[Mysteriousheartland.com] The Fallen’s rusted Toyota Corolla bounced over the railroad tracks along a country road as Tristania echoed from the speakers. Mike and Greg came on this mission alone to find out whether Moon Point Cemetery, outside Streator, Illinois, was worth investigating. Greg examined a map in the front passenger seat while Mike fiddled with the volume button on the tape deck.
“The map shows this road connects, but it doesn’t look like it does,” Greg said with a hint of concern.
“No, it doesn’t,” Mike agreed as his eyes scanned the horizon. He spun the wheel as the driveway to Moon Point Cemetery appeared on his right. The cemetery sat in the woods along a creek about a few dozen yards down the gravel road.
“Man, this is just like old times,” Greg said, putting down the map. “Just the two of us. Who needs those other guys?”
“They’re part of the team,” Mike replied.
Greg laughed. “What has Emmet or Davin ever contributed, seriously? And don’t even get me started on Aura—”
“That’s enough,” Mike interrupted. “We’re not getting rid of anyone.” The Toyota’s undercarriage rattled as he pulled the car over to the roadside just outside the graveyard’s iron fence, where they saw a ‘no trespassing’ sign.
As the duo left their car, their shoes splashed onto the swampy lawn. Even though the first leaves and weeds were sprouting, the area was still a muddy mess and the nearby creek had overflowed its banks.
“I just got a bad feeling about this place,” Greg said with uncharacteristic sobriety.
“I know what you mean,” Mike replied.
They paused at the cemetery entrance, wondering if they should go inside.
Nothing stirred apart from the occasional chirp of a bird and the whispering wind in the trees. They were alone, and yet, they felt someone else’s presence. It was a hauntingly familiar feeling.
“Normally I’d say we should split up, but under the circumstances I think it’d be better if we stick together,” Mike suggested.
“A hatchet lady reportedly haunts this cemetery,” Mike explained. “Locals also report experiencing car trouble, but we haven’t had any problems.”
The pair headed down the gravel drive into the cemetery. The driveway made a wide loop like a lasso around several trees and came back to the entrance, so Mike and Greg had to hike the rest of the cemetery through the tall grass. Broken branches from the spring storms littered the ground.
Mike pulled a crystal pendulum from his pocket and suspended it a few feet off the ground. The pendulum swayed with each step, but, theoretically, it would act irregularly if it detected any disruption in the area’s natural energy. Emmet and Greg had always viewed this instrument skeptically, but Mike swore by it.
“Has that ever found anything?” Greg asked as the two friends began to walk the border of Moon Point.
“Yeah, at the University of Illinois,” Mike replied with a touch of bitterness. “Me and Aura tracked down that ghost in the English building and this led us right to her, remember? Oh yeah, that’s right. You, Emmet, and Davin decided to go to a bar and drink instead.”
Greg smiled. “That was a good time. You should have gone with us. Some hot chicks were there.”
Mike rolled his eyes and did not notice the pendulum in his hand begin to swing wildly.
A slender hand caught it midair, and Mike and Greg jumped. A young woman blocked their path. She had long, black hair, and her faintly Oriental features gave away her Roma ancestry. Her skin was unusually pale.
“It’s the hatchet lady!” Greg blurted, but his first guess missed the mark by a wide margin.
Mike’s heart skipped a beat. “Misa?” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here?” He moved to embrace her, but her icy stare stopped him in his tracks. “It’s been what, five, six years?”
“You don’t look like you’ve aged a day,” Greg added, not masking his lack of enthusiasm for her sudden appearance.
“Of course I haven’t,” Misa replied. “What did you expect?”
“You in a loony bin?” Greg replied, although he knew Misa’s question was rhetorical. The last time he saw her, Mike and he were visiting New Orleans and she asked for their help. She claimed her father was responsible for a string of unusual disappearances. Her father, she insisted, was a vampire. That made her half-vampire, or a dhampyr. Greg never fully believed her story, although Mike and he did confront and stake her father in a dark alleyway.
“You’re all in danger,” Misa said, grimly. “You should not have opened the astral gate at Cahokia Mounds last December.”
“We didn’t,” Mike replied, “those asshole zealots did. Besides, we closed it right away. No harm, no foul, right?”
“I’m afraid not. You allowed something to escape.”
“Wait a minute,” Greg interrupted. “How did you find us? How did you get here? Walk?”
“This is important,” Misa growled. “There’s no time to explain.”
“Oh, come on,” Greg insisted. “We have a little time, don’t we?”
“What is this creature then?” Greg demanded. “What escaped from the astral portal? Is this the same spirit that’s been attacking Aurelia lately?” He added, “Not that I care.”
“Your friend Aurelia will be fine,” Misa replied. “It’s you two I’m worried about. You saved my life before, so I’m in your debt. I’ve been following you, making sure nothing happened to you. Those people who were after you last year—the zealots and Satanists—they were unwitting pawns. They became food for the creature they unleashed; a primordial demon from the ranks of ‘the ancient ones.’”
“I guess Emmet was right for once, in a way,” Greg mumbled. “They thought they were playing us and were, in fact, the suckers! Beautiful! So what? I’m not responsible for what happened.”
“The acolytes of the ancient ones abducted your friend Davin and took him to an abandoned military base about sixty miles south of here. It just happened last night, during the thunder storm.”
Mike frowned and pulled his cell phone from his pocket. Dialing Aurelia’s number, he held the phone to his ear and waited. After a few moments, Aurelia’s shrill voice answered, making him wince. “It’s Mike,” he said. “Where’s Davin?”
“I don’t know, why didn’t you call him?” Aurelia replied.
“He never answers his phone.”
The line fell silent, then Mike, Greg, and Misa heard Aura scream Davin’s name several times. Mike jerked the phone away from his ear in annoyance.
“I don’t know where he is,” Aurelia said after a few moments. “He’s not here. He’s probably out getting drunk.”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” Mike replied. “Not this time.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you remember what I told you about my trip to New Orleans the summer after we graduated high school? Remember that woman Greg and I met?” Mike glanced at Misa. “Well, it’s a funny story. You see, she’s back. We met her at the cemetery we’re investigating. She says someone abducted Davin.” A pause. “No, not by aliens. By crazies who worship some ancient god.”
Aurelia swore loudly enough for everyone to hear.
“I’ll fill you in when we get back,” Mike said and hung up.
“What, you didn’t believe me?” Misa asked before Mike had time to drop his phone back into his pocket.
“I’ll put it this way,” Mike explained, “I don’t believe anything unless I get at least a good second opinion.”
Mike took a deep breath and folded his arms across his chest. “There’s more to this story,” he muttered. “I don’t like the way it feels, at all. Misa, will you come with us and help get Davin back?”
Misa nodded. She had grown more confident in the years since Mike and Greg had last seen her, but the added confidence did not make her more alluring. She still appeared awkward and otherworldly.
The three took another look around the cemetery and decided they had seen enough. They hoped they would not be too late to save their friend.
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