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Return To Northridge

return to northridge


Estimated reading time โ€” 30 minutes

This is a sequel to “Village in the Shadows.” Please read that story first here.

“How long has it been since you have been here?” Father Richard asked.

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Father Mathew barley heard his mentors words. His mind was a maze of horrors and memories well he traveled down the familiar trail. It lead to the place he both missed and dreaded above all others. This trail would lead him home. All the leafless trees and whistling winds were like arrows pointing Mathew to the living nightmares that plagued him every single night.

“Mathew are you alright?” Father Richard pleaded.

Mathew shook the ghosts from his mind. “Yes I’m sorry I have a lot on my mind. It’s been almost 12 years since I’ve left. Since then I haven’t had so much of a letter from my family. Then again I can’t act surprised, my parents weren’t the same after that night. Ever since……ever since..”

“Since Gracie was taken.” Father Richard said with empathy and sadness in his voice.

Father Mathew merely nodded and continued guiding his carriage down the trail. The sun was high but Mathew felt not of it’s warmth nor it’s comfort. Watching the sun’s position was second nature to him and all those who dwelled in his village. For those who dwelled in the shadow of the Carpathian mountains knew no solace in nightfall only terror. Once the sun set beneath the hills the world was handed over to the undead. All of Mathew’s childhood he lived in fear of the creatures who dwelled in the forest. The one’s who 13 years ago took his little sister. They were the creatures of the night, the living dead, the Vampires.

After the night Gracie was taken the village looked for the creatures lair however it could not be found. Mathew vowed then and there that he would do all he could to destroy them. He left for the Vatican under the pretenses of being trained as a priest however his true purpose was to gain knowledge of the undead. That is where he met Father Richard, a man who has had his own run ins with the creatures of the night. For years they have trained for this very day. The day he would return home to complete his vow. Their carriage stopped in front of a sign in the road. The horses went wild and began stamping around screeching into the cold air. “Send them back, they can go no further. From here out we walk.” Mathew said calmly and with regret. The two hopped off the carriage and Mathew cringed as he hit the ground. The night Gracie was taken Mathew leapt from a second story window and broke his left leg. The wound had never fully healed and still flared up even all these years later. Father Richard smacked the horses sending them back the way they came. In silence the two priests nodded and walked past the sign saying “Northridge.”

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The trail turned several degrees colder as if the sun’s heat lived in fear of the forest and stayed away. The air held an unnatural silence and even their footsteps seemed to be muffled. Even with hours of daylight before them both men felt a strong unease about them. “What is our first move?” Father Richard asked. Mathew didn’t turn his head and kept looking straight ahead towards his village. “We head straight to the church and meet with my old mentor Father Gregor. He has been looking for the creatures lair for years. I only hope he has some information that could help us. From there we grab some supplies from the….” Mathew cut himself off mid sentence. “What’s wrong my boy?” Richard asked. “There is no noise. The forest is always quiet but we should be able to hear the sounds of the village by now.”

Mathew began to pant and then ran out in a full on run. His mind was full of dark thoughts and endless despair. He knew what the silence likely meant but he could be wrong, he had to be wrong. He came to a grinding halt just outside the village gates and he mouth hung ajar. There hanging upside down from the gates were members of his own village. Their necks had been torn apart and their skin sunken in as if every drop of blood had been drained. Mathew wanted to vomit, to turn tail and run away screaming but instead he made his way into the village and was disturbed at what he had found.

The village had always partially belonged to the dead but now they had completly ruled it. All across the town square were corpses laying around in every corner. Some looked as if they had been dragged from their homes, some were impaled on fence posts and all had a look of absolute terror on their faces. Mathew turned round and round unable to comprehend the level of terror he felt. “This can’t be, they were all so careful, we have survived here for centuries. How could this have happened?” Mathew panted. Father Richard examined one of the corpses. “They died recently, I would say sometime last night.” Mathew shook his head trying to make sense of the situation. “That doesn’t make sense, why attack now and wipe out their food source? The only reason they would strike now is if they knew….” Mathew’s eyes widened and he hobbled down the all too familiar path to the house on the corner, his home.

He burst through the front door. “Mom, Dad I’m here! Please where are you?” Mathew’s eyes darted around until he saw the open basement door, a door that bore jagged claw marks. Mathew ran down the stairs pleading to God that he wouldn’t find what he feared. As he hit the bottom from the stairs it would seem as if God had forsaken him. There laying on the cold stone floor with their necks broken were his parents. Their faces looked up at him and unlike every other dead face in town they did not look at him with fear but with sadness. Father Richard put his hand on Mathew’s shoulder and the boy wept deeply. Mathew knelt in front of his mother and rubbed her face. He felt something then that both chilled his spine and boiled his blood. He began frantically feeling their bodies and hot tears streamed down his face. “They are full of blood, not one drop was spilled. Those bastards, they didn’t do this to feed or to turn them, they did this in cold blood!” Father Richard shook his head. “They did this to send a message and there it is.” Father Richard pointed to the back wall and Mathew followed the gesture. There carved into the solid stone were two simple words “Welcome Home.”

