I step into through the gate and stare down the long winding path to the graves, a pitch black void waiting for me to dare to enter, my mind was starting to play tricks on me again, making the dark shift a shimmer, trying to pick out shapes and make them into faces or hands,
"Would they do this for you?!!", Pete would, he'd have come back, Tom too I think, not the girls, the last time I saw Kate, she was in the worst case of shock I'd ever seen, and poor Sarah, I can't even begin to imagine what she'd been through. I'm about halfway down the path, well into the darkness now, I keep listening out for insects or maybe an owl, something real, normal, something to tie me down to the real world that seems so far behind me now, but the night is silent, theres nothing to hear, for ahead of me, there is no life, everything died years ago, when the very ground rotted and decayed.
I can no longer see the gate, the way back completely obscured by the dark, the path is getting wider, I'll be reaching the end any moment now, reaching the graves, my heart is thumping faster and faster, trying to force its way up my throat. The long, thin, winding path and its porch are about to end, I can see the first of the ancient graves up ahead, its letter's weather worn away, its once proud, Christian 'Cross' design now chipped and half sunk into the mud on one side, dead 'creeping' Ivy still clinging to its 'host'
The path and porch end, suddenly I'm bathed in moon light again, standing on the verge of the dead, brown grass running throughout the yard, a decaying sea of death that spreads out around the graves and the church, culminating in row after row of leafless, skeletal trees. There it is, standing in the centre of this macabre country scene, built from stone and rock, pasted together with sand and mud hundreds of years ago, its windows black, its old oak doors cracked and splintered, the church is like everything else along this road, dead.
Standing guard outside the main doors, a towering cross, baring the figure of Christ upon it, this symbol of sacrifice in the name of peace, now a sinister black carving that only served to remind people that all that was once good and pure, has now fallen into darkness. I keep moving, trying to stay as far from the graves and that place as I can. I want to keep looking down, to just move through this place and get back to the village as soon as possible, but my eyes won't stay on the ground, they dart around in their sockets, searching out the places I don't want to look, back, behind me, down the path, tempting me once again to just run, to turn back and run to Sarah and home.
"Just keep moving!", I have to remind myself for what feels like the millionth time since leaving the house.
The dry dead soil suddenly makes an unnerving, cracking, the sound of footsteps on dead earth, only to be expected, but the problem is, they're not MY footsteps?! For the first time that night, curiosity can get fucked! I'm not turning, I'm not stopping, nothing good will come of it, If I just stay moving, try to ignore it, perhaps grasping my attention is all part of how this works? If i don't look, will they have any power of me? A sharp blow to the side of my head answers the question, something struck my left temple hard, I feel the skin becoming slightly warm and wet, whatever was thrown, drew blood.
Water is welling up in my eyes as I plow on, still determined not to turn round, not to face whatever was now stalking me.
More footsteps, now moving more quickly, I can hear whatever it is circling me, my eyes flicker to the left for the briefest of seconds, when I see and dark shape, darting in and out of the graves, not like the figure on the lane, this ones smaller, but I don't see it for long enough to determine what exactly it might be, not that it matters, it can throw, it can hurt me, it can kill me. For a split second I remember times with friends, listening to them tell each Ghost Stories, scaring the crap out of each other, all trying to maintain a mature demeanor, I remember being asked,
"Mike, are you scared of ghosts?
I always replied with, "Whats to be scared of?! The dead can't hurt you, their dead!!", what an idiot I truly was!
The continuous Cracks are becoming more frequent, whatever it is, isn't going away, and its moving again. Now the sounds are coming from the right, now, I'm really scared, I can feel my bladder wanting to empty again, not that it mattered now, my piss soaked jeans sticky and cold. I look down at the stain, wondering if even, after everything thats happened, everything the five of us have been through this night.......would Pete still take the Mick?
I pass two traditional style graves, arch shaped and as beaten and damaged as the others, I don't like this, even though I can see over the tops of the graves, it doesn't mean someone....or something?! isn't waiting behind one them, ready to ambush me, trip me and......and.....I become so lost in thought, I completely miss the third grave, thats sunk into a sink hole decades ago, only the very crown of its arch still above ground, I hit it with both feet, going down fast!
My face crashes into the old, dead dirt, dead grass crumbles to dust underneath me. I think I've broken my nose, I can feel blood gushing from my nostrils, filling my mouth, its sickly warm taste making me want to heave. The cracking, comes again, right by the right hand side of my face, something is moving towards me, from behind a grave stone. I close my eyes, I really, really don't want to know what it is, maybe if I just lie here, nicely, quietly, don't fuss, it'll be quick, painless, just over and finished.........but, then I remember the others, the screams and the stories I told them, nothing happens quickly, nothing is ever painless, why should it be?! It wasn't for them!!
Something sharp is clawing at my leg, like two small hands scratching at me, I bite my lip as the leg of my jeans is ripped, just above my right knee. Then I yell out,
"AAAHHHHHH!!!!", so much pain! ripping through my flesh.
Lying still is not an option, this is to much and I'm not so far gone that I just wanna die, so, in one brave move, I kick out to my right as hard as I can with my left leg, looking like an up turned beetle, trying to turn itself over. A heavy weight on my legs shifts, I can hear scrambling, whatever it is, is trying to run? No more wasting time, If I'm going to keep going, I'm going to have to turn around and face it, all made so much easier as It runs along the right hand side of my body, towards my head!
