I went through first, then Tom, Kate, Sarah and Pete, I could feel Kate's little fingers trying to hold my hand, I took hers, just to keep everyone going, if nothing else, although even I had to admit, after the farm house, I was nervous, I know that chair was behind the wall, I just know it was! There was little to no light at all in under the canopy of wood, and the tunnel was acting like a wind funnel, channeling a cold breeze at them,
"how, er, big, is the grave yard?", Kate asked in a trembling voice,
"Not that big!", I replied, which was true, depending on your point of view, to me it was quite small, to someone who wasn't exactly comfortable in grave yards, the sea of dead grass and half sunken head stones might seem a bit unnerving! She'd be OK, we were with her, besides, might bring her down a peg or two, stuck up bitch!
"Can we stop for a sec?!", Pete called from the back,
"You have just put one out!", Sarah said the most stern whisper I had ever heard,
"ok!", whispered Pete, "why are we whispering??!!", Sarah hit him.
Walking in single file, down the narrow winding passage, I was nearly half way through already, an Ivy covered, sunken head stone appearing in the moonlight, waiting at the end other end of the tunnel. Kate must have seen it too, I felt her grip tighten on mine, she was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane! For a moment, I felt slightly sorry for her, then images of past nights out and parties came flashing into my head, her flirting with the director, watching them running upstairs, drunkenly slipping and laughing at each other, her look of feint surprise at landing the lead in the next three shows! I was so pleased they chose A Christmas Carol, this year, male lead, Ha!!
I stepped out of the darkness, into the moonlight, pulling Kate with me, i tried to let her hand go, but she linked her arm round mine instead, for fucks sake, what did it take! I looked towards Sarah, a friend in need and all that, but she looked away the minute I made eye contact, shit, I really had pissed her off by lying about what I'd seen in the farm house, was I out of control taking them on? Nah! Sod it, Kate was a bitch and its not like Sarah's my girlfriend or anything, the boys would be OK, Tom was to busy fussing over Kate and scowling at her linking my arm to be scared, and Pete was now so stoned, he'd probably just point and laugh!
All five of us were now standing on the bank of dead grass, looking over the grave stones, Sarah seemed quite interested, Kate looked mortified!
"How come I never knew this place was here??!!", Sarah asked, bending low to try and get a better view of the weather worn engravings,
"It was disused when the village died", I said it coolie and calmly, I'd been saving that one, not even Pete knew, or rather, he did, but there was no way he'd remember!
"What do you mean, died?", asked Sarah, looking a little more upset than I'd intended, OK, this was about to more uncomfortable than fun, but as long as I was telling the story!
"During the last outbreak of small pox in Europe, during the nineteenth century, a rich wine merchant wanted to set up a vineyard here, one of is family brought the virus with him, it took the village and the house", I walked past the graves, up to the old stone church door, the disfigured Christ figure glaring at me, "Apparently, the last few dozen came here to refuge, they thought they'd be safe, thought they'd left the disease in the village!",
"Oh god!", said sighed, looking at the old building, "thats horrible!",
"No shit!", agreed Tom,
"Can we go in?", Pete asked, red eyed and slightly swaying,
"PETE!", snapped Kate, as if she'd been standing repeatedly hoping to herself that no one would suggest just that!
"What?!", Pete retorted, "I wanna see inside, its only a church!", Kate didn't look convinced,
"Oh it can't hurt!", said Sarah, she sounded confident, but I knew that voice, it was the one she used to make absolutely certain everyone knew nothing could phase her, it wasn't very convincing.
I took hold of the cast iron handles on the large oak doors, and pushed, then pulled, then pushed again, then pulled again, then.....got thrown out of Pete's way! He grabbed the handles in both massive hands, yanked with all his might!......and flew backwards into a head stone, and over it, as the huge doors swung open, a dense cloud of dust flying out with them, covering me and Sarah,
I stepped up first, staring into the black, the windows built into both sides of the church was in completely the wrong position to let in any moonlight, but there were still candles in the giant stands at either end of the two long rows of pews, running down the main isle. I took out my lighter, walked over to the first, and clicked the flint, it sparked but didn't light, but in that second, the moment my pupils shrank against the flash in the dark, I saw a dark figure, at the back of the church, shift into a shadow!
Nearly dropping the lighter, Sarah called from the doorway,
"You OK, or what?!", I was actually going to do it again, I couldn't believe it,
"Yeah," I lied through my teeth back, "just a spider, you know me and spiders!",
"Ahuh", she responded, not utter convinced she believed me!
Pete came lumbering in, rubbing his back,
"I need to skin up!", Shocker!
