Smells Like Death


Kim Pritekel

“Jesus, this place is eerie as fuck!” Eric muttered, eyes wide as he swung his flashlight beam from left to right.

“What do you expect, dude?” Denver said, glaring over at his friend. “Supposed to be.”

The two friends and two young women that were with them continued on through the dark, cold night. One of those young women and Denver’s sister, London, was scared out of her damn mind. The other young woman who clung to her was Denver’s girlfriend, Gabby. The two high school students followed along on this ridiculously stupid stunt.

“Guys, I think we should turn around and just go home,” Gabby hissed, her dark brown eyes huge as she looked around, taking in the cemetery around them.

“I second that,” London muttered, terrified of the dark. “There is stupid and then there is really stupid.”

“Stop bitching,” Denver called over his shoulder. “You didn’t have to come.”

London rolled her eyes. He’d all but browbeaten her and Gabby to come. Asshole.

The cemetery was called, Pioneer, and for good reason. It was the oldest cemetery in town, many of the graves dating back to those who traveled west in the nineteenth century looking to start over on the plains. It was a lovely study in Colorado history, and the blonde high school senior planned to study history in college, but this was a bit much.  

The beam of her flashlight was bouncing all over the place as her hands were shaking. She hated cemeteries, absolutely hated them. Since she was a child, even driving by them in a car would almost give her a panic attack, and she had no idea why.

Now, here she was on Halloween night, inside of the damn thing. Stupid. Taking several deep breaths, she brought a hand up and tucked long strands of hair behind her ear. Her heavy breaths were coming out in white puffs of nervousness.

Dark brown eyes looked around, nothing but darkness thanks to the heavy clouds blocking the moonlight. All she could see was the slices created by flashlight beams and the glow on her brother’s phone that sent an eerie glow to wash his face in unnatural light. He kept glancing down as he led them to the coordinates.

“Should be over here,” he said, raising an arm and pointing.

“This is so dumb,” Gabby muttered under her breath as she and London followed in the new direction.

“He’s your boyfriend,” London reminded.

Gabby snorted. “He’s your brother.”

“Voila!” Denver exclaimed, his voice echoing into the quiet, startling them all.

“Goddamn it, Denny!” Eric whined. “Stop giving me a fucking heart attack.”

Denver’s grin was grotesque in the shadows created by his phone. “Okay,” he said, shining the beam of his own flashlight all over the crypt they all stood in front of. “The Halloween geocache is supposed to be inside,” he explained, looking around at those staring back at him dubiously. “So, who’s going in?”

London said not one word, but simply watched to see what would happen. Her brother, older by three years and used to being in control, was expecting somebody to raise their hand high in the air and volunteer to do this bidding, just as they’d all done his bidding by accompanying him there in the first damn place.

“Seriously?” he said when nobody said anything.

“This is your thing,” Eric pointed out. “You do it.”

London actually felt bad for Eric, who had been her brother’s best friend and wing man since they were two years old. Eric’s laid back, mild mannered nature was the only reason he’d stuck around so long. He didn’t care about Denver’s need to play leader, even if it was just the two of them. He was happy to play second fiddle as long as he could wear a hoodie. London was pretty sure he’d been born in one.

Stunned that Eric was standing up to him now, London’s gaze flicked to the man who was trying to grow a beard like Denver’s full face bush, Eric’s patchy at best. For him to say no now, it told her just how terrified he was.

“Babe?” Denver said, turning to his girlfriend of nine months.

“Hell, no!” she exclaimed. “My black ass isn’t going in there!”

Rolling his eyes, he turned to London. “No,” she instantly said.

“Lon,” he whined, walking over to her. “I’m too big, sis,’ he said, nodding towards the crypt door that was open just a bit more than her small size. “Come on.”  

She glared at him. Finally, she let out an irritated sigh. “Fine.” She shoved him out of her way, not interested in his praise and gratitude. “What am I looking for?” She asked, again giving him the glare she’d learned and perfected from their mother.

He shrugged, holding up his phone. “Just said it’s in there.” He nodded to the crypt. “I guess if you see something that shouldn’t be there.”

“Like anything moving,” Gabby muttered. 

Ignoring her friend, London took a moment to gather her courage and walked up the couple of steps to the ajar door of the crypt. The building itself was about the size of a small backyard shed. It was made of stone with a metal door, which seemed to be rusted. It didn’t open further nor did it seem to be able to be closed, which she was grateful for.

