The three men collected up the trinkets they had secured from inside the coffin and put them in a black backpack that Tandry slung over his shoulder. Robert then set to sliding the coffin lid back in place and shoveling dirt back into the hole.
Tandry shone his light directly onto Robert, who after a few moments stopped what he was doing and looked up shielding his eyes with one arm.
“Leave it.” Tandry said. Robert started to argue but Cale interjected before he could utter a complete word.
“It’s not our M.O. man. We don’t have time, just leave it.” Cale looked passed the gravesite as he finished speaking and his heart leapt into his throat. Someone was coming.
“Kill the light!” He hissed as loud as he dared to Tandry who took only a moment to act, snapping the switch on his flashlight and plunging the group into darkness. The three of them crouched low, Robert still in the grave and peering over the lip.
There was only silence. Nothing moved, and Cale’s breathing was impossibly loud in his own ears. He wondered if the others could hear his breathing too and in one insane moment he stopped breathing completely to see if he could hear theirs.
Tandry scanned the darkness. The wind had the trees and shrubbery all swaying gently and the soft play of the leaves against one another was the only sound. The grave they had chosen was about halfway down a slow sloping hill and as their eyes adjusted to the dark a soft illumination highlighted the crest of that hill, backlighting the old trees. A shadow moved, disconnecting from the darkness and slowly inching towards the group from the left, out of their field of vision. At that moment Tandry spotted four silhouettes making their way down the hill towards them and Cale caught movement in his peripheral vision off to the right.
“Run.” It wasn’t a shout, merely a monotone command from Tandry and the group shattered. Tandry sprinted a beeline straight back down the hill. Robert took a few precious seconds to scramble out of the hole and took off after him. Cale exploded into motion uphill and to his left, the binary opposite of the shapes he saw creeping up beside him.
Cale ran as fast as he could, he half imagined pale hands reaching towards him as he dashed passed, the terror manifesting as a long finger snagged the trailing edge of his jacket hood, putting pressure on his throat for a moment before he broke free.
He reached the top of the hill, his immediate energy already fading, and stumbled down the slope on the far side. Every ten or twenty yards a silhouette would rise out of the night murk, even directly in front of him and he screamed.
Before he knew it he had reached the perimeter of the cemetery and he launched himself at the stone and ironwork fence. The metal shook and rang in the darkness, and under his weight and momentum it creaked and broke, spilling outward as if in slow motion. Cale hit the ground with a heavy grunt. He collected himself quickly, trying to maintain his forward motion he struggled to keep his balance.
His breath wheezing in his throat, he was finally forced to stop. He laid flat, his cheek pressed against the damp moss that grew up the exposed roots of an ancient tree. His eyes were squeezed shut and he tried to quiet his breathing. He hadn’t run like that in years, his heart never pumping so hard in his chest, the exhilaration and terror entwined each other like the deeply buried roots of this tree.
As his heart rate returned to something resembling normal and his breathing first turned from a wheeze to a huff and finally to a quiet pull and give, something else took hold of his attention like the icy grip of a freshly risen corpse.
The wind had died down and he could hear the careful and stealthy footsteps all around him. Not a word was uttered.