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                                              Sleeping Dogs
                                                                      By Chandler Morrison


“My mother used to always tell me to be careful in cemeteries.  She said that ‘the dead demand the utmost respect,’
or some shit.”  He stood looking around in the dark with his hands in the pockets of his slacks, his tie flapping
slightly in the soft breeze.  He looked scornfully at a nearby gravestone and kicked it, knocking it partially askew.

“For fuck’s sake, Nick, knock it off and let’s go.”  Molly shifted her large basket from one hand to the other.  “I need
to take care of this shit.”  She was haggardly leaning her frail body against a stone obelisk, the moonlight falling
upon her face, which looked to be in the early stages of postmortem decomposition; her cheeks were sallow and
gaunt, she was missing several teeth, and her bloodshot eyes were ringed with dark circles.  Her long black hair fell
around her face, frayed and tangled and greasy.

Nick glared at Molly and spat, “Don’t get short with me, whore.  I’ve fronted you the last two times, and if you don’t
have any cash, you’re going to have to at least blow me.”

“Not here.  Wait till I finish this.”

“Yes, here.  I don’t have time for your games.  It’s my kid’s birthday tomorrow, and I still need to buy something for
the little shit.  You can continue this little adventure later, but right now, get on your knees or I’m not hooking you up
with jack shit.”

Molly looked dejectedly up at the moon, then down at the basket, then over at Nick.  “You’ll get your goddamn
blowjob, but I need to do this now.”

With exaggerated exasperation, Nick threw his arms up and turned around, shaking his head angrily.  “Do what?”
he asked, looking over his shoulder at Molly.  “Why did you have me meet you here, and what’s with the basket?  Is
this some sort of new fetish thing you’re into?”

“We’re going to my late husband’s grave,” Molly said firmly, limply staggering farther into the cemetery.  “They
should be together.”

Nick cursed, watched her for a moment, and then reluctantly followed.

It was a remarkably clear night, with the stars and the moon glowing radiantly, bathing the graveyard in pale silver
light. The trees stood proudly against the black sky, brooding and thinking of horrible, unspeakable things.  The
wind had stopped, and the air had become heavy with a looming silence; even the crickets had ceased their
chirping, as if they were waiting with bated breath for something to happen.

“Seriously, Molly, what’s in the basket?” Nick asked, struggling to keep up with Molly’s brisk pace.  He loosened his
tie and glanced around nervously.

“You wouldn’t understand.  The crying, the shitting, the constant fucking neediness…you’d have done it, too.”

“What are you talking about?” Nick asked, glancing over his shoulder.  “And can we please get the hell out of
here?  Something’s not right about this place.”

“That’s because it’s dead,” Molly muttered, her voice barely audible.  “This is a dead place.”  After a short pause,
she said, “Her face was blue when I lifted the pillow.”

Nick either didn’t hear this, or didn’t process it, because he just looked over his shoulder again and said, “This is
your last chance, whore.  I’m leaving…you can come with me, or you can stay here with all of your dead friends.  If
you choose not to come, though, we’re done.  I can sell to other people who will actually fucking pay me.”

Molly wordlessly kept walking.

Nick’s hands trembled with rage.  He mulled over the idea of tackling the slimy trailer park bitch and then crushing
her skull with a rock, but thought better of it; he was a respected member of the community, and while he had gotten
away with his illicit dealings for years, homicide might be pushing it.

Turning up his collar, Nick muttered a few last halfhearted expletives and started walking in the opposite direction.  
A thick fog had formed, obscuring his view of the distant parking lot, which he hoped was in the general direction of
where he was headed.

“Grimy fucking whore,” Nick grumbled angrily to himself, stepping over a short gravestone.  “Ungrateful fiends, the
whole goddamned lot of them.  I go to great lengths to get their shit for them, but somehow they’re always short on
cash or don’t have the time to at least give me a lousy fucking blowjob.”

