Racin' Flames and Ghost Dames

by Marcus K. Lambert

"It's the nineteenth," Nick had said. "Let's go sneak into Oak Hill!"

"You're crazy," I told him. "There's ghosts there even when it isn't the nineteenth."

"I know, but they say that Emer's '32 pulls up to the gate and waits for her to come out of the grave . . . then they take off down the street and burst into flames!"

"Flames? Whatever."

"C'mon . . . I'll buy ya a slushy at the Seven on the walk back."

So there we were: Me crouched behind a slab of marble that read STOWESKY and Nick behind one that was so worn the name couldn't be read in the dark. I was sucking on the blood coming from my forearm where the fence had punctured it, staring at the headstones next to the juniper bush . . . particularly the one that said MARRIN.

"My dad told me Emer had a sister that got killed in a freak accident, too," Nick whispered. "Said it was a different car, but that Emer'd been working on it just the night before." He made an explosion gesture with his hand and a silent O with his mouth: BOOM. 

We were bored after half an hour, and we'd both agreed that we wouldn't leave until after midnight—

But it happened at 11:41.

"Bryce . . . look!"

We'd expected to see her ghost bubble up from the grave all gnarly and decayed looking, but instead of the shape of a woman there was one wicked-looking roadster by the headstone where there hadn't been one minutes before . . .

Looked to be about a '32. I had an eye for 'em because my uncle was a roadster freak. Practically lived at the Bonneville Salt Flats from his twenties up to the day he died. 

"Bryce . . . are you seeing—"

"Yeah," I mumbled, "I see it."

It was transparent at first, but changed as the seconds passed. It seemed to grow bolder, solid. Real.

Then there was a stirring around the headstone, like wind blowing around silver dust, and a human shape— Nick lost his nerve at that point and started backing away through the leaves. "Screw this!"

There was a sharp click that echoed through the cemetery and the phantom car's driver-side door opened. I turned to look at Nick, to find some clue what to do, and that is when I saw the rotten hand come down onto his shoulder.

We both screamed. Nick rolled to his side to escape the ghoul's grasp. A light seared through the dark and blinded me; I threw a hand in front of my face to block the brightness.

"What're ya kids doing here, uh? Thought ya's was vandals."

The light moved to the ground in front of me and I saw that it was Mr. Koltz aiming it, Oak Hill's sexton.

"Boys should be home asleepin. Come on, I give ya's lift home." 

Nick and I both turned to look at the grave marked MARRIN: Nothing there now but shadows and leaves. 

Mr. Koltz's Monte Carlo was just down the hill, and I guess we could have mistaken it for a chopped phantom coupe . . . I guess. We dropped Nick off first. "Yeah, so . . . see you tomorrow."

"Okay . . . night."

Nick became a blur in the rearview. My house was ten miles from his and the road was now inky black, like graveyard shadows . . .

"What're you doing out so late anyway, Mr. Koltz?"

"Came to clean up after tha car, a'course."

"C—Car?" 

"Sure. Old Emer Aldridge's. Leaks oil all over tha grass." Koltz waved his hand, "Mess."

Suddenly headlights come to life behind us—and flames, too.

"Ayuh . . . an' them wild kids always wants to race afterwards."