Black Rose published through Infective Ink
December 20th: Ghost Stories Black Rose, by Joshua J. Mark
Sarah Bain ran stumbling between the stones of Old Calton Hill cemetery. All she could hear in her head was her own rasping breath. Tripping over the edge of a stone, she fell forward heavily on the wet grass, scrambled up, ran on.
The cemetery hadn’t seemed so scary when she’d walked in. Now, every time she ran toward a gate it was choked with whirling ghosts and, all around her, they darted and sped.
She paused, trying to catch her breath. From between and behind and beside the rows of cold stones, silver-white under the high moon, they slithered from the earth into the pale night air and sank again back down. Formless shapes of greenish-white, some a faint blue, they sailed through the graveyard.
Sarah trembled, wiping quickly at her eyes. She hadn’t realized she’d been crying. Every where she looked they rose and fell silently and, she suddenly realized, seemed oblivious to her presence. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, watching the darting apparitions. As her head began to clear, she glanced over at the far gate in the wall and saw her chance to escape. There were none of the greenish-white spirits dancing near it now but it seemed so far away.
It was supposed to be so simple. Just return the necklace. But nothing in her life lately was simple so why should this be? She’d found the silver necklace on a class trip the week before, in the grass near a stone in the cemetery, and picked it up. Since then, nothing but bad luck and dark dreams had followed her. There was a girl at school, Rebecca Pender, whom everyone said could see and knew about ghosts, so she’d asked her friend James Gardener to introduce them.
After she’d explained picking up the necklace in the graveyard and then her recent break up with her boyfriend, her slip on the back deck which bruised her hip, losing the keys to her house, and the horrible dreams of the woman in black glaring at her, Rebecca had sat back in the chair in the cafeteria and shook her head. She leaned forward then and, unsmiling, spoke to Sarah like a teacher scolding an errant student.
“Ok, rule one in dealing with the dead: Don’t take their stuff. If you find a diamond in a graveyard, you leave it where you saw it.”
“Would’ve liked to’ve heard that bit earlier.”
“It needs to go back,” Rebecca told her.
The problem was, first, she honestly couldn’t remember which stone she had picked it up from and, second, she wished she hadn’t come back to do this alone when James had offered to help. She’d never felt so scared. She didn’t think she could move. There seemed no escaping from anything.
Now, as she watched, the apparitions began to assume human form and shape. She stared as they moved slowly through the rows of stones, ignoring the far gate, heading down the stone steps of the gate to the Edinburgh streets or, some, just standing and gazing silently.
Sarah stepped quietly back toward the wall behind her and began slowly moving toward the gate on her far right. The shadows of the wall moved thickly with darker shapes and she felt cold and then colder and then, before her, a woman’s face, pearl-white, staring.
Stumbling, Sarah fell backwards across the grass. The woman seemed to grow to an extraordinary height, staring down at her. She wore a long, dark dress and held out her right hand toward the trembling girl.
Instantly, Sarah’s fingers went to the necklace at her throat. She wanted to give it to the woman but, somehow, couldn’t seem to move. The woman’s face grew dark and her eyes narrowed. Sarah pushed herself up onto her knees and, trembling, tried to slip the clasp.
The ghost glared down at her silently.
Sarah’s fingers fumbled with the clasp and suddenly she felt a searing pain. The chain tightened around her throat and then tightened again. Sarah clawed at her neck but the chain only drew tighter and then tighter and she heard what sounded like laughing above her as the cemetery began to fade to black and, from far away, she heard a shout and then a sound like horse’s hooves running and then there was nothing.
She opened her eyes and breathed, then coughed, sitting up. On one side of her knelt Rebecca and, on the other, James.
“You’re all right,” Rebecca said.
“What happened?” James asked.
“It was horrible. Did you not see her?”
“See who?” Rebecca said. “You were passed out when we found you.”
“There was a woman all in black. A spirit. She was terrible. I couldn’t breathe.”
“Black Rose?” James asked Rebecca.
“Black Rose,” Rebecca said. “People say it’s just a story but it’s not. In eighteen-twenty-five, Rose Campbell was strangled with a necklace her husband claimed he’d never seen before. The killer was never caught. They say she comes back on the anniversary of her death to look for him. She’s always in black. The necklace you took must’ve been hers. Drew her to you.”
“I want rid of it,” Sarah said, slipping the clasp quickly and handing the necklace to Rebecca.
“Let me help you up, Lass,” James said. “We’ll get you something warm for to drink.”
“Thanks,” Sarah said.
She watched as Rebecca, walking slowly, scanned the stones in the nearest row.
Sarah, trembling, made herself move. The cemetery was silent and empty now save for the three of them. She stood next to Rebecca and read the stone.
“Rose Campbell. Eighteen-O-Five to Eighteen-Twenty-Five. Blessed Are The Dead That Die In The Lord.”
“She wasn’t much older than we are,” Rebecca said. “Here,” she said, handing the necklace to Sarah. “You took it. You put it back.”
Sarah fell to her knees in front of the stone, pulling at the wet grass and earth with her fingers, and buried the necklace, pounding the ground back down. She was shaking badly and started to cry. Rebecca pushed a large, flat stone over the spot where the necklace was buried.
“That’ll keep it safe.”
Standing up, Sarah saw Black Rose on the other side of the stone gazing steadily at her – and then slowly fading away. The breeze blew suddenly sharply from the north, then, whispering through the silent cemetery.
Sarah reached out and touched the worn stone. Then, turning away, she cried, softly. “Get me out of here.”