Never being inside such a structure before, she had no clue what to expect. The three walls were smooth stone, the fourth wall mostly the door. The back wall had a barred window, though years of weather had rendered it nearly opaque from dirt, leaves and debris. The floor was also stone. She was very surprised to see a staircase leading down into the earth.

“Crap,” she muttered. “Guys,” she called out, “There are stairs. Whatever must be down there because there’s nothing in here.”

“Okay,” Denver called back from outside. “We’ll wait here. Take pictures!”

“Go to hell!” she responded, voice echoing in the stone confines.

Steeling her nerves, London began her descent into what felt like Hell. It was cold, the late October night emanating off the gray stone that caused every step, every breath to echo. The stairs wound down into a stone spiral, which never seemed to end. The very nature of the spiral made it impossible for her to see around the corner, which kept London’s heart racing.

Reaching the floor, she stood there for a long moment, every hair on her body standing on end. Her hand was raised, flashlight aimed in front of her, but as if in a dream, the beam didn’t cut through the darkness which was as thick and black as tar. She stood stock still, her breathing seeming loud in her own ears as panic began to set in. As the darkness got even darker, heavier and thicker, she felt her chest heaving as fear was pulling her in, wrapping her in a shroud of its icy fingers.

It began subtle but it began to grow, a scent like ….. She tried to figure out what it smelled like. It wasn’t unpleasant, almost like leather and roses. It was a strange combination but somehow it was almost comforting. But then, she felt something. Her entire body stiffened when she felt … what? A breeze? A breath?

“Oh my god!” she shrieked. “A touch!”

Terror guiding the way, London flew back up the stairs. She was running on pure instinct as she reached the top and ran head on into the door that wouldn’t budge. What sounded like a gong being struck was her head hitting the metal door, sending her lying flat on her back on the cold, hard stone floor inside the upper floor of the crypt.

London lay there for several moments, little birdies and bats flying all around the belfry. Hearing footfalls coming up from the stairs, she gathered herself and got to her feet, head killing her. She squeezed her way through the opening and popped out into the night as though from the womb.

She fell to one knee as her boot got caught in the narrow space, making her trip. Pain shot up from her knee into her leg and her hip even as her head continued to pound with the marching band inside it. Again, she smelled the leather and roses wash over her.

Slowly, her head turned and eyes widened as a figure emerged from the small building behind her. The figure was garbed in a heavy black cloak, nothing visible – no hands, no face, hair, nothing.

Eyes about to bulge out of her head, London scrambled backwards, falling down the stairs that lead up to the crypt with a grunt of surprise and pain. She kept backing away as the figure headed her way with slow, easy movements. She noted that it was almost as if the figure wasn’t even walking but rather floating.


London heard the word, but had no idea where it was coming from. A woman’s voice. She frantically looked around, expecting to see Denver, Eric and Gabby, whom the voice likely came from. Alone. She was completely and totally alone.

“Hey,” was said again.

When London looked back towards the crypt, she saw that the cloaked figure was next to her, kneeling. But, now there was no cloak. It was a young woman, looked to be around her age in casual dress for a cold October night. Her long, dark hair was down around her shoulders. She wore a winter jacket with collar pulled up to help shield her neck and lower face from the cold.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to scare the hell out of you.”

Unable to speak, London could only look up into her face, which was heavily shadowed in the dark night. And, somewhere along the way, London had lost her flashlight. “Where’d you come from?” London managed, her voice breathy from her fear.

The young woman smiled. “I was downstairs in the crypt,” she explained. “The Halloween geocache. I assume that’s why you were there, too?” she asked, amusement in her voice. “Or, do you just wander aimlessly through the city of the dead for fun?”

London blinked a few times before sitting up. “Um,” she managed, her entire being deeply unsettled. It was hard to think straight, both because of the pain but also the deep fright she’d suffered and wasn’t on the other side of quite yet.

“Are you here alone?” the young woman asked, pushing to her feet as she gripped London’s hand. She eased her to her feet, as well.

“No,” London said, looking around. They were totally alone. “Denver?” she called out. “Eric?” When she heard nothing she called out again. “Gabby?” She knew the guys were asshole enough to hide from her, but she knew that even if Gabby had gone along with them, she’d respond. Nothing. “This isn’t funny, guys!”

