William left the Miller Street bridge behind by 1 am. This side of the cemetery was fenceless, and entrance was no problem, but the boy felt himself creeping along slowly, regardless. While the moon was moving toward being full, tonight it was obscured by a black wall of cloud. The cemetery was unlit, and every monument, tree and stone looked like a moving figure until William stood still and examined it. He moved thus from one tombstone to the next, crouching behind it and fully inspecting his surroundings before moving on.
As he neared the center of the graveyard, off in the distance he could barely make out a shape he had not seen so far. It was vaguely rectangular with edges that sloped out, then in again toward the top. He stared at it intently. Movement was clearly visible in the center of it, he was sure. Something was alive this time. The shape itself, he couldn't help but think, strongly resembled an old fashioned coffin, nothing like the modern caskets used in graveyards today. The movement was constant, rhythmical. A white shape hovered in one spot, growing and shrinking steadily. The boy was afraid, but the night was a mystery and his curiosity was immense.
Slowly, he began to creep toward it. He moved in a crouch, keeping his head below the tops of the tombstones around him. The moving white shape didn't slow or alter in any way. He drew closer one row at a time, stone by stone. After passing the fifth row of graves, the figure began to take shape: That of a finger, white and bony, but with enough girth to be covered in flesh. The finger, of course, belonged to a hand, and the hand belonged to something else.
Still, the boy fought his fear and drew nearer. What choice did he have? The movement of the finger and the hand that bore it was a beckoning motion. Slowly, over and over, the finger would point at him, then curl upward until its sharp nail was stabbing skyward. Then it would drop again, and repeat, and once more.
William followed its command as the pantomime spoke to him, “Come here, come close, come closer, boy.” As he did so, more and more of the figure became visible in the night. It seemed to be dressed almost entirely in black, but there was a white V down the middle with a tie in the center, suggesting the thing wore a suit. Above the V, the top of a face was visible, high-set cheekbones and pair of eyes. The lower face was obscured by a heavily curled beard and mustache.
When the boy was less than 10 feet away, the figure suddenly stepped to the side and revealed that he had indeed been standing before a coffin all along. The lid was swung wide, revealing a plain wood interior. The man gestured toward it grandiosely, his gesticulation continuing to speak as words, “Step inside, boy,” but when William did not comply, he spoke with his actual voice: “Enter, boy, and forget all.”
“No,” William said. Either the sound of the man's voice or William's own fear had broken the spell over him, and he began to back away.
“Why wait?” the man asked. “To refuse is to delay. You will return, and it will never again be a moment of your choosing.”
The boy turned and ran. He knew the church was on the far side of the cemetery. He only had to run until he could see its steeple, then he would know where he was. The man called after him, “Return!” he said, “Come!”
The boy ran on, putting row after row of grave markers between the two of them, but the man's voice wouldn't fade. Soon it was in his head, just as loud as ever, “Come, boy, enter the coffin, and rest! Worry not again, fear not again, and find peace forever!”
William turned as he ran, facing the direction he had come from. His legs wheeled violently to carry him backward toward the church, and he yelled back as loud as his voice was capable, “NO!” His heel hit a low gravestone, and he was suddenly flung over backward. He hit the ground rolling, and the last sound he heard, still in his mind, was the coffin man's laughter.