"Next time you take up a dare, please leave me out of it."Calypso stuffs his hands into the pockets of his coat. Despite wearing gloves, the further he and his best friend Kennet went into the woods, the colder he became. The trees became more spindly with each step he took and reminded him of fingers reaching through the darkness. "Aren't we a little old for this? I had a teenager call me ancient. It's like a decade since graduation makes me eighty."
"You're never too old to be adventurous," Kennet protests, rubbing his gloved hands together against the chill. His weather app had sworn it would be a mild night but had steered him wrong. He turns a pout on Calypso. "And we're not ancient."
Icolet slogs along behind the bickering duo, the book she snatched from the library tucked safely in the satchel slung over her shoulder. "It wasn't a dare, exactly."
Calypso pulls the sides of his hood down over his ears. "I wouldn't have done this even at sixteen." He jumps at the sudden hoot of an owl. "I hate the woods."
"I'd call it more of a threat, really," Kennet agrees. He glances at Calypso and splutters a laugh. "You look like a puffball!"
"I want to see." Icolet quickens her step to take a peek. She fights back a smile. "You're so miserable, Cal!"
"I don't do the woods. Or the outdoors. The last time I was out in nature was that hayride you two conned me to get on. I still haven't seen a snipe." Calypso stills for a minute at the sight of eyes in the shadows of the trees. A blink later, they were gone.
"I'll pull it up online when we get back," Icolet promises, patting Calypso on the back.
"Technically, the snipe we told you about doesn't exist," Kennet admits. He tucks his hands in his coat pockets and meanders ahead. "But there is a fishy snipe," he adds.
"Again, I say con." Calypso nods up ahead. Days - or should he say nights - like this made him wonder if his mother was right. She would tell him as a child that Kennet was a bad influence and would be the death of him. Granted, she said this after Calypso choked on playdough after Kennet dared him to eat it.
Kennet ignores him. "I don't want to be a naysayer or anything," he says, grinding the heel of his boot into the dirt path they've been following. "But isn't it weird that some mystical boundary graveyard has a nice little path leading to it?"
"It’s not a mystical graveyard," Icolet says, voice heavy with the weariness of repeating herself twenty times in one night. "It’s the suspected boundary between two realms."
"That just happens to be a graveyard," Kennet says cheerfully. He turns back to poke Calypso in the shoulder. "I wonder if we'll see any ghosts."
"Unlikely," Icolet insists. "The book made it sound like a different kind of boundary."
"That's remarkably less fun," Kennet says, grinning at the face Calypso makes and bounding ahead a few steps.
"You're going to break your neck," Icolet says serenely.
"No, I'm - huh." Kennet looks at his feet. "Where'd the path go?"
"Please tell me you didn't get us lost." Calypso stops immediately. "While I don't believe in your spooky stories from childhood boredom, I do believe things out here could kill us. Like serial killers, bears, coyotes, rabid skunks..."
"I'm a little impressed skunk didn't make the - oh it made the list." Kennet laughs.
"We're not lost!" Icolet charges past Calypso. "There are the gates! See?"
"What - How..." Calypso was certain the tall iron gates were not there a moment ago. He follows his friends up to the intimidating structure. Guilt gnawed at him. He promised his parents and his grandmother that he would never step foot onto a graveyard. His family had a weird aversion to attending funerals and forbade him from going to even his grandfather's funeral because it meant going to a cemetery.
"Oh, cool," Kennet stares at the gate. "I didn't see that at all."
"You're too busy teasing Calypso," Icolet says, brushing it off. She tugs off her gloves and stuffs them haphazardly in her pockets. "Oh my gosh, this is happening."
Calypso reaches out and catches Icolet's hand. "Maybe... Maybe we just say that we came here and go?"
"You don't have to go in," Icolet says, expression softening when she sees the worry etched across his face. "Kennet and I can take it from here. Kennet." She wriggles the bag over her head and shoves it at him. "You're my assistant now. Carry this."
"It's fine. I just feel guilty. My mother would throw a fit if she knew I was here and I would never hear the end of it." Calypso stares at the ominous etchings in the iron bars that resembled faces.
