11 Apr The Blood Keeper
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"The Blood Keeper"Written by Christopher Maxim
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Estimated reading time — 17 minutes
Hello, readers. My name is unimportant. I am here to share a story of mine that I’ve kept bottled up for quite some time. I’m a believer in the uncanny and weird, as long as it is within the boundaries of reason. Even so, I can always explain the day’s events to myself, and understand them – no matter how odd. My mind craves logic and order, but the following events have none. I can’t explain them away at the end of the day, and I’m not even sure of what actually happened. I’m left with a bunch of “what if’s”. I can say with some certainty that it may have been a vivid hallucination, or a very clever deception. Either way, I feel a need to disclose my tale if for no other reason than to ‘get it off my chest’. The following occurred in the autumn of 2010. That’s as specific as I will be.
I live in a small, but lively town in Massachusetts. The winters are cold and the summers are hot, but fall, to me, feels just right. Being just shy of the proper drinking age, and never having interest in such things anyhow, I found other activities to occupy my weekends (and weekdays, for that matter). I’ve always had a passion for the paranormal. It fascinates me, even to this day. With nothing better to do with my raging case of insomnia, I spent some of my nights investigating the local cemeteries with my friends. You could call me a paranormal investigator of sorts, but I saw it as more of a hobby.
Half the time, my friends and I would goof off anyway. The only times that we became dramatically serious was when there was a lot of paranormal activity taking place. This didn’t happen all that often, but when it did, we transformed from friends, hanging out and having a good time, to instant professional ghost hunters. I might have even pursued it as some sort of career choice, had the following not taken place. I can tell you for certain that I won’t investigate a cemetery again for as long as I live.
It was a night like any other for myself. I was bored, I couldn’t sleep, and I felt a need to do something outdoors. I called a few of my friends and asked if they wanted to investigate one of the local cemeteries that tended to have more activity than others. I was able to convince two to come with me. The others whom I called were angry that I’d woken them up. I didn’t realize that it was already midnight. Anyways, the two friends that I did rope in, met me at the cemetery. It took us each roughly half an hour to walk there, even though we all lived on opposites sides of the town. The cemetery was smack dab in the center of town, making the location convenient for all of us, considering we were without transportation.
After only an hour of investigating and goofing off, my friends left. There was little to no activity. The place was dead – no pun intended (okay, maybe it was intended a little bit). I stayed behind. I figured that I would take a walk through the cemetery a few times in an attempt to become tired before heading home. I started walking about when I noticed something. Before I go into detail, I must describe to you the layout of the cemetery. It was quite large, overall. There were two sides, divided by a small street right off of the main road. Each side had a stone wall that ran along the entire length of the graveyard. It came up to my waist, and only broke up where the two main entrances were – one for each side.
On one side was nothing but graves. The other side, the one that I was walking on, had graves, a stone tomb, and a small wooden shack. This shack was where the grave digger kept his shovels and other tools of the trade. What I had noticed, while walking towards it, was a light illuminating the inside. I didn’t even know that there was any electricity that ran to the shack. I guessed that the grave digger was working late tonight, it being around 2am at this point. I looked around, and I could make out a freshly made, six-foot deep hole near the shack, big enough for a coffin. This was nothing odd to me – this graveyard was a popular one, with at least 5 new headstones added each month. Every time the cemetery became full, some town workers would cut down some trees and extend it.
The only thing that struck me as strange was the hour. I had only seen the grave digger work during the day – after all, a huge, gaping hole in the ground is a dangerous thing to come across in the middle of the night. This was enough to arouse my curiosity, so I decided to see what the old man was up to.
I crept over quietly, making my way to a cracked window located on the side of the shack, this way I could hear what was going on inside. I knew about the window because I was the one who cracked it a year previous on one of my investigations. My friends and I were throwing rocks up in the air, trying to repeat the results of an urban legend that was passed around town (it was our town‘s equivalent of “Bloody Mary”). It was said that if you throw rocks straight up in the air, and stand completely still, you could hear the screams of a woman by the name of Emalia before the rocks hit the ground (Emalia was a resident in the town during the 1940s).