I push up with my left hand, trying to get myself onto my knees, as my head goes up a waterfall of blood pours from my broken nose onto the ground in front of me, turning the brown ground a deep shade of blacky red. I turn my head to the right slightly, just in time to see a small dark shape run back down the side of me, out of sight, then a weight on my back leg again, this time I shoot up, almost throwing myself into the air from my hands and knees, I try to take a huge step forward, nearly jumping instead, then in one swift turn, fueled by pain, anger, fear and frustration, I turn to face my would-be killer....
I hit the torches power switch and send blazing white light at my attacker, I stare down the beam, hungry yellow eyes stare back, a mouth full of sharp teeth, dripping with blood growls, its nose sniffing at me, it was a badger. A badger! God, I feel so stupid, here I had had been, searching for any sign of normality, and what do I do, loose my nerve and break my nose because of an overly confident badger! My jeans stuck to my hips, then it dawns on me, my urine, the cuts on my legs, hands and face, and now my nose, it was falling the scent of blood, like a Shark or Vulture, sensing death, I wonder if it lives here? Perhaps the only living this in this place....but if that were so.....where was the light, now shining from behind me, coming from?
I turn, very slowly, on the spot, my eyes down, refusing to look up at first, but eventually, "Oh god!", only a whisper on my lips, because god, doesn't live here anymore.
The light is coming from inside the church, candle light dances on the graves and ground around me, the new light almost to bright to look at, the windows seem to shimmer and move, I'm getting dizzy, blood loss and fear taking over my mind and balance completely, I strain my eyes, trying to clear the blur caused by the light washing over the churchyard, finally, with one last blink, I regain my focus, blur and dizziness clearing, but it wasn't my eyes getting used to the light that had helped, it was the fact that the light, and windows, were now being blocked by the appearance of dozens of people at in the windows.
Their faces are contorted and wrong, facial expressions that have never been seen on the face of the living, sneers beyond hate and loathing, eyes as white as snow, empty of colour or pupil or emotion, their skin decayed and rotten. Men, women, children, all staring at me, grinning maniacally from the church, there is at least thirty of them, maybe more, god knows how many more inside. Their clothes are old and dated, I know who they are, the scars spread out across their disfigured faces tells me all I need to know.
I steady myself to move, putting my right foot out to the side, hoping to side step away before making a run for the village, but as I step right, they vanish, not disappearing or evaporating, they duck down, under the window, hiding from me. I already know the church has two doors, the main entrance at the front, and a back door at the rear, If I run now, I could still make it the churchyards back gate before they leave the church!
"Their dead, you can't beat them", not the most reassuring of thoughts.
WHAM!! WHAM!!! WHAM!!!!
Their at the back door, now I'm running, no matter what waits at the back gate, I'm not standing here, by a pool of my own blood, waiting for them to cut off all my escapes. Turning hard right and leaping forwards, I charge through the graves, no longer concerned about noise, I turn my head to look at the church as I run, I can't see them, but I can hear them, slamming against both doors now, the noise deafening!
WHAM! WHAM!! WHAM!!! WHAM!!!! WHAM!!!!
Wood breaks and light spills out from the far end of the church, the main entrance is open, and now the night air is full of laughter, hideous, malicious laughter, they're going to catch me, then their going to kill me. The back of the church is in sight, from there, its only a few yards to the back gate, the graves are reaching the end of their run, the last few in sight, I pass one, two, three quickly,
"I'm gonna make it! Yes!!!.......................NO!!"
I pass the last grave, when something snags my ankle, I don't fall, just managing to keep myself up right, my left foot having just shot out in front me, I look back, sitting squat behind the last grave was a little boy, he is just staring at me with dead eyes in a dead face. He's pulling himself up, using the grave, his scar ridden face cracking as he sneers at me, but I can't just stand here, the others will be here soon and then I'm finished!
Leaving the boy by the grave, screaming at me in a merciless voice, not the voice of a child. Almost without noticing, to busy looking back, I clear the back of the church, surprised to see back end of the church, the door still banging off its hinges, but still closed. I stop to catch my breath, eyes remain focused on the back door and the grave were I'd just left the boy. Suddenly, and terrifyingly, the back door swings open, crashing into the wall behind it, and standing in the doorway.........is a black, shapeless mass, a figure without recognisable feature, the figure that chased me on the lane. The candles lighting the church, went out, plunging the churchyard into near darkness.
Not again, not that thing that knows who I am, I turn back towards the gate, and run for all I'm worth, my nose starts gushing more blood with the extra pumping my heart was now doing, splatters of blood hitting me in the face,
A whisper on the wind, the figure chasing me again, is calling to me. once again, I can feel it drawing closer and closer, pushing me to move harder and faster, the gate is drawing closer. I try to keep up the pace, but the blood in my mouth is choking me, my head ache making me dizzy again, the cuts and bruises all over my body feeling a hundred times worse, and my feet are heavy, so heavy.
Its there! The gate! I can see it! I keep running as fast as I can, just a few feet to go, If I can just get to it before the dark mass, moving from shadow to shadow at an inhuman pace, catches me......................Its got me......ice cold hands have gripped me around the shoulders, I try to shake but its to strong, the hands become tighter, the cold almost burning through my jackets to my arm, terrifying me beyond reason, all I can do I shake and tremble as the thing lifts me off my feet, and turns me in mid air, face to.........
"MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKE!!" it screams at me, dead breath, stinking of rotten apples, I can't help it anymore,
"AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!", I hear myself screaming
Now I'm flying backwards, the dark figure tossing me backwards through the air, my back hits something hard and I fall through it, the gate! It's pushed me through the gate, out into the lane leading on, and now, well, now I'm faced with a really dread filling thought, as I look back into the yard, see the path, the closed back door of the church and the black, empty windows,
"It wants me to keep going....................."