"Hey, this one looks like a face!" Kennet pokes a decorative swirling shape in the thick iron bars. "Ooh, this one only has one eye!" Kennet leans over to poke said eye. "Creepy." He grins at his friends, balancing on one leg.
"You sure?" Icolet asks, squinting at Calypso.
"How about not poking iron? You know long this has probably been out here. You'll end up needing a shot." Calypso yanks the gate open and feels a gust of cool air hit him in the face. "I'm sure." In truth, he wasn't sure.
Kennet stumbles into the graveyard as the gates open. "Whoa!" He cries, catching himself on a hip-high statue of what could easily be a cherub or, just as easily, a badly carved stone topiary.
"Don't break anything!" Icolet snaps.
"Like yourself," Calypso adds. He watches Kennet run down the rows of tombstones, tripping and landing face-first onto the ground. Icolet mumbles under her breath as she makes her way toward him. Calypso could hear his mother's voice in his head, telling him to NEVER, she always repeated never, enter a graveyard. He takes a tentative first step forward. "Forgive me, mother..." He takes another step and lets out a slow breath.
"At least someone cares!" Kennet calls, laughing brightly enough that the abandoned graveyard felt sunlit and safe.
"Give me back my bag, I am revoking your assistant status," Icolet calls, chasing Kennet down an ill-maintained lane of graves.
Calypso looks around at the faded writing on the tombstones. He takes another step. No immediate lightning strike or plague has descended upon him. What his mother didn't know won't hurt her. He makes his way down a row. He made a few words out here and there but most of the writing seemed too faded with the only date readable being from 1888. "This place doesn't seem too haunted to me," he calls.
"It’s not supposed to be haunted," Icolet calls back, having successfully cornered Kennet. "My. Bag."
"Fine." Kennet passes it back and slumps against the crumbling gravestone he'd failed to hide behind. "Hey, Calypso," he gasps, brightening. "Why don't we leave Miss Grump here to her work and do a little exploring?"
"Go," Icolet says, unearthing the book. "With my blessing." She shoos Kennet away.
Calypso shoves his hands into his coat pockets. He could already feel the chill chapping away at his cheeks. "Sure. But I'm pretty sure everywhere you look, it's going to be more dead people." He meets Kennet around to the other side of the row. "Looks like a crypt over there." He nods towards a stone building in the far corner.
"Crypt!" Kennet claps his hands together once. "Thank you, I can never remember what those stone things are called." He elbows Calypso playfully. "I knew shed wasn't right."
"It's kinda shed-like." Calypso walks alongside Kennet towards the stone structure. "It's a shed that houses dead people instead of tools." He runs a gloved hand over the crest etched onto the side. "Looks like a family crest."
"Really?" Kennet gasps, popping his head over Calypso's shoulder. "Okay, this would be the best date find if we were on a date right now."
"And we could call it a date, if my mother didn't hate you and if we weren't among dead people." He yanks on the iron door and it props open with a loud creak. Calypso waves a hand through the dust. "Nobody's been put here in a while." He pokes his head inside the crypt.
"Yeah, she'd kill me deader than these dead people," Kennet laughs. He smiles, taking advantage of the view. "You know..." he skims his fingertips across the small of Calypso's back. "Icolet will be a while..."
Calypso leans into Kennet's touch. "I love you but I'm not doing it among dead people."
Kennet snuggles up to him. "We don't have to actually do anything... It would just be nice to stay like this a while." He smiles as Calypso draws his arms around his waist. "I love you, too."
Calypso hugs his arms. "This is definitely warmer." He tilts his head to the side to glance at Kennet. "Is it me, or has it dropped several degrees since we've been out here?"
Kennet pouts. "So you only want me for my warmth?" He nuzzles past Calypso's hat to kiss his neck. "It’s colder than it was supposed to be, but I don't think it’s dropped all that much."
Calypso hugs Kennet's arms tighter around him. He tilts his head for more kisses. "Really? Because I'm freezing." He turns around so to face Kennet and hugs him, pressing close. "And I promise, we can call it dating soon. I think I'm really wearing her down."
Kennet frowns a little. "Do you want my coat too? It would have to go under yours since yours is so puffy..." he plants little kisses on Calypso's nose and mouth. "It’s okay. We may not be a thing but we're a thing, an important thing! And that's what matters. Right?"