“They knew we were coming, the only people I told were my parents and the undead must have found out.” Mathew said between tears. “The undead have many ways to spy on us even as they rest.” Richard explained. Mathew shook his head. “You don’t understand, for generations this village has stood against them and survived and in one night they were taken out all because I was coming home. I got them all killed.” Mathew rested his head in his knees and wept deeply. Father Richard knelt down and put his hands on Mathew’s face. “No my boy they killed your parents. The fight against evil is nothing short of a war and in war there are causalities, some of them innocent. You are no more responsible for these people’s death’s then when they took your sister. Direct your anger towards them and not yourself. Mathew looked up at his mentor and his sad eyes turned determined. The two slowly stood and nodded at each other.

They were about to leave when Mathew saw something out of the corner of his eye. There underneath the message on the wall was something very familiar and equally upsetting. Sitting against the wall was his sister’s favourite doll Heidi. His sister had lost her life going after that stupid thing. Blind rage boiled through Mathew as he stared down at the felt doll. They dare taunt him with his memories of Gracie and he was going to rip that doll’s head off to send them a message. He rushed towards the doll and the moment he did several things happened at once which could seal his fate. Mathew tripped a wire which was attached to the cellar door. The door slamming sent several heavy sandbags placed above it that neither man saw in their rush down here. The door was barricaded in and just like that the men were sealed in a tomb.

“They set a trap. The creatures have sealed us down here like we were rabbits and we fell right for it.” Richard exclaimed and it was the first time Mathew had heard real fear in the man’s voice. “They intend to keep us here until sundown and then we will be helpless to stop them.” Mathew dropped to the floor and it took all he could not to sob uncontrollably. He had let his hatred and sadness get the better of him and now they were doomed because of it. “Mathew is there another way out of here? A window, a storm door, anything?” Father Richard begged. Mathew shook his head. “No that door is the only way in or out. Father only used this place to store his harvest and…” Mathew bolted up quickly. It was a small chance but they might be able to be saved. He was sure the undead removed all of his father’s tools but only he knew of the broken axe his father had refused to throw away, he merely put it in the hay under the stairs.

Mathew dug through the hay until he rested his hands on the axe with a broken handle. The blade was rusted almost completely and would do no good cutting down a tree but Mathew believed it would be more then enough to break down the old basement door. He rushed up the stairs and with all of his might began chopping at the rotting wood. With each swing he could feel the years of his training powering through him and in a few minutes the door was nothing but splinters. Father Richard gave him a pat on the back and stepped over the sandbags into the living room. Mathew kissed the blade of the axe and slipped it into his belt as a good omen. “Come on we need to get to the church quickly, each minute lost could be deadly.” Richards exclaimed.

The two ran down the street past the carnage of the town over to the church. Just as they feared, laying on the front steps of the church was Father Gregor’s corpse. Father Richard made the sign on the cross and bowed his head. Mathew knelt down in front of the former mentor, a man who had saved his life as a boy. Gregor’s throat was cut and he was covered in blood. “Well now how are we supposed to find the beats lair?” Richard asked with his head down. Mathew shook his head and stared at the fallen man before him. Gregor’s bloody finger stretched towards the heavens but when Mathew followed it’s point it was in fact pointing at the wooden cross over the church doors. Mathew’s eyes narrowed then widened as he beheld what was on the cross’ base. There drawn in blood was a message from Gregor. “Under the mountain, hidden by the thorns.” Realization hit the both of them as these were the directions to the very lair of the fiends. “He wrote it on the cross so the undead wouldn’t be able to touch it. This is how we find them. Do you know what he is talking about?” Richard exclaimed. Mathew nodded slowly. “When we were searching for Gracie there was part of the woods at the base of the mountain that was unpassable due to thick thorn bushes. We thought even the undead wouldn’t be able to pass them but we must have been wrong. We need to head there now.”

Father Richard looked up at the sky with worry. “The creatures may not have trapped us but they held us up considerably. We have only a matter of hours of daylight remaining. Perhaps we should hide out until morning and go with a full day ahead of us.” Mathew shook his head. “We can’t risk that. Somehow they bought down my whole village in a night and I won’t risk holding out if we don’t know how. We can’t afford to fight them on their terms. We need to strike now well we have the advantage.” Father Richard considered for a moment and then nodded. “Then let us move and trust the lord to guide us.”

