What is it about church’s?
The smell of them.
The dust and the decay.
The sense that another presence exists within the walls. A god willed to life by the prayers of those that have offered their lives to their god. For day upon day and year upon year until all that remained of the devout person were rags and bones and crumbling clothes that barely hung upon their ancient frame. But still they would visit the church and kneel and pray and close their eyes and hope to find some answers to all of this. To find their god peering back to them.
Help. I can’t bear it here. It hurts.
The voice called out within my mind. And the fear that ran through the words so that my teeth began to chatter, and the hairs that stood to attention upon my arms.
“I know.” I said, lifting my gaze briefly towards walls of the little chapel and the rows of stained-glass windows that lined the nave.
My eyes focussed upon the images that had been captured against the ancient glass. The strangest images. Grotesque. Creatures that my eyes had never laid eyes on before that had no right to be found within a chapel. Monstrosities that were coiling against the glass as though they had been trapped within. Caged beasts. Desperate to escape. Sun light shining through from the outside so that the darkness within the chapel was illuminated with shades of green and red and blue. Each window that captured another beast from hell.
My eyes that were wide as I studied the ancient windows one by one. Until finally my gaze came to rest upon a window that struck me with fear. The beast that peered out from between the coloured glass was one that was familiar to me. And for a moment I had to steady myself a against a wooden pew beside me.
The beast that continues to peer down towards me from the stained-glass window.
The one that had chased us through Deadwood on the night of the sleepover.
Get out. Get out of here!
The goblin’s voice called out inside my mind. And he was scared. So scared. The fear that was heard against his words and my stomach turning as though the goblin had wriggled down towards the centre of my belly to find the darkest place to hide.
My hand that gripped down upon the wooden pew beside me to steady myself as I focussed my gaze upon the creature that peered down from the stained-glass windows.
The shoulders that were huge like granite. The chest that was wide. The skin that was oil slick green and striped like a tiger. The whole of it from head to toe that seemed to shimmer with scales. Reptilian. A thick tail that whipped out behind it. Its hands that were lifted before it and the fingers that were buckled and knobbled and as huge as saucepans. Each finger that was tipped with talons that curled over. The waist that was narrow and running down towards huge hind quarters. And beneath its foot was a child. A girl that had fallen and was pinned beneath the beast’s claws.
Get out Mandy. Get out!
The goblin called.
My skin that felt as though it were ablaze and prickled with flames. My gaze that remained fixed upon the child that was pinned beneath the claws of the beast. The girl that had been caught. My eyes that were wide as I shifted my attention from the girl and followed the stained-glass window upwards towards where it met at an arched recess above the beast’s head and its face that was framed beneath a gothic arch. The daylight shining through and illuminating the creature’s hideous features.
It’s eyes that were round and red. Its mouth that appeared like a gaping scar that ran from ear to ear. And row upon row of tinny teeth that were barbed and fell back towards the darkness of its throat.
Get out of here Mandy. Now!
The goblin voice called out in warning.
But I wasn’t listening. Because my gaze had shifted from the stained-glass window and the beast that it held and continued a little further along the nave towards the chancel that was found beneath the tower. My gaze that fell upon a stone plinth at the centre of the chancel. A lifeless body that was laying upon the plinth. The body that was shrouded in red cloth.
“I need to see.” I said, releasing my grip from the wooden pew and slowly forcing each foot forwards. My gaze that remained fixed upon the stone plinth at the centre of the Chancel. The unmoving body that was laying there. The velvet cloth that ran over the body as though it had been dipped in blood.
The scuffing of my feet against stone slabs as I cautiously removed my grip from the wooden pew and edged forwards towards the heart of the church. The rows of pews that passed by on either side. I lowered my gaze to each of them in turn and spied upon the end of each bench the images of creatures. The creatures of Deadwood. A coiled adder. A bat. A fox. A crow.
The sense that darkness closed in all around me. The shadows thick.
And whispers that were heard all around me.
