Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
“Have you come to relieve your burden unto the Lord?”, asked the elder priest from behind the blind of the confession booth. Silence hung to answer the offer. The elder priest, rather than immediately persist, decided to let him take his time; for in the last seventeen-and-a-half years he’d been an elder priest of Black Rock Chapel, he’d learned that they would feel the compulsion of conscience to confess their unrighteous deeds in the lord’s due time. The youth was shaking. His hands were firmly clasped around his upper arms leading to his shoulders, as if shivering. The youth was hunching over, rocking back and forth in the wooden chair within the confession booth. His left eye twitched as his face remained chiseled in a state of petrified terror.
“There’s no need to fear, my son”, whispered the elder priest, hearing the distress on the adolescent’s side of the booth. “Christ bids forgiveness to all who trespass against him, all he asks is for repentance of your sins and to seek reform from him.” The creaking of the youth’s wooden chair began to die down as yet his breathing began to quiver in place of his body. “Forgiveness….”, the boy whimpered softly, his voice continuing to tremble in a traumatized manner. “No… No forgiveness…”
The elder priest, hearing the youth’s remark, repeated his assurance of the Lord’s mercy to the boy. “No salvation… No savior… I’ve done their bidding, Father… I did their bidding, and I am debased.” The elder priest, though unnerved by the youth’s pessimism, remained composed. “Come now, my son, God has promised salvation to all who walk astray; all you must do is to confess and repent of your sins. Worry not of the judgment of others, for the confidence of a priest is sacred.”
The youth offered a dry laugh in response before retorting, “I care nothing for the judgement of others; for they too are as devoid of any hope of salvation as I.” The voice of the adolescent began to deepen to the pitch of a man twice his age and beginning to take on an air of malign satisfaction at the statement’s insinuation. Confused, the elder priest wanted to question the youth as to the meaning of his statement. More than anything, however, the elder priest was perplexed as to the boy’s purpose for attendance of the confessional as a whole.
“Do you not, young man, accept the Lord into your heart? Are you not one of his children?”, the elder priest queried, unsure as to the state of the youth’s soul. “No. No Father, I no longer succumb to the lies of the church; for I have seen otherwise.” The youth’s voice shook again, the tone growing even deeper and angrier in timbre. “My eyes were opened to the truth long ago, They showed me the truth!”
“They?” The elder priest questioned, curious as to exactly whom the implication belonged to. “Yes, They; the true harbingers of the truth, you see, Father; through them; you may see the truth, their prophecy!” The elder priest became truly disturbed at hearing such blatantly sacrilegious claims. Remaining calm, he told the blaspheming young man that there existed no truth outside of the Lord. The young man let out a defiant and condescending laugh, “Then you really are a blind old fool! You would, despite the offer of being shown the truth, choose to hold on to the lies of the so-called “Holy Gospel”?”
Realizing that the youth had no intention of repentance, the elder priest felt compelled to end the confessional. A light rapping on the outside of the booth found this silent request granted. Just before departing, the youth turned one more time toward the elder priest and, with an abysmally baritone voice, said: “You’ll see the truth, Father. I will show you their prophecy; that there is no salvation!” Another short succession of knocks prompted the youth to finally take his leave from the confession booth, allowing for the patron outside: an older maiden of forty-five years, to enter.
“Have you come to relieve your burden unto the Lord?”, the elder priest asked the maiden, still feeling rattled. “Aye, I have come to confess, Father. You see…”, the maiden began her confession, but the elder priest’s mind had become far too entwined in the young man’s morbid diatribe to lend her his attention. “Oh, how can I be forgiven, Father?”, the maiden beckoned; arousing the elder priest from his anxious pondering to find her in tears at having concluded her confession.
Though he had not heard her sins, he decided against attempting to ask her to repeat herself. Instead, he merely assured her that she was forgiven in the eyes of the lord and requested no less than five “Hail Marys’” before the days end. Upon concluding the maiden’s confessional, the elder priest retired to his bed chamber to attempt letting peaceful rest cleanse away anxiety. Slumber would be an uphill conflict for him that night, however, no matter his efforts, the elder priest’s mind continued to be ravaged by the youth’s words: “you will see the truth: there is no salvation…”
When the sun rose the next morning, the elder priest found himself feeling weak. His head throbbed horribly and he felt trifle knots in his stomach. The elder priest winced in pain as he attempted to open his eyes, massaging his temples in a feeble attempt to ease the migraine’s hold on him. “Father Carroway,” the elder priest broke from his stupor at the calling of his name. “Father Carroway, is everything alright?”, asked another of the Chapel’s elders; a balding man with only stubble for facial hair who stood a good two feet shorter than Father Carroway, despite being five years his elder.
