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Chapter 1

     The Story The Authors
It was not an easy thing being Geraldine. In fact, if you really looked closely and scientifically at it, it was hard to imagine anything more difficult than a rainy Wednesday of being Geraldine, for twenty-four consecutive hours, even while sleeping. Philip
She stared into the mirror, ran her fingers through the spiky, bleached lawn of her hair, and posed a pout, a deep frown, a cherubic smile, and a callous raspberry, not necessarily in that order. Then listening to make sure her parents really were asleep, she prised open the bathroom window with spylike quietude, climbed out onto the acorn-strewn roof of the garage, shut the window almost but not completely, and slid down the roof on her bum to its edge, where she grasped the conveniently-placed limb of a trusty old oak tree and leapt into the night.
"I am Geraldine and that's my name so don't call me pis-ta-shee-o!" she mouthed as silently as she leapt as she'd screamed it loudly when she was a girl and they used to play that game.
She hit the ground with a dull thud of her thick soled sneakers with a quick glance back up towards her parent's window. No lights. Coast was clear.
Nimbly skirting a garden hose and the garbage cans she whisked around the corner of the house to retrieve the carefully stashed six pack of Old Milwaukee from its hiding place behind the rhododendrons in the cellar window well. It was going to be kind of lukewarm, but beer was beer. She still couldn't believe that she'd managed to connive Sissy's older brother into buying it for her. But she wasn't about to question his motives now, she had a party to go to.
One last glance at the house and she set off into the woods heading for the cemetary.
Simple enough, they met in a bar. It was a dingy, dark place. Old cigarette smoke clung for dear life from every light fixture in the place betraying the fact that there was no dimmer switch for the lighting. The bar itself was laid out as a rectangle, with several bartenders constantly playing surgeon with its liquid dispensing glass and hose innards. It had been an ordinary enough night. Anthony had left his eight hour sojourn in hell to slake his thirst at his favorite bar. He went hoping to find a couple of his friends there. He walked in and was promptly carded, though he was a regular, by the new doorman. After showing his i.d. he walked up to the bar and took a seat at one of the three-legged stool/chairs. Terry, the bleach-blonde bartender, saw Anthony and poured him a twenty-five ounce lite draft, his usual. Terry dispensed a couple more drinks and then took a spot down by Anthony to wash some glasses, and get the latest jokes from Anthony. One of his dreams was to be a comedian, so one day, after working up a good repoire with Terry, he started telling her bits of his routine that he was working on. She loved it, though some was, very vulgar. She laughed great belly laughs at his humor which mocked most of what he thought was wrong with society. From government to capitalism to childhood rearing, he joked about everything. None of his friends were there, so Anthony sat at the bar talking to Terry. From across the bar Anthony spotted an angel. She stood waiting for drink. Her dark brown tresses beautifully framed her cherubic face. She looked across the bar at Anthony, and he diverted his eyes. He was slightly xenophobic, so his glances were constantly averted. As he turned his eyes away, she followed them. It was a childish stare-down contest, which he would hopelessly lose. After he knew that he had caught her eye, he quickly buried his face in his drink, and when he looked up again she had disappeared. Anthony sat hoping for Terry to return so he could continue with his comedy. Just as he was pressing his beer to his lips, he felt a slight tap on his shoulder. "Hello", she said as he looked up to get trapped in her eyes. "Hello", he slowly stuttered, but he quickly shut his mouth in fear that he might scare her away. "I couldn't help but notice you and the empty seat next to you from across the bar may I sit for a while?" "Sure", he said with more than a glimmer of happiness in his voice. "I am Anthony." She held out her hand to make the introduction formal. "Anthony", she repeated, "As in the saint?" "I guess", he said hoping his thinly veiled lie would hold up. "I'm Sarah", she said. Anthony had to bit his tongue to keep from mimicking her query on biblical significance of names. They talked for a while among the more banal things of life. The music in the place started to move people. "Would you like to dance?", she asked with a sly smile. "Yes", he replied, not willing to pass up the chance to be in close proximity of someone so surely from heaven. They left their drinks and headed to the dancing area of the bar. She took him by the hand to lead him there. Michael Dzioba much for that evening's episode of If You Really Loved Me You'd Submit Gratefully... Crunching over the brittle leaves of the benighted forest, Geraldine heaved a sigh. Why did television always have to be the same, the same faces, the same stale jokes and nowhere plots, the same ethical reticence replacing truth with candyfloss, no matter the cost? Beyond all that high-falutin' critique, though, it was like an inbred child, an incurable bed-wetter, a crude and pathologically immature cousin, the one the Muses kept in the little room beneath the stairs so no one else would have to know. Crunch went the leaves beneath her feet. "I am Ger-al-dine," she whispered, sucking cold air in through her teeth; "And that's my name so don't call me coo-coo for cocoa-puffs..."
It was not a far walk to the cemetary from Geraldine's home and before long she was approaching the large iron gates that guarded the graveyard. She walked past the gates, humming to herself, turned the corner and followed the iron spiked fence to a spot where a rod had been broken, making a gap in the fence just large enough for a slim fearless teenager like herself to squeeze through. The night was moon bright and Geraldine (don't call me stupid) could easily make out the names on the grave stones. There was Harold March's grave. 1897. She past his headstone made her way up a gentle hill beyond it. At the top of the hill was the headstone for Axelianne Bennett. 1888. She had always loved that name. She turned left at Axelianne and down the knoll to large statue commemorating the Watson family where her friends were already waiting for her. cuddles
"You're late," said Geraldine's friend Sarra. "We don't tolerate lateness." Geraldine looked around at all her friends holding guns and wished they had not joined a gang. But instead of shooting her, two of the strongest teenagers held Geraldine down. The rest of the gang members gathered around the biggest gravestone and started to chant something. Geraldine knew instinctively that something awful was about to happen... Carolyn
Everyone fell silent as a dim figure emerged from the shadows. Pinned to the damp and mossy earth as she was, she could only see the lower quarter of the figure, and it wasn't until it stepped into the bright circle of firelight (gang members parting to left and right like a choreographed Red Sea) that Geraldine was able to make out the instantly recognizable footwear (calf-high Doc Martins spraypainted neon green) of that thieving magpie, her arch-rival, her nemesis, the girl who'd shamelessly stolen, practically out of Geraldine's arms, first Bobby DeBlanche and then, not six months later Jimmy Canuga the bitch Donna Tatliano herself... Philip
She blinked and the scene returned to normal. Jeremy was sitting on Pandora Holt's headstone quickly sucking down a Labatt's. spackle
"Shee-eesh," she thought, raising her palm to her forehead to feel her temperature. It seemed normal. "Musta been all those times I fell asleep watching The Warrioresses... that or too much Welsh rarebit..."
She broke off her reverie and looked up at Jeremy. "Hiya... Got one a them beers for me?"
Jeremy tossed her a Molson, but she dropped it, her depth perception was still off from the weird vision. She groaned and stooped down to pick up the evasive aluminum can. She groped the ground at her feet but the can had rolled a little ways and had fallen into a small crack. It was now wedged between an ancient looking tombstone and some dirt. Gertrude sauntered over to the grave and bent down to pick up the can, her eyes roamed over the grave as she did so. She began to scream as she realized what the blackened stone read. Aquila