I lifted my face and flicked my eyes nervously from one stained glass window to the next and half expected to find that the foul creatures that were trapped within the glass had been animated to life somehow. But the hideous creatures remained unmoving and peering down upon me as I placed one step before the other. The sound that my feet made upon the stone paving slabs.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
And the thought that the floor was suspended above a great cavern somehow and the whole of the church was resting precariously above the abys. But still I moved forwards. The body that remained shrouded in red velvet towards the end of the church drew closer. And my skin that was itching as though I had been buried and were covered from head to toe in woodlice. The insects scurrying and wriggling across my skin. The smell of earth and death and decay upon me. And a great weight that seemed to press down upon me from above so that I could barely breathe.
The darkness closing in.
Until finally I came to rest at the edge of the chancel and the lifeless body that was resting upon the altar before me. The body that remained motionless beneath the velvet shroud.
My chest heaving and the air that was burning against my throat and the taste of death and dirt upon my tongue.
I lifted my eyes upwards and away from the shrouded body and peered towards the tower that lifted above my head. My gaze that came to rest upon a huge stained-glass window I had not seen until then. My body leaning in to see. The window that was octagonal in shape and ringed with sapphire shards of glass that gave the impression of an open mouth. Spikes of white glass that ran around the inside of the sapphire rim to give the impression of pointed teeth. A kaleidoscope of black glass that folded in towards the centre. And the image of a person’s face that was revealed at the centre of the darkness.
I shook my head.
“No.” I said, fixing my gaze upon the persons face that peered down from overhead and shaking my head from left to right.
A girl’s face. A girl with white face and black hair.
The goblin I could hear crying out inside me. But laughter this time. Cruel laughter.
It’s you. The goblin cried with laughter. It’s you Mandy.
“No.” I said and lowered my head sharply from the window and stepped up towards the stone plinth. I brought my hand against the crushed velvet shroud and pulled back the heavy cloth until suddenly the body of a boy was revealed laying there.
Barry’s body that had been stripped completely of all clothing and laying naked.
His skin as white as dried bone. And his eyes that were wide and black and unblinking and staring up towards the window overhead and the girls face that had been captured against the glass.
Barry’s cheeks that were moving. His lips that were rippling and twitching.
And for the briefest of moments I almost fell upon him with happiness to find that he was alive somehow and breathing. That I would wrap my arms about him and hug him and say that we all missed him and that it wasn’t the same without him.
But that’s when his mouth fell open. And his cheeks that were rippling and his lips that were twitching and the darkness that was seen at the centre of his mouth. And then movement there. Something wriggling and twitching at the centre of the Barry’s mouth.
“No.” I said, stepping back and away from the body.
Yes. The Goblin’s voice called out from between my innards somewhere. And the cruel laughter that I heard against the creature’s words as he spoke and twisted and coiled against the folds of my intestines.
Yes, Mandy yes.
The nest of insects that seemed to explode from the darkness of Barry’s mouth and folding out and across his lips and scuttling across his teeth and gums and on to his chin so that a centipede wriggled up towards the poor boys’ eyes. I watched as the insect squeezed itself between Barry’s eyelids somehow and wriggled in towards the sockets and the flesh behind.
“No!” I cried out. The air that was trapped within my throat and squeezing down so hard that I stumbled and lost my balance and fell back towards the stone paving slabs.
And that was when I heard the terrible screaming cry of fear outside.
And I turned and peered back towards the open door.
Taylor bolting through the cemetery as though she were chased by a tiger.
Taylor racing along the cemetery path and towards the iron gate.
The weeds and the brambles that were snagging and catching hold of her ankles as she careered away. The madness to her face. The skin that was caught and ripped and pulled back against her ankles as she raced towards the iron gate. Her screams of terror and pain as I watched her begin to scale the iron gate and lift herself up and away from the ground. A darkness that closed in behind her. A shadow. I blinked but nothing seen.
And so, I lifted my hand towards her and called out, and screamed and called for her to wait, to stop, to not go.
But it was too late. And I watched helplessly as Taylor pulled herself across the top of the iron gate. The welts and the scars against her arms and her legs where the brambles had grabbed hold. Taylor pulling her body across the iron spikes and over the rolls of razor wire that were fixed there. And Taylor screaming out with fear and pain as her flesh was pulled back and away from her bone.