30 Jul Pinelawn
“Pinelawn”Written by Nick Botic Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 11 minutes
I’ve owned Pinelawn Cemetery, the cemetery that serves the small town in which we reside, for going on 11 years now. Our land is a good size, but due to the size of the town from which our cemetery draws its…inhabitants…it’s only about half full despite having been around nearly a century. About a month ago, however, an elderly man in town passed away, and his family wanted to purchase a plot of land for their family in the next-to-be-developed area, a plot that would serve as the final resting place for members of their family for generations to come.
We of course accepted. After working out the logistics with the man’s son and his wife, my own wife and I set out to prepare the land. The plot they bought was one that would potentially accommodate 80 burials, which would be enough for all the members already buried elsewhere in the cemetery as well as, as mentioned, any members that required burials for many years to come. We took the family to survey the area before they committed, and once we all signed some paperwork, all was prepared.
I rented an excavation machine and got to work digging the first grave of what would someday be many. I used the machine to burrow into the ground, and as I began retracting the claw from the first pass, up with it came an arm.
I immediately called the police. The police force in our town is like the town itself, very small, but even still, they brought every cop our town has. They examined the scene of the burial, they took the moderately decomposed body, which at first glance was that of a woman in her 30’s, they checked our cameras going back three months (the farthest back we keep the footage), and they fingerprinted the body.
What we came to find out was that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing. There were no wounds on the body, nothing to suggest that the woman had been murdered. After an autopsy, it was found that the woman had died of a brain aneurysm.
When all was said and done, the body was brought back to us, where we were to prepare it for and ultimately cremate it. We received the body on a Tuesday evening, and our initial plan was to cremate it the following day. However, I was awoken on Wednesday morning by our doorbell. When I opened our door, I was met by a man and woman in their late 50s who introduced themselves as “John and Jane”. John and Jane wanted to see the body of the young woman, informing me that their daughter had gone missing a year prior, and that they’d hoped it was her.
Naturally, I said yes. I told them of the decomposition that had already set in and brought them to the crematorium and uncovered the body, where they both looked at her with wonder in their eyes. They walked on either side of her, examining her from head to toe. After what felt like too long, I respectfully asked them if it was who they thought it might be. To that, I got no response.
The way they were looking at the deceased woman’s body was like…like they couldn’t believe what they were seeing; not in an “oh no, my daughter” kind of way, but like an “I can’t believe my eyes, this is amazing” kind of way.
Soon thereafter, they both leaned forward, getting their faces startlingly close to that of a decaying dead woman’s. At first I wasn’t sure, but now, after everything that happened, I’m sure they were whispering things…to the dead body.
I inquired again as to the identity of the body, and asked them if they were okay, and this time, instead of flat out ignoring me, they turned towards me with smiles on their faces.
In unison, they said “thank you so much” and began to walk towards the exit. I was so confused I didn’t say anything, but the man spoke once they reached the door.
“Please keep her here. We will pay whatever fees necessary for you to keep her where she is, to not cremate her, to not so much as lay a finger on her, until such time as we no longer need you to do so. She is not our daughter, but we belong to a support group for people who, like us, have had their children go missing. We would like to give the members of our group whom this young woman might have been related to the chance to see for themselves. Will you please do us this kindness?”
I was taken aback at the request. I considered it for a moment, but I didn’t really have any real reason to say no, so I obliged, telling them they didn’t need to pay me, considering the purpose of doing so was potentially giving a grieving family some closure.
For two days the body sat on the cremation shelf (I had offered to put it in the freezer, but they insisted on leaving it out, and literally left a bag of money to ensure I did, despite my insistence that I didn’t need to be paid), until the third day, when two more couples showed up.
These couples too simply stared at the body in awe and whispered quietly towards it, not once giving any indication of sadness or relief that they had or hadn’t found their missing loved one. Eventually, both couples thanked me in the same manner that the first couple had, before telling me it wasn’t their daughter, but that another couple was going to be by in the morning.
You might be thinking that this was an odd situation and that I should’ve been perturbed. You’re thinking right, and I was. So much so that after the couple that was expected in the morning had come and gone, I planned to call John and Jane, offer them their money back, but insist that I was going to cremate the body one way or the other. I so very much wish that that would’ve been able to happen.
That next morning, a couple did indeed show up. The same thing happened; they stared, smiled, whispered, thanked me. Once they’d left, I called the original couple but got no answer. I waited a little while and called again, but still, no answer, so that time, i left a message. I then turned on the retort and prepared the body for cremation.