She died when strolling down this very street, during the newer side of the cemetery’s construction. A gravestone fell on her head while being moved to its proper location by a small crane. The gravestone was of her late husband, whom she allegedly murdered just three weeks before her death). Instead of hearing a scream, I heard the shatter of glass a few yards away. I had broken the window on the side of the shack. Looking back now, I don’t know why I believed in that urban legend anyhow. I think it was fabricated to fool kids into hurting themselves. In any case, I approached the window and peered in. The grave digger was not there. However, void of life the shack was not.
Inside the shack, to my surprise, were nine men. Nine men, sitting at a long wooden table, wearing tattered, blue shrouds. The light I had seen was not a light at all, but what looked like several oil lamps. The men were eating what appeared to be a reddish stew. It looked gross. Every man cringed when eating it, except for the tall man sitting at the end of the table, and the two sitting on either side of him. I was deeply confused. What was this – some sort of town meeting? I crouched down and listened as the tall man began to speak.
“Hello, young newcomers. Are you ready to start your trials?” He spoke with a firm voice. It resonated throughout the shack, and beckoned even myself to listen.
“Yes!”, the six men sitting around the table shouted in unison. Trials? What trials? The tall man spoke again.
“Good. Bloodlight Kalas will explain the rules.”
I could only presume that the man to his right was Kalas, as he explained everything. My memory has always served me well, so I was able to recollect everything he said, as unnerving as it was. It seemed that the men in the shack were part of a cult called the “Bloodlights”, though they never referred to it as a cult. That’s just what I gathered from what I had heard. The ‘trials’ were more of a game consisting of two teams that would disperse to either side of the cemetery. The tall man was the leader of the Bloodlights, and this ‘game’ was his way of initiating new members. The ‘winners’ would be accepted as full-fledged Bloodlights.
At this point I couldn’t really believe what I was hearing, but I kept listening. Whether it was out of curiosity, or fear of the men hearing me if I attempted to leave, I was immobile. Kalas continued explaining the rules.
Each team consisted of four members; three “blood runners” and one “blood baron”. It seemed that the ‘newcomers’ would be the runners, and the two men standing at the end of the table with the taller man would be the barons. There was one more participant to be discussed. The tall man – the one that was leading the trials. He was the “blood keeper”. He was not on either team, but was the most important part of the game. He kept, and guarded what was referred to as “the blood”. I thought that maybe this referred to the red amulet that hung from the tall man’s neck, because with every mention of the word blood, he would firmly clasp the amulet between his fingers and close his eyes, almost as if partaking in a silent prayer. The job of the runners was to retrieve the blood from the blood keeper. The barons acted as coaches that would strategize with the runners. It actually sounded like a fun game that I would partake in myself. So far, everything seemed simple, until the blood keeper spoke again.
“With every wound, there is blood. With every drop of blood, there is light. Without death, there can be no light.” I had no idea what any of what he said meant, but it was captivating – in a morbid kind of way.
The blood keeper stepped over to a tall cupboard at the back of the shack that I hadn’t noticed before. He opened it. Inside was a young woman, bound and gagged, with eyes wide open – futilely attempting to scream for help. My heart sank. This was far beyond your normal, run-of-the-mill cult ritual. I needed to find help, but what if they heard me? I was frozen with fear, and I could not take my eyes away. The blood keeper spoke again.
“Repeat after me; The light of blood can only be seen in death.”
The recruits chanted; “The light of blood can only be seen in death.”
Just then, the blood keeper took a large, red dagger from out of his cloak, and grabbed the woman. All I could think was that this couldn’t really be happening – could it?
He pierced the knife deep into her gut. The others repeated; “The light of blood can only be seen in death.”
The blood keeper stabbed her again. “The light of blood can only be seen in death.” I could see the life leaving the woman’s face, as she tried to yell once more with such an ashen, and broken expression.
The blood keeper thrust the knife deeper into the woman’s stomach. “The light of blood can only be seen in death.” Right before she lost consciousness, she turned and looked directly at me. She looked indescribably hurt, both physically and mentally, as tears began to soak her face. At that moment, I can’t even explain to you how knotted my stomach was. I immediately threw up right next to the shack. Luckily no one heard me.
