Home > Cemetery Boys(11)

Cemetery Boys(11)
Author: Aiden Thomas

Yadriel turned the medal over to find that a name had indeed been engraved on the back. He blinked. “Oh.” The delicate cursive letters read JULIAN DIAZ. Yadriel’s eyes went wide, snapping back to the boy’s face. “Oh.”

Julian Diaz. He knew Julian Diaz, or rather knew of him. They went to high school together. It was a large school, with more than twenty-five hundred students, but Julian had a bit of a reputation. He ditched a lot, but when he was roaming the halls it was hard to not notice him. He had the sort of presence that demanded everyone’s attention without needing to ask. Julian was loud, rarely took things seriously, and was known for getting into trouble. He was hard to miss, attractive in a severe sort of way with that diamond-shaped face. He had a narrow, stubborn chin and a sharp voice that always seemed to cut through every other one in the quad.

“What do you mean by ‘summon’?” Julian asked again. He was staring at his transparent palms, turning them over as if trying to solve a puzzle.

“Do you happen to know how you got here?” Yadriel tried in an attempt at being tactful.

Julian glared. “No!” he snapped. “All I remember was walking down the street with my friends…” He looked around, as if trying to find them in the cold church. “Then something—someone—” He frowned. “Happened? I dunno, I just remember getting knocked over, maybe I got jumped or something.” Julian rubbed absently at the same point on his chest. “Then the next thing I knew, I was in this church with you two.”

Three beats passed before Julian’s eyes suddenly went wide. “I died, didn’t I?” The fierceness was gone, leaving his voice small and weak. “Am I dead?”

Yadriel winced and gave a small nod. “Yeah…”

Julian stumbled back a step, his body wavering in and out of existence for a moment, like a camera trying to focus. “Oh, Jesus.” He pressed both hands against his face. “My brother is gonna kill me,” he groaned against his palms.

“Looks like someone already beat him to it,” Maritza said, reaching out to poke her finger right through Julian’s elbow.

“Quit it!” he snapped, wrenching his arm away. Julian turned his scowl to Yadriel again. “So, what, I’m a ghost now?”

Yadriel didn’t know what to make of him. Julian didn’t sound angry or dismayed. If anything, he was annoyed, as if this were just an inconvenience.

“Spirit,” Yadriel corrected.

“What’s the difference?” Julian asked, flapping his hand at Maritza as she hovered like a fly.

“Well, I don’t know if there’s a difference,” Yadriel ventured, fidgeting with the necklace in his hands. “I think maybe ‘ghost’ is sort of … derogatory?”

Julian stared at him, his mouth in a hard line, an eyebrow raised.

“We use the word ‘spirit,’” Yadriel supplied.

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Oh, right. That’s Maritza—” he said, pointing at her.

Maritza wiggled her fingers in a wave.

Julian took another step away from her.

“And I’m Yadriel. And, uh…” Yadriel dug around in his brain for the right words. He’d never had to explain who brujx were and what they did, on account of it being a huge, sacred secret they devoted their lives to keeping.


“We’re brujx—brujos can see spirits, and uh, help them cross over to the afterlife,” Yadriel explained.

“And brujas can heal people,” Maritza added.

“So, you’re witches,” Julian said with a dubious look.

Yadriel shook his head. “No.”

“’Cause you’re dressed like a witch.”

Maritza snorted.

Yadriel looked down at himself. He was wearing black jeans, his favorite combat boots, and an oversize black hoodie. The burning bowl of fire in front of him and discs in his ears probably weren’t helping. His cheeks burned red.

“We’re brujx,” he corrected.

Julian frowned. “That literally means witch—”

“No, ‘witch’ is—”

“Derogatory?” Julian guessed, an amused smirk tugging the corner of his mouth.

Now it was Yadriel’s turn to scowl.

Julian looked over at Maritza. “So, you can heal people?”

“Oh, no, I don’t heal,” she replied casually. “You gotta use animal blood, and I’m vegan.”

“Right.” He turned back to Yadriel. “And you can apparently summon ghosts and send them to the afterlife, whatever that means.”

