Getting Out The Vote
(© Robert Denham)
Rebecca Morris was up early; it was only a short walk to her destination, and she actually kind of enjoyed being up and out in the chilly, pre-dawn hours of autumn.
She carried two bags containing two dozen donuts of mixed variety, and a cup holder with four cups of black coffee; the fixins for the coffee were in the bag with the donuts. These were for her and her co-workers at the polling precinct, whom she knew would be there waiting for her when she arrived to open the doors, along with the first few voters. Halloween had been just a couple of nights before, of course, and the remains of the revelry were still apparent, decorating houses and yards along the street.
Her route took her past the old Festin Cemetery, the oldest public graveyard in town. It contained graves dating back to the early 1700s, and if one cared to go through the rusty, creaking wrought-iron gates and search around, they would find that the latest marker dated to 1964. It was sadly unattended now, though, overgrown and all but forgotten.
Local rumor had it that it was often used for dark rituals, by groups which practiced that sort of thing. It was definitely, however, a well-known gathering place for partying teenagers with trouble on their minds.
The iron fence that surrounded the grounds was heavy, and ornate; as the sky had lightened a bit, she stole a peek to her left, through the fence, at the still-shadowy cemetery beyond. She could just make out the outlines of the nearest crumbling headstones, some smoothed with aged erosion, and others vandalized by those with no respect for the dead, and apparently nothing else on which to spend their time. She paused; her brow furrowed.
What was that sound?
It was faint and unidentifiable, but seemed to be coming from the deep, weed-choked shadows under the trees. She peered deeper into the gloom. There it was again; what was that noise? She shuddered, erupting in chill gooseflesh, and walked on, quickening her pace.
She passed the ancient gate, redoubling her step as she did. A few yards beyond the gate, she stopped dead, ramrod straight, eyes wide in the dimness. She had heard that, for certain; a low, ringing, metallic creak. Behind her. Not far behind her, either.
Slowly, eyes bulging, heart pounding, she turned; her mouth dropped open. There, not ten yards away, were perhaps fifteen to twenty ancient, rotted corpses, shambling their way out of the dark cemetery; the group shuffled loosely onto the pavement, and staggered toward her.
The donuts and coffee hit the sidewalk, forgotten, as she screamed and wheeled, tearing off in a blistering red panic in the direction of the polling station.
Somewhere in the fright-scrambled avenues of her mind, she thanked God that she had worn sneakers this morning.
Other graves, she could now see, were giving up their contents, as well, their occupants stiffly dragging their long-unused bodies toward the gate.
Rebecca looked behind her; there were probably thirty or forty, now, at least, coming down the sidewalk. She came to the corner of Bristol and Garden streets; to her left, she could see the south gate of the cemetery; a large crowd of undead corpses was stumbling out of that gate, as well. She moaned in uncontrolled panic, and ran on.
At last, there was the precinct. As she figured, several people, some of them her fellow election workers, stood milling around the door. Others were waiting to vote. They smiled as she approached, but their smiles turned to puzzled frowns as they beheld her obvious panic. "We have to get inside!" she screeched, stopping short before the door.
"What’s wrong, ‘bec?" Joe Peterson asked, concerned.
She ignored him, her breath coming in ragged, choppy gasps mingling with high-pitched moans as she fumbled clumsily with the keys, dropping them, reaching frantically down, and snatching them up, finally finding the right one.
From behind her, someone breathed "Oh, my God—look!" Rebecca knew for certain, then, that this was no delusion, as she had dimly hoped. She threw a last, quick look over her shoulder as she thrust open the door, and stumbled inside.
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