Sunday, July 10, 2011

No. 25: The Death of Tana Whitney

The maroon-colored Mercury Villager pulled up in the alley behind the house with only its parking lights on. From inside the house, Harry shined a flashlight twice at the van then began to leave. He tried to be quiet but the floorboards and doors of the old house squeaked with every movement. He made it out of his room, downstairs and out the back door in the kitchen. He ran toward the van and got in the passenger side. “I was just about to give up,” he said to the driver.

“Sorry, it took me a while to get out of the house,” the driver responded. Zeke Hollister put the van into drive, turned on the headlights and drove away from the house. Behind the front seats were Geoff Dorvac and Benjamin Michelson. “Off to Stull!”

The four were all juniors in high school and best friends since Kindergarten. Zeke was the idea man and self-proclaimed leader but was also more of the clown of the group. Harry was level-headed and was the one everyone turned to when they had a problem. Ben was laid-back. Geoff was not as well-liked and was only tolerated by the other three. No one else even liked Geoff. Zeke and Harry had gotten into ghost hunting and while Zeke was in it to actually find ghosts, Harry had started enjoying it because of the history involved.

“Can we stop at McDonald’s first or something?” Geoff asked. “I’m starving.”

“Starving? You said earlier you were eating before I picked you up,” Zeke said.

“Can I help it if I’m always hungry?”

“Yes!” Ben said.

“That sounds like something a fat person would say,” Harry argued. “Zeke, are you hungry?”

“No, I’m good,” Zeke replied.

“See? Zeke’s not hungry and he’s the fattest person I know. No offense,” Harry said.

“Some taken...” said Zeke.

“Fine. We don’t have to stop,” Geoff concluded.

“Well, actually a quarter-pounder with cheese doesn’t sound too bad right now,” Ben said. “I could probably eat.”

“I’ll take some chicken nuggets and fries,” Harry admitted.

“What the hell is wrong with everybody,” Zeke screamed.

“We’re starving,” Geoff said.

Stull lies about ten miles west of Lawrence, Kansas. It is an unincorporated community founded in the 1860s. The hamlet boasts only a few homes, a church and a cemetery. The cemetery was the main attraction as it was reported that the Devil rose there to dance with the dead and that it is a gateway to Hell.

The red minivan traveled down Highway 40 and then turned onto County Road 442. At this point, Harry was driving after he and Zeke did a Chinese fire drill at a red light. Everyone had finished their McDonald’s and were starting to get tired.

“How much further is this place?” Ben complained, adjusting the seat so he could stretch out.

“Another four miles or so,” Harry replied. Everyone sat in relative silence except for the radio which was on a top 40 station. “By the way, Zeke, what’s in the duffel bag?”

“Files on Stull, a BB gun, a couple of knives, flares, a first-aid kit, Bible, a whip, small bag of Cheez-Its, matches, flashlights, extra batteries, and four liters of holy water,” Zeke listed.

“Could someone hand me the bag of Cheez-Its?” Harry asked.

“How is all this supposed to help us?” Ben asked, digging through the bag for the Cheez-Its. “Especially against ghosts and the Devil?”

Zeke stammered to find a good answer but Harry helped him out. “Neither the Devil or any ghosts are going to be affected but we could use them against a disgruntled farmer.”

“That have pitchforks,” Geoff added.

“What’s with the two liters of water?” Ben asked holding up two Dr Pepper bottles that were filled with water.

“That’s the holy water,” Zeke smiled.

“How’d you get a priest to bless two 2-liter bottles of water?” Harry asked.


“What the hell do you think makes holy water holy?” Harry screamed. “Sometimes you really need to think some of these things through.”

“Oh, here it comes. The Zeke lecture. You can save your breath Harry because we all know it by heart!” Zeke said.

“That’s probably because I give two or three times a week! Yet somehow you never learn!” Harry argued.

“Then maybe you should stop giving it!” Zeke yelled louder. “I can take care of myself Harry so I don’t need you!”

“Why don’t you make love to me from behind anymore?” Harry yelled. Everyone in the van was taken aback by what Harry said.

“Are these two gay?” asked Geoff.

“I always knew Zeke’s girlfriend was a cover but Harry?” Ben was surprised.

