"No one is allowed."
Joey, Pacey, Dawson, and Jen shudder at the housekeeper's ominous words. It's dark and gloomy at one end of the Southern plantation where Jen's cousin Monique lives, and nothing's been touched in the off-limits wing since 1870. Isabella Percy, Monique's relative, died there of a broken heart, waiting in vain for her true love to return after the Civil War.
A spooky mansion, a secret tunnel, a romantic love story, and some voodoo: Dawson is convinced the group is in for the adventure of their lives.
But evil is near.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Jack McPhee hated cemeteries.
For as long as he could remember, he'd avoided them. They remained the location of horror movies, where vampires and zombies rose from the dead, and the occult came to worship. He knew his fear of cemeteries wasn't rational, but blamed this on his sister, Andie. Andie loved horror movies as much as their friend Dawson Leery, and had spent most of their childhood terrorizing him with true tales of ghosts and goblins, and everything that lurked in the night. For her it was a morbid sense of curiosity that drove her to read and watch everything about the subject that she could get her hands on. Because of this, Jack had spent more times than he'd like to remember watching movies he'd never have chosen for himself, feeding a fear that only seemed to grow larger and more irrational as the years went by. Once he tried to discuss it with his father, but was told that he was a man and men weren't scared by things that didn't exist.
He tried to remember this as he stared out the car window at the large cemetery in front of him. It's gates still brought back a fear that he couldn't control. The white fog that still hung in the air didn't help the matter any. Neither did the strange shadows that seemed to dance around the first crypt that stood just beyond the cemetery gate. Whether these shadows were cast by the fog or something unknown, Jack wasnt sure. The only thing he was sure of was that he was alone. Why he'd decided to stay in the Leery SUV while his sister and friends went exploring didnt seem as intelligent a choice as he'd first thought. Only thirty minutes earlier Jack had sat in the far back of the car, watching Dawson drive, while Andie played tour guide to their motley crew...
"Okay, I've got two votes for the swamp tour, three for the French Quarter, one for the steamboat brunch, one for Jazzland -- wait a second. Can't we all agree on one thing? I thought the whole point of going on vacation together was so wed spend time together."
"When have we ever agreed on anything?" Joey Potter wanted to know. She sat in the backseat, pushing at Pacey Witter's leg, which was inching into her personal space. When he didn't move it, she kicked it.
"Ow. What was that for?"
Joey glared at his offending limb.
Jen Lindley, who sat on the other side of Pacey, laughed. She'd had a feeling that a two-day road trip down to New Orleans would eventually wear a little thin. After all, theyd never been in such a confined space for so many hours. She watched Pacey squirm, not knowing what to do with his legs. Sitting in the middle when you were tall had to be a challenge, Jen thought. She, of course, had never had that problem herself.
It had been only 7:30 A.M., when they reached the outer limits of the city. Dawson knew it was too early to knock on Jen's cousin's door, no matter how polite the invite to spend time on her plantation had been. "Come on, guys, pick a place. We should probably take in at least one sight today, since we're only here for four days."
"I've got an idea," Andie said. She fanned out a group of brochures facedown like a deck of cards, so they couldnt see what the brochure promised. "So what'll it be -- pirates and treasure, Civil War saga, the world's greatest jazz and blues, or something else?"
Since Jen had arranged the whole vacation they made her pick, which she did reluctantly. To have her five friends hate the location she drew at random seemed a little harsh to her. As she slowly turned over the brochure to look at it, she was pleasantly surprised. On the cover it read:
Cities of the Dead -- Voted #1 attraction in all of New Orleans.
Beautiful aboveground tombs keep the dead dry, forming small concrete cities within the Big Easy. These cemeteries have been nicknamed the Cities of the Dead, the oldest being St. Louis No. 1, 2, and 3, located near the French Quarter. Here you can explore the graves of pirates, madams, and voodoo queens. As you walk around, make sure to bring some hoodoo money to leave with the original voodoo queen, Marie Laveau, and maybe she'll grant your wish.
The lettering was featured over pictures of eerily beautiful tombstones in mossy gardens, many candlelit, giving them a magical, ghostly quality. Jen opened the brochure to read more. The pictures inside were even more intriguing. Full of fog and shadow. Angels and saints mounting the tombs, giving a sense that the city was actually populated.
All bodies in New Orleans are buried aboveground because of the city's high water table. When New Orleans was first settled, the people realized that as graves were dug they'd fill with water. The coffins were weighted down with rocks, but after a rainstorm they would inevitably break through the moist soil that covered them, the lids often falling open to expose the now ripe bodies to the sun.