“Yes—Well, no—” Yadriel fumbled, trying to explain himself. “I haven’t done the releasing part yet—”

“Wooow,” Julian crooned, head bobbing in a nod as he looked between the two of them. “You guys are really shitty witches.”

Annoyance flared in Yadriel. “Look, this is my first time, okay?”

Julian blinked slowly at him, unimpressed.

“Spirits, like you, sometimes get stuck between the land of the living and the land of the dead,” he tried to explain.

Julian rolled his eyes. “Uh-huh.”

“Spirits get attached to a tether”—Yadriel held up the necklace—“which anchors them to the land of the living, so, to help you cross over to the other side, I just need to destroy the—”

“No, no way!” Julian shook his head and waved his arms. “My pops gave me that necklace!” He tried to snatch it from Yadriel, but, again, he was left with a fistful of empty air.

Maritza chuckled.

“No—just listen.” Yadriel brought out his portaje.

Julian scoffed, which was not how Yadriel thought any sane person should react to getting a knife pulled on them.

“What are you going to do, stab me?” Julian’s laugh was sharp as he tapped a finger to his temple. “Already dead, remember?”

“No, I’m not gonna stab you!” Though, to be honest, it was more tempting by the minute. “I use it to destroy the tie keeping you here—”

Julian opened his mouth to argue, but Yadriel pressed on.

“I’m not going to destroy the necklace! It’ll sever the tie anchoring you to the necklace, and you can go to the afterlife and be at peace, okay?” he snapped.

“Yeah, nah.” Julian squared his shoulders. “I’m not cool with that.”

Yadriel groaned. Of course the first spirit he summoned wouldn’t just be released willingly. No, he had to get stuck with one who had an attitude problem.

“Ghosts need to take care of unfinished business before they cross over, right? Well, I’ve got unfinished business,” Julian said, brow furrowed. “I wanna check on my friends. They were with me when I died. I wanna make sure they’re okay.”

His face twisted between annoyance and something that could’ve been worry. “And maybe they know who got me,” he added as an afterthought.

“I really need to do this, and, like, now,” Yadriel said. He didn’t feel good about it, but he didn’t have much of a choice, either. “We still need to find Miguel, and, besides, if you stay here like this for too long, you’ll turn all dark and violent and start hurting people.”

He thought that was a perfectly reasonable explanation, but Julian crossed his arms over his chest. “Nope.”

Yadriel looked to Maritza for help, but she just shrugged her shoulders.

“Look, I didn’t want it to come to this,” Yadriel told Julian. Drawing himself up, he gripped his dagger in his hand. “We don’t like releasing spirits by force—”

A thick eyebrow quirked. “I thought you said you’ve never done this before?”

“But you’re leaving me no choice.” Yadriel held the necklace higher in the air.

Julian remained where he stood, defiant and unmoving, but his wide eyes cut back and forth between his necklace and Yadriel’s face.

“¡Muéstrame el enlace!” Yadriel called out. His portaje glowed bright, filling the church with a warm blaze that made all three of them squint. A golden thread sparked to life in the air, starting from the pendant of St. Jude and ending at the center of Julian’s chest. He tried to sidestep it, but the line followed.

Yadriel inhaled a deep breath, ready to say the sacred words. “¡Te libero a la otra vida!”

Julian squeezed his eyes shut, bracing for impact.

Yadriel sliced his portaje through the air, aiming directly for the golden thread. But, instead of severing it, the edge of his blade caught on the line. The dagger vibrated in his hand, and small sparks flew from where they met. The thread didn’t even so much as bend.

Out of the corner of his eye, Yadriel saw Julian’s posture relax. He could sense the obnoxious smirk on his face.

But he wasn’t giving up. Yadriel raised his arm and tried slicing through it again. The force of its sudden stop jolted up his arm, into his shoulder. He tried sawing at it, but all it did was send more sparks flying.

The light of his portaje dimmed until it was back to gray steel. Disappointment dropped heavily into Yadriel’s stomach. “Shit.”

“Man, you really suck at this,” Julian said, looking entirely pleased with himself.

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