Author's Note: (Dedicated to starfleetrambo for making awesome comics)
Bring a Shovel - You're Digging a Grave
Robbie jabbed his shovel into the earth again, shoulders pinching as he tossed another scoop of dirt over the rim. One more hole for one more dead guy.
He flopped to the ground, leaning agains the side. Graves had never scared him - he'd been digging them with his family since he was old enough to hold a shovel. It was just a hole in the ground. It was something else, today. Something weird was giving him the creeps.
Sitting here, with a cloudy sky above him and rusty earth around him, he couldn't shake the uneasy feeling of being watched. It lay uncomfortably over his shoulders, a mantle of tension that sucked all the passion out of his gut.
After a few minutes of sitting stiffly in a square hole, Robbie decided he'd rather walk out his troubles and pushed himself to his feet.
The sick feeling had followed him through the familiar paths of the forest, a squeezing of his heart that dogged his every step.
His footsteps scuffed at dusty earth, dyed-black hair ruffled by warm winds. Leaves rustled loudly above him, ominous in that they could be hiding the sounds of footsteps. He suspected they were hiding something, at least. He couldn't shake the feeling of eyes boring into him, no matter how fast he walked or stiffly he held his shoulders.
He tried to turn toward his house, to take a well-used shortcut to the wrought-iron gates, but the path seemed to stretch on forever. Trees that used to be landmarks had turned into hiding places for a thousand looming figures just waiting for him to turn his back on them.
He licked his lips, breath trembling between stuttering beats of his heart.
He walked passed the shortcut.
The gravel road carried onward, haunting feeling growing weaker the longer he continued. It didn't abate after that, but felt less intense so long as he continued walking.
He only tried to push past the fear once, turning off the road and jogging into the trees. It leapt upon him to almost strangling intensity until he stumbled back from the leaflitter and back onto the gravel road. He sat there, panting for a short while. His throat was so tight he could hardly breathe from fear, hands shaking as he pushed himself upright and continued walking.
He could see a figure out of the corner of his eye sometimes, a person dressed in white peeking out from behind trees. It was never there when he turned to look, and he stopped even trying from the shivers it was giving him.
He heard a faint sound ahead, a muffled shout and the crackling of wood.
His fear suddenly skyrocketed, as something was suddenly right behind him. He could hear and feel cold breaths rattling out over the raised hairs on the back of his neck. Robbie broke into a sprint, his ears ringing. The road ended at a house on a small hill, some broken down old shack that had been for sale for years. He'd heard from his parents that her corpse had been half-eaten by her cats by the time anyone realized she was missing.
The lights were on in the windows, and the For Sale sign was missing.
The fact that someone could move into that kind of house only marginally less alarming than the monstrous feeling that chased him here.
He sprinted across the loose gravel driveway, hopped over the few steps and practically ripped the door off its hinges to dive inside.
He tumbled to the ground, panting and staring at the doorway.
Bright blue eyes drilled into his soul, pale pools of an empty soul invading his every heartbeat.
"Er- Hello there?"
Robbie flinched violently, scrabbling away from the feminine voice as his heart tried to leap out of his chest.
There was a redheaded woman perched gingerly on the edge of a couch, phone held loosely in her hands. He gave her a passing glance before jerking his gaze back to the open door, expecting the creature to be crawling in after him.
There was… nothing.
No sign of the malevolent aura or piercing eyes. Nothing but pine trees and tall weeds pretending to be a lawn.
"Did- did you see that?"
She was probably giving him an incredulous look, wondering what the hell this scrawny boy was doing in her house.
Robbie let his heart slow down as he picked himself up off the ground, wincing at the red-clay stains he had probably just ground into what looked like a new rug. He couldn't just tell her that he'd been chased through the forest by some freaked-out feeling and a hallucination.
She'd think he was on drugs. He wished he could use drugs as an excuse.
He cleared his throat, trying to play the whole thing off as some sort of accident.
"Sorry, about that. I'll get out of here."
He turned over his shoulder, internally bracing for a dressing-down. Honestly he'd rather just skirt out the door and try to run back to his house than explain himself. The thing hadn't caught up to him - maybe it was slow?
"Do you know how to drive?"
He frowned, looking at her fully.
Long red hair tumbled over her shoulder, pale green eyes squinting at him in something that couldn't quite be called suspicion. She was wearing a dusty shirt and dirty scuffed jeans and- Oh god.
His stomach twisted unhappily as he finally noticed her leg. It was bent at the knee, in an entirely wrong direction. Her foot was facing sideways, and the stiff position she was in was probably from dealing with that feeling.