May 3, 1982 October 31, 1999

"But but that's me!" gasped Geraldine. And Halloween was only two days away! Two days to live! Woe and sorrow! Eeeee! A, a, a, a brain tumor, that's it, because I keep getting confused, imagining my name is Gertrude instead of Geraldine... She fell into a dead swoon.

"Cool" said Jeremy as he sauntered over to the prone Geraldine and promptly relieved her of her beer. spackle
When he finished her beer it then seemed fitting to relieve the unconscious Geraldine of her garments, and this Jeremy then began to do in earnest. Philip
But someone hidden in the darkness shot Jeremy in the head before he could turn this into another cheap teen sex story. He fell down dead next to Geraldine. When Geraldine came to, Jeremy's body had been dragged away. She rubbed her temples and could feel a headache coming on. Then she remembered the tombstone with her name on it dated two days in the future.
"Do-do-do-do Do-do-do-do." She sang out loud a la Twilight Zone. Suddenly, she became very aware of herself sitting alone in the middle of a grave yard in the middle of the night. Where did Jeremy go anyway? That was when she noticed the blood stains, bits of shattered skull and grey matter all over her clothes and face. She was beginning to wish she had stayed home safe in bed like a good girl. Like her sister Edwina.
And it was then that she noticed the populous sets of yellow-orange, elfin eyes blazing at her over the tops of a hundred or so old headstones. Eyes only; their bodies were hidden by the darkness; but their eyes smoldered like cigar-ends as they observed Geraldine, who felt a chill scamper down the nape of her neck on daddylonglegs legs. "My name may not be tortilla, but I don't think I'm gonna like this next part," she whispered to herself with a shiver. Philip
Geraldine's friends' gang giggled, took off their yellow binoculars, and grabbed Geraldine. "We made this tombstone for you 'cause we're going to kill you tomorrow," said Donna Tatliano. "Isn't it nice?" She flipped it over so Geraldine could see the back of it.
[never being late]

