On a chilly fall night my girlfriend and I stepped over the two foot stone wall and, without a word, slipped in silently among the tombstones. The tombstones leaned in every angle as the bright full moon cast vivid shadows in an unsettling way.
I was an avid photographer and I decided a picture of the old decayed and rotting tree surrounded by headstones with a full moon in the background would make an excellent shot. With “existing light photography” the camera’s shutter has to remain open long enough so that whatever light is available can enter the lens. Also, the shutter speed has to be slowed down so the light will have more time to sear the film. No mortal can steady the camera long enough without moving or shaking it, however, and this causes the picture to come out blurred. A tripod is normally called in only I didn’t have one in my back pocket so I had to find a different way to steady my camera. A gravestone would work just fine and I had a few hundred to choose from. These headstones weren’t going anywhere soon, in fact looking at the dates I noticed some had been there for over 300 years.
Some were so old the surface had actually worn away or fallen apart in many layers. Nature took its toll and now even the stone was returning to dust. The hundreds of bitter cold winters and scorching hot summers had ruthlessly eroded some of the ancient stones so cruelly that there was not even a letter or a number on their face left, just wrinkles and creases, fractures and cracks. No one had left flowers or mourned over these unknown graves for a very long time. No one knew, and nobody cared whose bones these had belonged to.
A small sentinel of stone mausoleums, blacker than night, stood guard and seemed to grow in size every time I’d look up. I couldn’t determine if they were planning pounce on us or block our retreat. Suddenly, without warning, while the clammy moist air was still, a feral wind materialized and came to life as an unseen, unwanted restless spirit made its cold presence felt.
Thick iron gates blocked the entrance to the unyielding crypts which reminded me of teeth. After this disconcerting thought crossed my mind, I couldn’t help wondering if these rusty old bars were meant to keep something out or to lock something in. Things I never paid attention to during the day took on a different meaning at night.
A chill came from behind and I realized I was covered in sweat. This chilling gust came from nowhere, perhaps from the ground, and then splintered as it raced through head stones, producing a low whistle, at first, that died into the sigh of a dying man’s last breath. Everything was still. Too still.
The largest monuments stood at least ten feet high and towered over the smaller ones, for children, I suppose, and cast long dark, menacing shadows that mocked each stone and took on a life of its own. The lesser tombstones had sunk down into the earth and barely surfaced through the uneven ground. They were frail and thin. And still others, which had surrendered to time, were split in two or shattered and the pieces lie on the ground.
Once my eyes became totally used to the bright moonlight, at first it appeared as if a light snow had fallen but this soon gave way a lurid landscape with faces and arms. The more I saw, the more these features took on a grotesque quality of gargoyles and demons. These nightmarish faces never budged, not even an inch yet strangely, they were all facing me. I tried to gulp but my throat was as dry as bone.
I set the camera down on old granite gravestone and decided I wanted to get this over with as soon as possible. My girlfriend watched as I opened the lens as far as it would go and set the shutter speed to B which would allow the shutter to stay open as long as I kept my finger on the trigger. Concentrating on this task, I did not realize I was actually kneeling on a grave and my knees were touching the stone just above where it came out of the ground.
I aimed the camera towards the diseased old tree and the enormous full moon over the field of death, focused it, held my breath and at the precise instant I was about to depress the trigger with my right index finger…*click*…. it went off by itself!