Rene’s Playground

Grave_copy

Memorial Statue, Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, GA

Last year, I collaborated with a talented group of indie authors on a romance horror short story anthology, each story featuring one of the seven deadly sins. My story about greed, The 49th Floor, can be found in the (free!) collection on Smashwords here: Seven Deadly Sins – Romance Horror Anthology From The Fringe While you won’t find any HEA’s in these stories, there’s chills and thrills aplenty—perfect for a dark and dreary October night. 😉

But before you go, here’s a short horror story I wrote about envy that takes place in one of my very favorite (and very spooky) cities, Savannah.

Rene’s Playground

By Rachel Chanticleer

The air was thick with the stench of sulfur. Heavy and pungent, it burned Kayla’s throat as she breathed and the acrid scent clung to any skin left exposed in the humid Savannah night. Furrowing her brow, she examined the nondescript invitation left for her at the front desk of the hotel. The two by three inch card simply read: Haunted Walks Nightly – Colonial Park Cemetery – Dusk.

To her right, a horse-drawn carriage filled with tourists clip-clopped past and turned onto Abercorn Street. Kayla’s gaze traveled up to low-lying live oak branches draped with Spanish moss and she smiled. The easygoing charm of the southern city’s historic district made her feel right at home. Born and bred in Atlanta, she could still call herself a Georgia peach, but the fast pace of the city had never appealed to her.

“Kayla, hold on. Wait up!” Brooke called to her from behind. She twisted her cigarette out on the sidewalk with her sandal and jogged to catch up. “Ugh,” she grumbled, fanning her hand in front of her face. “What did you say that god-awful smell is again?”

“Paper mills,” Kayla answered. “The rotten egg smell comes from the chemicals they use.”

“That’s lovely, hun. Can you remind me again why we’re here for spring break and not, say… Anywhere else?”

“We’re here, my dearest friend, because last year you got to pick.”

Brooke nodded. “I did, yeah. And we had a great time in Miami.”

You had a great time in Miami,” Kayla corrected. “After you left me high and dry when you disappeared with what’s-his-face you met at the sandbar.”

Hooking an arm around Kayla’s, she leaned her head against her shoulder and twirled a finger around a lock of her friend’s sandy blonde hair. “He was into you first, you know.”

Kayla rolled her eyes. “Don’t start, Brooke.”

“You’re always the one they notice. But then…” she trailed off.

“Stop it.” She nudged Brooke away.

“Well, it’s true.” Fussing with her own red hair, Brooke sighed. “It’s not my fault if they turn to me when they give up on you.”

Folding her arms, Kayla stopped walking. “Don’t do this—don’t make things some weird competition. Let’s just try to have a good time, okay?”

Brooke’s pout turned up into a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Okay,” she agreed and adjusted the neckline of Kayla’s sundress. “I wish I could pull off the cute girl-next-door look like you can.” One side of her upper lip twitched slightly before she pivoted on her heel and continued alongside the length of tall fencing next to the sidewalk.

After a moment Kayla followed. The two of them had been inseparable since the fourth grade, but she never understood why her friend often acted so strangely. And if Kayla did push guys away and into Brooke’s arms, it was unintentional. She just never found anyone she clicked with. Something always felt off about the men she met; it was like they were from a different world. A world of too much. Too much bustle, too much noise.

“Is this it?” Brooke pointed to an arched stone entranceway.

Kayla looked at the promotional invitation again. “I’m not sure. Is the gate open?”

Wrapping her fingers around the wrought iron bars, Brooke gave it a pull. Metal clanked against metal and she let out a shrill scream, shaking her hands as if she had just touched them to a hot griddle.

“What happened? Are you okay?” Kayla shouted, steadying her friend when she nearly tripped over her own feet in an effort to get away from the gate.

“Fuck!” She frantically brushed her arms. “Shit! No, I’m not alright! Did you see that thing on me?”

“No, what thing on y—”

“There!” Brooke pointed toward something scurrying away from their feet.

Shaking her head, Kayla headed back to the entrance. “Jesus, Brooke. You scared me half to death. It’s a damn palmetto bug.”

With a shudder, she shook out her hands again before itching at her neck and shoulders. “Palmetto bug? Are you freaking kidding me? Sweetie, the rest of the world calls those fuckers cockroaches.”

“Whatever you want to call it, you’re fine. And look.” She pushed at the gate and it creaked open slowly to reveal the grounds of the eighteenth century graveyard.

“Great…” Brooke mumbled and Kayla laughed.

“C’mon scaredy-cat,” she encouraged with a tilt of her head and walked through the entrance. “A visit to Savannah just isn’t complete without a ghost tour.”

Lights reminiscent of old-fashioned gas lamps lined the walkway, casting long shadows from trees and headstones. The two young women followed the path and scanned the area for the rest of the tour participants.

Brooke laughed nervously. “Ah, oh well. Looks like no one’s home,” she said and turned around to leave, only to be startled by a man towering behind them. At nearly six and a half feet and most likely in his early twenties, he wore period clothing of a high-collared linen shirt and tan breeches tucked into leather boots reaching mid-calf.

“You all here for the haunted walk?” he asked in a voice as warm and rich as cane molasses.

Still collecting herself from the shock of seeing him, Brooke bristled at his question. “You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that,” she admonished. “It’s creepy.”

His mouth curved in a leisurely grin at her words, but his eye contact remained with Kayla. “My apologies—part of the job I suppose.” He extended his hand and Kayla did the same. “I’ll be your guide,” he said and pressed his lips to her knuckles.

