Liza sat on the bench across her grandmother’s grave. The fresh flowers radiated their bright colors in the waning day while silent tears trickled down her cheeks as she reminisced the painful and joyful memories of her childhood.
A thunderhead rolled over the sky and blotted the last rays of the orange sun. Cicadas buzzed in the trees, and crickets began their nightly songs. The cemetery was devoid of human noise, but far from silent; the dead rested here, but life thrived in this hallowed place.
Liza lifted her gaze, and the last shaft of tangerine sunlight fell on the ancient tomb atop the hill that crowned the cemetery; the solitary and crooked cross belonged to a sainted monk—a hermit, a healer, a righteous and wise man.
The graveyard had grown around the ruined monastery, with its derelict stone walls encircling the barren hill and its lonely grave. Spiraling outward from the hill, fallen gargoyles dotted the ground around smooth and eroded gravestones with long-forgotten names and overgrown with weeds, bramble and thorny bush. Marble angels spread their loving wings over later graves that spread far beyond the original monastery grounds, winding their way around imposing trees with sprawling canopies. Fresh flowers and dried wreaths marked the love of the living and their wish to honor their recent dead, and lush grass sprouted on pristine new graves.
The sky darkened, and thunder rolled in the distance. Dense mist crawled across the ground, cloaking the cemetery in gossamer white and bleak blue dusk. Liza stood to leave, but a flicker caught the corner of her eye. She glanced in the direction and a bright spark of red appeared between the graves. Then another and another, blazing a path towards the grave atop the hill, like torches winding through the headstones on their way to a meeting place.
Intrigued, and yet, in a strange and placid daze, Liza followed them. Reaching the top of the hill, she marveled at the circle of flames that formed around the lone and barren tomb. The ground was bare of grass, and no sound echoed in the murky dusk. The dewy mist embraced her in its ghostly and loving arms, cloaking her from the torchlights.
The flames began to swirl around the headstone, and in the gloaming, Liza distinguished a figure kneeling and huddled in the middle of the fiery circle. A black cloak hung from its hunched shoulders, and a dark hood hid its face. It hummed an eerie and unearthly chant, as the flames flickered and sputtered in synchronicity to the low and gravelly voice.
Red lightning lit up the sky, and the figure stood, raising its arms to welcome the storm. Lightning struck again and illumined the hooded figure’s bulging eyes and rotted teeth gnashing with an evil grimace as it prayed and called and summoned the Prince of Darkness.
Fear paralyzed Liza and she stood shivering and sweating ice, frozen like the stone angels that watched over beloved graves, but the warm mist still embraced her and warmed her skin. She watched the twirling flames, now a complicated dance of fire-beings twisting and contorting to a disjointed and discordant music that Liza never heard, but only felt.
The hooded figure, this so-called monk and false saint, cackled and writhed with delight and lust for evil, pain and blood. Screeching for a sacrifice, it stopped its mad and graceless dance.
Revulsion punched Liza as it fixed her with its hollow eyes and twisted its rotting lips into a wide sneer. The black tongue flicked out from the cavernous mouth like a long and slithering whip, and a putrid stench surrounded Liza as the long, forked tongue reached out for her. She screamed.
Thunder roared, and lightning snaked across the sky. Her head tilted forward and jerked her awake as her eyes snapped open. Liza sat on the bench in front of her grandmother’s grave; the lonely tombstone atop the hill stood silhouetted against the blue horizon. Liza stood to leave as a shimmering white mist flowed through the cemetery. Out of the corner her eye, she caught sight of a bright red flicker…