The two walked into the woods, each step of their feet causing their heart rate to rise. As they drew closer to the mountain the temperature dropped rapidly and they both now knew what that meant. The shadows cast from the sinking sun almost seemed to be reaching for them and Mathew was filled with the familiar fear from his childhood. However he was no longer a mere boy tip toeing though a graveyard but a man who had trained half his life for this very moment. He could not let his childlike fear distract him from his mission. For Gracie and his whole village he had to take a stand against the evil on his doorstep.

The two made their way to the thick grove of thorn bushes that blocked the bottom of the mountain. The two looked around carefully but they could not understand how they could get through without days of cutting through the bushes. “The undead could just fly or turn into mist through this but I have no idea how we could possibly get through.” Father Richard said well scratching his chin. “Father Gregor must have found a way or he couldn’t be sure it was their lair.” Mathew replied. The two looked around more and then Mathew noticed a small clearing of thorns. He got on his knees to discover a small tunnel large enough for them to crawl though but likely would not be noticed by the undead. “That clever man he must have cleared this for us. This might have been one of his final actions. We can’t let it go to waste. There won’t be room for our packs so we need to equip ourselves now. Bring only what you can manage but we need to travel light.” Mathew said.

The two set down and began unpacking their bags. In them was an assortment of ancient and more modern vampire killing tools. Silver blades, wooden stakes, crosses, holy water, pieces of the host, hawthorn, everything they would need to defend themselves. “Remember your training, a wooden stake can stun a vampire indefinitely but they will not be truly dead until you cut off their head. Do not listen to their words for they contain a compulsion. Keep your mind clear of strong thoughts that they can read. Above all else my boy never lose your faith. These weapons can hurt them but they are only as strong as your belief, otherwise they are mere trinkets.” Richard explained. “I remember my training well Father.” Mathew said with a smile on his face.

The two nodded to each other and began their slow crawl through the thorns. Gregor had done a good job with his tunnel however both Mathew and Richard were a good deal larger then the elderly priest had been. Every movement had to be precise for they could not risk the undead detecting their presence. Mathew could see the end of the tunnel and began to quicken his pace. He was so near his goal now he could almost taste it. His quick movement was just as swiftly punished as a solitary thorn pierced his skin and caused a small cut along his cheek. Mathew watched as a drop of his blood slowly fell from his face and plopped into the soil below. Instantly he froze and everything around him went silent. The undead would always crave fresh blood above all else and here he was bleeding right onto their doorstep. Mathew waited for a hand to burst through the sand and tear his throat to shreds. However it would seem fortune favoured them as they detected no taint of evil around them. Mathew let out a sigh and continued onwards to the edge of the tunnel into freedom.

The two men stood in the great shadow of the mountain before them. This would be the perfect place for the undead to rest for almost no sign of light would shine here. Through the brambles they could see the bare minimum of light peaking through. They had about 2 hours of sunlight maximum left to them and every second wasted increased their danger. The two scanned the area and it didn’t take them long to find what they were looking for. There beat out of the ancient stone of the mountain was a small cave door. The two stared at the gaping black hole before them and their blood went cold. The presence of evil didn’t just linger in this place but seemed to emanate from it’s very depths. It was as if they were in the presence of the birthplace of evil itself. Father Richard put his hand on Mathew’s shoulder and turned him towards him. “Listen here lad and listen closely. Over the last few years we have been hunting these foul creatures. We have invaded their hiding places in the cities but we have never encountered a natural lair before. No one has ever entered the home of the vampire and survived to document it. Therefore we are entering uncharted territory. Yes we have sunlight still but there in the very belly of the beast we have no idea if that will help us. We have no idea what creatures, traps or wards may be in place. We have never faced anything like this and likely never will again. Now I understand if you want to go in there but you need to understand that if you do there may be no coming out. Now are you truly prepared?”

Mathew considered the priest’s words for a moment but only a moment. This was his purpose ever since he heard his sister’s screams echo through the forest all those many years ago. He could not turn away even on death’s door. He would fear no evil nor death. Mathew said nothing and merely nodded. Richard nodded back and simply said “May the grace of the lord protect us.” With no more words needed the two knelt down and entered the cave where victory or death would await them.

The first thing the two noticed was the odor, the entire cave reeked with the stench of decay. The further the two went in the worse it became and there was not a scant bit of wind to provide relief. The darkness here was also overwhelming. As part of his training Mathew spent a great deal of time in the dark so he would be able to adjust quicker to it’s blinding embrace however it did little good here. The setting sun at their backs had all been forgotten and darkness, true darkness wrapped itself around them like a serpent. Exploring a cave in the pitch black was a death sentence so even though stealth was imperative they had to make that sacrifice for their safety. Father Richard produced a pair of small torches and lit them with some flint in his pocket. The flames burst to life but Mathew had never seen fire be so still for nothing but the breath in their lungs moved the air around them.