“I’m not gay,” Zeke defended.

“Isn’t denial the first sign?” Ben smiled.

Stull, as usual, was dead quiet as Harry parked the minivan in a dark corner of the bait shop parking lot. They all got out of the van and walked toward the intersection and looked at their surroundings. Besides the bait shop on the southwest corner, a modern church was on the southeast and to the north was a shallow ravine. Off in the distance was a lone streetlight that partially illuminated the cemetery and deteriorating old church. The four walked through the intersection and toward the cemetery.

The cemetery was almost as big as the little town and the tombstones were showing their age. The old church had definitely seen better days. What was once a thatched roof was gone and left the inside exposed to the elements. All four walls were still standing but all had major damage to them. Loose rocks, bricks and timbers lay cris-crossed on the church floor.

The four stopped at the locked gate and shined the flashlights on the signs warning people to ‘keep out’ and ‘no trespassing’. The four immediately began to either climb over or crawl under the fence and walk up the gravel road to the north end of the cemetery.

“So what exactly are we looking for?” Ben asked, whispering.

“A gateway to Hell,” Zeke replied.

“Of course,” Ben responded.

The gravel road curved and went right in front of the old church. The four gathered in a small clearing on the east side of church. “So where’s this gateway supposed to be?” Geoff asked.

“From what I’ve read it’s on the northeast side of the church so it should be around there somewhere,” Zeke said.

“Well, while you three wander around her I’m gonna be in the church,” Harry said and began to get closer to the church.

“We should probably stick together,” Zeke said nervously.

“We are. You three will be there and I will be in here. We’ll be able to hear each others screams of terror,” Harry smiled and stepped through what used to be window.

They each explored their own areas of the churchyard. Harry had to step over the rubble and explored every inch of the old church. Zeke, Ben and Geoff searched the grounds, stepping hard in some places in hopes of finding a place where a door covering a stairwell could be. They all explored the church and land for another hour before regrouping at the front of the church and descending the gravel road back to the gate.

“That was a waste of time,” Geoff complained.

“We’ll have to come back when we don’t have school the next morning. Come on, we should head back to Lawrence,” Zeke said.

It was Harry’s study hall period and he was trying to do his algebra homework. Harry hated algebra. He was getting fed up with these problems and was about to shut to book. “You have to divide the integers,” said a girl who sat down next to Harry.

“What the hell’s an integer?” Harry looked at the girl confusingly.

The girl chuckled then went back to a straight face. “Oh my God. You’re serious. Here, you switch these numbers around and those are your integers.”

“Math is so pointless,” Harry said.

“You’re gonna need math for every job out there.”

“I want to be an author. Last I knew authors didn’t need to know what the hell z equaled.”

“What if you don’t become an author?”

“Then I’d have to kill myself.”

“What about your money? You’ll need to know math so you can keep track of your money.”

“I can do basic math—addition, subtraction, multiplication and division—but this algebra crap is pointless and way over my head.”

“Well,” the girl began scribbling words down on Harry’s notebook paper, “I am getting an A+ in advanced calculus so if you need a tutor or just have a question here is my phone number and IM address.”

The girl smiled big and walked back to her desk. Harry glanced down at what she had written. “Thanks, Tana.”

“So she just sat down beside you and started talking?” Zeke asked.

“Yeah. She started yammering about math then wrote down her name and contact information,” Harry said.

“Sounds like someone likes you Harry,” Ben smiled.

“The girl must be crazy or something,” Geoff said. “I mean look at you.”

“Yeah, thanks Geoff. I don’t know what to do. I mean, I don’t really want a girlfriend so I don’t want to open a door I can’t close. Although she was kind of cute. Maybe I should pursue it. If nothing else, I made a new friend,” Harry decided.

“There’s got to be something wrong with her,” Geoff sighed.

Harry sat as his desk at home furiously writing in a word processing document on his computer. He had stuck Tana’s information in a clip that was attached to his computer. He’d ignored it up until now and had resorted to looking at it every couple of minutes. “I don’t even use instant messenger,” Harry argued to himself.

Harry got online and went to the messenger service that Tana used and downloaded the program. He had to create a username and password which actually took him a while because all his choices were already taken. He typed Tana’s address into the contact field and added it. He began typing into the message field: Hey. What’s going on? and pressed enter.

