The rusted hinges of the iron cemetery gate screamed out like a bird of prey in the moonlit night as Bradley Beauregard pushed the gate open just wide enough for his girlfriend, Carly, and himself to slip through into the cemetery. From somewhere off in the distance came the eerie sound of a baying dog

“Hurry up, Carly,” said Bradley with impatience in his voice. “It’s going to be midnight in less than twenty minutes.”

“I’m coming,” Carly answered as she squeezed through the crack of the gate and stepped inside the desolate cemetery. She pulled the collar of her jacket up around her ears to shield them from the bite of a chilling October gust that was kicking up some dead leaves into a swirling flock. They filled the air with a soft rustle before settling back down to the ground to lie in silence for the next gust to send them airborne.

“I’m not liking the idea of this, Bradley,” said Carly, looking from left to right to make sure no one else was around. “I really think we ought to turn around and head back before someone catches us in here. I think it’s against the law to wander around in a graveyard after sundown and I’m afraid of getting into trouble. My parents would kill me if I got busted.”

“Stop being such a chicken,” said Bradley. “I think what you’re really afraid of is the legend.”

“What?” Carly replied with a bit of a snicker. “The legend of mausoleum thirteen? Don’t be ridiculous! I don’t believe in that silly old wives’ tale.”

“You don’t believe that if you knock thirteen times on the mausoleum’s doors at midnight on Halloween that Death will answer?” Bradley asked.

“No,” said Carly. “It’s nothing but a bunch of bull. And I also don’t believe the rest of the legend that he’ll whisper in your ear the name of the next person destined to lie in the graveyard.”

“You don’t?” said Bradley with a smirk on his face. “Well, I guess tonight you and me will find out if that legend is true or not. That is, unless you’re too chickenshit.” He then began making clucking sounds and moving his arms to imitate the flapping of wings.

“I’m not chickenshit,” Carly retorted. “And must you act so pathetically immature? I swear, Bradley, sometimes you act more like you’re eight instead of eighteen.”

As the two teenagers trekked through the old cemetery past macabre statues of weeping angels, white bronze obelisks, and row upon row of crooked and weathered gravestones that marked the burial spots of long-forgotten faces and names from centuries past, another chilly blast of wind nipped at their faces, flushing their cheeks.

And then a small gothic-styled building of gray stone with double doors of Art Nouveau ironwork came into view. It bore no family name, as did other mausoleums; only the number thirteen, which was engraved into a curved stone block above its arched entrance. Built sometime back in the late nineteenth century, the structure had become a local mystery and the subject of strange legends. Nobody in town, not even the oldest residents, knew for sure who had built the mausoleum, or whose bodies were entombed within its walls. Some people believed it was haunted, while some claimed it housed the body of a high priest who led a devil-worshipping cult.

Bradley looked down at the ticking watch upon his wrist to check the time. It was now ten minutes before the hour of midnight.

“It’s almost time,” he said as he climbed up the four stone steps leading to the front of the mausoleum. “I hope you aren’t going to chicken out on me.”

Carly reluctantly joined her boyfriend, continuously looking over her shoulders to ensure that no one was following them. “This is absolutely ridiculous,” she stated. “And I’m freezing to death on top of everything!”

“Shhh,” said Bradley, holding his pointed index finger in front of his mouth and nose. He then whispered, “I think I hear footsteps.”

Carly’s face went pale and she quickly turned around to see if anyone was coming. She appeared to be ready to make a run for it.

“Oh, never mind,” said Bradley with a grin. “Must have just been one of those headless ghosts wandering around looking for its head.”

“You asshole,” said Carly, sounding unamused. She shook her head in mock disgust.

Bradley let out one of his “deranged mad scientist laughs” as Carly liked to call them. Teasing his girlfriend was a favorite pastime for him. He again gazed down at his wristwatch and announced that it would be midnight in less than one minute. He then began counting down the seconds, and at the stroke of twelve he pounded thirteen times upon the iron door with his fist.

“Yo! Mister Death!” he called out. “You in there? We wanna know, who’s going to be the next one pushing up daisies in this graveyard of yours?”