The cave walls were bleak with no shine nor luster. They were a dull yet dark grey that Mathew found to be disturbingly familiar and he moved his flame around the walls to make sure there were no faces staring back at them. Slowly they made their way through the cave tunnel and to Mathew’s shock he would have preferred to be back in the thorns. This place had an unnatural feel to it. He could see dying vines on the walls oozing black liquid as if nothing living was permitted to grow in the lair of the undead. The dirt beneath them had a soggy rotten quality to it as if they were inside a bog. Perhaps the most unsettling thing was the eerie quiet about the whole place. There were no sounds of dripping water, no sounds of creatures, even their footsteps seemed muted here. The soft crackling of the fire sounded like mighty roar in this silent cavern.

Their passage began to widen as they came to the first antechamber. The room seemed enormous and even the radius of their torch could not detect the walls around them. The air was humid here and a new odor seemed to join the smell of the dead. The smell was different but no less foul, the smell of excrement and dirt. Father Richard lifted his torch slightly and both men had to stifle a gasp. All around them were the creatures of the night. Great brown and black bats hung from the rocks still asleep with their wings folded. All manner of crawlers moved in and out from holes in the walls in search of fresh food. High in the rafters the men could see spiders larger then any on record sitting in the middle of their webs. Stuck inside the sticky threads were bodies and bones of creatures. Some were as small as mice and others were full sized birds of prey, all made to be prisoners by their arachnid wardens.

Father Richard grabbed Mathew and pulled him towards the far wall away from the creatures. They did not need words to tell each other that it would be unwise to alert these sentinels of the undead. The two found another tunnel, this one going down and they made their decent. Here under the mountain any concept of time seemed moot but the two knew that sundown was fast approaching. Soon the undead would rise and the two had no doubt that their keen senses would be able to tell that there were two intruders in their midst. They may be alerted already. Despite reports to the contrary the further the two went into the Earth the colder it became until they could almost see the mists of their breath escaping their mouths.

The two came to a narrow passage that they had to contort themselves just to fit through. Mathew took extra time as he slowly moved his face near a particular sharp piece of stone. A mistake like he made in the thorn bushes would be nothing short of deadly here. Finally the two men made it through and what they found made their hearts stop in their chest for a moment. They had entered another antechamber, this one was lower but much larger around. Unlike the rest of the cave this area was gently illuminated by blood red stones whose glow seemed to wax and wane, almost as if it was breathing. The two men extinguished their torches not wanting any sound to permeate here, for in the middle of the room was the very thing they had sought.

There are those who believe that the undead sleep in coffins. Many images had been drawn of dark and perfect funeral caskets for the vampires to call home. This was simple matter of humanizing a concept that was in no way human. Before the two men were several husks of material to make a tomb. The “coffins” were made of mud, bone and mold. They were not the perfectly designed caskets of man but crude almost tribal beds of soil. Each one held one of the undead sleeping until the moment to rise found them. Slowly they made their way to the burial mounds and silently nodded to each other. The two men had been fortunate in that they had managed the element of surprise. Each man put a cross over their necks and placed a wooden stake in their hands. They would have to move fast but if they could stake each creature before one raised the alarm they could complete their mission without a scratch. That was until the glowing rocks and gems that illuminated the room dimmed and then went out completly.

The two men stood in the pitch blackness around them, not even daring to take breath. The silence that had tormented them was finally starting to break. Above them they could hear the sound of wings opening and spiny legs beginning to prod about as the sentinels began to stir. Then a much closer and more ominous sound began to ring. A slow and deep creak rang through the chamber, the sound of a lid being opened. This was followed by several more. Mathew shook as he heard the sound of sniffing fill the air. In an instant he was that boy again kneeling before the undead as he offered his life for his sister’s. The sniffing grew deeper and louder and then an oh so familiar deep voice boomed through the chamber. “Blood!”

Several high pitched screams echoed through the chamber and the sound of feet hitting the ground was heard all around them. Father Richard wasted no time in igniting another flame and relighting his torch. As terrifying as the overwhelming darkness had been, the illumination of the flame made things so much worse. All around them were the faces that had plagued Mathew’s nightmares since his boyhood. The dark grey skin that frayed in places revealing bone and unholy creatures underneath. The dark hair flowing behind all of them and those cursed jet black eyes that bored into your very soul. The creatures began skulking on the ground like spiders towards the two men. Father Richard lifted his cross high and let his own voice boom. “In the name of God you will come no closer!”

