I am a 46 year old struggling writer who has been struggling for a great many years. After 20 years working in local radio, I moved into a new career in healthcare most recently the Ambulance Service. But in my free time, I enjoy escaping into fictional worlds and enjoy creating those worlds myself.
It was a very old building with a weird energy about it. It suggested great history, I felt something whenever I was there. I was not prone to belief in the supernatural or ghosts and goblins. But I knew many other people were and maybe this was my chance.
I had the newspaper open in front of me. Yes, I realise it’s very old school to have the printed word, but someone had left it on the table when I sat down with my mocha. There was the advert, as it was approaching October, they were offering £500 for a genuine spooky photo to publish in their Halloween edition.
I needed the cash, if I didn’t pay that loan soon, they were going to come and ask for it and they weren’t going to ask very nicely! I didn’t believe in ghosts but with just the right setting, it might be possible to stage something. My thoughts went immediately to that old church in Goltho just on the outskirts of my village. A perfect setting, bit of dressing and it might just work. After all that’s what they were after really, they didn’t honestly expect people to produce real supernatural photos.
So, after a little preparation, I found myself outside Goltho church, it was in the middle of a very large field. I could just make out the lights of the village to my right, it was 1.30 in the morning, good job I didn’t scare easily.
I looked over the building, it was small and dilapidated. A thin main body of pock marked stone, several very narrow windows set high, just carved gaps, no glass in them. But the building ended in a triangular point. I was at the front where it rose higher that the main area, another triangular shape, pointing to the heavens I imagined. It was a wooden doorway, though clearly not the original as I read somewhere that this building had stood here since something like 1250 or thereabouts. But it had been reinforced, there appeared to be a sheet of metal tacked behind it.
I hoisted the backpack further on my shoulders and looked for a way to open the door. There was a rusted padlock attached to an equally ancient hook. I gave it a gentle shake; it was locked but it didn’t feel very secure. I gave it a harder shake, felt it give a little, a firmer twist and it wrenched open. I threw it into the nearby undergrowth. A quick glance around me, no one there as far as it was possible to tell in the almost unrelieved darkness.
I pushed the door open, it tried to resist a little, but I gave it my firmest shove and I was in. It was essentially one main area, I shone my torch, the stone floor was heavily overgrown with weeds and some general litter. There were some small and rather pathetic pews scattered around, and at the end of the structure, what looked like a small door. It couldn’t lead to anything very big; the whole place was tiny.
But that wasn’t my immediate concern, I set down my bag on one of the pews and began to pull out my supplies. I had a roll of fine wire, a selection of half burned candles, a cheap crucifix that I had picked up in a tat shop. There was a bottle of red goo, just dark enough to pass for blood, needed to make this look a little gory to stand out and claim the prize.
At the end of the room, there was a large stone shelf that must have been intended to be a primitive altar. It would be perfect for what I had in mind. I took over my supplies and began to set them up, candles first, then a little paint brush dipped in my blood substitute and began to apply it to the candles, I admired my spooky artistry.
I was going to add the next stage when I heard a small thud. I stopped and listened closely. It had sounded as if something had fallen. It appeared to come from the room to my left. But it seemed so small, it couldn’t have been more than a broom closet. I was a rationalist, but in this place, in the dead of night, it was a little unnerving.
I had to investigate; I would get nothing else done until I knew. I looked at the small door, it seemed a little newer than the rest of the building. It was a black wood and looked polished, I couldn’t tell if it had been painted, but I assumed it must have been. It had a comfortably normal looking handle. I turned it and opened inward. It was a very small room, but still somehow seemed larger than it should be.
But my attention was immediately and shockingly grabbed by the body on the floor. It appeared to be a homeless man, he was wearing a threadbare coat that was tied around him with string, dark woolly trousers, and old trainers, if you could still call them that with all the holes in them. I moved nervously over to him, grateful that I hadn’t eaten before I came out. He was lying on his side, long knotted dark hair seemed to meld into an equally unkempt beard.
I reached out a tentative hand, he seemed soft, no rigor mortis, not that I knew what that felt like. Leaning closer, I could hear no breathing and could feel no warm. I touched a finger to his skin; it was ice cold. This man had clearly died recently of exposure, it had been very cold of late. So, what to do? I couldn’t really be bothered to contact authorities and waste my night sorting it out. Someone else could find him, and if not, he could rot away peacefully here. It wasn’t my problem.
I was about to move away when an idea struck me. This could be the picture that wins the competition. I don’t need to identify the place, and if I dress it properly, it could look like an apparition. No one needs to know it’s a real person. This old guy could get me the £500 I need!
I nipped out quickly and gathered my supplies and brought them back into the room. I was full of energy and enthusiasm. I needed to arrange him properly. I reached down and sought to roll the body into a slightly better position. I turned and began to move his feet when a hand grabbed my leg, a scream caught in my throat as the black door slammed shut. I whirled round; my leg still caught in an icy cold grip. His eyes were pure black, and the worst smile I had ever seen split the gross beard.
He released my ankle and sat up; the gross, old, dead guy sat up. I never believed the overblown nonsense when people said they were so scared they were rooted to the spot. But it had just happened to me, I wanted to move, but my limbs no longer seemed to belong to me. His eyes burned black and as he opened his mouth, a red smoke poured from that dead maw and swept around me. Then a voice deep and old, and couldn’t possibly be his, spoke, “Welcome to my home, and thank you for failing the test.”
“What do you mean?” I croaked.
The elderly corpse’s hand snapped up and grabbed my throat. It was a harsh grip from a freezing hand, no humanity left, no feeling flowed through it. “You are mine now, you have no empathy, you have no care, you are what I need.”
I felt a warm wetness as my bladder gave way, but I was too scared to feel embarrassed. The hand pulled me forward, immense strength animating it. “I am Azra’mal, I serve the lord Mictian. This was once his temple. His acolytes gave thanks for his blessings and gave the sacrifices to his glory in this room.”
“This can’t be real. Help me, I’m sorry, whatever I did, I’m sorry.” I sobbed out the sounds through my painfully constricted throat.
There was an awful chuckle. “Sorry means nothing, sorry means let me go. Your heart was revealed. Only the very blackest and pitiless are taken down into Mictian’s service. You will fit in very well among his pain demons.”
The lips of the old man moved, but it was clear, the words came from far away, though it was hard to be sure as my body was slowly starved of oxygen by the vice like grip. “I don’t want to go.”
“Too late, you have freely entered the room of offering, you showed your soul. No peace for you, and eternity in his service. It is a harsh and unforgiving realm, where you will suffer and bring joy to the higher demons. You may even become one in a thousand years or so.” The black chuckle became a full throated laugh, a laugh devoid of all joy and any soul.
He pulled me closer until my eyes were almost touching the black orbs of this moving cadaver. “I have such pain to bring you.” I was overcome by the weirdest sensation, my body seemed to fall to ground and yet I was still held in the black gaze, but now it was an all encompassing pool, as if my soul were dipped in liquid darkness, distilled evil. In the distance, I felt a voice say, “and now you will begin.”
I have no hope, I have no joy, I now have only my service. I spend much time in the dark temple, as I seek to claim more souls for His glory, I am the Apprentice, as I will always be.