Pacey, who was reading over Jen's shoulder, smiled. This could be really fun, he thought. Joey was so easy to scare, and doing Dawson's horror movie a few years back had taught Pacey how to press her buttons. He wasn't going to let this opportunity pass. "So we're all in, right?"
"I"m in," Dawson said.
"Me, too," Jen said.
"I'm always up for anything spooky," Andie confessed.
And then it was quiet.
"Joe, you're in, right?" Dawson asked.
Pacey nudged her then. "Potter, why don't you just admit you're chicken to go?"
Joey scoffed, wondering what she had to be afraid of. Some creepy old cemetery right out of a bad episode of Scooby Doo? Don't think so. Though she hadn't been crazy about this vacation from the outset, Dawson had convinced her that New Orleans would offer them adventure, which was sorely lacking in Capeside, not to mention the opportunity to actually experience a formal Southern masquerade ball. Not that Joey cared about dances, but the way Jen had described the Percy Ball made it sound like something out of a period novel. An added perk was that their accommodations were free. They were actually staying at the Percy Plantation, which was owned by Jen's cousin, Monique.
Joey suddenly noticed Dawson's eyes in the rearview mirror. She could tell he really wanted to go. "Fine," she said, "but note that I'm going under protest."
"Okay, that settles it. Cities of the Dead, here we come." Pacey couldn't wait to get there, knowing it was just ahead.
"Hold on a minute, we're forgetting someone. Andie looked all the way to the back. Everyone followed her gaze to Jack.
"Jack, my man, what's your vote?" Pacey pretended to hold up a score card and imaginary pen to tally.
Jack looked out at them and realized he was either going to have to admit his fear, or make up some sort of excuse. "I think I should stay with the car. We've got a lot of stuff in here, and I read somewhere in there about a lot of theft around that place."
"Are you serious?" Pacey wanted to know.
"Come on, Jack. Dawson'll set the alarm," Jen coaxed him.
"I know what this is about," Andie said. ""I can't believe you're still afraid of cemeteries."
"You're scared? And I thought it was going to be fun to push Potter's buttons -- Ow." Pacey rubbed his leg. Joey had kicked him again.
"You are such a troublemaker. Look, if he doesn't want to go he shouldn't have to. And if you do anything in there to try to scare me, I'll make sure you regret it for the rest of this trip. Joey's eyes said everything. She meant business and Pacey knew it."
"Fine, but this isn't going to be as much fun as I thought," Pacey lamented.
Dawson found a place to park just outside the cemetery. Jen was the first to get out to stretch, followed by Pacey, who put his feet down carefully. His left leg felt like pins and needles as he stomped on it, trying to wake it. Everyone else piled out then -- all but Jack.
"You sure you don't want to come?" Jen asked. "I'll protect you." She smiled at him impishly, but it wasn't enough to make him want to go.
Dawson leaned back then and handed Jack his DVD player. "In case you get bored. There are some movies in the red gym bag." He smiled at him and handed him the keys to the car.
Jack watched them as they entered the cemetery, Pacey helping Andie open the huge, vine-covered wrought-iron gate. He could hear the gate creak from inside the car. The fog was so thick he could barely see the gang wave at him as they disappeared into the concrete city.
As soon as they were out of sight, Jack pushed the automatic door lock button. Click. They all snapped shut. He was safe. Then he went for the red gym bag. He needed something to take his mind off the gate in front of him. He unzipped the bag and found a small assortment of DVDs: The Exorcist, Interview With a Vampire, Angel Heart, Scream, Poltergeist. What happened to the Spielberg-loving Dawson that Jack counted on? He continued to sort through the DVDs: The Shining, Jaws -- at least Spielberg -- Jurassic Park, and finally E.T. E.T. it is. Jack put in the disc, happy to see the little brown guy with the glowing heart.
At 8:15, the wind picked up and leaves began to dance across the car windows. Their scraping distracted Jack, who finally looked out at the cemetery again. The fog was thicker now, and Jack wondered how his friends were doing. A beeping noise started to fill the car, and Jack noticed that the DVD player was out of power. He reluctantly turned it off, then picked up the Cities of the Dead brochure, studying it. The place was huge. They could be in there for hours, he thought. Suddenly he had the strange feeling that someone was watching him, though he could see no one out there in the fog. The feeling made his heart beat faster, and his mind race. He didn't want to be alone anymore. He hastily put on a jacket and decided to find his friends.