The closest vampires recoiled and scuttled back as if burned. More vampires tried to charge Mathew but he took his mentors lead and held his own cross out. The two stood back to back and moved in a circle brandishing their holy relics. Richard took out a vile of a sage and hawthorn mixture and began spreading it in a circle around them. “In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit I banish you all from this land!” Father Richard chanted. The deep voiced vampire let out a low chuckle and stepped just outside the holy circle. “You break into our home and speak of banishment. You are an old fool if you think you have power over us here.” Father Richard raised his cross higher. “God has dominion over all creation and you are no match for his might.” The fiend chuckled again. “That may be so but you are not God, you are merely a man clinging to trinkets in the dark. I can smell your fear, it is the sweetest perfume. I will enjoy drinking your life force.” Father Richard splashed some holy water near the feet of the beast. “That will be the only drink you will receive from me vile creature.”

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The vampire retreated a step but only a step. “Your wards are only as strong as your faith. They will serve you no more then they did that broken priest on the church steps.” Mathew’s blood began to boil. “Don’t you dare speak of him that way you pathetic parasite.” Mathew screamed in defiance. The creatures’ heads all snapped to him at once. The master vampire smiled deeply at him. “Ah Mathew I should have known that was you. We only heard of your approaching arrival a matter of days ago. I do hope you enjoyed our little welcome home present as much as we did.” Mathew filled with rage and rushed to the edge of the circle. The undead creature stalked to the edge himself and the two looked each other in the eyes. “Fear and anger, you reek of them boy just as you did that night. Here you are 13 years too late. Do you know how long she screamed for you?”

Mathew ignored his years of training, his honed instincts, even his mentors words as he called out no to him. Mathew dove over the circle straight at the vampire. He drove his cross into the beasts face with all of his anger and hate. The cross burned the creatures face for a moment and then the power of the relic seemed to fade instantly. The vampire chuckled. “Not very priestly of you is it boy?” Another vampire tackled Mathew to the ground, it’s long claws inching to his throat. Father Richard acted fast throwing white sage into the flame of his torch purifying it. He threw the torch right at the beasts face sending it a blaze. Mathew knocked the creature off and it burned into nothing but ash screaming into the darkness. The two priests hit the ground running and took off into the unknown darkness of the catacombs. “Kill the boy and bring me the old priest. I will taste his blood.” The master vampire told his minions.

The two men ran down the tunnels without looking back. Even if they had all they would see is never ending darkness. The two ducked around a corner and panted as loud as they dared. “We need to get out, we should not have come this close to sundown.” Richard explained. Mathew grunted his frustration for they would never get another chance like this however he knew his master was right. “We need to split up and confuse their senses. I am confident we can back track our way to the entrance.” Mathew said with regret. Richard grasped the boys shoulder once more. “God will always be with you my boy do not forget that.” With that Richard rushed off into the darkness.

Mathew let out a sigh and began making his own way back to the cave mouth. With the darkness enveloping him he could not be sure if he was going the right way. If his path was swayed to even the slightest degree then he could fall through a hole, get trapped in a passageway or run straight into the undead. Mathew began to sweat despite the cold and his heart became a steady drumbeat in his chest. He froze in his spot unable to venture forth into the uncertainty. Suddenly a voice echoed up from up ahead. “Mathew I found a path around their chamber to the surface. Quickly follow my voice before they find you.” Father Richard called out. Mathew felt a sense of relief. He felt stronger with his master by his side. “Quickly Mathew come this way, we are running out of time.” Mathew quickened his pace at his master’s words for his voice was dead ahead. Mere inches away Mathew noticed something odd in the darkness. Despite the pitch black around him there were two even darker orbs floating in front of him.

By the time Mathew made the connection the creature lunged upon him. The creature pinned him to the ground and began reaching for his neck to deliver the killing snap. “What’s wrong my boy, I thought I trained you better then this.” The creature taunted doing a perfect mimic of his mentor’s voice. How had Mathew’s training failed him so completly? He could not give up. He reached down to try and grab a stake, the host, anything that may help him. A sharp splinter of wood got stuck in hand and it took a moment for him to remember the broken handled axe he stuffed in his belt. He grabbed the shaft tight in his hand and looked into those creatures too black eyes. Using the eyes as a guide to the body he drove the axe handle into the beasts chest. The fiend screeched as Mathew pushed the makeshift stake in, it’s body flailing around. Finally there was a loud exhale of breath and the creature went limp. Mathew snapped the blade off the handle and jammed it into the corpses neck severing the head and putting an end to it’s evil forever.