More than a few seconds passed before he got a reply: Who’s this?

Harry smiled and typed: Harry. From school.

Almost immediately: :) . Then: Didn’t think you’d talk to me so soon.

I was just sitting at my computer writing and my curiosity got the better of me.

I’m glad it did. What are you writing?

Don’t tell anyone but I’m writing a novel.

Cool. What’s it about?

I’d rather not say.

:( Please?

Maybe some other time. What are you doing?

Homework. :P

I finished mine at school.

If it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t have finished your algebra ;)

I would’ve figured it out sooner or later.

Whatever. So do you want to come over tomorrow after school?

Harry didn’t know how to respond. He stared at the question for a while and cautiously began typing. What for?

Just to hang out. Get to know each other better. I’ve tried several times in study hall to get you to notice me. It never worked.

Harry smiled at this. A girlfriend had never even crossed Harry’s mind but something told him there was something special about this girl. I’ll go. he unconsciously typed.

:D Tana responded. We can walk to my place together tomorrow. And don’t worry. My parents won’t be home.

Suddenly, Harry’s nervousness came back.

“How do you eat this thing?” Harry asked as he eyed his tiny fried chicken for a way to pick it up.

Tana giggled as she began to eat her lasagna. It had been a couple months since Harry and Tana became a couple and neither of them had ever been happier. Tana kept smiling as she ate and watched Harry eat his tiny chicken with his hands. “You may try silverware. You’re getting grease everywhere,” she chuckled.

“The things full of bones, how am I supposed to use silverware?” Harry asked and the tiny chicken slipped out of his hands. He cleaned his hands with his napkin. “How’s the lasagna?”

“Everything is delicious,” Tana responded.

“These potatoes are to die for,” Harry took a bite of the potatoes. “You mean a lot to me, Tana.”

Tana looked at Harry. “What are you saying?”

“I know it’s only been a couple of months but I feel a real bond with you. When I’m with you I don’t need anything else in my life. Tana?” Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He opened his eyes and looked deep into Tana’s eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you too. The last couple of weeks all I could think about was spending my life with you, Harry. You are amazing and everything I could ever hope for in a man,” Tana said and actually started to cry.

“Wow,” Harry said. “I like your confession of love better.”

“So you said tonight was going to be a special night. What else do you have planned?”

“I just confessed my love for you and you want more?”

“You love me. I expect you to give your life to me,” Tana smiled at Harry and felt herself fall even more in love. Harry reached over and softly rubbed her cheek. She closed her eyes and leaned her head to feel more of his hand.

“We’ll finish eating and we’ll go on the second part of the date,” Harry said.

Harry pulled into his driveway, got out and helped Tana out of the car. "Oh, that movie was terrible," Harry laughed.

"I'll admit, it wasn't the best movie I've ever seen," Tana agreed. "It's dark in your house. Is your mom home?" she asked.

"Doesn't look like. My mom tends to work strange hours," Harry said. "You want to come inside?" he asked.

"Well, you did drive me here," Tana pointed out.

"True," Harry blushed slightly. "Zeke and I saw a terrible movie last year. Just awful. I'm still working to get his money back."

Harry let Tana into the house and turned on some lights. "So did you have an ulterior motive bringing me here tonight?" she smiled.

"No. I may have overheard my mom saying she would be gone tonight but nothing has to happen that you don't want to happen," Harry reassured.

"Hmm, I am intrigued at having you all to myself, alone in this house tonight," she put her arms around Harry and they kissed.

The moaning sounds from both Tana and Harry disrupted the quiet of the rest of the house. Tana had started to cry when Harry put himself inside her, taking her virginity. She had her arms constantly hugged or holding Harry, keeping his presence close to her naked body.

“I love you so much, Harry. I never want this to end,” Tana gasped between his thrusts.

“I know but I’m afraid it has to,” Harry said as he moved faster and harder causing Tana to moan louder and him to orgasm. He continued thrusting slowly as he leaned down to kiss Tana. They lay spent in each others arms for a couple minutes then Harry pulled out. Tana rolled over and turned on the bedside lamp then watched as Harry took off the condom.

“I thought you came,” Tana asked, noticing the lack of sperm in the condom.