"Yeah, I know how to drive."
He internally cursed the queasy voice.
"Awesome, help me up. We can take my car - the key should still be in the ignition."
She reached up at him, pushing herself onto her one good leg.
Robbie automatically lunged to steady her, slinging one arm over his shoulder and helping her toward the door.
"You know the way to the hospital?"
Part of him wished he could just ditch the lady and scram, but leaving a broken-legged lady out in the middle of the woods was beyond rude and getting into cruel. He wasn't that mean.
They hobbled to her dark gray sedan. Fumbling open the door took a few minutes, but they managed. As he sat down on the cloth seats, he thanked god that it was an automatic transmission.
The woman started shifting around, a pinched look on her face as she tried to adjust her leg to a more comfortable position.
"Are you sure that's okay to mess with?"
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He hadn't really noticed how many freckles she had. It wasn't cute or anything, she was way too old for him.
"It took a while for me to get inside. I was working on the shed, and some of the boards collapsed on me. My knee's pretty swollen right now , so most of the pain comes from moving it. What's your name, by the way?"
He turned the key, starting to adjust the seats and processing the sudden deluge of information.
"Robbie Valentino. Who're you?"
He reached up to adjust the rear view mirror, and jerked away as if burned.
Piercing blue eyes stared at him from the back seat, watching him through the reflection.
He whipped around, half expecting someone to slit his throat from behind.
There was no one there.
"Are you alright?"
Taught as a bowstring, Robbie turned back around, stiffly putting the car into gear and backing the car out of her driveway. As soon as he was at the hospital, he'd ditch the lady and get back to his house and blare his music. Too many weird things for one day.
The doubtful hum from the woman only set his nerves on edge. They rounded a corner, and she hissed faintly as the many potholes roughly jostled the car.
"Do you believe in ghosts, Robbie?"
He shot her a dark look, but she was facing out the window, staring into the distance.
His parents had always cheerfully dismissed the idea when he was a kid. There was no such thing as ghosts, they said. No afterlife, no real reason to worry about the undead or vengeful spirits or anything like that. Respect to bodies was just respect to the people still there to remember who used to occupy them. If humans did have souls, they didn't tend to linger.
Despite their cheerful dismissal, Robbie still didn't like going into the basement, much preferring the dressed and primped versions of dead bodies to the ones that lay cold and naked under a white sheet and hidden away in metal drawers.
He could still feel the echo of icy breaths on the back of his neck, sheer terror clouding his brain as he sprinted as fast as he could through an uncaring forest.
"Do I look like I believe in ghosts, lady?"
They had pulled into town, the hospital just ahead. He obeyed the traffic laws, wondering when he'd get his own car. This was so much faster than walking - he had his driver's permit and everything.
The car slid neatly into place in the lot by the ER entrance, a twist of the wrist cutting the motor before he jumped out to help her exit the car. She laughed a bit, thanking him for his effort.
A nurse had seen their struggles, and swiftly brought out a wheelchair for the redhead to borrow.
"I can take it from here, dear."
The lady smiled brightly at her.
"Thank you! Oh, Robbie." She waved at him as she slumped into the chair, still smiling gently.
"Could you grab my purse from the backseat real quick?"
He nodded, opening the door and ducking inside. He reached to grab it, bracing his hand against the seat.
Without warning, the temperature dropped, and the creeping fear grabbed ahold of his spine once more. It was closer than ever, wrapping around his chest and seizing his lungs.
Robbie turned slightly, off-balance with a purse in one hand and his feet sticking out of the doorway. Luminescent blue eyes stared back into his own, inches away from his face.
Icicles rattled in his breath, inky hair framing a pale (as death) face. A boy was staring at him as Robbie crouched over him, the two of them frozen in time.
The boy's head tilted, and his body shuddered like an old tv screen losing its signal. Bands of color popped out of place across his torso, the sound of static filling Robbie's ears.
As soon as he arrived, he was gone again, and the world was warm and colorful again.
He drew away, half expecting to see his breath fog the air from the icy feeling wrapped around his heart.
He didn't really remember handing off the purse, but he knew that he'd spoken something about walking home. The two women agreed politely, though the redhead had offered to give him money for a bus.
Footsteps plodding out of the parking lot, his ears picked up the tail of their conversation as the nurse rolled the woman into the hospital.
"What's your name, dearie? I'm Bertha."
"Lovely to meet you. My name's Jasmine Fenton."