A gust of wind, shrieking shrilly and penetrating deep into the marrow of Nick’s bones, disturbed the stillness of the
night.  He stopped, suddenly very much aware that someone was behind him.  A triumphant smile tugged at the
corners of his mouth, and he said, without turning around, “Decided you couldn’t go without your fix after all, you
worthless white trash cunt?”

“Please don’t use such foul language around my son.”

It was a man’s voice, one that sounded cold and diseased.  Nick, startled and terrified, spun around on his heel and
lost his balance, falling back onto the soft grass.  He instinctively scrambled farther backward, crab-like and
awkward, until his back hit the rigid granite of a headstone.

Standing before him, just a few yards away, was a man in a ratty stovepipe hat.  Next to him was a small boy,
probably no older than six or seven, with his hands covering his face.  They were dressed in matching blue suits,
and the boy had a large yellow button pinned to the lapel of his jacket that read, “I SURVIVED CATALEPSY.”

“Christ,” Nick gasped breathlessly.  “You…you scared the fucking shit out of me.  You shouldn’t go creeping up on
people in fucking graveyards, man.”

“Language, language, language,” the man asked, shaking his head underneath the enveloping shadow of the
umbrella.  “My boy has innocent ears.  You are polluting them.  He survived catalepsy, you know.”

A fearful sensation of unease began to creep beneath Nick’s skin, a thousand tiny insects scampering along his
veins and muscles.  Something wasn’t right, and the boy still hadn’t taken his hands from his face.  Nick tried to
scoot back further, forgetting momentarily that his path was obstructed by the gravestone.

“Alas, it was all for naught,” the man said cryptically.  “For something came to him when he was sleeping in the berth
of our little boat, and that time, he didn’t wake up.  He didn’t wake up until it was too late, and by then, that
something had gotten me, too.  Maybe if I’d been at the funeral, I would have heard his screams, faint as they may
have been through all that wood and metal.”

As Nick struggled to process all of this, the gravity of the situation hit him like a pillowcase full of soap bars.  The
most telling factor was the man’s eyes, which were hazy and overcast and entirely devoid of any glimmers of vitality.

“Why are you…what is going on?” Nick croaked weakly, the coldness of the gravestone behind him beginning to
stab through the cotton of his shirt.

“Take down your hands, son,” the man said, ignoring Nick’s question and putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder.  
“Show him what we’re all about, here.”

The boy complied, letting his hands fall limply to his sides.

Nick’s mouth stretched open, letting forth a bloodcurdling scream that startled a murder of crows from a nearby
tree, where they’d been watching the scene with grim fascination.  He dug his fingernails into the soft earth, tearing
up clumps of grass and dirt.  He felt his heart flutter unpleasantly, and then his chest and left arm were seized with
horrible pain, a thousand cattle brands scalding his flesh, the muscles within tensing up and coiling around each
other in a frantic attempt to brace themselves from the roiling tremors of agony.

The boy was without a face.  Or, rather, his face had been turned into something reminiscent of a face, but not the
human sort.  Where his eyes had been, two large triangles had been carved.  A smaller, cruder triangle had been
cut into the place where his nose had once been, and a jagged, toothless smile had been whittled all the way from
one ear to the other.

“It gets even better,” the boy-thing’s father said, taking a book of matches from the inside pocket of his sport coat
and striking it.  He then took a handful of the boy’s hair, lifted off the top of his head, and dipped the lit match inside
his black, vacant skull.  A candle sprung to life, sending a warm yellow glow from the holes in the boy’s pale face.

“Isn’t that great?” the man in the hat said, beaming proudly.  “Just like a jack-o-lantern, am I right?  My boy always
loved to carve pumpkins, and death tends to turn the things we love into…caricatures.  Yes, I think that word fits
about right.”  He replaced the top of his son’s head and lovingly squeezed the back of his neck.

Nick’s scream had died down into a hoarse, wheezing whistle; his vocal cords had, under the strenuous exertion to
which they’d just been subjected, thrown in the towel and snapped like cut guitar strings.  He wasn’t even sure this
was a possible phenomenon, but he was also strangely certain that this was exactly what had occurred.  He tasted
coppery blood in his mouth, and it trickled from between his lips.