“I did,” said Harry.

“Then shouldn’t you have semen or something in the condom?”


“You don’t!” she pointed.

“Huh. That’s odd,” Harry said, tossing the condom in the trashcan.

“You should get that looked at,” Tana said. “Make sure it’s not serious.”

“I don’t want to go to a doctor.”

“Please? For me? I’ll go with you. I’ll get a blood test done or something. It’ll all be okay,” Tana smiled.

“My tests show that you are perfectly healthy, Mr…? You forgot to put your last name on the form,” the doctor said.

“Just call me Harry,” Harry said and Tana stifled a laugh.

“Okay, Harry. Well, I see you are perfectly healthy, don’t smoke, drink or do drugs, testes are fully-grown and descended. There are a couple more tests to look at but from what I can tell you have aspermia. A condition where you just don’t produce semen.”

“So what does that mean? I’ll never produce sperm?”

“If you do have aspermia then yes. Other than that you are perfectly healthy.”

Harry looked over at Tana with a solemn face. “So I’ll never have children?”

The doctor looked at both Harry and Tana and sighed. “You’re both still young. And there are alternatives such as adoption and sperm donors,” he suggested.

“But those aren’t as fun,” Harry said. “So there’s no cure or something that’ll help?”

“I’m sorry but no,” the doctor concluded. “But I will run those blood tests and make sure nothing else is wrong. You can go ahead and get dressed. If you have any further questions, please call.”

“Doctor?” Harry called and pointed to Tana.

“Ah! Yes. Thanks for reminding me,” the doctor grabbed a syringe and needle from the boxes on the counter. “Ms Whitney, please hold out your arm.”

“Damn, so close!” she cursed.

About a week had passed and Tana, along with her parents and Harry were back in the doctor’s office. “Thank you for coming with me, Harry,” Tana said, shaking because she was so nervous. “What do you think they saw in my blood test?”

“It’s probably nothing. Just want to be cautious, that’s all,” Harry answered. He hugged Tana and kissed her forehead. “I’ll always be here for you. Right beside you just like you are with me.”

Tana smiled and the doctor finally came in. “Hello, Ms Whitney, Mr…Harry,” the doctor said. “Are these your parents?” the doctor asked and extended his hand.

Tana’s parent exchanged pleasantries, “So why did you call our daughter back down here, doctor?” Tana’s mom asked.

“I got her blood test back and there is something wrong with it. The preliminary results have concluded evidence of cancer.”

“Can...Cancer? What kind?” Tana began panicking.

“Right now we’re not a hundred percent sure that you have cancer, we’ll need to run more tests but the evidence is there. With luck we caught this early and will be able to stop it before it spreads,” the doctor scribbled something on a pad of paper and gave it to Tana. “You can go to the imaging department at the hospital and they will run the additional tests needed. I suggest going as soon as possible.”

5Three months later, Harry and Tana lay in her bed. It was almost midnight and Tana had been crying nearly non-stop for the last week. Harry held her tightly as she sniffled into his shirt as she pressed her face against his chest. “Tana?” Harry tried to get her attention by pulling his hand through her hair and lightly pushing her away but she clung close. “Tana?” he said more sternly.

She sniffed, “What?”

“Why are you listening to the doctor? He gave you two weeks, a month at the most but you are still as vital and alert as you were when we first met. You are going to beat this and we will live happily ever after. I promise, Tana.” Tana calmed down a little and pulled away from Harry. She laid back and looked up at the ceiling. She took several deep breaths to stop crying. Harry sat up a little and looked at Tana who didn’t look at him. “Tana?”

“Yes?” she sniffed.

“You know I would give my life for you. I would gladly and unquestioningly give you any remaining years I have and more if possible. I would give up everything for all this to be over for you,” Harry said.

“I know, Harry. You’ve been so strong for both of us through all of this that I have no idea how to begin to repay you,” Tana started to cry again.

“I do,” Harry took Tana’s right hand and looked at her. “I don’t have a ring but Tana Whitney, will you marry me?”

Tana cried and looked at Harry. She got up and sat on top of Harry. She took his face in her hands and leaned down close to him. “Yes, Harry. I will marry you. That is all I want at this moment is for you to be my husband,” Tana began kissing Harry and they slid under the covers and began removing their clothes. Tana pulled Harry into her and the two began making love for the first time since becoming fiancees.