Mathew limped up the passageway, his leg flaring up worse then ever on the rough terrain. He had to get to the entrance and find Richard. Mathew made his way into what he could only hope was the first antechamber. He limped across the floor as fast as he could praying to simply live to fight another day. He attempted to press forward only to find he couldn’t move properly. His body felt as if it was underwater and his joints were being held back. He pushed his arm only to find it caught in some sort of sticky net. His mind flashed to the spiders on the ceiling when they came in and his blood chilled. He flailed uncontrollably but only managed to wrap himself tighter in the web until he was strung up completly.

Above his head he heard a high pitched cackle. He looked up and with his vision slowly adjusting he could make out a horrible woman floating above him. Her grey skin was complimented by a cape of flowing black hair. Her fingers were horribly mangled and tipped with razor sharp claws. “Ah little fly caught in a web? The spiders are my children and they are ever so good at weaving my traps.” The horrid woman said as she slowly began crawling down a large spiderweb. He could see drool salivating from her large incisor fangs. “You fell right into my trap just like that little sister of yours.” Shock and rage rushed through Mathew but this time he could do nothing to stop his fate. The woman wrapped her hands around Mathew’s neck, her claw pressing into his jugular. She gave a twisted smile at him as she prepared to pierce his throat. Just before her claw to press a piece of holy wafer was pressed into her forehead causing her to shriek as her flesh burned.

The woman leaped off Mathew and scuttled across the floor. Father Richard dropped the wafer and sliced Mathew free with a silver blade. “Now my children attack the intruder!” The woman yelled. All at once the walls seemed to erupt with life as hundreds of spiders leapt at Father Richard. He swiped his blade rapidly trying to take down as many as possible but it wasn’t long before he was brought down by the dozens of bites. The dark lady flew through the air and landed on top of Father Richard, her fangs scraping his throat. “The master wants you but I can’t resist a little taste first.” She moved to bite down but at the last moment Mathew’s arm wrapped around her throat and the fangs pierced his skin instead.

The dark lady let out an ear splitting scream as she flew off of Father Richard. Her body flailed as black blood rushed from her mouth. Her spasms increased and smoke started to emit from her face. All of the spiders in the chamber convulsed and exploded in blood. The woman let out one final wail as blood erupted from every hole on her body and she fell limp to the floor. Mathew panted as he looked confused at the situation. “What the hell was that? What happened to her?” Mathew called to the dark. A hand touched his shoulder shocking him back to reality. Father Richard smiled down at him. “Ever since I met you I have wondered why the undead didn’t take you that night. Blood is everything to them and they should have taken your offer to trade places with Gracie or at least taken you both. None of it ever made sense to me until now. You offered your life for your sister’s, you tried to sacrifice yourself and that made you pure. The undead can not take blood that has been purified, it is like acid to them. That is why they wanted you dead instead of using you to feed. You are the best weapon we have. Listen I counted five caskets down there. I burned one of them and killed one in the tunnel before I came to the chamber. I know you killed one down there and then this spider woman. There is only the master now. You can end this tonight Mathew my boy, you can stop him.”

Mathew didn’t like the way his mentor was speaking, there was a sense of finality to it. “We can stop him together, you and me just liked we trained to do. Just come with me.” Mathew begged. Richard shook his head. “I can feel the venom of the spiders working it’s way through me. My body is on fire and I know I don’t have long left. I’m sorry we never prepared for something like this. I failed you my boy and I am truly sorry.” Tears rolled down Mathew’s face dropping on to his mentors. “You didn’t fail me. You trained me, befriended me, you were like a father to me.” Father Richard squeezed his shoulder tighter. “Then use that training and end this. Bring peace to your village and to yourself. I believe in you my boy.” Mathew felt Richard’s hand tighten once more and then slacken. Richard let out one final death rattle and then was gone from the world. Mathew rested his head against his mentor’s chest and closed his eyes for him. He stood and made his way to the tunnel going downward. Father Richard was right, it was time to end this.

Mathew did not risk lighting a torch but by the grace of god his eyes could judge the dark enough to stick to the path. With every step taken he knew that the beast was growing closer. He gripped a stake and his cross tightly praying for forgiveness from the almighty. He needed every advantage, every weapon he could to bring down the master. He moved slowly in silence and finally he came to the tight passage leading to the resting chamber. If there was ever a spot to lay a trap it was now and Mathew had to be careful. He began slowly squeezing his way through the narrow and sharp rocks when he heard a sound that stopped him in his tracks.