"And we're starting right now," smirked Donna.
There was a flash of light, a series of queer popping noises and she snapped out of it again.
Jeremy was holding a Molson out to her. "What the fuck's your problem, man, ya wanna beer or don't ya?"
Beside him stood Donna Tatliano callously lipping a filched Kool and snapping her gum. "Yeah, what up with you Geraldine," she sneered, " the cemetary too spooky for you?" Geraldine took the beer and walked away without a word. Behind her she could hear Donna whisper into Jeremy's ear and his stupid horse laugh. God, it was hard being Geraldine today.
Someone had lit a candle and stuck it in the outstretched palm of the grieving angel that watched over the mortal remains of the Watsons. A few other teenagers lolled about swilling beers and moaning about the recent weed shortage. Propped up on Lydia Spengler (1902-78 deeply missed) a boombox softly crooned Blue Oyster Cult
All of times have come
Here, but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the Reaper
nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
Come on, baby...
We can be like they are....
Geraldine sighed and slumped down beside Adam Cox under the Watson family angel to drink. "My name is Geraldine, so don't call me wheatabix..." she mouthed softly to herself.
"Wha'sat?" Adam slurred.
"Nothing." said Geraldine and she took a big swig of her tepid Molson. "You know, Adam, someday we'll be nothing but a box of bones under granite markers and a bunch of teenagers will sit on our graves drinking beer and they won't even give a thought to what kind of lives we lived." She took another swig.
"Jesus Chris', you're a downer tonight, Ggggeraldine."
"So don't call me swingline."
Geraldine put down her beer so she could think hard. She was a little spooked by all these hallucinations. At least she thought they were hallucinations. They could have been something else. Geraldine didn't see any reason at all why she would be hallucinating, but she couldn't think of anything besides hallucinating that would make her experience things that weren't really happening.
Suddenly Geraldine remembered: Her middle name wasn't Maria! It was Sabrina! So the person on the gravestone she had seen wasn't her.
"Hey lookit the name on thish grafe!" said Adam, who by now was very drunk. "Itsh yorn ame!"
Geraldine looked where he was pointing. Sure enough, the gravestone said
May 3, 1882 October 31, 1899

[never being late]