The blood keeper made one final blow into the already dead girl’s neck. The others uttered one last time, “The light of blood can only be seen in death.” If I had anything left in my stomach to vomit, I would have done so again. What scared me the most was the conviction with which he stabbed her. I could see it in his face. It was almost as if there was reason behind each wound he dealt – or at least to him there was. I stood there, paralyzed with fear, and watched the killer get up, and reach into a brown satchel that he was wearing over his shoulder. He pulled out three empty vials. He then continued to fill the vials with the blood that was dripping from his dagger. I now realized that “the blood” in the game was not his amulet, but indeed actual human blood. The blood keeper finished explaining the rules to the newcomers.
“There are three vials. This gives, at most, three of you the opportunity to be accepted as Bloodlights.” I noticed Kalas laugh under his breath, as if three being accepted was unheard of.
“If you see a runner from the opposite team, what do you do?”
The newcomers answered together, “Kill!”
“If you see a civilian, what do you do?”
They answered once more, “Kill!” I dry heaved for a solid twenty seconds, trying to vomit. If I wasn‘t in danger before, I now was. I should have never come here. “God, if you even exist, please get me the hell away from here!”, I thought to myself. The blood keeper spoke one last time.
“You must stop at nothing to attain one of these vials. All others will be sacrificed. Your thirst for blood must be as strong as your will to live.”
Just then, the nine men walked towards the shack door to leave and begin the games. I ran as fast as I could for the wooded part of the cemetery and hid behind the largest tree I could find. I did not want to wind up like that girl in there. I thought to myself as I caught my breath, “Pull yourself together! You just need to find a good opportunity to escape without being noticed. It shouldn’t take much.” I gathered my nerves and peeked out from behind the tree. Standing right there, not ten feet away, were three of the runners and Kalas, facing me!
I darted my head back behind the tree. Did they notice me? I peeked again, and noticed that their eyes were shut, and they were standing eerily still. They must have to do this before the game starts to let the blood keeper hide himself from their immediate view. I was lucky. Maybe this was my chance to make a run for it. I spoke – well, I thought, too soon. I heard Kalas shout, “Let the trials begin!” My heart was racing faster than you could even imagine. My fate was in the hands of the game now.
I could see Kalas and the three blood runners in the reflection of a small puddle near my hiding tree (It had rained the previous night). They seemed to be strategizing. My heart was pounding out of my chest, so much so that I was actually afraid they might hear it. I stood there behind my tree, becoming exponentially nervous with each and every beat. I listened to their nearly inaudible whispers as the men conspired. Then, when I couldn’t take another second of torture, silence cut through the brisk, night air, much like the blood keeper’s dagger through that poor woman’s neck. It sent the coldest chill down my spine.
Why couldn’t I hear them? Did they leave? I was too frightened to glance around the corner and see. I looked at the puddle. I didn’t see their reflection. What do I do now? I was not going to run through the woods – not only would the loud crunch of autumn leaves compromise my location, but I had seen too many horror movies to know that it wouldn’t be a good idea. I also couldn’t run through the cemetery – what if a blood runner spotted me, or a baron? Even worse, what if the blood keeper saw me? I didn’t want to think about it.
I calmed down as much as I could, given my current situation, and mustered up enough courage to peer around the tree. They were gone – or at least nowhere to be seen. I looked around and weighed out my options. To the left of the cemetery, after seemingly endless rows of headstones, was more woods, and a lot of briers. This was not a viable possibility. Straight ahead were more headstones and the shack. There was no way I was going to hide in the bloodlights’ den with the dead girl, even if I could make it over there. To the right was even more headstones, but not as many.
I squinted as I looked off in the distance. Oh yeah! There was a tomb off to the right of the graves. It was maybe 100 yards away. I wouldn’t be able to waltz over there without being noticed, but maybe, just maybe, I could jump from tree to tree until I made it there. The woods did wrap around the whole cemetery, right up to the back side of the tomb. Should I risk it? Or should I stay behind this tree, cowering in fear until it’s all over? The latter option was looking pretty good, but I knew if I stayed here long enough, one of them would find me. My mom was right. She always told me to stay away from the cemetery at night – “Do you know the kind of people that hang out there?” She didn’t know the half of it.
I took a deep breath and braced myself. Without so much as a second thought, I dashed in the direction of the tomb, and hid behind the closest tree I could find. I gathered my wits and looked around the graveyard. There was still no one to be seen. I sprinted to the next tree. I took another quick glimpse of my surroundings. The coast was still clear. Before I could prepare myself to run to the next tree, I felt myself being lifted off of the ground. In that moment, my body went numb with utter panic.
