Kayleigh was pissed off, there was less than two hours to go before the stroke of midnight and she hadn’t received so much as a birthday card from any of her friends. Pausing for a moment at the entrance to the churchyard which she regularly used as a shortcut on her way home, she glanced upward. The last vestige of the sun was barely visible on the horizon, the rays of which appeared to cover the sky like a red blanket.
Kayleigh had of course seen the crypt before, older than the church itself someone had even today clearly gone to considerable lengths to keep it restored, if she was to hazard a guess the descendants of those buried inside were still rich enough and still cared enough to keep it this way. Traversing her way through the network of graves Kayleigh walked over to the crypt. The outer design was of Tudor architecture unless she was very much mistaken; history had always fascinated her, ever since a very young age she would set aside the comic books that her peers read and instead pour over history books, paying particular attention to the pictures of old building contained within. As she had done countless times before Kayleigh approached the crypt and silently marvelled at the skilled workmanship. Tracing a finger along the marble which had been artificially darkened in the manner of the gothic style of the Tudors she could see the hard work that gone into carving religious imagery into the stone, all of which lay in the shadow of a statue of Saint Christopher on the top of the crypt. Measuring approximately half a metre high the statue depicted the saint carrying a staff and staring out across the horizon, looking every bit the patron saint of travellers.
Traversing the crypt round to the entrance Kayleigh didn’t see it straight away, once she did she needed a double-take to focus her attention it. The crypt door had been opened, drag marks on the earth in front of the crypt telling the story that this hadn’t occurred in decades, perhaps even centuries. The fading light didn’t penetrate more than a few inches into the crypt and Kayleigh squinted, she could just about make out a coffin inside, most likely constructed of stone in the manner of the rest of the crypt.
Hesitating on the threshold Kayleigh found herself wrestling with the dilemma she found herself in; she was loathe to enter and in some way be disrespectful of the dead but on the other hand her natural sense of curiosity also gripped her. She was about to turn and walk away when the mental image of her grandfather appeared, she had been six years old at the time and he was paying the family one of his regular visits. She had never forgotten what he had said to her that day, and often repeated it as a mantra of her own in “There is no greater tragedy than an opportunity lost”, the words as clear today as they had been all those years ago.
Taking a deep breath Kayleigh tried to tell herself that both the crypt, and the churchyard that surrounded it, was probably one of the safest places in the world as everyone present was dead; she very nearly succeeded. Despite her nervousness she stepped forward, lowering her head to avoid the low set marble at the entrance which bore the family coat of arms, Kayleigh proceeded a couple of steps into the crypt and waited for her night vision to kick in now that she was clear of the light, cursing herself inwardly for not being in possession of a torch.
So intent was Kayleigh on her surroundings and not bumping into anything she couldn’t help but hear an almost imperceptible noise from somewhere ahead, sounding all the world like a suppressed giggle.
“Is someone there?” Kayleigh said, forcing herself to sound brave in spite of feeling her heart beginning to beat faster.
All around her the darkness within the crypt was thrown aside by the lights which suddenly switched on. Covering her eyes from the sudden glare Kayleigh watched as a group of her friends rose up from behind the coffin on the far side of the crypt and loudly chanted the badly synchronised word of “Surprise”. Kayleigh looked around; a black banner had been erected on the far wall which proclaimed in red lettering “Happy Birthday Kayleigh”. It was Jacob who was the first to reach her, hugging her and planting a kiss on her cheek.
“Stacy told us you liked this place, we couldn’t think of anywhere better to celebrate,” he said.
Kayleigh smiled broadly as he put a glass into her hands and began to fill it with a red liquid, her fangs momentarily visible.
“Thank you Jacob,” she said, “Thank you very much”.