He walked quickly through the creaking gate, past large mausoleums with saints at their crowns. He looked up at the saints for a second, taking in their expressions. With the fog around them, it seemed to Pacey as if they were in the clouds, waiting for God to let them into the gates of heaven. He continued down a row of crypts that were shaped like houses, their headstones where the doors should be. Dates and names blurred, but he did notice that there seemed to be more multiple graves with the date of death in the late 1870s.
He reached a large pedestal tomb where the road diverged into three different paths, not knowing which way his friends would have gone. They had more than a half-hour start on him. For the first time he had a chance to think, and was careful to not let his imagination get the best of him. Thats when he noticed the dates on the tomb in front of him. Within the pedestal tomb were three bodies. Its occupants were two, three, and four years of age. He read the inscription above it:
DIED OF YELLOW FEVER
SELBY, MARY AND MICHELLE.
MAY GOD BLESS THEIR SOULS.
Then he noticed the tomb beside it. It was the girl's mother. She had died a month later. Hed read in history class about the Black Plague in Europe, and how devastating it had been. Looking back at the graves of the vast numbers of people who had died here in the late 1870s, he realized that yellow fever had been the Black Plague of New Orleans. Whole families had been wiped out for something that now could be treated with a pill. The thought was sobering. He looked at the three paths again, wondering which one would lead him to his friends. Down the path to the right there were a group of angels on the top of a large crypt, their serene expressions somehow offering comfort to those on the ground. For Jack it was enough of a sign to proceed.
Crosses and altars littered the road he was walking down. Candles left by loved ones illuminated many of the graves. He noticed clover growing at the door of one mausoleum, and wondered if that meant good luck even here. That's when he felt it again. Someone was there. He hoped it was Andie just playing some trick, so he called out, but no one answered.
He began to walk faster and faster, his heart beating at the same rhythm as his fast-moving feet. He could feel the blood pulsating in his neck, which only made him think of tales of vampires.
Now he was running. He looked behind him to see who his attacker could be, but no one was there. He slowed down, knowing his imagination had just gotten the best of him. When he turned back to look at the road in front of him, he stopped short. Directly in his path was a woman. She was beautiful, her skin the color of chocolate. She was dressed oddly though, with a kerchief around her neck that was tied in many knots.
"I'm so sorry. Cemetery has me a bit spooked," he started to say.
She stared at him, her brown eyes taking on an amber glow that sent chills up and down his spine. Something about this woman was cold, lifeless. When she opened her mouth to speak, he didn't like what came out of it.
"Evil will come close to you. And the closer it is to you, the more careful you must be. If your friends are foolish, someone you know will die."
Jack started to back away from the woman. He had no idea what she was talking about and didn't want to know. That's when he noticed that her feet werent touching the ground; she was floating! She proffered her hand then, and that was enough to make Jack take off as fast as he could. This time he was running at a breakneck speed, just trying to get away. For a brief moment he wondered if he'd fallen asleep in the car and this were all a nightmare, but as he stumbled and scraped his arm across a grave, he knew he was wide awake.
He ran faster, deeper into the City of the Dead, just wanting to escape. After a minute, he looked over his shoulder to see if she was following. That's when he ran into someone. They both went down hard. Jack scrambled, pushing himself to his feet quickly so he could flee again, and then saw who he hit. It was Pacey.
"Man, McPhee. I thought you quit football," Pacey said, just lying on the ground with the wind knocked out of him. Jack offered him a hand and helped him up. Pacey finally saw his face. "What's wrong with you? You look like you saw a ghost."
"I think I did. Where is everyone else?"
"I left them down at the Queen of Voodoo's tomb. Some lady named Marie Laveau. You should see her crypt, covered with flowers and money. She's been credited with a lot of good and evil in this town. I think even a couple zombies." Jack flinched. "Sorry, man. Forgot you aren't into this stuff. Why don't we catch up with everyone else?"
Jack was grateful for Pacey's company as they walked down the path. Pacey noticed that Jack's hands were actually shaking. He asked, "What'd you see?" They were almost at Marie Laveau's tomb now. Jack could hear Andie giving her Universal Studios tour guide spiel.
"Nothing worth mentioning. And please don't say anything to anyone else. That's all I need is Andie teasing me again. She was merciless when we were kids."
Pacey understood. Though he didn't believe in ghosts and goblins, or anything that couldn't rationally be exp...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2001. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110743416953
Book Description Simon Spotlight Entertainment. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0743416953 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0299910