A couple people have complained about the time of dusk in this story. This took place early in the summer and the evening twilight does linger until around 10 PM.
For the record, many people would consider me to be a geek. I have to disagree with that label because the dictionary definition says a geek is a circus performer who bites the heads off of live chickens. I have never done this. Regardless, when I was in high school I was probably more of a nerd than I am now and I write computer software for a living.
Depending on how you mark the school year, you can call yourself a senior as soon as the junior year is completed. I had just completed the second-to-last year of high school and was out for the summer so I considered myself a senior. Life should have been good. That is the year when most of my friends were relaxing because they had practically made it through the years of required schooling. Unfortunately my affinity for odd facts gained me a lot of ridicule. I got tired of others picking on me so one week I decided to do something about it. I talked to a guy I knew about getting into a gang.
Now, this wasn’t just any gang. It was *the* gang. My family lived on the coast of SC and this was the group that everybody knew ran the islands. It was what I needed to toughen my image.
A couple days later this guy called me and said to meet them behind the local Dairy Queen on Sunday night at 8:30. I skipped church so I could be there at 8:00. Yes, this was very bad rebellion and I wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to miss anything.
The parking lot behind that Dairy Queen was surrounded by trees so I mostly just sat in the shade and watched the customers while trying to pick out which ones might be in the gang.
The meeting time came and went and I began to wonder if I had been stood up. Even the gangs didn’t want me. At 8:45, I decided that I would wait 15 more minutes before forlornly heading home. The time crept on—8:50; 8:55—and I was tired of watching the customers. It was like watching your computer get destroyed in slow motion. It was painful. Even the trees, which I normally enjoyed being around, did not offer any comfort because of why I was there. At 8:59 and 30 seconds I got up and began to walk back to my car. Perhaps I was too much of a nerd to time it so precisely.
Just then a dark red van came screeching into the parking lot. I paused where I was, uncertain if I should run the other direction to get out of their way. The vehicle practically flew straight toward me and came to a screeching halt. If I had thought to look at the driver, I’m sure he was enjoying every minute of it.
As soon as the van stopped three guys with masks on jumped out of the van and threw a hood over my head. My reaction time was a bit slow that day. They opened up the back of the van and tossed me in. The front doors closed and the van took off again with another squeal of the tires.
From the pull of centrifugal force (yes, I know the theory has been replaced), I was able to gauge the which roads we were on. We passed over the main bridge into town, which was easy to mark because it was the only thing that resembled a hill for miles around. I wondered what would happen if the police pulled over the speeding van and I was discovered, then slowly began to hope that would be the case. We sped around the main loop and out into the countryside.
After a while we left the paved roads and I became hopelessly lost at that point. I got so turned around that I just gave up. Nobody had said a word yet. Finally the van came to a stop and all three doors opened up. I had not dared to take the sack off of my head but I could hear the four guys get out and close the doors again. Then there was silence.
I waited. And waited some more. Nobody opened the back door so I gradually worked up the courage to take the sack off of my head. Since they hadn’t bound my hands I began to wonder why I hadn’t done that earlier. Nobody was in sight.
My watch showed that it was just after 9:40 and it was very evident that the twilight was fading. I crawled over the back seat and let myself out the side door. There was probably a handle on the back, but I knew where the one in the front would be since my family had owned a van several years earlier. Before letting myself out, I did check—the keys were not in the ignition.
It surprised me that there was nobody crouched beside the van waiting for me and I thought maybe they had moved into some of the clumps of trees nearby. I didn’t care. It was late and I knew I would have to call my parents to come get me. This was just like a prank someone would pull on a nerd.
There was a single farmhouse that I could see. It sat about half a mile away and I knew it would practically be dark by the time I got there.
When I got to the old building, it turned out that the windows had been boarded up. I knocked anyway and while waiting for a response took a look around. It was one of the old style southern plantation houses with a wrap-around porch. There was another story above it and I could just make out that one of those windows was open a few inches.
I hoisted myself onto the roof of the porch by using the railing and support columns and found that the window could be opened very easily. My biggest problem was that as dark as it was outside that the inside was even more dark. I really hoped the house was vacant. At the same time I also hoped that it had a telephone line that still worked. My grandparents had a house like that once. There was a working telephone even though the phone company had no record of its existence.
I crawled through the window carefully, not sure what the floor would be like. It was still sturdy. After a moment I was able to make out a dresser with a candle on it. That was lucky. I had grown up going to a group similar to Boy Scouts and they had instilled into my head to be “Ready for anything.” I may not have followed those words much that night but I did have a pack of matches in my pocket. I struck one and lit the candle.
With help from the light that the candle generated, I began to explore the upstairs. In one room was an old bed. If worse had come to worst, I could have turned the mattress over so that I wasn’t sleeping in two inches of dust. I moved on. There wasn’t much I could use so I moved back down the hall.
As I walked past the room I had come in through I heard a soft rustle and poked my head in. The room was exactly as I had left it but I wondered if the guys had followed me over from the van to have a bit more fun. I took the stairs down to the first floor and took stock of the furniture that had been left. There were several chairs that had legs which could serve as clubs if need be. Strangely, the front door was boarded over from the inside.
Sadly there was no telephone on that floor either. I decided to head back out and follow the road to another house but at the top of the stairs I had reason to pause. The dresser that I had picked the candle up off of was standing upright in the doorway of the room I had intended to use. It shifted forward a couple inches.
“Um, guys, the joke’s over. This isn’t funny anymore.”
It moved forward again. Then I realized it wasn’t a dresser. It was a coffin. That sent a couple chills up my spine as I backed down the stairs again. At least a coffin couldn’t follow me down—no legs.
At the bottom, I set the candle down on a little stand and started trying to rip the boards off of the door. I got one of the boards loose then turned around to see what was happening with the coffin. As expected, it had stopped at the top of the stairs then, while I was watching, it began to elevate itself off of the ground. I couldn’t see anyone behind it so I ran over to one of the chairs I had been eying earlier and ripped a leg off. By now the coffin was half-way down the stairs.
I used the club for leverage to pull the board the rest of the way off. I would rather leave than get tangled up with a floating coffin but didn’t have much room to act. I turned around and the coffin was at the bottom of the stairs. It was still floating as it advanced toward me.
The silly thing didn’t stop when I told it to so I attacked it with my club. The club broke. I decided that the coffin was moving slowly enough so I tried to run around it. However fast I ran it dodged equally as fast in the same direction. It was worse than a game of American football. Finally it dawned on me that this coffin was floating about 8 inches off of the ground. It wasn’t much, but maybe I could squeeze under it. I backed up and ran, then dove. The coffin dropped and I hit my head. It felt a bit like I had just dove into a corner head-first and I had to back away while trying to regain all my senses.
I was out of options so I turned back to the only thing I could think to do. No, that wasn’t the candle on the little stand (though that might have been a good idea too). I started pulling boards off of the door with a greater ferocity than before. I had two more off before the coffin inched its way over to me. All was lost. There wasn’t anything I could do.
It seemed to know my predicament and took great pleasure in it as it slowly began to press me against the wall. All of my efforts to use leverage or any other tricks could not push it back. I began to have a hard time breathing. The coffin was pressing me hard and I knew it was the end.
Just then I remembered something.
I reached into my pocket, pulled out a cough drop and managed to get it into my mouth. It stopped the coughin’.