Then Geraldine remembered her mom say, "We named you after your great great aunt who was born exactly a hundred years before you were. Tragically she died when she was seventeen." Was the older Geraldine giving Geraldine visions of the past? And if so why? Whatever the answers were Geraldine leaped off the grave stone. She didn't want to experience the 6 hours of torture!
All she wanted to exerience right now was a good buzz and maybe a makeout session with Adam, if he didn't get too drunk like last time. The name on the tombstone still disturbed her and the incessant humming of her thoughts too. More beer. That was always a good answer at times like this. Two days to Halloween. Two days before she may or may not fill that grave.
The tape in the boombox was changed to Led Zep. "Dancing Days" now boomed across the desolaiton of the cemetary. Nobody spoke. It was in that silence that Geraldine first heard the faint and distinct tapping.
It was the tapping of... STINKY FEET!!! And not just ordinary stinky feet. These feet were so stinky they could make a starving hyena lose his appetite. These feet were so stinky they could only be Alarica Brown's feet.
Alarica Brown was the meanest girl in the school. She was even meaner then Donna Tatliano and she had stinkier feet. Rumor had it that Alarica never washed her feet, even after running 5378 laps barefoot around the muddy baseball diamond. Alarica seemed to think that never washing her feet made her the queen of the entire world or something. She was always bossing other people around and if you didn't do what she said, watch out! Geraldine had heard that once Tibelda Hino had refused to get out of Alarica's way. Geraldine didn't know if this was true. She didn't know if that was true or not but she did know that Tibelda had once had to stay home from school for a month because of skull fracture. "My name is Geraldine so don't call me stupid," mused Geraldine.
"Whattija shay, shtupid?" called Alarica.
Oh no, she's drunk, thought Geraldine. Everyone at this party seemed to be drunk. And none of them were any older than 18. In fact most of them were 17 like Geraldine and some were younger. Dryden Taphi was only 14.
"I shed, whattija shay?"
Geraldine realized she had to answer. "I said, don't call me stupid."
"Ya canttell me whatta shay, shtupid!"
"My name is Geraldine."
"Diddenja realishe that b'forr, shtupid?"
"Yes. Did you?"
"Yudont shound like yove been drink'nuff. Have sh'more."
It was true. Geraldine hadn't been drinking her beer at all. She didn't want her beer. She wanted to be able to think clearly and figure out what her visions had been all about. Was she going to die in two days? Or would she just think that she was dying in two days? Maybe she would think she was dying, which would lead her to do something strange which would kill her. It was all too confusing to be thinking about at a party. But Geraldine couldn't help herself.
Maybe it wasn't the drink that was making her have these visions or feel this way. Maybe it was the smell. That awful smell. Like something that was dead. It haunted her like an old guilt. Who is this new girl at the party? Alarica Brown, where is she from? She has a strange look in her eyes. Sheila
It was then that Geraldine noticed. Alarica Brown had never come to a party before. And Alarica never had said where she was from. As for the strange look, Geraldine dismissed it as drunkenness. Geraldine walked over to the Courtland's grave, where Adam was sitting. She was about to say hello when she noticed he was flirting with Fiona Blodd. Just when Geraldine was trying to figure out where all these weird names were coming from, there was a blinding flash of light! Carolyn
Then they all had tea, quickly, and painlessly. No one ever found out how.
Geraldine shook her head. Another vision. But what did it have to do with her great great aunt? As a matter of fact, what did Geraldine's great great aunt have to do with her? Suddenly she overheard an argument going on.
"Hey getoffa Adam! He'sh mine!" screamed Donna.
"Nohe ishn't!" grumbled Fiona. "I gottim fersht!"
"Did not!"
"How'd yuno? Yornamesh on that graveshtone there!"
"Thatsh jusht my great gratant."
"Ya shejoinda ganger shumthin'."
Hmm, thought Geraldine. Donna's great great aunt... killed my great great aunt... and died the next day... (she paused to read the inscription on the gravestone) of a mysterious force no one knows about..
God, it was tough being Geraldine today. More so than yesterday or the day before. She took another slug of beer and listened idly as Adam yammered about the new carbs he'd put in his Camero. A warm glow from the lukewarm beer started to spread through her. It helped a little. The various people gathered in the graveyard wandered through her vacant stare as she nodded at Adam's banter as if she really gave a shit. She didn't but he was cute. Had nice hair and good hygiene.
And he had his own car. There was something to be said for that.
"Do you...uh... wanna go and look for headstones with me?" he asked.
"Yeah, sure"
Her heart pounded a bit. Not so much from Adam's offer. She'd expected that. But she heard the tapping again. Faintly and muffled, but still quite distinct.
So off they strolled into the darkness, down the marble boulevards, old headstones willy-nilly as bad teeth, cenotaphs crowned with angels of mercy or death presiding over god's little acre.
"Hey, look at this one," exclaimed Geraldine, bending low to scrape away the thick stubble of ivy with her flashlight from the jowls of a particularly decrepit tombstone. A stylized old winged death's-head grinned malevolently at them from the stone's crown; beneath was carved the legend:

our beloved son
Lars Ginchell
April 1, 1666 September 21, 1673
who fell asleep.

"God, but that's fucking creepy," said Adam.
"True, but it's also kind of beautiful... Because it's true, ya know?" She turned up and toward him then. An awkward, beatless silence. This was when he was supposed to kiss her, right? She half-closed her eyes. My name is Geraldine and always will be so don't call me mosquito...
And then there it came again and again more loudly that confounded tapping! What in God's name could it be? She shivered, and as she looked at Adam, she realized he was more scared than she she was.