“Yes…”, answered the bed-ridden elder priest in a distant manner, as if his response was voiced before his mind could comprehend his own train of thought. Regaining his proper composure, despite the persistence of his current ailments, offered the most welcoming smile on his face he could manage before elaborating, “Father Edwards, I didn’t hear you come in. Yes, everything is fine. I just appear to be feeling a tad ill this morning, I trust it’s nothing serious.” Father Carroway attempted to offer a chuckle of ease to the fellow priest that devolved into a painful cough, prompting him to use the sleeve of his bed robe to cover his mouth.
For a moment, his eyes widened in shock at the sight of a small black stain on the sleeve of his snow-white bed robe. “Father?”, queried Father Edwards, noting the momentary state of anxious apprehension on the face of his peer. “Yes?”, replied Father Carroway, seeing the skepticism on his visitor’s face. “I told you, it’s nothing serious; a minor ailment that I’m sure will pass by morning. Now, what brings you to my Bedchamber, Father?” “Myself and others heard you last night, you kept screaming “no salvation” and we heard sounds of thrashing from all the way down the chamber halls.”, replied Father Edwards, his voice composed of concern for the well-being of his fellow priest.
“No salvation…”, the words slowly began to infest his mind once more; causing a sharp chill to crawl down his spine. Ignorant of the fellow elder priest’s claim, Father Carroway reassured his visitor that, save for his current ailments, he was perfectly sound. His thoughts, however, began struggling once again to void themselves of the memories of the previous night’s haunting confessional.
Skeptical, but overall satisfied as to the elder priest’s condition; Father Edwards bade his farewell and exited the bed chamber. Father Carroway laid in his bed all through the morning and into the afternoon; the aches and pains becoming worse. A shrill scream finally roused the ailing Father Carroway from his bed. Though physically ill as well, the elder priest found himself able to bound out of his bed and sprint up the spiral stone stairs to the bell tower of Black Rock Chapel with the speed and agility of a man much younger than he. When he reached the top of the stone stairs, he found a young maiden; one of the Chapel’s fledgling nuns whom had not yet sworn her oath of purity; doubled over, wailing into her palms.
“What is it, dear sister?” Father Carroway gently, but firmly grasped the young maiden’s shoulders. “She…She…She…”, she stammered, utterly unable to voice a coherent reply. “Who child? What happened?” But the young nun-to-be could only shake her head and continue wailing in response. Unable to voice a coherent response from the young sister, Father Carroway resolved to open the door behind her and enter the bell tower of the Chapel and investigate the malignance himself.
“No! You mustn’t go in there!”, the young sister shrieked, causing the elder priest’s heart to skip a beat in his chest. “Unclean… Unclean…”, she said as she, again, buried her face into her palms. “Calm down, sister. I will see what is going on. I want you to stay here.” The young sister just sat quivering, burying her petrified face into her palms. Father Carroway’s hand trembled as he grasped the knob. “Unclean?”, he wondered as he willed himself to open the door.
The foul odor of death assaulted his senses immediately upon the door’s opening. The elder priest turned his face into the crook of his arm and began to cough, gagged by the offensive scent. With an alarming dread mounting within him as to what lies inside the bell tower, Father Carroway instructed the budding nun to summon help. She bowed her head to him and immediately sprinted down the stone stairs to the monastery to alert the other elders of Black Rock Chapel.
The inside of the bell tower was dark, only illuminated by a single torch mounted to each of the four stone brick walls respectively. Paltry though the light was; the faint glow of the torches still revealed the unholy display within it’s claustrophobic confines. Adjusting his eyesight to the faint glow of the inside of the bell tower, he saw the corpse of one of the maidens of the village; an Irish maiden of forty-five whom the Father recognized as the tender of the nearby tavern who had attended many confessions for her sins of lust. She was stripped bare and hanging from the tower’s rafters by her neck using the long, thick hemp used to sound the sermon bell. On her breasts were carved a single word in her native tongue, “fráochun”.
