s right,” Romero replies, feeling the sense of danger beginning to grow deep in the primal part of his brain, “You’ll tell Isaac I kept it safe ’til he sent for it?”
“Hmm? Oh I’m sure you’ll see him long before I do,” the strangers tone is hypnotic, along with his gaze binds Romero frozen in terror and awe as The Pale Man saunters over to him, the box vanishing into a pocket. Raising one of his cold pale hands, the stranger gently strokes Romero’s cheek with the back of his fingers. Barely able to muster the strength of will to reply through the icy chill of death that has gripping his heart, the caretaker chokes out a response “What- what do you mean?”
“Isaac is already dead, sweetheart, but don’t worry, I shall send you to him now-”
Persephone’s roar erupts in the night, the caretaker having managed to bring the shotgun up to The Pale Mans chest. The Pale Man glances down at the gaping hole in his chest, and back up at Romero. With a chiding click of his tongue, he lunges, fangs extended, burying them deep into the caretakers neck.
Years drain from the caretaker, his youth giving way first slowly at first, then all at once. Collapsing in a heap on the ground, Romero’s last gasps of life are spent watching as The Pale Man steps over him before disappearing into the night.