London felt overwhelmed as she looked around, no idea how to even begin to get back to the car without her flashlight. She felt like she wanted to cry. She turned to her unexpected companion who wasn’t much more than a shadow. She smelled that strange combination again, leather and roses.  

“Are you here alone?” she asked.

“Yeah,” the other woman said, her voice soft, like a breeze. “Come on,” she said, taking London’s hand in hers, warm and soft. “I’ll get you to your friends.”

London felt a warmth spread over her as they walked through the darkness, somehow avoiding tripping over anything as they meandered through rows of headstones, monuments and crypts in near total darkness. The cold night around them seemed to disappear and she felt like they were floating along, carried with the warm breeze that surrounded them – along with leather and roses.

Unable to think, unable to speak and unable to fully understand what was happening, London had no choice but to just go along with it. Her strange companion never let go of her hand. When they’d entered the cemetery, it had taken easily twenty minutes for them to reach the crypt, following the GPS on Denver’s phone. Now, it seemed like mere moments and Eric’s Explorer came into view.

London’s relief was palpable at the familiar sight, a streetlight not far away. “Oh, thank god,” she breathed. She placed her hand on the cold metal of the SUV’s door, almost as if to make sure it was real. She rested her forehead against the back driver’s side window and took a deep breath before lifting her head and turning to the other woman.

In the light of the streetlamp, she could finally see the young geocacher. She was beautiful with long, dark brown – almost black – hair and deep blue eyes. She was looking back at London with such intensity in her eyes that it was making London incredibly uncomfortable.

“You’re okay, now,” the strange young woman said. She leaned in and left a soft, lingering kiss to London’s cheek. “Be careful running into metal doors,” she murmured against her skin. “Or I’ll be kissing you on your lips.”

London could only stare at her, confused and stunned at her boldness. But, she was also stunned at just how much she was affected by her. “I don’t understand.”

Staying in her personal space, the young woman smiled, fingers lightly trailing down London’s jaw as she backed away, out of the circle of light from the streetlight. “You will,” she murmured, not much more than a silhouette, now. “Bye, London.”

“Wait!” London exclaimed, so afraid to step away from the SUV and the safety of the light. She took a step towards the darkness of the cemetery, only to stop when she heard the young woman speak again. Unseen, her voice seeming to be all around her.

“No. Stay in the light and stay away from the dark.”

London froze – leather and roses. She brought up her arm and sniffed. It smelled like she’d been sprayed with the scent. She smelled her other sleeve, then tugged up her sweater beneath her jacket – leather and roses. She looked up again and was all alone. She no longer saw the other woman nor heard her footfalls as she headed back into the cemetery, which was covered in dead leaves.


Again, London moved to take a step towards the cemetery but felt an unseen force stop her. Stay in the light. It’s who you are.

Again, she froze. Her heart was racing as she looked into the darkness beyond the ring of light from the streetlamp, the toe of her boot at the very edge. In a subconscious move, she slid her foot back away from that line.


Head whipping around, London raised her hand to protect her eyes from a flashlight  beam aimed directly at them. “Good lord, Denver!”

“Sorry.” The beam was dimmed with a hand revealing her brother standing just outside the partially-opened door of the crypt. “Was getting worried about you, that you’d fallen or something.”

“No, just had to search around for your damn geocache thing,” London said, the words tumbling out of her mouth even as she had no idea where they’d come from. She realized she was holding something in her hand and opened her palm to look at it. It was an egg-shaped object that was no bigger than a half dollar, if they were oval shaped. Clear resin with a white angel inside, wings spread.

“Cool, what did you get?” he asked, aiming his light at the object.

“Um,” London murmured, staring down at the angel. “This.” She held it up, Denver immediately snatching it from her and looking at it. “Cool. Come on,” he said, holding his hand out to her. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

The small blonde squeezed out from the crypt and into the cold Halloween night, the group of four staring back at her.

“Let’s get,” Gabby said, gloved hands shoved deep into the pockets of her jacket. “I’m over this shit.”

“Same,” Eric muttered.

London walked down the few stairs from the small structure then glanced over her shoulder at it. “Same,” she murmured absently, then turned and followed her brother and friends to leave. 


Note from the author: I got a cool idea while writing this so will be continuing this standalone story on my Patreon. Come join us to continue London’s journey! You can also find my published novels at amazon or wherever you get your paperbacks, ebooks or audiobooks. Visit me on Facebook or

If you’d like to tell me what an amazing writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: Happy Halloween!