Carly sighed and rolled her eyes. She felt ridiculous being a party to this nonsense and was more than anxious for this ordeal to reach its conclusion so she could go back home and enjoy a nice cup of mulled cider in the comfort of her warm cozy house.

And then a strange low voice from within the mausoleum whispered, “Bradley Beauregard is next.”

An icy chill that was colder than the wind in the graveyard swept through Carly’s body from her head to her toes. With her eyes bugging out in disbelief, she turned to look at her boyfriend, whose face wore a look of shock. And then, with creaks and squeaks, the iron doors of mausoleum thirteen began to slowly open right before her.

“Oh shit!” exclaimed Carly before taking off running pell-mell like a bat out of hell. Within a matter of seconds she was out of sight.

The mausoleum doors opened wide, revealing Bradley’s best friend and fellow practical joker, Fletcher. The two young men looked at each other and then burst into uncontrollable laughter.

“You should have seen the look on Carly’s face!” laughed Bradley with tears streaming down his cheeks. “I thought her baby blues were going to pop right out of her pretty little head when she heard you whisper my name! Oh man, that was too funny! But, dude, you were supposed to have said her name, not mine.”

Fletcher stopped laughing and a serious look came over his face. “That wasn’t me, bro,” he said. “I thought you were the one who whispered it.”

Bradley smiled. “Yeah, right. You can’t bullshit a bullshitter, Fletch. Like I don’t know it was you. We’ve only had this joke planned out for like the last two months.”

“But I swear it, bro,” said Fletcher. “It wasn’t me. If it wasn’t you, then I don’t know who the hell it was.”

Bradley was beginning to feel annoyance with his buddy’s insistence that he wasn’t the ghostly whisperer when he knew for a fact that he was. He stepped inside the mausoleum and walked past Fletcher, who stood, looking dumbfounded. With his hand on his forehead like a visor and a sardonic expression on his face, Bradley roamed around in the small space, pretending to search for a third person.

“You know what, Fletch?” he said sarcastically, “I’ve looked high and low and I don’t see anyone else inside this stiff house besides you and me. Unless it’s the Invisible Man.”

The sudden sound of stone grinding against stone echoed within the walls of the mausoleum and Bradley and Fletcher turned their heads in the direction from which it came. All at once, the heavy lid of the burial chamber located at the rear of the mausoleum beneath a small stained-glass window slid open. And then, like a bad dream, it appeared.

Hideous. Vile. Reeking of absolute evil. It was a thing of inhuman form and unearthly origin; nightmarish in its appearance and ravenous after its long sleep in the blackness of the crypt. Its yellowish, snakelike eyes fixed themselves upon Bradley’s, and then the thin, blackened lips of its vertical gash of mouth pulled apart to reveal the horrific rows of glistening, tapering fangs that protruded from the upper and lower sections of its great oral cavity. They resembled grotesque stalactites and stalagmites inside a cave dripping with foul and venomous slime.

Stunned by disbelief and too horrified to speak, Bradley and Fletcher stared at the beast, unable to take their eyes off of it. They watched as it rose up higher from the crypt, darkening them with its shadow as the top of its octopus-like head nearly touched the ceiling of the mausoleum. And then, without warning, it lashed out a long tentacle with talon-like claws on the end that hooked deeply into the flesh of Bradley’s throat, causing blood to shoot out through his mouth and nose. Within a split second, the creature reeled in its convulsing human prey and returned to the darkness of the crypt to feast upon its long-awaited meal. Its victim’s screams echoed through the stone structure but were soon muted by the heavy lid that slid back into place, resealing itself.

Fletcher let out a blood-curdling cry of terror and ran from the mausoleum in a cold sweat as the ghostly voice whispered his name on the cold wind, over and over and over. He tripped on the four stone steps and landed face down in a pile of lifeless leaves that were the color of dried blood.

When the morning sun of All Saints’ Day burned away the gloomy shadows of the night before and the baying of the distant hound was replaced by the singing of songbirds, the caretaker arrived for work right on time. While making his rounds through the cemetery, he discovered Fletcher wandering aimlessly around mausoleum thirteen, babbling to himself incoherently.

He was stark raving mad.