RedPaper.in – Short Story
By: Nidheesh Samant | RedPaper.in
“This is killing my back.”
Joe complained, thrusting his shovel into the dirt and resting on it. Bud looked up and shook his head.
“You are unbelievable, Joe. We have hardly been here for half an hour. And we are on the clock.”
“I know, bud. But, if I enjoyed working hard, why would I have picked the easy path of thievery, eh?”
Bud sighed and wiped the beads of sweat that had collected on his forehead. It was a cold, misty night. The continuous digging for the last half an hour had heated up Bud and his partner. He knew what his partner only spoke the truth. They were thieves, robbers and the worst kind among those – grave robbers. And that is exactly what they were doing right now. Bud looked over at the grave stone and offered a silent apology to ‘Mrs. Wembley’. It was not a job he enjoyed, digging up graves and stealing personal possession that lay with the resting dead. But, he had to agree, the returns were quite good. Bud got back to the digging.
Joe looked at his partner and smiled to himself. Joe knew Bud would cover up for his laziness. He always did. However, like every job they had pulled before this, they were on the clock. He pulled the shovel out of the dirt and resumed his work.
“Well, Bud, what are we stealing today?”
“A necklace of black pearls.”
“Is that even worth anything? Now, if they were white pearls, I am sure we could make a small fortune on them. But, black pearls are useless.”
“I would normally agree with you. But, my contact is willing to pay a larger fortune for these pearls.”
“That is good for us. But, why would he pay so much?”
“You ask too many questions, Joe. Anyway, he says he is a collector. These pearls belonged to Mrs. Wembley who was a famed scholar of the mystic arts, or at least so says my contact. Those pearls would make a great addition to his collection.”
“So, she was a witch, then?”
“Why don’t you focus on the job instead?”
Joe sniggered and continued shoveling dirt out of the now appreciably sized hole. It was not long before their shovels made contact with the wooden surface of the coffin. Joe looked up at Bud and shot him a grin.
“Wait, Joe. My contact told me one more thing. Once we take the pearls out of the coffin, and step out of the grave, we are not supposed to look back.”
“What is this? Some sort of voodoo? Black magic kind of shit?”
“Look, those were his instructions and we will follow them.”
“Fine, we will do that. I grab the pearls, climb out of the grave, get my lamp and get out of the cemetery. You do the same and stay right behind me. Done?”
“Done. Go on now, get the lid off.”
The robbers cracked open the lid and slid it to the side. As soon as the coffin was opened, the two noticed a drop in temperature. They could feel the hair on their hands and neck tingling and it had nothing to do with the increasing strength of the wind.
“Joe, grab it fast. We should go.”
Joe nodded and peered inside the coffin. He could see the skeleton of Mrs. Wembley lying in there, as it was supposed to. By her side, lay the necklace of black pearls. Joe reached into the coffin to grab the pearls. The foul stench inside the coffin invaded his nose. He had opened many coffins, but he could never get used to the nauseating stench. As he reached in, he noticed the skull. It was not very visible in the fading light of their lanterns, but he could swear that the skull was smiling. He grabbed the pearls, turned tail and rapidly climbed out of the grave.
“Bud, let’s move.”
“Right behind you. Don’t run, I don’t think the lanterns’ flames will last in this wind if we run.”
Joe began making his way towards the cemetery gate. He could hear Bud’s footsteps behind him. The mist had become denser. Joe could barely see the path ahead of him.
“Bud, can you see me ahead of you? Visibility is quite low now.”
“Sure, I can see you Joe. Keep moving and don’t look back.”
Joe continued walking silently. He had lost track of time. He felt as if he had been walking for more than fifteen minutes. The path to the exit could not have been more than ten. It was possible that the mist was causing an increase in the time required, but Joe did not like it. Suddenly, the silence hit him.
“Bud, are you there? I feel we have been walking for a long time now. We may be lost.”
“No, Joe. You are going fine. Just keep at it. But, don’t look back.”
Joe did as Bud told him to do. He could feel the mist dissipating. The cemetery gate was right ahead. Joe let out a whistle of relief.
“Bud, we made it!”
He received no reply.
Joe’s question was met only with the sound of whistling wind. He took a step towards the gate.
“Bud, answer me!”
As soon as he had asked the question, he felt a tap on his shoulder. Joe instinctively turned. His eyes met with the smiling face of the skull. He realized that he was back in the grave, lying in the coffin. He looked to his right and saw Bud’s lifeless body lying next to him.
“Joe, I told you not to look back.”
Joe could hear Bud’s voice. Then he realized, the voice was coming from the pearls he was still clutching. Bud had never been behind him. As Joe dawned upon this horrible realization, he felt his perception changing. Everything around him began to grow. The last thing he saw was the smiling skull of Mrs. Wembley.
He no longer held the pearls.
He was a black pearl.