A ear shattering series of screams erupted seemingly from the walls themselves. The screams were that of the villagers of Northridge in their final moments. People were screaming to get inside, parents being forced to watch well the undead fed on their children and all around were the sounds of blood and carnage. Mathew tried to cover his ears and drown out the cursed sounds but they seemed to echo within his skull. The master vampire’s voice boomed through the chamber. “You did this to them. Had you just stayed away they would have remained alive. Do you feel their screams, the blood on your hands?”

Mathew’s body writhed and got himself wedged between two of the rocks. This was the moment the master had been waiting for. He slowly descended from the ceiling and began floating across the floor towards his victim. Mathew struggled but did not become free of the rocks, it appeared there was nothing he could do. The master smiled and wiped his claw over Mathew’s face. “All that time spent training and look at you now.” The master said chuckling. It was true Mathew had spent years training, learning the weaknesses of the undead. The biggest of which was their pride and their underestimating of the living. For if there ever was a spot to lay a trap this was it and Mathew had laid his perfectly.

Mathew’s ruse had caught the master off guard and he leapt at the creature driving the stake into the heart. The beast screamed in pain, lashing out at Mathew with it’s claws. Mathew pushed past the pain and endured, driving the stake further in. The vampire tried to grab at Mathew’s arm but he drove his other forward and pressed the cross into the beasts forehead. This time there was no rage or hate, simply the desire to end the evil and the cross burned the creature as if it was a brand. “In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit I condemn thy demon to the shadows from whence you came.” The creature gave one final screech as the stake drove home into his heart and the cross burned right through his skull and destroyed the fiend’s brain. The master lay truly dead and Mathew rolled on his back, exhausted from this dark night.

He lay there for a moment in the darkness of the cavern. Only now the darkness wasn’t frightening but peaceful. For untold centuries the people of Northridge lived in fear of the creatures at their doorstep and in one night they had been bought peace. Mathew and his master had removed the plague of the undead from this mountain once and for all. He wept for the people of his village, for his family but at last they could rest knowing that the fiends were gone. Mathew rose to his feet feeling lighter then he had ever been, even the pain in his leg seemed to have abated him. He made his way back to the exit but that was when he saw something in the corner that shook him to his core.

In the darkness and the chaos it would have been easy to miss but now with his mind clear it stood out like a sore thumb. There in the corner was a sixth casket, only this one was much smaller then the rest. Mathew stood there shaking for a moment unwilling to believe what lay before his eyes. In all the centuries the creatures had almost never turned a single person, it would mean having to share their limited supply of food. Why would they start now and why with her? “Because you gave me a reason to keep living.” A high but dark voice called from behind him. Mathew froze for he knew that voice well, so well. He closed his eyes and prayed that it was another trick of the undead. He slowly turned an opened his eyes to find that this was no trick.

Standing before him was his little sister. She seemed to have grown since he had seen her pulled into the forest by her captors. Her skin was now grey and her once shining golden hair had started to turn dark. Her eyes had taken on the unnatural obsidian of the undead and Mathew knew his sister was gone. “Hello brother, it has been so long. I began to fear you weren’t coming.” Gracie said with a tinge of bitterness in her voice. “Gracie what have they done to you?” Mathew said shaking his head. Gracie’s face filled with rage. “You mean what you did to me! None of this would have happened had you not thrown my doll away. I would have been fine if you simply had the courage to grab it off the road. Instead you ran like the coward you are with your tail between your legs.”

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A wave of guilt struck Matt like a ton of bricks for what she said was true. He was just as much to blame as the undead. He fell to his knees in front of his sister and begged for forgiveness. Gracie simply shook her head. “They kept me alive for a long time. For the undead a person’s fear and sadness can be just as tasty as their blood. Most victims go completly numb after a matter of days and they simply end their life. I was different though because I knew you were out there. You were the only one to come to my aid that night and so I was foolish enough to believe that you would come and save me. I held on to that belief for three years and in that time they would torture and feed on me as often as they could. When those years went by and you didn’t come my sadness turn to rage. I counted on you and you abandoned me. I hated you more then you could imagine and I think that is what intrigued them. They saw my potential and gave me a new reason to live, a call for revenge, for blood.”

Tears rolled down Matt’s face at his failure. “I am so sorry Gracie, I tried to come for you and I’ve spent my life trying to avenge your memory. I am so sorry I wasn’t there for you.” A macabre smile appeared on Gracie’s face and her large fangs dripped with saliva. “But you are here now and you can fix what has been done. I need a new family and you can provide. Join me and you and I can be together forever. Accept the darkness and your blood will no longer be pure. I can make you like me and we can make up for lost time. Just accept what I offer.” Gracie sang into the darkness with her luring siren’s call.