A week later, Tana wasn’t at school. Harry walked around like a shadow of his former self. Normally humorous and sarcastic, Harry barely said anything as he worried about his fiancee who had taken a turn for the worse. Zeke saw how hurt and depressed Harry was and tried to console him but with Geoff and Ben around it was sometimes difficult.

“How was Tana this morning?” Zeke asked Harry as they sat down together at lunch.

“She...” Harry fumbled around the words and rubbed his eyes with his finger and thumb. “She didn’t look so good.”

“I know how much you love her, Harry. I wish I could help.”

“I wish you could, too. I don’t know how this could happen. It’s so unfair. I mean, she has her whole life in front of her and it’s viciously being taken away. I’ve had her for eight months and it was the best eight months of my life. I want more. I want her to have more,” Harry said.

Zeke was silent. He couldn’t help. No one could. Zeke watched his best friend hold back his tears and his entire world came crumbling down. Geoff and Ben came up to the table and sat down their trays. They were talking about girls in gym class and laughing loudly.

“Hey, Zeke. Hi, Harry. How is everything going?” Ben asked, in an upbeat way.

“I’m fine but Harry’s seen better days,” Zeke said.

“Tana not doing so well, huh?” Ben asked, sympathizing. Harry nodded his head softly.

“I can’t believe you proposed to her. You two barely know each other,” Geoff said. “No way you two could’ve fallen in love that fast.”

“Geoff!” Zeke scolded.

“When they started dating, Harry thought she was some crazy stalker girl. Frankly I think since you started dating her you’ve changed,” Geoff continued.

“Geoff, will you shut up? Tana’s dying of cancer so you could be more sympathetic to Harry’s feelings,” Ben said.

“I’m just saying that they rushed into things too quickly. Especially with the engagement. Luckily you won’t have to stay engaged to her for too long. Then you can start playing the field. I know a couple girls in my biology class who find you rather attractive,” Geoff said.

“Geoff, if you’ve ever had a respectable girlfriend or relationship then I might listen to you. I do love Tana more than anything in the world and I hope everybody in the world will someday feel the love I feel for her. She’s the one I want to spend the rest of my life with, that’s the one thing I want most in the entire world. And I can’t even have that,” Harry said.

“Harry?” asked a voice from behind him. Harry spun around to see one of the secretaries from the office standing behind him. Harry could tell why she was standing there and immediately began to cry. “You have a phone call in the office. It’s about Tana.”

Months had passed since Tana had passed away. Harry still constantly thought about her. Still visited her. Still pictured how the wedding would’ve looked. He and Zeke had gotten jobs in the food service department at Baker University. It was decent work for decent pay.

“Harry, come on, we should do something tonight!” Zeke suggested.

“Like what?” Harry asked without looking up from his magazine.

“There’s a cemetery in Alma that’s reportedly haunted. We could go there. It’s only a couple hours away,” Zeke smiled.

“A cemetery?” Harry asked. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’d feel quite right traipsing around a cemetery at night anymore.”

“Okay, I’m tired of this. Harry, listen. Tana would want you to move on. She wouldn’t like seeing you like this. She’d want you to hang out with friends and drive to strange towns and trespass in old cemeteries. She’d want you to do everything you did before and during your guys’ relationship. If she really loved you like she constantly said she did, which by the way got really sickening, then she would want you to trespass in this cemetery.”

Harry continued looking at the magazine. Zeke stormed to the back, frustrated but returned a few minutes later to find Harry in the same position reading the magazine. Zeke sat down with Harry at the table and sighed. “So why is that cemetery haunted?” Harry asked.

Zeke perked up and smiled. “Well, apparently back when the town of Alma was founded, this old man owned the land that the town wanted to use for a cemetery…”

“And the town couldn’t find another piece of land to use?”

“I don’t know. I only know what I got off the Internet. Anyway, the old man refused to sell which made the townspeople angry and so…”

Zeke continued to tell the story as Harry listened and occasionally interrupted with questions or actual facts that disputed the story. Soon Zeke and Harry would start arguing and everything would really start getting back to normal.

Tana would be happy.