"I think I can make it." Calypso crinkles his nose. "If I didn't think she would run you over with her car, I'd just tell her to get over it." His mother had literally tried setting him up with every son and daughter of her friends that was around his age. "But apparently the cards told her that you were a bad omen. And that you'd be the death of me." He kisses Kennet's lips softly. "And you probably will. But I'm more than happy to go that way."
A chill comes over Kennet, making him shiver with more than the warm delight of Calypso's words and kiss. "Don't say it like that," he whispers, his hands skimming down to Calypso's hips. He pulls him snugly against him and kisses him firmly. "Don't say it like some goodbye."
Calypso laughs softly. "Now you sound like my mother and her cards. Death, death everywhere!" He lets go of Kennet to look around the crypt. "Oh, look." He pulls a few old texts off the stone shelf. "These may be family volumes." He runs his hands over the covers. "But they appear to be locked. Icolet would probably like them."
"And you ruined the moment," Kennet smirks. "Comparing me to your mom." He grabs a few books, shocked by how little dust there was. "She may be the one to die on the spot when we show her these," he laughs.
Calypso carries as many as he can. "Then let's go surprise her." He leads the way out the door. "She's the true believer after all. Maybe these will help."
"They can't hurt, right?" Kennet asks cheerfully, his good mood returning. Whatever that weird sense of foreboding was, he was happy to leave it in the crypt behind them.
"Icolet!" Calypso calls. "We found something for you!" He hugs the books tighter to his chest. A cool chill eased its way down his spine. It was a moment that was creepily referred to as feeling like someone walked over his own grave.
Kennet waits a few seconds to give Icolet the chance to reply before trying his own way. "If you don't answer, I'm going to throw these books around like frisbees!"
"What?" Icolet calls. "Why do you have a frisbee?"
Calypso shivers. "I don't see how you aren't cold." He lets out a slow breath and sees his breath escape in chilly puffs. "Can you see your breath?" He carefully sets the books down on the ground.
Kennet opens his mouth to reply but is cut off by Icolet popping out from behind a grave with nothing but the words "Duly Missed" above a date indicating the deceased was only sixteen. "Oh hey, he died young like my uncle!" Kennet cries, poking the grave.
"My hands are freezing, but that's probably because I took off my gloves." Icolet waggles her fingers Calypso's way.
"Really?" That made Calypso feel a little better. He hugs his arms over his chest. "We found, uh, some books." His lips felt numb. He bounces on his heels. "Maybe I do need your jacket..."
"Yeah?" Kennet half-turns with a smile on his face. He registers the blue cast to Calypso's lips. "Cal?" Kennet's heart stops as Calypso drops to the ground like so much dead weight. "Cal!" He screams. Books go flying as Kennet flings them at Icolet and lunges for Calypso. Before this moment he'd only ever understood the world moving in slow motion as a good thing. Their first kiss. Their first time together intimately, the awkward and the aching vulnerability comingling. Their first I love you. But now Calypso lay cold and limp in his arms. "I can't find a heartbeat," Kennet rasps. This can't be happening. It hurts to breathe. This can't be happening. "Calypso," Kennet strokes his face with a shaking hand. "No, no, no. Calypso." Kennet is dimly aware of Icolet's voice but it’s as if she's speaking from far away. He and Calypso are alone in an icy bubble and he can't wake him up.
"Let me look," Icolet says, her voice breaking through finally. Kennet's empty stare as he alternates between stroking Calypso's face and shaking his shoulder chills Icolet. "Kennet. I know CPR. Let me look." She keeps her tone firm but reasonable as she talks Kennet through his shock, the urgency of it all keeping her from her own panic. She finally manages to get Kennet to release Calypso enough to examine him, but it’s too late. A dark whisper in her head tells her it was always too late.
Calypso rubs his head as he gets to his feet. "What happened?" He turns to find Kennet and Icolet sobbing over his body. "How can I..." How could he be there and here? Unless... "No, no, no."
"First time being dead?" A voice asks in a tone that's both knowing and a little tired of it all. "That sucks."