The next thing I knew, before I could even think about what was happening, I was atop a tree branch, looking directly at a blood runner. I didn’t scream, and I didn’t try to get away. My blood ran cold, and I sat still in terror, accepting what was happening. I exhaled what I thought would be my last breath, but just as I did, the blood runner spoke.
“What’s your name?” I was too in shock to say a word.
“Come on now – what is your name?” He spoke more firmly this time, and I noticed that he had an English accent. His voice also sounded deep and brash, like one’s voice might sound after many years of drinking hard liquor and smoking cigarettes. I still couldn’t find it in me to answer him.
“Look, I noticed you at the window over there, eavesdropping. If I wanted you dead, I could have pointed you out then. I want you to help me.”
“Help…you?” is all I could say.
“Yes. I am going to use you to my advantage. I take it you know what we’re doing here, and you know the rules of the game?”
I nodded slowly, still in shock.
“Good. With you, I may be able to turn the tables and get the upper hand.” My mind was racing, but I listened intently on what he was saying.
“See that tomb over there?” He pointed at the tomb I had been on my way to before I was lifted off of my feet into a tree. I nodded once more.
“That’s where the blood keeper is.” My stomach turned. To think, this guy may have just saved my life.
“Here, take my cloak.” He handed me his blue shroud. I didn’t know what he wanted me to do with it.
“Go ahead, put it on! Or do you want me to gut you where you sit?” I quickly threw on the cloak.
“Go over to the tomb, and open the door slowly. The blood keeper will surely take a swing at you.” I gulped, but continued to listen.
“Just as he’s about to end your life with that dagger of his, I’ll swoop in and end his.”
“Why? That’s not part of the game.” His eyes darted at me, then he gave a menacing smile. I just realized that I had constructed a full sentence for the first time in his presence.
“Right you are. Maybe I don’t want to be a Bloodlight. Maybe I’m not here to play this ritualistic sport of theirs. Maybe what I’m truly after is vengeance.” He looked over at the tomb, then looked around the cemetery, probably to make sure no one was listening.
“Many years ago, the man in that tomb, the one you know as the blood keeper, stole something from me. Something I will never get back. That woman in that shack over there was not the Bloodlights’ first sacrifice, not by far. The man in that tomb murdered my wife and took her blood for the sake of this ‘game’. It took me years to find him. It took me even longer to be accepted into their ranks, even as a lowly disciple.” He stared off into the distance for a moment. I could see the pain in his eyes.
“But, tonight is the night. The blood keeper must die in his own game, and spill blood like so many of his victims before him.” Even though his actions were admirable, I still wanted no part in any of this. My life was still in danger.
“If you so much as take one step in the opposite direction and deviate from the plan, I will come over and kill you myself! Now get going.” It seems I had no choice in the matter. His motives were blinding him from any sort of moral logic – just like in the shack when he stood by and watched the blood keeper kill that poor girl. He of all people should have made an effort to stop him. But no, the only thing on his mind was revenge, and now I was tangled in an even larger mess than I was before.
I did as I was told. I used the same method that I did before, jumping from tree to tree – only now I didn’t even bother being stealthy. The blue shroud protected my identity, and I had a feeling I might die tonight, anyhow. What a waste of a life.
I made it to the side of the tomb. I stood there, with my back to the cold, aged stone. My heart began racing again. I was about to come face to face with the blood keeper – a cold-hearted monster. I crept along the side of the tomb, until I could finally see the front of it. I took a quick glance and noticed that the tomb door was shut. I could see the blood runner I’d met waiting behind one of the trees near the tomb. I didn’t hear him move even once, so it was hard for my mind to wrap itself around the idea of him getting from the tree branch we sat on, to just a few yards away from me. His covertness was impressive. He just might be able to pull this off. My newfound confidence in the runner in no way lessened my fear of the blood keeper. I crouched over to the tomb door and stared at it. I guess it was now or never.
I reached for the old, rusted handle, slowly, so as not to tip off the blood keeper that I was there. I also may have been stalling just a bit. After all, I was opening the door to what very well could be my death. Just as I was about to actually open the tomb, the door swung open and hit me straight in the head. I fell backwards onto the ground. I must have suffered a concussion, because everything seemed a little blurry, and I could feel myself losing consciousness.
