“They need to get a gardener in here.” Taylor said and I turned to the side of me where she walked and noticed how occasionally she would lean to her side and reach out her hand to allow the tops of the highest hogweed to scrape against her palm. I lowered my eyes from her briefly to her ankle and the scab down there that was revealed in all its gory glory. And as if Taylor sensed what I was thinking she kicked out her ankle a little and wiggled her foot and made a kind of light giggling sound.
“So weird,” She said turning to me and her face that was lifted to mine and her eyes that had narrowed a little as she studied me. How her pupils appeared to have dilated and fill the whole of her eyes and flood the blue waters with trails of inky black. “The two of us. To be hidden in here away from the hospital.”
And it was weird. And the silence that seemed to bear down upon the two of us. My feet that shuffled forwards and the only sound that was heard was the rattling of the chains that were shackled against my ankles. We continued along a meandering path that snaked a weary course through the overgrown cemetery. I turned my face from Taylor briefly and peered behind us and my gaze that settled once more upon the iron gate that I had closed behind us and the padlock that had been fastened firm once more. The thought that I did not wish for any passers-by to have discovered the gate had been opened and the two of us in here and poking around. Rolls of razor wire that were twisted above the old gate and appearing like cruel bramble.
A white sun beating down upon the two of us and the sky as blue as the deepest ocean. And not a sound to be heard apart from the seeds that rattled against the breeze about us. The dried and wizened husks where the weeds had grown thick. And the rattling of my chains as I shuffled forwards.
The occasional beating clap of wings as the crow hopped before us from one gravestone to the next. The sense that we were following his crumbs towards the chapel door. The thought that we were playing some cruel and wicked game. A game that neither Taylor or I could ever begin to understand or how the game might end. But there was darkness to this dark bird’s game, I knew that at least.
And it was funny, I thought, that Taylor had not yet mentioned a word about the bird we had followed in here. How the crow would occasionally turn and blink and crawk with gleeful menace towards the two of us as though it possessed some intelligence. But I figured Taylor was probably enjoying the last warmth of sunlight upon her pretty face. And I should give her that at least. She deserved some warmth against her skin before the shadows swept across her.
The crumbling path that snaked away before us and the gravestone leaning in on either side. The chapel that remained shrouded beneath the bough of a great yew tree and the trunk that was riven with twisted bark to form shapes that reminded me of gargoyle faces. The crunch of pine needles beneath my feet that had been shed by the ancient tree. The pine needles crackling and croaking. The smell of something sharp and corrupted upon the air. And it was all I could do not to turn from the rambling cemetery path and run as fast as my legs would carry me away from this place of death.
A cool breeze that blew through the clearing and the weeds and husks that chattered.
The nettles and the brambles and the hogweed and the thistle.
The sound that the dried weeds made reminding me of voices. The whispering words of the dead. Those unfortunates that were buried here and their bones that were turned to dust.
Leave this place. It is not yours. Leave this place.
I lifted my face and studied the cemetery and the stones that were leaning in and falling here and there. And between the weeds and the grasses was an endless trail of bramble that appeared like barbed wire in all directions. The thought that Taylor and I had found ourselves dropped within the trenches of Flanders in World War One. The dead and their broken bodies that were scattered across the ruined lands here and there. The brambles that were thick and the thorns that were hooked and as sharp as the devil’s teeth.
A cool wind that blew through the cemetery and the chattering bramble teeth. And I knew that we should leave this place. I knew it. As soon as we had stepped across the threshold. The laughter I had heard rattling around my brain. But I had to see poor Barry’s body. I had to lay my eyes upon his lifeless carcass. The sense that some greater meaning might be revealed to me somehow. Some clue.
Leave this place. It is not yours. Leave this place.
And the weeds were right, I thought, I should leave this place. And Taylor too, I reckoned. But all the same, the crow hopped along a little closer towards the chapel and the game that I found myself a part of played out. As though I were a pawn upon a chess board and a hidden hand that guided me across the squares? The world a mystery to me and my place within it. But I found myself at the centre of some larger game I thought, I had no doubt of that. And the angels and the demons that continued to remain in shadows beyond the edges of the chess board and out of sight.
A shadow that fell across the two of us as we stepped beneath the ancient Yew tree’s bough. The sky above us that was smudged away beneath a thick cover of branches and pine needles. The chapel’s tower that reared up before the two of us. The weathered oak door that would lead us to the other side.
To one side of the chapel’s entrance the effigy of Jesus looked down. The god stripped of clothing and his arms lifted out to wither side and his hands that were bound and his feet that were staked against the cross. His head that was bowed beneath a crown of thorns. The blood that trickled down across his brow. His gaze that seemed to have fixed itself squarely upon Taylor and me. The sense that he had been waiting for the two of us to arrive for so along.
The black crow flapped his wings a final time and lifted his body from the final gravestone he had been waiting upon throughout. The bird flapping upwards before bringing his great bulk upwards to rest upon the arm of the crucifix. The bird’s grey toes that curled over the timber beam. Black talons that gripped down upon the cross. Cruel claws that cut down towards the palm of Jesus Christ. Taylor turned to me and blinked. Her face that had been washed of all colour. The excitement and brief cheer that had fallen from her sweet face already, and that made me sad.
“I’m not sure about this Mandy.” She said, turning from me briefly and peering beyond the crucifix so that her gaze came to settle upon the Chapel’s ancient timber door. “Why would Barry be in there?” She said, and part of me suspected that that’s what she hoped for more than suspected. And that she knew as I well I did that Barry’s body would be discovered inside the Chapel.
“Why would they bring him to this dreadful place?” Taylor said, turning from the door and her eyes dancing across the overgrown cemetery and the gravestone that were leaning in. The sun being swallowed overhead by a dark cloud that had drifted in to view and the sound of thunder that could be heard rumbling in the distance. “It just doesn’t make any sense.” She said.
I shook my head.
“I know.” I said, and it didn’t make any sense. None of it. None of this made any sense. Apart from the fact that Sister Dixon was a prize weirdo and there was something seriously screwy going down in Deadwood hospital. And that’s a fact!
“Look.” I said, turning to Taylor and hoping that my voice would comfort her, but wondering from the expression that began to pull across her features that it wasn’t comforting to her one bit. “Why don’t you stay out here.” I said, and I noticed how Taylor’s eyes grew wide with fear and I reckoned she’d be itching at that scab before I had a chance to finish my sentence. “And I’ll go in and take a quick peep inside,” I said, turning from her briefly and studying the chapel’s door before us. “I won’t be long.” I said, turning back to Taylor and noticing that she had lent to her side and was rubbing at the scab with her fingernails.
I knew it.
“Ok, I guess so.” she replied reluctantly, lifting her face to me and her eyes that remained wide. The scratching of her scab and the blood that ran down across her ankle and down towards the earth where it began to pool against the ground. “But don’t be long in there Mandy.” She said. And I nodded my head and turned from her and stepped away and brought my hand against the Chapel’s timber door and the rusted Iron bolt that had fixed the door in place.
An electrifying current that sparked against my fingers and along my elbow and up to my shoulder and thunder clapped about my brain.
And I realised then that this was going to end badly.
But I kind of hoped that it would not be ending too badly for me at least.