The elder priest retched in disgust and horror at the abyssal display before him. With haste, he escaped the confines of the bell tower and slammed the door behind himself. “Our father”, Father Carroway began with shuddering breath, crossing himself as he spoke. “Hallowed be thy name. Our kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” “Father Carroway!” The sound of his name broke him of his petrified stupor. “Father Carroway, are you alright?” It was Father Edwards. For a drawn out moment, Father Carroway had no words for his fellow priest; merely offering his current mortified stare as a response.
“Father Carroway?! What in God’s name happened?” The urgency in Father Edwards’ voice was accentuated. “She…she confessed to me…”, tears began to streak Father Carroway’s face as he pointed to the door that led into the peak of the bell tower. Determined to spy the source of the hysteria; Father Edwards moved past the scarred Father Carroway and opened the door. “Christ above! Sister Merideth, alert the authorities at once!” The fledgling nun stood frozen with her jaw agape. “Do as I say, Sister! Make haste!”, barked Father Edwards. This snapped young Sister Merideth from her terrified trance and she ran down the stone steps; bolting through the chamber halls and exiting through the sanctuary.
“We must alert Archbishop Marcus of this atrocity”, Father Carroway beckoned. Father Edwards disagreed with the conclusion; thinking it wiser to handle the situation themselves. “Are you mad man?! This is an attack against the church!” Father Carroway’s heart pounded in his chest with startling intensity, prompting him to clutch the left of his chest to try slowing the quakes of his heart.
“Easy now, Father, there’s no need to make a larger problem of this than what is absolutely necessary to warrant.” Father Carroway, confused and shocked at his fellow priest’s hesitation at consulting the head of Black Rock Chapel; decided to further press for an explanation. “Please trust me, old friend. If we are to become bishops ourselves, we must prove that we can handle situations as this ourselves. There’s no use in disturbing Archbishop Marcus when, in all likelihood; this is nothing more than the act of a disturbed minded individual who found convenience in the concealment of her body in the peak of the Chapel’s bell tower. A simple crime of passion, grotesque, but simple, nonetheless.”
Father Carroway nearly saw red. “How can you say such things with such lax conviction?! You, a priest, a servant of Christ! You expect me to just sit here while a credible threat to God’s kingdom is swept idly under the rug?!” Before his tirade could escalate any further, the elder priest felt something move across his feet. Perplexion overtaking his former frustration, he looked down to see a mass of inky black serpents surrounding his feet. Terror flooded through his entire body as he saw the serpents converge on him form all directions. “Father Carroway, are you alright”, asked Father Edwards. The elder priest only offered a weak gasp of horror in response as he saw the multitude of serpents spawning from the doorway leading into the bell tower peak.
“Father Carroway, what is it?” Father Carroway stuttered, unable to fully comprehend the the events unfolding before him; “S-S-Ser… Serpents!” “Serpents?” Father Edwards questioned; eyeing the mortified priest with confusion. “Can you not see them? They’re everywhe-“, he stopped abruptly when he felt one of the serpents sink it’s fangs into his legs.
No sooner than his eyes could widen in shock that the serpent’s supernaturally potent venom began to cripple the elder priest’s senses. The hallway within Black Rock Chapel’s peak began to spin, dizzying the Father. Father Carroway clutched his forehead with his left hand; as if doing so might in some fashion stabilize the dizziness, his right hand desperately grasping the crucifix pendant that hung from his neck. His eyelids began to feel heavy as vertigo began to transform into exhaustion. Just before darkness would overtake him, however, Father Carroway could see all too clearly, despite the venom’s assault on his senses, Father Edwards extending his hand as the black serpents then began to slither to him; appearing to answer some malign summons. The elder priest stumbled back in chilled fright as he witnessed them slither and seemingly begin to fuse into Father Edwards’ body; as if the supposed fellow priest himself were comprised of the Daemoniac serpents.
The wriggling mass then appeared to revert back into the form of the priest as Father Carroway’s legs began to lose the strength necessary for proper balance. His heart quaked in his fragile chest as, with the meager composure he could manage in his damning plight, he staggered backwards whilst the knuckles began to whiten on the hand that grasped the crucifix pendant. “Our Father, thou art in heaven; Hallowed be thy na-“, his labored breathed words were abruptly silenced as his feet had misstepped, sending him crashing down the stone steps. Unconsciousness finally met the elder priest when his head struck the wall midway down the spiral.
Credit : Corpse Child
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