I looked up before I passed out. I could see the blood keeper standing before me in the moonlight. I was staring at a blurry vision of death, here to kill me, and take the blood out of my racing heart. I blinked, and saw another figure. In my fuzzy state, I couldn’t make out who was who, but one of them was thrusting his dagger into the other, over and over again. The prey in this scuffle fell to his knees, and then landed face first into the cold, cemetery soil. The victor kept stabbing him. With each swing of his dagger, he seemed to become more and more furious, because I could hear the piercing sound of metal through flesh grow louder. I prayed that it was the blood keeper being torn apart, otherwise I was done for. I closed my eyes once again and passed out.
“Are you alright there?” I heard an old man’s voice say as I gradually began to open my eyes.
“Are you okay?” I opened my eyes fully and looked at the voice speaking to me. It was the grave digger! But how?
“What!? How? Where did they go…” is all I could manage to say. He looked puzzled.
“Where did who go?” I couldn’t wrap my head around any of this. What was going on?
“…I…I should be dead…” The grave digger stared at me for a second, and then changed his expression from confusion to sympathy.
“Come on. You’ll catch cold out here.” He invited me into the shack. Before I walked in, I noticed something. The newly dug grave I had seen near the shack was gone! I really didn’t know what to believe at this point, but I walked into the shack anyhow.
The grave digger, whose name I now know to be Pete, fed me and gave me a jacket to wear. In a frazzled state, I couldn’t help but tell him everything that I had seen. He didn’t look surprised at all. I didn’t even think to describe the men by their given titles (blood runner, baron, etc.), but Pete responded with, “It sounds like you had a run-in with the blood keeper.”
“That’s him! How do you know about the blood keeper?” My jaw dropped in disbelief.
“His spirit has been haunting this place for… over 100 years now I suppose.” I just glared at Pete, waiting for an explanation. He could tell I was still fatigued and confused, so he took the time to elaborate. He must’ve talked, non-stop for over an hour. I could tell I struck a nerve with this story.
In a nutshell, the Bloodlights were a sadistic cult that formed in the late 1800’s, and started terrorizing the local community, binging on a heavy lust for blood. With each Bloodlight initiation brought more deaths. They would only use various cemeteries in the area as a field for their ‘sport’, digging a six foot hole each time, throwing the casualties/sacrifices in before they covered it back up. Who would look for dead bodies in a graveyard, right? They racked up a death toll of over fifty victims before their ‘games’ were brought to a halt. Things, however, went horribly wrong for the Bloodlights during what turned out to be their final ‘game’. An Englishman infiltrated their ranks and killed the blood keeper that night, with the help of a young man (Did I help him kill the blood keeper?). The young man was never identified. The local authorities were able to round up the rest of the Bloodlights soon after. The death of the blood keeper left them leaderless and unorganized.
After Pete explained everything, I couldn’t help but sit there in awe. Did I relive what that ‘young man’ went through that night… or even wilder – was I that young man? Did I time travel? My logical mind immediately rejected the theory. I believe in the paranormal, but time travel is too far-fetched for me. In fact, until now, I’ve tried to forget about that night. I could never wrap my head around it, and I still can’t. Maybe by writing this, I can finally put this experience, much like the blood keeper, to rest. The only thing that kept haunting me after I left the shack that night, were the fuzzy images left in my mind before I had passed out.
Though I couldn’t fully differentiate who was who, I was almost certain that it was the blood keeper who was stabbing the man I was helping (albeit against my will). What if nothing supernatural happened here at all, and the grave digger lied to me so I wouldn’t divulge my story to anyone else without sounding completely and utterly crazy? What if he was a Bloodlight too? I also could have sworn I saw a shovel on the ground right where the six foot deep hole used to be. What if… no, it can’t be. They certainly would have killed me rather than construct an elaborate ruse to keep me quiet… right? I’m just paranoid. One thing is for sure, though; I will never venture to any cemetery, at night, ever again – whether or not the blood keeper is dead, or still out there, making his rounds.
CREDIT: Christopher Maxim
(Click HERE to check out Christopher Maxim’s book, How To Exit Your Body and Other Strange Tales)
🔔 More stories from author: Christopher Maxim
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