Heat rose to her cheeks and she lowered her head to hide her own smile. When she looked back up, he still had eyes only for her.

“You can call me Ronny. And this,” he said, gesturing with his free hand to the grassy expanse of the cemetery, “is Colonial Park.”

Glancing back and forth at Kayla and the tour guide, Brooke cleared her throat. “Um, yeah. Hi. Hello?” She thrust her hand at Ronny. “I’m Brooke.” He reluctantly released Kayla to give the other woman a simple handshake. After he let her go, she made an irritated sound before planting her hands on her hips. “Okay then. Are we all there is tonight?”

As he gave a slow nod, light played over the glossy pink of a large, inverted Y-shaped scar on his temple. “Yes ma’am. Just us.”

“Fine. Let’s get this over with.” Brooke crossed her arms and wore a bored look on her face, yet Kayla still felt her eyes on her.

“If you’ll just follow me, we’ll get started.”

Ronny led the way, taking them deeper into the graveyard to discuss its history. He began with some of the more famous residents of Colonial park, including a signer of the Declaration of Independence and several Revolutionary War generals. His unhurried southern drawl and the soothing hum of the nighttime insects was enough to make Kayla’s heart sing. She would take this serene setting over downtown Atlanta any day.

Kayla admired Ronny’s tall frame as he walked in front, the gauzy fabric of his shirt clinging to a well-developed upper back and shoulders. She quirked a brow in appreciation and opened her mouth to ask a question until she was interrupted by Brooke jogging from her place next to her over to Ronny’s side.

“So Ronny, tell me. How long have you done the guide thing?” she asked, clasping her hands behind her back and adding a slight swing to her hips.

To Kayla’s relief, he didn’t seem to pick up on her flirtations. “Oh, quite some time ma’am,” he answered with polite indifference and continued the tour.

Now visibly flustered, Brooke put herself between them. She discreetly adjusted her tank top to expose more cleavage and smoothed her curtain of copper-red hair when he was preoccupied with the explanation of a grave marker.

Kayla gave her friend a push and mouthed, “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” she mouthed back, looking slightly affronted yet absolutely guilty.

They had reached the back wall of the cemetery, where broken and forgotten tombstones rested against the red brick. Ronny folded his arms and leaned against an ancient oak. He caught Kayla with a wink, ignoring Brooke as she approached. “Ladies, we’ve reached the end.”

“That’s it?” Brooke questioned. She put on a false pout and strode closer to him. “You wouldn’t just leave me here, would you?”

“He would,” Kayla warned.

Brooke didn’t bother to face her and she wasn’t surprised. She never could look Kayla in the eye when she was stabbing her in the back. Kayla was seeing things more clearly than she had ever seen them, and she had this place to thank for it.

“What are you talking about?” Brooke continued. “I’m pretty sure he was about to ask me out for a drink.”

“No, he wasn’t. He’s not asking you out for a drink, just like he didn’t ask you here.”

Confused, Brooke finally turned around. “The hell, Kayla? Seriously, what is with you?”

Ronny answered for her. “You weren’t invited.” He nodded toward the grounds. “The Park, she wants Kayla. She can sense a soul that yearns for her the minute it passes through the city limits. A soul like Kayla’s. She’s the one that belongs here. But don’t you worry now—she’ll take you, too. Only…” His smile turned dark and his eyes flashed an unnatural silver. “Only you can’t come past the gate; The Park won’t allow it.”

“That’s it. I’m leaving.” Brooke started to run, but tripped and toppled over protruding tree roots. She screamed, trying to free her ankle caught up within the tangled mass. “Kayla, help!”

“Kayla, beautiful.” Ronny walked to her and took her hands. “Prove to The Park how much you want to be here. To be with me. You do want to stay here, don’t you?”

She nodded.

“Good girl. You know what to do. Go on now.”

Sobbing, Brooke cried out to the girl who had been her friend. “Help me, please! What’s wrong with you? Why are you just standing there?”

Kayla retrieved one of the headstone fragments from the wall and glared down at her. “I’m sick and tired of just standing there—standing by while you take what you want just because it should have been mine. You can’t have him, not this time. The Park showed me what I have to do so I can stay. She showed me what to do…”

Raising the heavy stone slab up above her head with both arms, Kayla ignored Brooke’s wails from below.

 

The following morning, Chatham County’s coroner strapped the body of the second young woman to a gurney and loaded her into the van with the first. After closing up the back he walked around to climb into the passenger seat. His assistant stared at the steering wheel instead of starting the engine.

“Today would be nice,” the coroner said.

“It’s just kinda weird, don’t you think?”

Shaking his head, the coroner blew out a gusty sigh. “I don’t know son, but I’m sure you’ll tell me.”

His assistant pivoted in his seat. “Two girls found dead in Colonial Park Cemetery—it’s just like that old legend. You know, the one with the seven foot tall disfigured boy. Rene Asche Rondolier was his name. He murdered two girls here so the locals lynched him in the swamp, but more bodies kept showing up in the cemetery anyway.”

The coroner pushed back the tab of his coffee to-go cup and took a sip. “It’s too early for your haunted nonsense, you hear me? I’ve told you I don’t care for it. Now start the damn van. I’d like to get back before lunchtime.”

They pulled away from Colonial Park, neither man seeing the happy young couple holding hands in the cemetery or the red-haired woman pleading in silent screams from the outside of the gate.

2 thoughts on “Rene’s Playground

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