The Ruthless Grave
by Melanie Goldmund
It was Halloween, and Jeannie was trying to get out of a grave. Not hers – she hoped it wouldn’t come to that – but the open grave she’d fallen into when she’d tried to take a shortcut across the old cemetary. She’d already tried to climb up, but it hadn’t worked, and she’d fallen back in. Now she spread her arms and legs to shimmy up the sides of the grave like she’d done with doorways when she was a kid. The grave, however, seemed wider than those doorways, and Jeannie could tell that middle-age and motherhood had taken its toll on her body. She put all her strength into one last effort, but finally had to drop back to the bottom.
“Blast it all,” she snarled, angry at her son, Kyle, who was responsible for Jeannie’s predicament. Just as dusk had fallen and the trick-or-treaters had started to come out, Jeannie had discovered that her stash of Halloween candy had been reduced to three empty bags.
“Oh, was that for Halloween?” Kyle had asked in mock innocence. “Ooops.”
To make things worse, Kyle had had to leave just then, and Jeannie hadn’t even had the chance to demand that he go to the store and replace what he’d eaten. Instead, with the rest of her family out at various places, she’d been forced to go herself.
At the store, the cashier had given her glow-in-the-dark mummy costume a double take, then grinned. “Thought you were my mother-in-law, come back to haunt me. She always insisted that I call her Mummy Dearest.”
Jeannie had still been in a good mood then, so she’d laughed at the pun. Now she wished she’d dressed up as Teddy from Arsenic and Old Lace, complete with shovel, so that she could dig her way to freedom. Resigned to using her fingers, she began to scratch out hand- and footholds.
She was still clawing at the first hole when there was a screech and a whump from behind her. Somebody else had fallen in! Straightening up, she turned around, but before she could speak, she heard a whisper of horror.
“Help me,” Jeannie started to say, but the person let out a scream that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up straight. The heavy breathing turned into panicked gasps, and there were scrabbling sounds as he literally went up the wall.
“Come back!” Jeannie shouted. “Don’t leave me here alone!”
But whoever it was had gone, and Jeannie was left to continue digging by herself.
The next evening, Jeannie read a story in the evening paper about a man who’d turned himself in to the police, asking for protection from his wife, whom he’d killed ten years before. He claimed that her ghost had lured him into an open grave and tried to drag him down to the underworld with her. Jeannie sat back with a shiver.
The man’s wife had been named Ruth.