I went back to re-lighting the candles, the wick was old, but did eventually decide to burn without falling apart! I moved down the wide isle, keeping one eye on the corner at the back, where'd seen the dark figure move, if it was a figure? Could have just been a shadow, moving in the flash from my lighter, OK, now I just sounded like I was trying to make myself believe it, I could say what I liked to Sarah and lie to myself all I want, but I couldn't dismiss what my own eyes had seen. Pete had sat down on a pew about three rows down, Tom and Kate were standing in the doorway, Kate looking very uncomfortable, Tom looking like he wanted to come explore, but should probably stay with Kate,
"Guys!", Sarah called, "come and check this out!", she was standing by the furthest wall from the door, to my dismay, the one I thought I'd seen the figure, she must have crossed the isle while I was looking for Kate and Tom, I walked over briskly, but very nervously, to be honest, I would have preferred to carry on to the tree, being stuck in this church was making me feel claustrophobic,
"What is it?, Tom asked, literally dragging Kate with him,
She'd found a brass plague, it read:
In Memory Of The Late
Magistrate Raymond Barnes
A Good, Fair, Christian Soul
"I thought you said he was a bit of a cock juggler?!!", Pete asked, I giggled at the word use before responding,
"Its in the books I've read on him, HE put it in his last will and testament, that the plague would be put up as a mark of respect for all he had done, after his death. As far as I'm aware, he only actually did one descent thing before being dead!",
"Which is?". Sarah asked cautiously, and knowing me to well,
"Die!", I laughed, Pete and Tom joining in and Sarah rolling her eyes, she turned and started heading towards the door, me and the boys followed and were all at the door and almost through before we realised Kate wasn't there, she'd been taking a closer look at the plague when we'd walked away, and being half drunk hadn't noticed,
"OI!", I shouted, "you coming or staying here for a bit?!", Kate looked up and went white when she saw we'd left her, turning on her heels and running towards us. She had just reached the last pew and almost the threshold when, the doors slammed shut on me, I staggered back, reflex action,
"Kate, what are you doing??!!", I shouted at the solid oak door, I could hear her muffled voice, it sounded like she was shouting something, I couldn't hear what, but It was clear, she was in a great deal of distress, I pulled on the doors but they wouldn't give, Pete stepped up and grabbed the handles in his massive hands again, he pulled a little less hard at first, but they still wouldn't give! He tried with all his strength but they would not open and Kates shouts ahd become screams, in one horribally clear moment, I swear I heard her scream,
Tom jumped forwards, I ducked out of his way do he could reach the door, I stood next to Sarah, watching the boys try to oepn the oak doors, but nothing was working, then an Idea came to me, I grabbed a rock laying in the dead grass by a grave, aimed at the small, porthole shaped stain glass window, above the door. Suddenly, I saw all the flickering of the candles, go out, with no way to warn Kate, just threw, the sound of smashing glass was completely drowned out by the sudden release of Kate's frantic and disturbing screams!
"PETE!", I shouted, HELP ME!", and I stood under the window, he bounded over, and in one, swift motion, picked me up under the arms and lifted me to a foot hold in the wall, I grabbed hold, balanced my feet Crucifix statue and pulled myself up into the smashed window, I looked into the church, and my heart skipped a beat, Kate was curled up on the floor, by the door, and just a foot or so away, was a dark, black mass, shifting in the shadows towards her, its outline reminding me very much, of a hulking man, in a black cloak!
In a mad, adrenaline fueled moment, I jumped from the window frame, landing hard on my feet, just in front of Kate, I moved over to her, taking her hand and letting her know I was there, then turned back to the isle, the figure was gone. Kate looked up at me, she wasn't screaming anymore, just staring through me, wide eyed and white, her lips trembling, face stained with tears and make-up.
"Kate! KATE!!", I yelled at her till her eyes met mine,
"Mick! MICK ITS COMING!",
"No its not, Kate!", I showed her the empty isle, "see, Its gone!", time to get the doors open.
I stood up, pulling Kate with me, then marched to the doors, poisitioned myself properlly, took a few steps back, and rammed them as hard as I could, they flew open instantly, throwing me straight at Pete and Tom, who were still trying to pull them from the other side. Us boys ended up in a crampled heap on the floor, Kate rushed by to Sarah, throwing herself into her arms and sobbing hard,
"Its OK!", Sarah cooed, "It's over now!", she stroked her hair, looking at us for support as we picked ourselves up, Tom rushing to Kate's side like a loyal puppy,
"Maybe we should just turn back?", Sarah suggested, and I had to admitt defeat,
"Thats probably for the bes....", cut off, by Kate?
"NO!", she stammered, pushing the tears back and trying to straighten up, again, looking right in my eyes, "It was nothing, just a shadow, I don't like churches and graves, OK! Old or new!, Lets just keep going, I'll be OK once we get outta here!"
I seriously could not believe my ears! Was she really pretending for me? Is that why she kept looking at me?
"We''ll the path takes us through the graves and to the back gate!", I told the group,
"Doesn't the church have a back door?", Pete asked, "Short cut?!", We just glared at him.
We followed the path through the graves and past the church, nothing but cobbles and dead grass between us and the back gate, surrounded in trees and looking almost as ominous as the church had,
"Really wont be long now guys!", I tried to take their minds off the appraoching dark trees and gate,
"The Village then the Manor and the tree at the end, ten, fifteen minutes maybe?", no one answered. Together we reached the gate, and once again it was left to me to take the first step. gripping the handle, I pulled hard,the gate creaking open, and quietly wished, in my head,
"Let nothing happen this time!"