A few minutes before I was set to burn the body, I heard a knock on the door. When I looked through the blinds to see who it was, I saw the faces of John and Jane, as well as several unfamiliar faces, all standing very close to the door, all looking directly at me through the blinds. Some of them were standing together, as if they were couples, others stood alone or close together in bigger groups.
If nearly 30 people (at first glance) showing up to view a dead body, presumably to see if it was their daughter, wasn’t weird enough, what really took me aback was that some of the people there weren’t even as old as the deceased woman. By my quick survey of the people through my split in the blinds, there were men and women ranging in age from their early 20’s to their late 80’s, including (again, at first glance) three people in wheelchairs.
I didn’t open the door to the crematorium; rather, I locked the deadbolt as well. A bunch of people standing outside my place of business might not seem too horrifying on its face, but believe me when I tell you that my heart was beating out of my chest. Realizing I didn’t have my cellphone on me, I stood there unsure of what to do for what felt like an eternity until someone from outside broke the silence.
“Let’s go. We don’t want to hurt you. No harm will come to you so long as you allow us to complete what must be completed.”
I asked what they were talking about, and without telling me, they advised me that I needed to open the door, otherwise they would just find another way to enter the building. They then again assured me that I was in no danger, so long as I let them do what they needed to do. To help me with my decision, they let me know that they could just as easily enter my actual house, where my wife and daughter were, none the wiser.
I reluctantly opened the door, and that’s when things got even weirder.
The groups of people stepped apart from each other, making a kind of aisle for two men and two women to walk through, each of whom holding what looked to be blankets in their arms. One of the men was a great beast of a human, looking to be in his late 30’s, standing at least 6’8”, 300+ lbs, with a bushy, black but graying beard. All it took from his was a point of his finger towards the back wall for me to go to it.
Each of the four people in my crematorium began unfolding the blankets they held, and before long I noticed they were taking care to not let the blankets touch any surface, not tables, not chairs, not the ground. They worked in a weird rhythm, with three of them holding the four corners of a blanket, then the fourth starting to unfold theirs while simultaneously taking the corner from whoever was holding two, then placing their blanket on top of the previously unfolded one. Each blanket was white, and each blanket had a different symbol stitched onto it.
Once they had all four blankets on top of one another, two more men entered. Each of the men had a piece of linen cloth over their hands, and walked with their hands out, palms up. They then stood at the head and foot of the table, at which point they and the people holding the blankets began to speak in unison. I don’t remember exactly what they said, but I remember a few phrases, since I’m pretty sure they repeated their chant five times.
“Thank you for leading us unto you.”
“The daughter of him.”
“A call to the great then and there.”
“To him, to him, to him.”
The entire time I just stood there, mid-panic attack, watching them. When they were done (it took around 10 minutes for them to say their chant as many times as they did), the two men at the ends of the table lifted the deceased woman’s body and placed it onto the blankets.
“Come, come!” someone said from outside, and I turned my head for the first time since they’d begun unfolding the blankets. All the people outside the door were now wearing hooded cloaks, some of which were black, others a darkish blue. One of them who had lifted to body onto the blankets nudged me and pointed towards the door. I was essentially in shock, so I simply just walked out with a dumb look on my face.
From there I was led, in broad daylight, by a large group of cloaked individuals, across the grounds of my cemetery. After about 30 seconds, I knew where we were going, which was to the spot I’d originally found the body. We walked up a hill, and when we crested it, I looked across and saw more people in cloaks, as well as more holes, more bodies, and what looked to be a much larger hole in the middle of those.
As we walked closer I counted, finding there to be an additional four bodies dug up. Once I was close enough to see, I looked inside the larger hole, which there were four people digging, and saw that there was what looked to be a gravestone that they were digging around. I repeatedly asked that they let me go, but I got no answer, and they always made sure that I was surrounded.
After they finished digging out the largest hole, all the cloaked people and I stood in a large circle (in total, I’d say there must have been around 70 people there). I asked one more time that they please just let me go, and one a few people down from me leaned forward and whispered.
“We need you here, Nick! You made this all possible!”
It was the sheriff. The person who I would’ve called had I been able to call anyone, the person I would’ve relied on to help me in this nightmare scenario, was part of it.
A man in a white cloak was suddenly in the middle of the circle, standing next to the large hole; I hadn’t even seen where he’d come from.
“It is time!” he roared. “Proceed!”
