The Gravedigger’s Score

Halloween Story

The Gravedigger’s Score
fiction by J.Macon King

The jutting hill of San Rafael cemetery was quiet in the chilly night air. A cloud passed the moon as an old 4-Runner chugged up with headlights off and parked. The driver window rolled down. The four Redwood High teenagers sat in the truck, wordlessly peering at the headstones—muscular, recent-drop-out Gerard at the wheel and his wing-man, Aaron, at shotgun.

“OK, we came to the graveyard at midnight—let’s go back,” JJ blurted from the back seat.

“Shhh, you nimrod, we’re checking it out,” hissed JJ’s older brother Dylan, elbowing JJ in the shoulder.

Another silent pause. “Oo-ooh, OK, let’s go have some Halloween fun, boys,” intoned Gerard turning and holding a lit flashlight under his face, giving his handsome features a gaunt look. The boys got out except for JJ.

“Wait. I heard something really messed up happened here one Halloween night,” JJ said.

“Com’on scaredy cat,” goaded Dylan. The rest of the boys were already walking off. JJ reluctantly got out of the vehicle and followed.

The timeworn gravestones reminded JJ of giant misshapen teeth sticking up from the ground. The boys picked their way through the tombstones as they illuminated and darkened under the cloud-veiled moonlight. Stone crosses, worn “Born” and “Died” dates, a carved stone angel lit up, shadowed, again glowed.

“Cool but kinda creepy,” JJ muttered to the angel. A pale hand reached from the angel and clawed at him. JJ jerked and gasped. The rest of Aaron appeared laughing. “That’s not funny, Aaron.”

“It’s not creepy, it’s not funny, it’s just stupid,” Dylan snarled. “We left a party to come out here?”

“Come on you guys, you sightseeing or you going to help?” Gerard called out ahead. Gerard was eyeballing an old, tall slab of a marble tombstone.

“What are we doing?” JJ asked.

“We’re knocking over a tombstone, what do ya think?” Gerard replied.


“That’s what you do on Halloween,” Aaron stated. “Just a bunch of old people here that died. That’s what old people do.”

“I some stones marked ‘infant.’”

“Fine. We won’t push over the little baby ones then. Just the big ones. Whatever.”

“This is a really tall one…it might… I don’t think we…”

“Just push, will ya.” Gerard directed. The boys grunted and as they pushed. JJ tried to decipher the worn dates engraved below the name, “McGreevy.” Aaron suddenly moved behind the stone to give a huge yank. With a sudden snap, like a broken bone, the tombstone toppled over.

“Ahhhwww!” cried Aaron. The heavy marble stone had landed on Aaron’s leg. “Oh my God. Get it off!”

“Shhh! Someone will hear! I told you to push, dumbass, not pull it over on you. Let’s all lift,” ordered Gerard. “Ready? Lift?”

“This thing is way too heavy,” Dylan grunted. The stone slid a bit then settled. Aaron yelped  in anguish but the boys could move the stone no further.

“We have to find a board or something to pry with,” Gerard panted. “Spread out.”

“Aohhhh. I don’t believe this. Hurry, my leg really hurts. I think I broke it,” Aaron groaned. The boys hurried away.

After a moment a noise and a curse sounded from a short distance. “I just tripped over a freakin’ shovel,” Dylan whispered loudly.

“Good. Bring it back Dylan,” Gerard answered. The moon clouded over. Darkness.

A cry, followed by a thud and a clang. Two boys’ voices called out “What was that?” “Who is that?” “Dylan, what happened?”

No answer. Gerard’s pulled out a flashlight and wavered it around, revealing Aaron still under the stone, then JJ a distance out. Gerard circled the light around the white stones.

“I think he was t-there up t-the hill,” JJ stammered. Gerard and JJ walked up. A mound of dirt and a freshly dug grave appeared. The two stalled and looked at each other.

“Uh, JJ, what was that weird thing that happened here last Halloween?” Gerard asked.