He heard a rustling in the grass to his right, and when he saw what was crawling towards him, he tried futilely to
scream again, succeeding only in causing a fresh surge of warm blood to seep from his mouth.

Advancing with inhuman speed was a hellish abomination which Nick could only assume had been spawned in the
deepest and darkest corridors of the universe’s gurgling depths.  It bore passing resemblance to a woman, but its
skin was a sick green color and its eyes hung from pink stalks several feet long that swayed and swung through the
air as it pulled itself forward with only its frail, sore-covered arms, its bent and misshapen legs of no use to it,
instead just dragging along behind it like forlorn disfigured children forgotten by a neglectful mother.  Its mouth
hung open hungrily, a gaping cavity lined with rows of long yellow teeth the size of piano keys.

I won’t let it get me, Nick thought frantically.  I won’t.  Thus, with a pained grunt, he summoned all of his remaining
energy and hauled himself to his feet, his right hand clutching at his throbbing chest.

“Don’t even bother running,” said the man with the umbrella.  “You’ve woken us up, now, and this is how we do
things around here.  We have shallow graves, you know, and we’re very light sleepers, which is precisely why you
should have minded the volume of your voice.  And by the way, Gretchen here would probably love to give you a
blowjob, if you ask her nicely.”  He gestured to the crawling thing in the grass, which was now but ten yards from
Nick.

Nick managed another pitiful grunt, and then he broke into a loping, awkward run.  He could see more shadows
ahead in the distance, and to his sides, as well, lurching up from their resting places and crawling, shuffling,
sprinting towards him.

The pain in his chest and arm intensified, and he collapsed in front of another gravestone, this time ironically the
one he had kicked during earlier, better times.  He lay panting and gasping, completely knowledgeable of the
approaching dead but powerless to do anything by lie there and gasp for breath that would not come.

“I told you this is a dead place,” came Molly’s voice, and she emerged from the fog, looking every bit as dead as the
long-time residents of the cemetery.  “The dead lie here, and now you do, too.”  The basket was gone, and she now
held in her arms the limp corpse of an infant, its flesh mottled and its face blue, just as she’d said.  “They’re going to
touch and caress you just a bit, which you won’t enjoy, and then it is going to come.  The same something that
carved that boy’s face like a pumpkin.  I wonder what it’ll do to you.”

Nothing.  I won’t let it do fucking anything to me.  With the last fumes of his dissipating energy, he got to his knees
and placed a hand on either side of the tombstone in front of him.  He gritted his teeth, closed his eyes, and
brought his forehead down upon the edge of the granite as hard as he could.  Pain exploded throughout his entire
body, rattling his frame and sending hot blood cascading down his face.  He felt the world around him beginning to
fade, but he would not let unconsciousness take him before death did.  He had to end his life himself before the
others did it for him, so he again slammed his head into the gravestone, harder this time.  He heard a sickening wet
crunch, and all feeling flushed from his body, materializing in the bloody urine that gushed out of him in short
successive bursts.  He lay convulsing in the grass, jerking and twitching like a marionette doll beset with epilepsy.  
Molly came and stood over him, and then she dropped the dead baby onto his face.  It stirred, and then it began to
wail in such a fashion that only death by maternal smothering can make possible.

Nick was dimly aware that the thing called Gretchen was now upon him, and it was fumbling eagerly with his belt.

And I didn’t even ask nicely, he thought absurdly as his brain started to flicker and power down.  I’m leaving, now.  
Leave the phone off the hook, and tune the piano lest it runneth dry.
About Chandler Morrison
Chandler Morrison is a
Cleveland-based
philosopher and fiction
novelist from Helltown,
California.   His writing
typically explores taboo
topics, and tends to be
harshly critical of American
society and culture.  His
debut novel, Dead Inside,
was published in April of
2015.