This story is by Christie Lessman and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Have A Seat
The darkness was lit by a pristine full moon, hanging like a lantern against rust-colored leaves. Everlee had hoped Nash would ask her out, though now she had second thoughts. Nash had purchased the premium tour package that started with a lecture on paranormal activities by an esteemed psychic. After the lecture, they headed for the infamous North Fork cemetery.
As they disembarked the bus, Everlee and Nash were greeted by a mist coiled around their ankles and the gravestones marking the resting places of souls whose stories echoed through the years.
“I’ve done my research,” Nash whispered. “Tonight is the first full moon after the Harvest moon, and it’s my lucky night.”
Everlee idly watched as the people around her stepped off the bus, chatting happily.
“Greetings,” the tour guide said, hushing the conversations. “We are entering the North Fork cemetery, with its remarkable and well-known folklore. Beyond these gates is a tomb containing a mummified body in a glass casket.” Everlee felt a shiver run over her as she listened. “A horrifying scream could rise through the night, piercing the darkness and leaving an icy chill in its wake. Last but never least, the Devil’s Chair, its dark secrets daring all to try their luck.”
Led by their guide, the group ventured into the cemetery. Everlee’s pulse quickened at the strange familiarity of this place.
“This cemetery is notorious for its real-life paranormal encounters that famous reality shows have documented,” the guide said as she stopped and turned to the crowd. “We begin our ascent up the hill. On the left is a tomb where lies a girl, her organs preserved in a canopic jar situated near her mummified body. Legends tell us that during the witching hour, you can hear her heart beating like a ticking time bomb counting down until sunrise.”
Everlee’s eyes widened as she watched the group glance through the small window in the tomb’s door, each peeking inside, hoping to catch a glimpse of the corpse or hear the heartbeat.
“Thanks for joining me,” Nash murmured. He felt she was too high-class for him, but he took a chance, and she said yes.
“I was expecting dinner and a movie, but this is surely one-of-a-kind for a first date.” Everlee smiled as he clutched her hand gently, giving her a sense of assurance.
He said it playfully, which made him more endearing to her. “It’s just like placing a bet,” he whispered.
Nash led her past a few graves until they arrived at the Devil’s Chair, a structure made of stone, standing out in the darkness like a gleaming black beacon.
“It’s an urban legend,” Nash’s voice wavered as his gaze remained fixated on the cursed chair. The chair legs were entwined with intricate snake patterns that seemed to move as if the creatures themselves were alive. Everlee could make out every line of the designs as an aura of dark energy surged from the chair.
“I don’t like this,” Everlee said, stepping back.
“This is the Devil’s Chair, surrounded by superstitions that started with a dare,” the tour guide said as she came up behind them. “The stories suggest that a person brave enough to sit in the chair at midnight under a full moon may be punished immediately for impertinence or rewarded with seven year’s good fortune. What follows is a gamble — good fortune or damnation.”
“Nice,” Everlee whispered to herself.
“Legend has it that the ritual only works if you do it under a full moon during the stroke of midnight,” the tour guide said. “For the not-so-daring, the story goes that if you set a bottle of wine in the chair tonight, it will be empty and still sealed by morning.” The group gazed at the chair, some letting out chuckles at the tour guide’s comment. “I heard the Devil prefers beer, but wine sounds classier,” she jested. The group laughed heartily in response. “So, if you smell booze-soaked breath whispering in your ear, it must not be a legend.” The tour guide started walking away with the group following. “Ahead of us lies the oldest part of the graveyard, rumored to be filled with wandering Civil War soldiers.”
“Come on, Nash,” Everlee started to follow the group but stopped and turned to look at Nash.
Without hesitation, Nash sat in the chair. He glanced at his watch and grinned mischievously. “It’s almost midnight,” he announced, “and there’s a full moon.”
“No!” Everlee’s voice erupted with fear as her hands shook with desperation. “Please, don’t do that!”
“This is my chance,” Nash said as he stared at his watch, ticking closer and closer to midnight. When it finally struck twelve, he shut his eyes and took a deep breath.
Everlee backed away, nearly tripping as she looked towards the gates and wondered if she should run. “See,” Nash opened his eyes and exclaimed triumphantly. “Nothing happened, but I made a deal, and it will be good fortune for us!”
“Why did you do that?” Everlee asked as Nash grabbed her hand and tugged her along the path to join the rest of the group.
After that night, their lives changed. Nash got a promotion, and within a month, he proposed, and she accepted. Apart from the ghost-hunting excursions she didn’t enjoy, he made her feel treasured and cherished – a feeling she embraced. Plush first-class seats on an airplane to Vegas replaced the grand wedding of Everlee’s dreams as they started their new life.
“Are we living too fast, my Everlee?” Nash gazed at her as the stewardess poured her a glass of champagne. His wish had come true.
Everlee leaned in and kissed him gently, whispering, “We’ve got plenty of time, a lifetime ahead of us.” She slowly sipped her drink as Nash smiled at her.
On the anniversary of their first date, Nash always booked tickets to the same haunted tour.
“Why do we do this every year?” Everlee questioned.
“It’s not only the commemoration of our first date, but it’s also been seven years since I made a deal in the Devil’s Chair,” Nash said as he pulled her inside the gates. “I’m making a deal for another seven years.”
“No,” Everlee shook her head nervously. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“It’s the only idea,” Nash replied confidently as he took her hand.
Nash and Everlee went unnoticed this time as they slipped away from the group, heading for the Devil’s Chair.
Everlee looked up and saw the full moon shining in the night sky. Was it a sign of good luck or perhaps something more sinister? She couldn’t help but feel uneasy.
Without hesitation, Nash sat in the chair. He closed his eyes, making another deal as midnight was upon them.
“Here is the Devil’s Chair,” the tour guide said as the group approached. Everlee looked at the guide, waiting for a response to Nash being in the chair, but it was as if she didn’t see him. “The story goes, seven years ago, a couple had come on this tour, and the man sat in the Devil’s Chair under a full moon, and at midnight he made a deal. The man slowly vanished into oblivion, with the woman staring in horror. Legend has it that sometimes, you can glimpse them if there is a full moon. We are fortunate tonight. This is the first full moon on this date in seven years.”
“Can’t you see him?” Everlee asked the tour guide, who seemed to not hear her. “Don’t any of you see him,” she shouted to the group, though they seemed unaware of her distress. Turning toward the chair, Everlee realized she couldn’t see him either.
“Beware what you wish for,” the guide warned in a sinister tone, causing the group to chuckle as they continued up the hill.
A deafening scream pierced the stillness of the night, emanating from Everlee’s lips. A shudder coursed through her at the thought of being a part of his agreement.
She felt a strange blend of emotions when the deal was made. She felt compelled to draw closer to Nash, yet at the same time, her instincts told her that she should back away. Another force seemed to be making plans for her.
The Devil had cast her aside, leaving her cursed as a spirit to wander the cemetery. Forced to observe the foolish mortals who dared make a deal in the Devil’s Chair.
Everlee and Nash were woven into a tale known only by death. They were now part of legends and lore, a cautionary story of dire consequences should any deals be made with the Devil.