"You hear something?" he said to her in a rasp tinged with fright. Geraldine was becoming a bit exasperated, spooks or no, she was expecting a passionate hormonal buss about now. "Wind, I guess, banging some branches or something." My name is Geraldine, so don't call me Scooby.
"Yeah, yer prob'ly right. Just gets kinda spooky out here, you know, 'round Halloween 'n shit. What's it say again on that stone?" The pair bent down to look at it again, almost bumping heads. The ice was broken and they both chuckled softly. "Yeah, that's definitely fuckin' creepy" said Adam in the hearbeat before their eyes locked and the making out began in earnest. While deep in the back of their heads it began again
tap, tap...tap, tap, tap,...tap...tap,tap...
It was the ghost of Stephen King and Marley, leering neatly thru the sinister crevice in the hollow tree where the thing shaped like a thing dwelt on alternate Tuesdays. Would Adam implode suddenly? Wiser heads than Geraldine might wonder indeed. Who could stand this ghastly onslaught? Adam winced as Geraldine hissed, "Who can that be?" The back of their heads again tapped, this time to the unspeakable beat of the unmentionable song sung by the unspoken terrors in the tiny area slightly above the fissure of Sylvius and one millimeter to the left. "It''s," choked Geraldine pallidly as she grasped Adam slowly by the nether portion of his left ear, "It's..." M. Lindsay
"...Assistant Principal Hadley is right, and I'm afraid you two kids are in a lot of trouble." He clucked his tongue and shook his head sadly. "That's why this town has a curfew. To keep you from getting into things you shouldn't be getting into. To protect you from yourselves, from all your zippy little hormones. It's too bad, too, that it had to be you two. I knew your father, Adam; we played football together. And you, I've always been fond of you, Geraldyne..." He held her chin lovingly in the cup of his hand.
"It's pronounced Geraldeen, Mr. Hadley," she replied. And I ain't no guacamole...
Guacamole indeed. From behind the tall figure of Assistant Principal Hadley they could hear the distant, sibilant syllables of Spanish and the rhythmic skwuushk! of shovels sinking into and raising up the loose, sandy dark loam along the banks of Black Creek...
Assistant Principal's head cocked in the direction of the noises with a spastic jerk. "Shit" he muttered under his breath. "OK you kids, It's time for you to run along home now" He grabbed each of them by the arm roughly and began breathlessly propelling them towards the cemetary gates. "Officer Hickey's down there. He'll see you home. And come Monday we'll start talking detention. Now you just run along now." He stood and watched them exit the gates nervously fumbling in his pockets for a cigarette from his crumpled pack of Lucky's. Before heading back into the grounds in search of more miscreants.
On the other side of the gates stood all six feet and 250lbs of Officer Matthew Hickey hands on hips trying his best to look menacing. The effect was more like a hirsute Tweedledee playing dress up. Incongruously, despite the chill October air he seemed sweaty. He always did. (The product of hyperactive glands and a penchant for snacking on pickled habeneros in the squad car.)
Assistant Principal Hadley stood pensively as Geraldine and Adam walked away. What had they seen? he wondered. How much, and whom, and at what point in the evening's proceedings? Probably just kids being kids, but he'd better let Kickey work 'em over down the station all night just to be on the safe side. If they hadn't seen anything tonight, they'd certainly done something wrong along the way, something which he, Assistant Principal Hadley, ought to know about but did not. Yet. Pain was the great revealer. It always had been. Philip
As soon as Assistant Principal Hadley was out of sight, Geraldine paused to look back into the cemetary through the wrought iron fence.
"C'mon Geraldine. You heard Hadley, let's just get out of here." Adam urged.
"No," said Geraldine pensively. "Something's not right." She walked back towards the entrance of the necropolis.
"Geraldine, what are you doing?"
"I'm going to follow Hadley and see what he's up to." My name is Geraldine, so don't call me Miss Marple. "Are you coming with me?"
"You are nutty, Geraldine. But hell, it might turn out to be kind of interesting." Adam caught up with Geraldine and took her hand.
"My name is Geraldine." she whispered as they crept through the graveyard. "So don't call me nutty."