My boyfriend Kyle and I were big fans of horror movies. So, when my parents went to Italy for two weeks, I was in my glory and invited Kyle to stay with me. After all, Marlton was a quiet place, and nothing ever happened there.
We planned to watch horror movies and YouTube videos every night, but not the sequels or remakes; I always complained about them because they were never better than the first or original version. I was excited to spend the night with Kyle, even if one of those types of movies snuck into our schedule. Of course, things didn’t go as planned.
One night we saw someone in the dark walking down the street.
We looked out from behind the shades in a dark room to remain hidden and saw a man walking down the street, but the strange thing was he was carrying a shovel. Maybe I'd watched too many horror movies, but I wasn’t ready to believe it was something innocent. And it looked like there was a dark stain on the shovel.
It seemed like crows cawed at him when he walked down the street, even in the dark. Did they know that something nefarious was going on?
“Something’s going on,” Kyle said. We were both smoking weed, legal in New Jersey, making us paranoid at times.
“Let’s follow him.”
“People will see us from their houses,” I said.
“We’ll wear our costumes.”
“Someone might call the police.”
“We’ll say it’s a joke.”
“Okay.” The costumes were from when we cosplayed at a local Monster-Mania convention. I went as Harley Quinn and Kyle as The Joker. We both wore gloves. We always went to horror conventions and comic book expos in cosplay. It was our ritual. I felt like if we stopped doing it, our relationship would end. Call it OCD or just being paranoid. I called it our ritual.
We circled out of our back door and made it to the street, then ran to catch up to him
before he got too far away.
We followed and kept out of sight, but I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and fell to the
Kyle helped me up.
The man looked back, but Kyle had already ducked behind a parked car, and I stayed on the ground.
It took a few minutes, but he started walking again, and we followed him.
He walked between two houses into Savich Field, and I began to get nervous. I grabbed Kyle’s arm.
“Are you sure we should follow him? He could be doing something terrible out there.”
I pointed at the field.
“Yes, we need to know. Someone could be in danger.”
“Okay.” I led the way.
The man blended into the darkness of the field, but I could still see his movement.
He stopped up ahead, and I saw a line of objects. Were they bodies he was burying? I pointed them out to Kyle, and we crept forward. Why didn’t we bring a weapon?
Kyle took the lead; he was determined to find out. We finally got close enough to see that he was digging holes. We then put it together. He was planting pine trees on the edge of the field. It was a place where there was a lack of trees. We followed what we thought was a monster who turned out to be a tree lover
I jumped when a red fox ran by us.
“Let’s go,” Kyle said, and we made a wide circle around him so we wouldn’t scare him.
“Yeah, I feel like ordering pizza.”
“Me too,” he said.
I turned around, and a man was standing in front of me with a gun.
“Take your masks off.”
I heard a girl sobbing nearby.
I took mine off. “Becca” he said.
Kyle took his off. “I didn’t know you.”
I stepped toward him, but he put the gun barrel in my chest.
“Wait, you're Jason, the high school football star.”
“Right, but those days are over,” he said. “You turned me down for a date a few years ago.”
“I don’t remember,” I said, but I did. I thought he was a jerk and it looked like I was right.
“Figures,” he said.
“What happened to you?” I knew it was best to keep him talking.
“Injured my knee. I could never play again. Now, I’m useless.” The girl sobbed louder.
“Who is she?”
“Don’t worry about her. She's for money.” He looked back at her.
I knew then that he might be kidnapping her.
“I have needs since the injury. Pills. Do you have any?”
“No,” we both said.
“Well maybe we'll go to your house, and I’ll search your medicine cabinet.”
“No,” I said. “My parents are home.” I lied.
“We’ll see.” He told the girl to get up and then pointed the gun at Kyle. I saw my chance, grabbed his arm, and the gun went off; the sound made my ears ring, and I was temporarily deaf.
“You idiot,” he said. He pointed the gun at me again, and Kyle jumped at him, but he threw him off. A shot was fired. Then a shovel hit the man in the face. The girl screamed.
The walker we'd followed stood over Jason and kicked the gun away.
“Thank you,” I managed to say before the pain seared through my shoulder.
“Becca...Becca.” Kyle kept saying my name as a siren got louder.
The police soon took Jason into custody and helped the captive girl into one ambulance and me into another. Kyle rode with me. I lost sight of the walker.
It turned out that Jason had gotten addicted to painkillers after his injury. He needed money, and after his parents cut him off, he took his rich neighbor’s daughter to ransom her for money. He was sick and now would be in jail for a long time. The girl, Julia, thanked us, but the shovel man saved the day. All of us, including the girl, might have been killed without him being there.
The neighbors heard about the story through social media and gathered outside when we got home. They gave us fist pumps, handshakes, and sometimes hugs. I told them our love of horror movies helped us figure out the truth. I mentioned the shovel man, but nobody had heard of him. One older neighbor told us that he knew a man named Tom who planted trees like that, but he'd died a few years ago. It couldn’t be him, or could it?
When we asked the police, they said nobody else was there, and I'd hit Jason with a tree branch they found nearby. I know that’s not true, but they couldn’t say it was a ghost. Could they?
One neighbor asked us about being Block Captains, and I replied that I didn’t like politics. They laughed as they walked away.
One of them called out. “You’re the Block Guards then, no politics.”
Kyle laughed, and so did I.
Later, Kyle told me that he loved me, and I said it back. I think, despite the crazy night, we found love.
“Jason almost took me out,” I said.
“Since when did you start talking like that?” Kyle said.
“I just started.”
“I don’t like it, and if anyone takes you out, it will be me,” Kyle said. “Out to dinner.”
I laughed so hard that my shoulder hurt from the gunshot wound.
We looked out at night for Tom, the shovel man, and never saw him again, but we knew if we ever did, we needed to follow him to see who was in danger.
My parents called from Italy and asked how things were going. I said that I couldn’t complain. Kyle laughed in the background.
Kyle and I occasionally took shovels and small trees, planted them near where Tom did, and even sometimes saw the red fox.
I saw an ad for a horror convention in a month and knew we would be dressed the same way as usual. I wondered if the cosplay ritual was keeping us together or if we were really in love. I hoped that I could trust love in the future.
We stayed in most of the other nights my parents were away, but we kept looking out because if not for seeing the ghost, we would never have known what was going on until it was too late.
I still jump out of bed when I hear anything that sounds like a shovel being dragged down the street at night.
This was how we survived taking part in a real-life ghost story. I always complained about horror movie sequels and hoped we wouldn’t live in one because almost nobody survives in the end.