“Couple of guys were in this same graveyard. Something spooked them and one of them totally freaked. Maybe permanently. Had to be sent away to…someplace.”

Gerard shone the light in the grave and they peered in. A body was six feet down in a twisted position with the shovel on top of it. Dylan.

“Jesus! Dylan, you all right?” JJ called. No answer. “Dylan! Oh, no. He’s hurt. Maybe he’s dead. Oh, man. We should have never come.”

Gerard smacked him on the back. “JJ, shut up for a minute. I have to think.” A weird muffled shrieking noise started. “Aaron, is that you?” No answer.

“Oh, man. We have to get out of here!” Gerard was losing it now.

“No. We have to get down there somehow and help my brother!” JJ cried.

“No, we have to get help! Let’s go.” Another shriek, louder and closer. Gerard swung the light around and accidentally hit JJ in the face, who yelped in pain. The flashlight clattered into the grave, lit up Aaron’s closed eyes for a second, then went out.

“Ooooow! Gerard, what the….” JJ held his face—sticky feeling.

“Sorry, dude. Come on let’s get to my truck.”

Aaron’s voice cried out, “Don’t leave me! Don’t you guys leave me here!”

“Which way is the car?” JJ asked. “It’s so dark now.” JJ pulled out his phone to use the light. “Down there I think.”

Gerard took JJ’s arm and they walked fast downhill. A moan came from right behind them. The boys screamed and ran recklessly, both banging their legs into a low headstone and almost falling. The phone slid out of JJ’s hand and the light died.

“Damn it.”

“Help me! Don’t leave me, pleasaase!”

“Is that Aaron? Or Dylan, now?” asked a terrified Gerrard. “Or a ghost?!”

Heavy footsteps behind them.

“Oh, man. Over there, a shed. Go, go, go,” JJ gasped, pointing toward some oak trees.

They hurried, Gerard now hobbling, toward the colorless building. JJ kicked the heavy metal door open and the two ran in and threw their bodies against the door to shut it. The clank of a latching mechanism. The building was dark as a tomb and deathly silent. The teens could see nothing. JJ fumbled through his pockets and found a matchbook. Trembling and failing a few times he finally got one to stay lit.

“Holy hell,” Gerard said. “Your face is really bloody.”

The boys glanced around, the flame flickering on the back wall brass plaques. This was not a shed. They were in a white marble mausoleum, filled with sealed stacks and rows of the interred dead.

A horrible moan sounded just outside the door. The boys shrieked inside this house of the dead. The match burnt JJs fingers making him drop the match and matchbook. Again, gloom. Inky black, blind-man darkness. JJ dropped down, his fingers searching frantically for the matches. The floor felt wet, the matchbook seemingly vanished.

“Help me find the matchbook. It has to be right here. Hurry.”

Gerard stooped down, banging his face into JJ’s head, eliciting “Ows!” from both of them. An eerie dull scraping sounded behind them. The boys gasped, grabbed each other, sinking to the floor, straining their ears. Now, only the sound of their own panting, terrified breath. Then more scrape, scrape, scraping sounded from all over the back wall. Like tens and tens of fingernails on a blackboard.


At sun-up, the old gravedigger McGreevy strode up the hill. He immediately noticed the single broken stone. Soon, the trapped Aaron and half-buried, half-dead Dylan. They were shivering, broken, bloody and crazed with fear. It took a little longer to get the mausoleum door’s rusty latch open to get to JJ and Gerard.

The ambulances arrived. Later, the head EMT commented, “Strange. All very strange. The two teens who were trapped under the stone and in the grave wouldn’t stop raving, but the two trapped in the mausoleum just stared vacantly, not saying a word. Their faces completely bloodstained as if wearing masks, fingernails gory and all but gone.”

“New score,” the gravedigger muttered.

“What’s that you say?” the EMT asked.

“This Halloween.” The old gravedigger spat tobacco juice and gave a grim smile. “Cemetery 4, Vandals 1.”




The Gravedigger’s Score is an award-winning story originally published in the Marin Independent Journal. Now revised.