Four groups of people began performing the same ritual with blankets and linens and chanting as they raised the other four bodies from the ground. The entire group was chanting now, only after the five times they said their piece, they didn’t stop. Rather, they began humming the word “him” (like… “himmmmmmmmmmmmm”); they would hold it for about 10 seconds, then repeat.
As all this was happening, the man in the white cloak approached me. He walked right up to me, then dropped down to his knees and placed his hands on my shoes.
“Thank you. Thank you. You have made this all possible. Without you, we would still be lost, he would still be wandering. Your generosity will not be forgotten.”
I couldn’t find the words to respond. The White-Cloaked Man got up and walked back to the large hole.
“Brothers, sisters! The time is now! Long we have waited! Long did our parents, and their parents, and their parents wait! But the time is finally upon us!”
The humming got louder.
“Bishops! Present the bodies to their final grave! The hour is upon us!”
The people holding the blankets brought them to the large hole, and one by one lowered them in at the foot of the underground grave at different angles. Once all five bodies were in the ground, the members joined the circle and the humming.
“To him, we rejoice. To him, we give thanks. To him, we give. To him, we are.” the White-Cloaked Man said.
The humming ceased.
“To him, we are. To him, we are. To him we are.” the circle chanted repeatedly.
As they did, the White-Cloaked man removed his cloak. He was a man in his 60’s, by my guess. He continued removing his clothes until he was completely naked.
A member of the circle walked forward as the (previously) White-Cloaked Man dropped to his knees at the foot of the hole, facing the underground gravestone.
“This is my finest hour!” he proclaimed loudly as he spread his arms.
And with that, the cloaked member behind him brandished a knife and cut the naked man’s throat. The blood from his neck poured into the hole as he leaned forward, eventually falling in.
“To him, we are. To him, we are. To him, we are,” the circle continued.
Then, they all went silent. We all stood there for what felt like an hour but in reality probably no longer than a minute, in that kind of ear-shattering silence, silence that hurts. I was on a bit of a mound, so I was able to see fairly clearly what happened next.
The bodies in the hole began shifting around, not as though they were reanimating, but each body as a whole. Then they start sinking lower…and lower…and lower until I couldn’t see them anymore. Then, I heard the most blood-curdling sound I’ve ever heard. I’m not sure I can adequately describe it.
It was like metal on metal met nails on a chalkboard, while also gurgling. If that doesn’t make any sense, then just maybe I’ve described it somewhat accurately.
What happened next is the most…baffling thing of it all. It got dark. Night fell in the blink of an eye, but not everywhere. I could see daylight at the edges of the cemetery, but over it, it’s like it was midnight. I could hardly see the cloaked people standing next to me. What I could see even less was the hole.
But I could see something. I could see the silhouette of… something, crawl up and out of that hole. The cloaked people dropped to their knees, and I instinctively followed suit. Whatever it was, it was…large. Its silhouette must have been seven feet, easy.
I wanted to cry. I did cry, I think. I threw up too, I’m pretty sure. I even pissed myself, but that happened when whatever this thing is, this demon, this monster, whatever it is, walked up to me. It reached out and put a finger under my chin so as to make me look up at it. I expected something that was ostensibly from Hell to be warm, but its touch was ice cold. I can’t even explain the shape I saw. It was humanoid, to be sure, but it was jagged, and rounded, and angular, and smooth, and any other contradiction you can think of.
I could feel it looking at me. I couldn’t see its face, but I knew. It was making guttural sounds as it breathed in and out, and without that noise stopping, I felt it communicate with me. I don’t know if it was speaking telepathically or what, but…it thanked me.
It thanked me and then turned around, let out a shriek that was just a much louder version of the noises that had emanated from the hole as it was being…birthed(?), and took off sprinting, on all fours.
I passed out from fear or shock or something, as I heard it run away into the selective night, and as it did, I’m like… 60% sure the darkness moved with it.
When I came to, I was alone in the field. The large hole was empty, and I finally got a look at the gravestone. There was no name on it, but rather it was inscribed with the symbols that the blankets had had stitched into them. I ran back home, called the state police, and have spent the last hour typing this out while I wait for them to arrive. I’m dreading having to tell them what happened, but luckily my wife saw the darkness over our home, since it’s on the cemetery grounds, so at least to that she can attest.
I don’t know what they let out. I don’t know what that thing is going to do. I don’t know anything besides what I’ve just told you, but if you have any questions, I will answer to the best of my ability.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableNick Botic Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A