Matt closed his eyes and let out a long breath. He had failed his sister but this was his chance to make up for it, he owed her that much. Matt ripped open his collar and exposed his neck. “I accept your offer and show no resistance. Do what you must.” Gracie smiled widely and silently floated towards her brother. He could not bare to look at her but instead focused on the ground well she prepared to do her unholy deed. “Just a little pain and then you will know peace my brother.” Matt sighed. “I was about to say the same to you.” He replied. Matt thrust a stake into his little sister’s heart. She let out a scream and thrashed about. Every scream was like a dagger to Matt’s heart and he couldn’t bare to look at her as he did his duty. The stake finally penetrated her heart and to Matt’s surprise his sister embraced him in a hug. “I always knew you would save me.” She said in the sweet voice Matt missed so much. She let out one final breath and then went limp in Mathew’s arms.

He placed her down and stared at her peaceful face. Like water spreading out in reverse the curse began to leave her body. Her skin returned to it’s normal milky white and her hair regained it’s golden radiance. Gracie had become the sister that Mathew had known before. She could have been sleeping peacefully. Mathew let out a sigh for he knew what he had to do. He reached to his belt and pulled out his silver blade. He had to remove the head for her to be completly cured. One strong swipe and she would be truly free. He looked down at her sweet innocent face and his hand began to shake. He knew what he had to do but he did not believe that he could cut off the head of his own baby sister. Mathew’s whole body began to quake as tears streamed from his eyes. Finally he could take no more and he dropped his blade to the ground. He just couldn’t do it, he could not desecrate her corpse. He reached out and stroked his finger down her face. He could not cause her any more turmoil and as long as the stake stayed in her curse would be contained. He would give her a proper send off.

Mathew gently scooped up her body and slowly led them both out of the cavern. As he approached the opening the rising sun peaked over the thorns and shone on their faces. To Mathew the sun had never felt so warm and comforting. Taking his time he made his way back to his home in the village. He took her body down to the basement and spent the day fashioning a proper casket for her to rest in. He could not stand the idea of burying her in the ground after all that had happened. He lay her gently in the casket in the basement placing a kiss on her forehead. There in the corner was her doll Heidi. Mathew considered burning it after all the harm it had caused but he remembered all the happiness it bought his sister and placed it into her arms instead. He went out to the village and grabbed the bodies of the villagers placing them gently on a pyre. With respect and care he set the pyre ablaze sending out the embers of their spirits into the sky. The sun had set on this new day and for the first time in his life Mathew was not afraid of the night. He had completed his mission and at last knew peace.

Epilogue

The following was recovered from the journal of a backpacker Thomas Burke.

May 5th, 2021

My group and I continue our exploration of the Carpathian mountains in Romania. I find great peace in the nature here. We have come to a dense wooded area before we reach the base of the mountain. We decided to stop and camp for the night before we start our climb. I have to admit that I have traveled the world and I have never encountered woods that were so quiet before. I haven’t heard so much as a cricket all night long. I suppose sleep should come easily with the peace and quiet.

May 6th, 2021

The sun has just come up and I know that I will not get anymore sleep. Last night my dreams were haunted by strange creatures with grey faces and pitch black eyes that whispered things to me in the dark. I spoke with my fellow campers and it seems sleep was hard to come by all around. I can’t say that I am excited to climb a mountain today.

May 6th, 2021 (Continued)

On our way to the mountain we may have just made the discovery of a lifetime. In the heart of the forest we have discovered an entire abandoned village. The place looks hundreds of years old and there isn’t a single soul in sight. The buildings are rotting from lack of repair and seem to show signs of animal claw marks in some of the wood. A quick survey of the surrounding area revealed a sign saying that once this was known as Northridge Village. We have scoured the internet and this place is on no existing map nor are there any references to it any where. Our mountain group have just discovered a lost village. We have documented everything and posted some videos online. This could be our way into the history books. The others seem uneasy about the place but I am ecstatic and I can’t wait to get back to exploring.

May 6th, 2021 (Continued)

Despite my earlier enthusiasm this discovery has taken a darker turn. Despite my assurances that there was no one around I no longer believe that to be the case. We were exploring the basement of one of the houses and we came across a horrific sight. We found a homemade casket in the basement and when we opened it we discovered the body of a little girl with a stake through her chest. Several members of my team lost their lunch at the sight of her. Her body is cold but shows no signs of decay which means this murder must have taken place in the last day or so. We have contacted the authorities and though I knew it was evidence I had to pull the stake out of the sweet angel’s chest. This little girl couldn’t be more then eight years old. Who could have done such a heinous act? We are all huddled on the main floor now awaiting the police to come. The sun has gone down and we all feel on edge with the whole situation. The paranoia must be getting to me because I could swear that I hear something moving down in the basement.

Credit: Tenac

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